Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Ricky Thornton Jr., Tim McCreadie Score Signal-Stick ‘Free’ Dream Wins at Eldora

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: The nation’s hottest late model driver proved untouchable on the first night of the Dirt Late Model Dream weekend at Eldora Speedway, as Ricky Thornton Jr. led all 25 laps of the second preliminary feature Thursday night (June 8).

Thornton, who enters the Dream weekend fresh off another big-track victory at West Virginia Motor Speedway last Friday that has him continuing to lead the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points standings, is absolutely the favorite for the $129,000 Dream feature on Saturday night.

2023 DIRT LATE MODEL DREAM PRELIM NIGHT ONE RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: The first preliminary feature at Eldora Thursday did not see the same dominance rewarded. Though Hudson O’Neal led most of the feature, Tim McCreadie snapped a three-month losing streak with a stellar restart with six laps to go, depriving O’Neal of a win and ensuring a sweep of the night for Longhorn Chassis.

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

You could probably count on one hand with room to spare the number of fans at Eldora surprised to see Thornton in victory lane Thursday. What got under my skin was listening to him state in victory lane that he was hoping to qualify 15th or 16th to set himself up for a good points run on Friday. That’s what happens with the asinine formula that Eldora uses for the Dream, one that rewards drivers that qualify outside the top 10 with front-row starting spot for their heats races while burying fast qualifiers in the pack.

Now yes, Eldora normally is a racy enough track that fast qualifiers that start fourth in the field can race their way up through the pack (for example, McCreadie made progress in the first heat race with Group A). But it’s a perverse incentive for drivers that know they have fast cars to sandbag when there’s a defined invert.

Eldora is committed to points accumulation as the Dream format, so if that’s the way they’re going to go, drop the hour it takes to run qualifying, set the field by pill draw and use passing points (and I hate those freaking things). But in reality, this a $129,000-to-win event that is THE crown jewel of dirt late model racing. If there’s any race in which the fast guys should start up front and benefit from performing on the track, it’s this one. 

Damn if McCreadie didn’t look like a giddy schoolboy celebrating his prelim win Thursday night. 

That’s not an indictment on the veteran, it’s a recognition of just how big a relief it was for the defending LOLMDS champ to finally get another win. It’s definitely been a disappointing 2023 for McCreadie, who cooled off after a red-hot start to the year at Speedweeks. But between WVMS last weekend and Eldora, the No. 39 team seems to have found it’s footing on larger ovals. Now is the time for momentum.

O’Neal wasn’t able to close the deal in his prelim feature, but Rocket Chassis is absolutely in the discussion for Dream weekend, with O’Neal, Ashton Winger and Kyle Strickler finishing 2-3-4 in the first prelim. Strickler is a driver to watch this weekend, as he’s arguably the biggest name since Jimmy Owens to switch to Rocket this year. Longhorn should have more competition for this race than they did a year ago.

Let’s talk about Flo Racing. The good? The quad-screen setup they used to cover 95 cars worth of qualifying at Eldora was a gold standard format that I hope to see used for every qualifying session the outlet streams moving forward. Seeing every car make their run is enough to make qualifying must-see viewing.

The bad? More freaking technical issues, including repeat static on the mics for the first half of the stream and a complete crash of the broadcast during the sixth heat race. Everything worked come feature time, but the fact still remains (and I’ve know I’ve said this before) that I’ve had more technical issues with Flo in two months than I had in my first two years using the service. To see technical issues pop up at Eldora is especially disappointing.

We’ll close with some nonsense, as Eldora became the latest track to attempt to ban signaling (watch the clip below, Tyler Erb’s take is fiery … and likely has some truth to it).

It wasn’t five heat races into the night that Flo Racing reported teams complaining that signals were being sent from the grandstands. And that was with a crowd that was far from capacity Thursday night. Imagine trying to sort that mess out when there’s 20,000 people surrounding the track on Saturday. Dirt late model racing is not hurting for competition in 2023. This rule change is an exercise in futility, a solution in search of a problem.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

Strickler gets the shoutout this Thursday. It takes guts to debut a new chassis for the Eldora Dream weekend, no matter who’s manufacturing it. Strickler was a top-five fixture in his feature event at a track that owes him one. 

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night

Wil Herrington made serious ground, improving five spots in his B-main event, but he found himself in said B-main after suffering through a flat tire during qualifying and a broken rear-end in his heat race. 

Numbers Game

15

Number of dirt tracks to run an oval-track racing program in the U.S. Thursday night.

95

The nation’s largest car count Thursday night, the Dirt Late Model Dream prelims at Eldora.

$12,000

The nation’s largest purse Thursday night, paid to the winner of the Dream prelims at Eldora (McCreadie, Thornton)

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (June 12) with coverage of the Dirt Late Model Dream from Eldora Speedway. Coverage can be found on Flo Racing.

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