Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Hudson O’Neal Rockets to Volusia Win, USAC Brings Down the Fence in Ocala (Literally)

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Hudson O’Neal blasted by Devin Moran with five laps to go, scoring his biggest win as the Rocket Chassis house car driver in the finale of the DIRTcar Nationals Saturday night (Feb. 18) at Volusia Speedway Park, surprisingly his first career World of Outlaws late model win.

O’Neal’s Rocket Chassis entry was the only car not running a Longhorn chassis to finish in the top eight Saturday night.

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moments: From coast to coast, race officials braving the flag stands found themselves under fire Saturday night. It started in Ocala, Fla., where a nasty crash by Kevin Newton during the USAC sprint car semi-feature at Bubba Raceway Park literally brought the fence down, red-flagging the event for over an hour for repairs.

It was an even closer call later in the evening, when a wreck in a pure stock heat race saw Gilbert, Ariz.’s Bud Marshall nearly take down the flagstand at Central Arizona Raceway (for those wanting to see the replay without the TikTok stupidity messing with it, the raw footage can be found on Facebook).

There were no injuries reported in either incident.

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

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as how the last two drivers that Mark Richards picked to drive his Rocket Chassis house car were Josh Richards and Brandon Sheppard, drivers that have been the class of super late model racing the last decade. But damn if the pairing of Rocket and O’Neal hasn’t created a monster. Going from 23rd to first on a half-mile in this era of super late model racing is an eye-opening accomplishment, and O’Neal did it Saturday beating last year’s Speedweeks ace Moran and veteran Tim McCreadie

Vado. Golden Isles. Now Saturday night at Volusia. Super late model racing has been the best form of dirt racing in 2023, bar none. I’d rate Saturday night’s feature below Golden Isles and Vado, but it was another instant classic. 

It’s hard to say which was a bigger miracle, Saturday’s ARCA race at Daytona featuring a clean finish with a green-flag pass for the win or the crate late model feature going caution free at Southern Raceway that night. Said caution-free feature was won by Joseph Joiner, making Hunt the Front 2-0 on their own network.

See also
This Day in Dirt: Violent Brawl at Southern Raceway Overshadows Reutzel Win at East Bay

While on the topic of networks, dirt racing fans enjoy this golden age of streaming while we have it. Sunday’s Daytona 500 telecast on FOX was an infomercial with occasional looks on track. DirtVision, Flo Racing, pretty much every service out there covering short track racing somehow finds a way with a fraction of the budget and a fraction of the cameras to do a superior job televising motorsports. 

It’s not all perfect though, I will admit. While it was nice to have super late model racing from Duck River Raceway Park scheduled on Sunday, having a streaming option means nothing if it isn’t watchable. And RaceXR’s stream on Sunday was not. 

Fans know it’s bad when the track PA is asking the grandstand crowd to stop using their phones to allow for the streaming to take place.

Dirt Racing’s Heroes of the Weekend

McCreadie is likely disappointed after failing to win Saturday’s feature from the pole, but his fourth-place finish landed him the “Big Gator” trophy for the top late model driver of the DIRTcar Nationals. That accomplishment is made more significant in that McCreadie became the first driver to ever win a Big Gator in both the super late model and big-block modified ranks, as McCreadie won that crown earlier in his career.

Add that history to his hard charger performance in a Chili Bowl midget last month and you’ve got one of dirt’s most versatile drivers on the top of his game.

Also at Volusia this weekend, have to give a shout out to Mat Williamson, who on Saturday night won his second Super DIRTcar Series feature in as many nights courtesy of a last-lap pass. Living up to the nickname “Money” indeed.

Dirt Racing’s Victims of the Weekend

The “King of the 360s” Winternationals feature at East Bay Raceway Park Saturday night was in every form a disaster. The track took so much rubber in the lower groove that passing was impossible, with countless cars suffering blown tires from the abrasive surface. The drivers struggling on that surface and the fans in the stands all deserved better. The show was beneath East Bay to put on.

Numbers Game

14

Dirt tracks that ran (or started) oval track racing programs this weekend in the U.S.

176

Nation’s largest car count this weekend, the Sweetheart Saturday afternoon at 411 Motor Speedway.

$20,000

The nation’s largest purse awarded this weekend, to the winner of the World of Outlaws late model feature at Volusia Saturday night.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Thursday morning (Feb. 23) with coverage of opening night of the North Carolina Speedweek at Fayetteville Motor Speedway. Streaming coverage can be found on Speed Sport TV.

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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