Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Hudson O’Neal Stops Illini at Lincoln Amid Multiple Dirt Closures

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Hudson O’Neal got past Tyler Erb early and drove away from the field to score a comfortable Illinois Speedweek win at Lincoln Speedway Thursday night (May 11).

O’Neal’s two-second lead did evaporate in the closing laps thanks to a persistent pursuit by Brandon Sheppard, but a treacherous cushion would derail Sheppard’s momentum inside of 10 to go. O’Neal’s win was sealed with a one-lap run to the checkers after Ricky Thornton Jr. brought out the yellow on the white-flag lap.


Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Ashton Winger capped the most exciting heat race of the evening with a slider display that would have made the local White Castle blush.

Not only was Winger’s heat race win a sneak preview of just how racy the black dirt of Lincoln was Thursday night, it set the stage for one of the most memorable interviews dirt racing has seen in 2023 (more on that later).

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

I’m sure there’s more to it than this, but I’d be willing to spend serious coin to help racetracks all across the country truck Midwestern black dirt to spread on their respective surfaces. The volume of side-by-side racing the first two nights of Illinois Speedweek have seen has been top-notch.

The continual side-by-side racing hasn’t been the only highlight of the Speedweek … the competition level also been ridiculous. It was crazy enough that powerhouse Brandon Overton missed the field at Spoon River last night, but to see Wednesday’s race winner (and defending Lincoln victor) Dennis Erb Jr. miss the field this evening put an exclamation point on just how deep the late model fields have been for the fledgling Flo Racing tour. And the lack of provisionals made the preliminary action at Lincoln all the more exciting.

Kyle Larson was nowhere to be found Thursday (Tim McCreadie scored a fifth-place finish in the Rumley late model) but he immediately made waves on social media soon after the checkers flew at Lincoln, calling for a ban on the signal sticks many super late model teams use to communicate with their drivers during green-flag racing.

I’ve written about this on numerous occasions, but it’s rare that I disagree with Larson so we’ll revisit the issue. Let’s say signal sticks are banned tomorrow. What’s to stop a team from sending hand signals using neon-colored gloves? From sending light signals using a cellphone or tablet? From waving highway vests in the grandstands? The idea that race teams aren’t going to find ways to visually communicate, even if signal sticks are banned, is naive at best.

Besides, tonight’s race was decided by a one-lap run to the checkers, signal sticks didn’t ruin that. Considering how reliably awesome dirt late model racing has been in 2023, this is a non-issue.

Rewind back to Tuesday night this week. Remember how rough Accord Speedway’s new racing surface proved to be? Well, despite the extensive track work and hours using a packer on the surface, the track canceled their regular Friday show to allow for more track work to be done.

Racing for May 12th is canceledWe've made the unfortunate decision to cancel the racing program this Friday so Gary…

Posted by The Official Accord Speedway on Thursday, May 11, 2023

As much as I hate seeing any track cancel an event given just how many races have been canceled across the Northeast during this rainy spring, Accord made the right call here. Putting on two bad shows would be far more counter-productive than fixing the problem to put a good program on a week from now.

See also
This Day in Dirt: Matt Sheppard Breaks Through at Accord, Sprint Car Silly Season Heats Up

Speaking of cancelations, West Virginia Motor Speedway has now canceled its second consecutive 2023 racing event after closing early in 2022. This time, the Mountaineer Nationals were canceled not for weather, but to reportedly allow the track to focus on its early June date with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

For Immediate Release: 𝗠𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗿 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹𝘀 𝗖𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗱, 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗘𝘆𝗲𝘀 𝗢𝗻 𝗝𝗮𝗻 𝗗𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝗔𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘆𝘀 𝗮𝘁 𝗟𝗮𝘄, 𝗛𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗰 𝟭𝟬𝟬, 𝗝𝘂𝗻𝗲 𝟮𝗻𝗱 &…

Posted by West Virginia Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 11, 2023

The social media response to this cancelation has not been positive and I can understand race fans’ frustrations here. Yes, WVMS was proactive in canceling weeks in advance before teams spent money on diesel to haul to the track and fans hit the road, but the track has now canceled every race it was scheduled to host for the better part of a calendar year. It’s a very real possibility that race fans could plan to go elsewhere than WVMS for their LOLMDS weekend, thinking they could spend travel dollars to go to a track that’s more reliable to actually put on a race.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

We’ve already been over Winger’s on-track exploits during heat racing at Lincoln Thursday. Not only were those fireworks worth a shoutout, so were his comments after said heat race, comments that I’d bet my Frontstretch wages in their entirety we’ll see on a t-shirt at some point this year.

Winger, for those that don’t remember, was arrested after getting involved in a pit-area scuffle at Southern Raceway earlier this spring.

See also
This Weekend in Dirt: Driver Ashton Winger Arrested After On, Off-Track Incidents at Southern Raceway

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night

Chase Junghans went for a wall-ride in the second late model B-main at Lincoln that sent him pit side without a spot in the A-main.

Numbers Game


Dirt tracks that ran an oval-track program in the U.S. Thursday night.


The nation’s largest car count Thursday night, the opening night of the Wingless Clash at US-24 Speedway in Indiana.


The nation’s top purse Thursday night, paid to the Illinois Speedweek late model winner at Lincoln (O’Neal)

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (May 15) with continued coverage of  the last two events of Illinois Speedweek. Coverage can be found Flo Racing.

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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Mike Kalasnik

That track in West Virginia has been a mess since it was “renovated”. It had one VERY successful event years ago that had a massive crown and they really never followed up on that. I’d love to go to a race there but it seems like everytime I do, it gets canceled.

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