Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Hudson O’Neal Bests Superman in Port Royal Thriller

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Hudson O’Neal snuck under Jonathan Davenport with six laps to go, then drove away from the field after the final restart flew on lap 46 of the 50-lap Rumble by the River A-main at Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania Saturday night (Aug. 27).

As has been the case for much of 2023, O’Neal proved to be the only Rocket Chassis car in a field of Longhorns, but was a top-three fixture all night in scoring the $50,000 win. 

Having said that, all of the top finishers (O’Neal, Mike Marlar and Davenport) were likely breathing a sigh of relief after lap 40. When the caution flag flew on lap 40, Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader Ricky Thornton Jr. had charged from 25th to third and actually had passed Marlar for second before the yellow flag nullified the pass. Under that same yellow, Thornton’s car lost power in turn 2 and would not turn back over, leading Thornton to be pushed back to the pits.

2023 RUMBLE BY THE RIVER RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: The closest finish of the weekend came courtesy of the first B-main Saturday night, a race that saw Chris Ferguson transfer to the A-main by a literal matter of inches. Those inches translated into $2,000 in start money.

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

I picked a dramatic moment above, but seriously, take your pick. With the exception of the final five-lap run, there were no less than four cars under a blanket up front for the entire feature at Port Royal, with the battle for the lead under a second the entire race despite being contested on a half-mile oval.

It’s a damn shame that the caution flew as much as it did in the second half of Saturday’s feature. The racetrack was good enough that the race was still a dandy, but the cautions kept a dandy from becoming a race of the year contender. The surface was mint. Don’t take my word for it.

For as much as I moan and groan about race formats in this column, credit where it’s due. The Rumble by the River got it 100% right.

No passing points, no points accrual, qualifying sets preliminary features, preliminary features set final night heat races, heat results set the A-main event. A stranger with no knowledge of anything sitting in the grandstands would have no trouble understanding the entirety of the program. And the racing on-track did not suffer for this format. All hail the mighty Port Royal!

On that note … Did you notice? That this weekend’s race at Port Royal marked the cutoff of the “Great 8” of the asinine NASCAR-style points system that the LOLMDS adopted? Neither did I. And neither did the Lucas Oil website even, with no mention of the cutoff since the Port Royal preview the series ran last Wednesday.

Yes, it’s great that those top-eight drivers earned at least $1,500 in bonus money for being in the top eight. But considering the WoO tour has found a way to pay their top-15 drivers $2,500 a month in bonus money without destroying their title chase’s legitimacy, this “chase” for a title remains a major smear on the Lucas tour. Especially considering it means that RTJ and his all-time series-leading 16 wins in 2023 is not assured a season title.

Arguably the biggest headline in the late model world this past week came with the announcement that two-time defending LOLMDS champion Tim McCreadie and the Paylor Motorsports No. 39 team will cease serving as the Longhorn Chassis “house car” after the 2023 season. 

Of note, this announcement prompted a clarification from the team later in the week that McCreadie will remain the driver of the No. 39 in 2024 and that the team will continue to field Longhorn racecars.

While most of you have read the press release from Longhorn Chassis today concerning the re-aligning of their house car…

Posted by Paylor Motorsports – Tim McCreadie on Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Two takeaways here. First, this is not a surprise at all. McCreadie has been a non-factor on the national scene in 2023 during a season that has seen fellow Longhorn drivers RTJ and Bobby Pierce dominate the LOLMDS and World of Outlaws late model tours, with the two leading the points convincingly in those two series. And with O’Neal’s hiring having, well, Rocketed the Rocket Chassis house car back to national relevance, Longhorn needed to make a change.

Second though, I’m not convinced this is going to prove to be much of a hinderance to McCreadie and the Paylor team as they seek to rebound to form next year. Even last season during his $2 million campaign, Davenport repeatedly made reference to his relationship with McCreadie and the setup information that the two drivers consistently shared with each other week to week.

McCreadie is one of the most accomplished and respected veterans in the pits and those relationships aren’t going anywhere, house car program or not.

Dirt Racing’s Hero(es) of the Weekend

The LOLMDS may have been well north of the Mason/Dixon line, but a couple of Georgia boys both had weekends worth mentioning. 2021 late model Dream winner Brandon Overton broke a months-long losing streak with a victory in a Friday prelim, while his brother Cody had arguably his strongest weekend yet transitioning from crate to super late model racing. In terms of both racing talent and personality, more Overton is nothing to complain about.

Both nights at Port Royal this weekend saw some serious hard chargers, with Garrett Alberson rebounding from a horrible heat race to go from 23rd to sixth in his prelim feature Friday, while Matt Cosner was arguably the surprise of the weekend when he went 15th to fourth in Saturday’s main event.

Dirt Racing’s Victim(s) of the Weekend

Thornton. See above. To go from 25th to second with a backup engine only to break again is about as rough as it gets. 

Local driver Michael Norris saw a top-five run go out the window in the closing laps Saturday night with a mechanical failure that dropped him to 23rd in the final running order. With Norris’s trouble, the highest-finishing Pennsylvanian was Gregg Satterlee in 15th. 

Mark Dobmeier’s wreck at River Cities Friday night was bad enough to depart the confines of Port Royal for a shoutout. Dobmeier suffered a bruised lung in the incident but fortunately was checked at the hospital and released without serious injury.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (Sept. 4) with coverage of the World of Outlaws Skagit Nationals from Washington state. Streaming coverage can be found on DirtVision.

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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