TAMPA, Fla. (February 7, 2023) – Ashton Winger picked up his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory on Tuesday night during the 47th Annual Wieland Winternationals - presented by Lucas Oil at East Bay Raceway Park. With the win Winger becomes the 87th different driver to win a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event in series history.
The 23-year-old Georgia native went to the lead at the start of the 30-lap main event and other than a brief time when Kyle Bronson got by him in turn number two, he officially led every lap after getting back around Bronson at the scoring loop.
For the second night in a row Hudson O’Neal finished in second with Brandon Sheppard coming home in third. The remainder of the top five were Brandon Overton and Dennis Erb Jr.
Winger took the lead at the start with O’Neal moving into the second spot. Bronson was the car on the move early in the race. After starting in fifth Bronson moved past O’Neal for second on lap six. There were back-to-back cautions that cleared traffic for Winger after he was about to pick up the tail end of the field.
After a lap eight restart Bronson kept the pressure on Winger and was able to take the lead briefly after Winger slipped in turn two. However, by the time the two drivers crossed the line Winger was still in front. Bronson continued to hold the second spot until Sheppard was able to get by him with ten laps to go. Bronson, while running third slowed coming off turn two on lap 24 forcing the final caution of the race.
On the restart after Bronson had exited the race O’Neal and Sheppard would get Winger in their sightlines, but Winger was able to pull away in the waning laps to secure the victory.
“It’s awesome to win in front of these people,” said Winger in Lucas Oil Victory Lane as he became the sixth different winner in eight races so far in 2023. “I felt like we’ve been really close this year. We were really close here last year. It’s hard not to get emotional. My mom and dad gave up everything for me to be here. I know it’s only $5,000 to win, but to beat these guys, Hudson and Sheppy are two of the best in country. I felt like when I got into a rhythm, I was pretty good there, but the track was treacherous and the longer and longer it went I don’t know what was going to happen. Like I said I got into a rhythm, and then on those restarts I messed up bad there that one time and Kyle [Bronson] got by me and going into three and four I pretty much held it to the floor to get the lead back”
O’Neal in his first full season piloting the Rocket House car finished 1.833 seconds behind Winger at the finish line. “I gave it all I had. I drove my heart out, but I just couldn’t quite get to him [Winger]. There was one time there the last couple of laps I got around that bottom and I thought ok maybe if I could get to him one time, I could burn it and about that time I was driving back to him I got my tires hot and I just faded back from him.”
Sheppard, who owns nine career wins at East Bay, finished in third after not making the feature on Monday night. “I really needed to get by Ashton [Winger] going down the back straightaway and get back to the bottom. The car was good tonight we were glad to be in the hunt and in the race tonight. It was a big turnaround from last night and I can’t thank my guys enough for working their tails off on this thing and not giving up after we missed the show last night.”
The winner’s Jeff Mathews Motorsports, Rocket Chassis is powered by a Durham Racing Engine and sponsored by Recreational Vehicle Service, Keyser Manufacturing, Integra Racing Shocks, Super K Express, Wraptech, FK Rod Ends, Johnny Doan Plumbing, Credit Union Remarketing, and Angry Elephant Tattoos and Piercings.
Completing the top ten were Garrett Smith, Ryan Gustin, Tim McCreadie, Mark Whitener, and Devin Moran.