Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Freedom 60 at Muskingum County

The Headline(s)

Brandon Sheppard throttled the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Freedom 60 field as it returned to the Midwest, extending his points lead with a friendly slate of races looming.

How it Happened

2022 Freedom 60 (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series)
Where: Muskingum County Speedway – Zanesville, Ohio (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $30,000

Brandon Sheppard took the lead on lap 2 and never looked back, winning the Freedom 60 at Muskingum County Speedway Sunday (July 3) in dominant fashion, his sixth win on the LOLMDS tour in 2022.

Ricky Thornton Jr., the only other driver to lead a lap Sunday night, got alongside Sheppard for the lead briefly on lap 13, the only serious challenge that Sheppard faced on the evening. 


Sunday’s feature never was able to match the raciness or intensity of Friday’s prelims, with seven caution flags interrupting the feature event and preventing the race from getting into a real rhythm. 

Thornton Jr., Sheppard and Tyler Erb won Saturday night’s Freedom 60 preliminary features, worth $3,000 apiece. With the win, Sheppard extended his points lead to 55 over defending series champion Tim McCreadie, who finished fourth.

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Ralph Latham Memorial at Florence

Success Stories

Hudson O’Neal was the most successful driver in the field not to secure a trophy over the weekend, finishing second both in his preliminary feature on Saturday and again in the main event on Sunday night. The runner-up finish paid well, securing O’Neal a $15,000 payday.

Spencer Hughes had a coming-of-age moment on Friday night in the second preliminary feature, a race that saw do battle side-by-side and prevail over last year’s top-ranked late model driver in Brandon Overton en route to a runner-up finish. Hughes has had a rough month and torn up some equipment, so to see him able to do battle with a driver the caliber of Overton was a major accomplishment.

Sticking with the theme of young guns, Rookie of the Year candidate Daulton Wilson managed to give defending series titlist McCreadie everything he could handle Sunday night, scoring a fifth-place finish at night’s end. That was no small feat, considering that Wilson had the machine of Dustin Smith literally flip on top of his during their prelim feature on Saturday night (more on that later). 

It was a tale of two nights for Ricky Thornton Jr. Saturday night saw him ride a wave of momentum to his second consecutive LOLMDS win, following up another victory at Portsmouth Raceway Park on Friday with a convincing win in the first preliminary feature on Saturday that may well go down as a race of the year candidate. 

Fast forward to Sunday though…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

And while Thornton was very much in the same form that he carried from Portsmouth, a cut right-front tire while running second on lap 30 took last year’s series Rookie of the Year out of contention for the Freedom 60 win.

Frazeysburg, Ohio’s Dustin Smith went up and over in an accordion wreck during the final preliminary feature on Saturday night, forcing his crew to pull an all-nighter to come back to the track Sunday.

The No. 88 team did manage to qualify for the Freedom 60 feature, only to get involved in an on-track tangle with Clint Keenan. Smith finished 21st. 

Devin Moran’s father is the race promoter at Muskingum County Speedway, but there was no home-track advantage to be had by his son this weekend. Moran lost what was likely to be a win in the third preliminary feature after he hooked a rut in turn 1, handing the lead to eventual race winner Erb. Then in Sunday’s feature, Moran worked his way up into the top five before again hitting turn 1 the wrong way, causing irreparable damage to his front end that brought out the caution on lap 17 and ended the night for the No. 9 car.

See also
Dirty (Half) Dozen: 6 Dirt Races to Watch for This July

Fanning the Flames

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Muskingum County Speedway ain’t much to look at but damn if didn’t race well, at least on Saturday. That first A-main Friday was as good as late model racing gets up front. Can we count a 12-car preliminary feature for race of the year candidacy?

Another week, another commendable race format. Running triple features on the first night of Muskingum’s race weekend instead of heats put some tire money in teams’ pockets and visibly upped the urgency for what were essentially 20-lap preliminaries. No redraws or inverts required. And the crowd definitely showed up.

James Essex is in Johnny Gibson territory in the sense that he does not need a second voice in the booth to call a race. Having said that, he and Dustin Jarrett were on point during Sunday night’s Freedom 60 stream. Never talking over each other, Jarrett brought a composed round of statistics and info to compliment Essex’s narrative of the race that was smooth as butter and a pleasure to watch. If Jarrett wants to show up for more LOLMDS races now that they’re a Flo property I would not complain. Job very well done gents.

Considering that the only Cadillac ads that I see on TV these days are those bass-heavy avant-garde spots for their all-electric crossover, I couldn’t help but laugh seeing Freddie Carpenter’s dilapidated late model entry sporting a Caddy grill decal on its nosepiece. Outside of an Escalade used as a pace truck that I saw at Wyoming’s Sweetwater Speedway in 2014, I can’t remember the last time I saw a Cadillac on a dirt track.

Numbers Game

19 – laps, the longest green-flag run in Sunday’s Freedom 60 feature.

36 – super late models entered at Muskingum for the weekend’s Freedom 60.

$1,500 – pay to start Sunday’s Freedom 60 at Muskingum County.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give the Freedom 60 four Budweisers. Unfortunately in terms of on-track product, the weekend peaked with the first prelim feature Saturday night, as Sheppard made the main event academic. But the masterclass that Essex and Jarrett did calling Sunday’s race earned it another can.

Up Next: Thinkin’ Dirty will run again Tuesday morning (July 5), as the Southern All-Stars late model tour will be tackling Beckley Motor Speedway in West Virginia for a $20,000-to-win super late model race on the 4th of July. Coverage will be available on Flo Racing.

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