Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Hudson O’Neal Wires XR Kokomo Race for 6 Figures

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Hudson O’Neal led all 100 laps to score a $100,000 payday with the XR Super Series at Kokomo Speedway in Indiana Monday night (June 12), keeping continued pressure from Brandon Sheppard and Bobby Pierce at bay in the closing laps.

The scoresheet was dominant, but the race did get a little contentious in the closing laps. Sheppard got alongside O’Neal inside of 10 laps to go and forced O’Neal to run him wide in turn 1. Then, inside of five laps to go, the lapped car of Daulton Wilson proved an immovable object on the bottom of the track, causing just enough obstruction to allow O’Neal to stymie Sheppard’s final charge.


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

Their events are few and far between, but the XR Super Series scored another W with their one-class, one-night late model program at Kokomo Speedway. The grandstands were jam-packed, the field of cars was strong even only 48 hours removed from the Dream at Eldora and the race came down to the final lap.

Plenty to unpack. First of all, I can’t comment on the books and whether the tour is making money doing what they’re doing, but XR’s decision to sell their major events as $25 general admission tickets is succeeding in putting butts in the seats. The $64,000-question here that I have though … is that because the price is right, or because XR races are arguably the highest-profile dirt races being run in 2023 not on DirtVision or Flo Racing?

Yes, the Dream was a disappointment at Eldora over the weekend, but I’m not ready to jump on the Brandon Sheppard bandwagon that the World 100 needs to be run at Kokomo. The finish at Kokomo was indeed exciting, but I’m still convinced part of the fixation on this place is because of how rare late model races are at the sprint car-centric venue.

See also
This Weekend in Dirt: Jonathan Davenport Wins Snoozer of an Eldora Dream, Macedo Escapes Fire at Knoxville

Getting fans involved is never a bad thing, but having a random fan draw a random name out of a hat to put a driver in the feature field (James Walters was the beneficiary Monday) feels way too gimmicky for a series running to crown an actual champion. It’s one thing if it’s an exhibition like the NASCAR All-Star Race, but in an actual points race there’s no place for this type of randomizer. If you want a quick dose of excitement, go to the add one more dash-style event the Wild West Shootout has used before.

XR’s race at Kokomo Monday went up directly against the Ohio Speedweek feature from Wayne County Speedway in Ohio on Monday night, and while the XR event had a stronger field of cars and paid 10 times the money Wayne County’s did, it was the Flo Racing stream at Wayne County that was blowing up on Twitter all night long. Yes, part of that was likely the treacherous track conditions and the drama of drivers packing up early …

But that still doesn’t explain away just how little actual social media engagement was going on with the XR-promoted event. That a $100,000-to-win event had zero social media posts showing video of heat races, B-mains etc. is an abject failure in an era where Flo Racing and DirtVision are continually making highlights of their on-track product available quickly. 

XR did announce the first two confirmed dates of their 2024 schedule during Monday’s telecast, with the series confirmed to return to Volunteer Speedway and Kokomo next year. 

There were several other dates announced, though without venues confirmed (All-Tech Raceway and the return of racing to Pennsboro are widely expected to be two of those dates). Seems like something to make a bigger deal out of to those that aren’t already subscribed to the XR platform.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

I honestly didn’t remember it until I got to my Twitter feed this afternoon, but today marked the 10-year anniversary of the death of Jason Leffler. Kasey Kahne made a point to make a tribute to Leffler, and sharing said tribute seemed appropriate. Dirt racing isn’t the same without him.

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night

Kokomo proved unfriendly to the nation’s top late model driver, with Ricky Thornton Jr. bowing out of the race while running third courtesy of a broken shock. 

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that despite the parade of cars into the work area during the first half of the Kokomo feature, none of the race’s retirees came courtesy of crash damage. That was a welcome departure from the carnage at Eldora this past weekend.

Numbers Game


Number of dirt tracks that ran an oval-track racing program in the U.S. Monday night.


The nation’s largest car count Monday night, at Park Jefferson International Speedway in South Dakota.


The nation’s largest purse Monday night, awarded to the XR Super Series winner at Kokomo (O’Neal)

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back next Monday (June 19) with the weekend in dirt, highlighted by the $50,000-to-win Mountain Moonshine Classic at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Tennessee. Coverage can be found on Flo Racing.

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