Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Hudson O’Neal Plants Rocket Flag at Volusia, Tyler Courtney Wins at East Bay

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Hudson O’Neal planted the flag at Volusia for Rocket Chassis, scoring his third consecutive super late model win in the DIRTcar opener Monday night (Feb. 13), the first national touring series win for Rocket on a longer oval in recent memory.

It was a strong night for many expected World of Outlaws title contenders, with O’Neal, Chris Madden, Bobby Pierce and Nick Hoffman factors in the top five.

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Defending All-Star Circuit of Champions titlist Tyler Courtney scored his first win of 2023 with a ferocious high-side charge past Justin Peck inside of five laps to go at East Bay Raceway Park, derailing a late-race run that had seen Peck battle through the top five seemingly at will.

What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

OK, it can now be said. Rocket Chassis are back. For O’Neal to best Tim McCreadie and Pierce straight up on a half-mile oval is a major step forward for a chassis manufacturer that since summer of 2022 has been in the backseat to the vaunted Longhorns. Dirt late model fans should enjoy this one, as this win is a sign some much-needed parity has arrived for 2023.

Given how well he’s run in every car he’s driven in 2023, how the hell has McCreadie not visited victory lane yet? 

It certainly appears from early returns that the decision to incorporate the USAC sprint cars into the DIRTcar Nationals was a rousing success. Not only in terms of the grandstand crowd, which was visibly impressive for a Monday night, but also because the late models put on a great show (I’m calling out the late models especially because Monday night they ran under the DIRTcar sanction rather than that a touring race). This type of review is great news for all involved.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

A race winner gets this nod. O’Neal has gone from doubting himself to arguably raising the performance level of the Rocket Chassis house car from where it was with veteran Brandon Sheppard last fall, all in the course of a week. Three straight Speedweeks wins on two completely different tracks has Rocket Chassis relevant again, the No. 1 team a title favorite on whatever national tour they choose to follow and a young gun living up to his new ride.

Late model racing is better with old-school house cars running well and with parity across chassis manufacturers. O’Neal is at the forefront of making both things happen.

Getting an honorable mention on the night is Jake Swanson, who led all 25 laps of the first-ever USAC sprint car feature at Volusia.

Dirt Racing’s Victims of the Night

Both the USAC sprint car feature at Volusia and the ASCoC sprint feature at East Bay saw a top-five contender’s run go out the window late due to mechanical issues. Volusia saw Thomas Meseraull, who earlier in the night had wowed the crowd with a sixth-first run in the second heat race, lose a surefire top-five finish with a blown tire.

At almost the same point of the ASCoC feature at East Bay, Tim Shaffer also lost a top-five run with only 10 laps left in the feature courtesy of a blown right rear. 

Numbers Game


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


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


The nation’s largest purse awarded Monday night, to the winner of the DIRTcar late model feature at Volusia.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Wednesday morning (Feb. 15) with continued coverage of the DIRTcar Nationals from Volusia Speedway Park and the All-Star Circuit of Champions at 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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