Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Tyler Erb Rockets to Victory in Lucas Oil Winternationals Opener

Winning Moment: Tyler Erb drove away from the field at East Bay Raceway Park on a restart with six laps to go Monday night (Feb. 6), scoring the victory on the opening night of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series residency at the Winternationals.

Asked in victory lane if the victory meant the return of “Terbo” after the driver and his Best Performance Motorsports team endured a woefully disappointing January, Erb remarked “I never left.”

Dramatic Moment: Though Erb had to weather a number of later restarts to secure his victory, arguably the deciding move of the race came on a lap 13 restart where he used every inch of racetrack without making contact to blunt a fierce charge from Ashton Winger.

In a Nutshell: Another night, another great show at East Bay. As Bob Dillner puts it, “there will never be another Clay by the Bay.”

What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

About half the NASCAR garage showed up at Volusia Speedway Park Monday night to race modifieds. It literally took a second article.

See also
Daytona to Dirt: Justin Haley Flies 3,000 Miles to Win $600 Mod Race at Volusia

It wasn’t five minutes after Erb’s block on Winger that social media was ablaze with dirt racing fans and competitors alike lamenting the use of signal sticks, a practice that the LOLMDS continues to allow despite its rival World of Outlaws late model tour having banned it.

My take on this is there’s no point crying over spilled milk. Go ahead and ban signal sticks, there’s nothing stopping race teams from using colored gloves, hand signals, gestures, whatever, to send signals to drivers in competition. The beauty of this sport (that I hope never changes) is that pit passes are available to all. That means race fans and competitors alike can venture wherever they want, be it in the grandstands or in the pits. As long as that’s the case, drivers and teams will find ways to communicate. Banning sticks won’t change that.

Longhorn Chassis’s undefeated streak in super late model competition went nearly a month, but ended Monday night with Erb taking a Rocket Chassis to victory lane at East Bay. Let’s tell the whole story though – East Bay’s Winternationals saw more opt-outs for Monday night’s show than in recent memory. For those that don’t follow the LOLMDS closely, the first three nights of competition at East Bay this week will not count for series points.

As a result, a number of heavy hitters were nowhere to be found Monday, including defending series champion Tim McCreadie, the nation’s No. 1 ranked driver in Jonathan Davenport and the series’ most recent winner in Ricky Thornton Jr. All of whom drive Longhorn cars. 

And that’s also not counting Brandon Overton, whose Wells Motorsports team sat out Monday’s race (Overton drove a Warrior racecar to a fourth-place finish). A win’s a win, and the Rockets looked good on Monday. If they run that good on Thursday, the narrative actually may be changing.

Having said that, it was a shock to see Brandon Sheppard miss Monday’s LOLMDS feature at East Bay in one of those vaunted Longhorn chassis. Sheppard has not lacked for speed in his new ride in 2023, but the consistency that defined his tenure with the Rocket Chassis house team has not yet developed. 

Volusia’s new format for its modified field was a mixed bag Monday night. I’m a huge fan of the six-feature format that meant no heat races or B-mains for a 100-plus car field on a work night, though with the program not starting the final two features of the night until 11 p.m. local time I would seriously consider going to hot lap qualifying instead of having hot laps and time trials separate.

Where the program went off the rails was to qualify the 102 modifieds, have opening ceremonies and then turn to… World of Outlaws practice laps? On a night the sprint cars weren’t competitively racing? Seriously, run the racing program, get the mod features done, then let the sprint car guys have their fun.

Monday night marked an embarrassment of riches for dirt racing. The LOLMDS at East Bay and 102 modifieds contesting six features at Volusia. But my goodness, $5,000 to win a national tour super late model race? Only $600 to win a modified feature at Volusia? Considering how much I blasted the Chili Bowl over its stagnant purses this year, I’ve got to say this feels awfully similar (complete with car counts that were insanely good regardless).

Hero of the Day

Tyler Milwood finishing third in a LOLMDS race is a massive underdog result, and it was no fluke. Milwood, who told MAVTV post-race that he was sick of following other drivers, went to the high side of an East Bay racetrack that had taken some rubber and made it work anyhow, including passing Overton in the closing laps to take third.

Overton gets the honorable mention here, both for being a good sport complimenting Milwood in his post-race interview and for scoring a top-five finish despite driving a Warrior racecar that he had few laps in prior to Monday night. Longhorn Chassis help, but drivers still make a world of difference in dirt racing, thank God.

Villain of the Night

You can’t help but feel for Winger, whose night went from stellar to disaster with one move. That same Erb move that was discussed earlier not only saw Winger denied the race lead, but also so much momentum that within two laps after the block, Winger had fallen from second to outside the top 10. Any chance at even a decent finish went out the window six laps short of the finish when Winger had to pit with a flat left-front tire.

Numbers Game

3

Dirt tracks that ran oval track racing programs Monday night in the U.S.

102

Nation’s largest car count Monday, the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia.

$5,000

The nation’s largest purse awarded this weekend, to the winner of the LOLMDS feature at East Bay Monday night.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Wednesday morning (Feb. 8) with coverage of the second night of the DIRTcar Nationals from Volusia Speedway Park and the late model Winternationals from East Bay Raceway Park. Streaming coverage can be found on DirtVision and Flo Racing, respectively.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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