TULSA, Okla. – Hudson O’Neal wasn’t all smiles just because he made his preliminary night A-Main as a Chili Bowl rookie on Thursday.
His ear-to-ear grin was aided by the fact that he’ll be doing some additional open-wheel racing on dirt during the upcoming season.
O’Neal announced Thursday that he will team up with Cam Pottorff and Brady Short to run a partial schedule of roughly 10-15 races in their 410 non-winged sprint car this year, fitting in events around his Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series obligations as he embarks on his sophomore season on tour.
“I’m really excited about everything Cam and Brady are doing for me this year and looking forward to driving their car in the races we plan to run,” said O’Neal. “It’s really, really good equipment and I believe that if things go well, we can pick up a win … or maybe a even a couple during the season. We just want to keep improving, though; that’s the main goal.”
O’Neal grinned when it was pointed out that, aside from a one-off appearance in 2016 and his Chili Bowl debut this week, he’s hardly ever spent time in the dirt open wheel world, but he’s excited to tackle the challenge more regularly.
“The race we ran about a year and a half ago … we ended up running really well. I think we ran third, but the biggest thing was just that I learned a ton,” said O’Neal. “These guys are really big supporters of my career and I can’t thank them enough for giving me this chance. I think more seat time in the car will really help me.”
However, O’Neal told his fans not to worry: he has no plans of getting out of the dirt late model business.
“This is just something new and different for me. I’ll always be a (taxi) cab driver,” he laughed.
– Thursday was a far-more tame night for the Fastenal #FlipCount, with only eight tally marks going on the pad to bring the total to 42 rollovers for the week.
Morgan Frewaldt was the last of those incidents to be added, going for a tumble in turn three during the second D-Feature of the night.
Despite the #FlipCount beginning to approach record levels, all drivers have walked away from their incidents.
– Among the cool sights seen during the course of the day was an artist in the pit area working on a painting of two-time Chili Bowl champion Rico Abreu’s No. 97 Safelite Auto Glass/Keith Kunz Motorsports midget throughout the day.
Abreu Tweeted out Thursday night that the painting will be for sale, and it had a large fan gathering just prior to the A-Main.
– Though there are several NASCAR drivers competing during this week’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, one NASCAR notable who was in the interested spectator category on Thursday was two-time K&N West champion Todd Gilliland.
Gilliland was taking in the action and said prior to heat races that he “couldn’t wait” to see the action that annually makes the Chili Bowl so special.
While he couldn’t announce any of his plans just yet, Gilliland added that he hopes to run as many of the 19 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races he is eligible for that he can next year.
– Other faces seen around the Expo Center on Thursday included three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Unser, Millbridge Speedway outlaw kart racer Karsyn Elledge, recent Rumble in Fort Wayne winner Nick Hamilton and PRN at the Track radio host Lenny Batycki, who will be a part of the RacinBoys alphabet soup broadcast on Saturday.