TAMPA, Fla. (February 9, 2023) – Hudson O’Neal scored his first win for Rocket1 Racing as the 22-year-old Indiana native went to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series winner’s circle on Thursday night during the 47th Annual Wieland Winternationals - presented by Lucas Oil at East Bay Raceway Park.
Max Blair came home in second to equal his best career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series finish. Dennis Erb Jr. was third with 12th place starter Garrett Smith coming home in fourth. Tim McCreadie completed the top five.
O’Neal grabbed the lead at the start of the race with Dennis Erb Jr. in second followed by current Big River Steel Chase for the Championship – Presented by ARP leader Ricky Thornton Jr. Thornton took second on lap three from Erb, then ran behind O’Neal until he broke coming off a lap 10 restart ending his night. Blair, who started fifth then moved into second place after Thornton left the race.
Blair kept pace with O’Neal until the final lap when he closed the gap ending up just 0.363 seconds behind his fellow third generation racer at the checkers.
O’Neal in Lucas Oil Victory Lane for the 19th time in career breathed a sigh of relief to get his first win of 2023 for his new team. “I can’t begin to talk about it. The worst part is that I know we have had it in us the whole trip and just little things just didn’t fall our way. I was able to get the lead from the jump there and I knew it was the best place I could possibly be with the way the track was moving around. It’s just better to be up front. I knew if I could just maintain a gap and get ahead of them before I caught lapped traffic. With those lapped cars it was tense. I kept waiting for someone to blast around the outside.”
Blair, who was seeking to become the third straight first-time winner finished in the runner-up spot. “I just couldn’t believe I was racing with Hudson O’Neal for the win at East Bay. That’s awesome. It was a good night. We’ve had a good car all week and the driver just can’t put a good lap together until tonight. We put a whole night together tonight, hopefully we can put together two more nights like this.”
Erb Jr. who was looking for his eighth career win at East Bay rounded out the Big River Steel Podium with a third-place finish. “Hopefully we can build some good momentum from this for the rest of the week. We ran well the first two nights. We qualified good tonight to start up front. We were a little tight tonight and we will work on that for tomorrow.”
The winner’s Mark Richards Racing, Rocket Chassis is powered by a Clements Racing Engine and sponsored by Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Ace Metal Works, Gunter’s Honey, Petroff Towing, WR1 Sim Chassis, O’Neal’s Salvage and Recycling, Sunoco Race Fuels, Integra Racing Shocks, Performance Grading, and Rocket Pre-Owned Motors.
Completing the top ten were Jimmy Owens, Shane Clanton, Tanner English, Garrett Alberson, and Tyler Erb.
Story - Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Photo - Heath Lawson