By WoO LATE MODEL PR
BARBERVILLE, FL – Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., a veteran racer in action since 1988, has been one of the biggest names without a World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series victory. That changed in his 53rd career feature start when O’Neal finally took a coveted trip to Victory Lane during the bookend to the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday night.
Heading into the 40-lap Craftsman Club Feature, the buzz was about what tire compound the teams would choose. It was ultimately Don O’Neal who chose the right combination.
“We’ve had a good car,” said O’Neal. “The Peak Anti-Freeze team with Crawford Outdoor, Cometic Gasket, and Penske Shocks car has been good all Speedweeks, there just wasn’t anything going our way. Tonight, it did.”
O’Neal was a man on a mission all night. Locking up the final transfer spot from his heat put him 13th on the feature starting grid. O’Neal made quick work of the cars in front of him and used a lap 15 restart to take the lead from polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. who had led every lap to that point.
“We had a harder tire on then most of those guys,” said Erb Jr., who finished seventh. “A lot of those guys gambled with that soft tire. We took the green early and everyone stayed in that line around the bottom. My car was working really good there. Everything was going good until that yellow came out. Then everybody got chasing the brown, [tacky dirt] around the top and those soft tire were able to pull away from me. We definitely got beat on tires tonight.”
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, NY jumped to the second position the same lap as O’Neal took over the point and steadily gained ground on the leader. On lap 38 in the midst of heavy lapped traffic, O’Neal nearly got into the turn two wall. The slip up by O’Neal allowed McCreadie an attempt for a last lap pass bringing the crowd surrounding the World’s Fastest Half-Mile to their feet.
“I was warming my tires up on the outside and I thought ‘this feels so much better than the bottom did on that first 14-lap run” said McCreadie. “Don, he’s a professional and he found the traction before I did. I moved up and thought we could run with him, but at the end I think he had the best car. He made one little mistake at the end there and it gave us a chance. We hadn’t run this car yet and we ran it for three nights. We got a second and a third out of it.”
O’Neal claimed a desired Gator trophy and $10,000 but it was Shane Clanton who took home the king of them all, the Big Gator as DIRTcar Nationals Late Model champion.
“We missed it a little bit tonight, but it’s a testament to how hard we worked all week,” said Clanton “To run top-five three nights and just miss it a little bit tonight and run where we did (13th), we had a shot.”
Before the stretch at DIRTcar Nationals, series veteran Clanton explained the importance of coming out of the Georgia-Florida jaunt ahead in the standings.
“If you come out of Florida on top then it’s easy to stay on top, if you come up behind then it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole,” said Clanton. “It’s important to have a good run because it will boost the whole season and [at this point] who knows who will be running good.”
Headed out of DIRTcar Nationals, Brandon Sheppard is the leader in the 2017 World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series Points Standings followed by Rick Eckert who is only a mere four points behind. For the last two years the driver who headed out of DIRTcar Nationals highest in points ultimately won the Championship Title at the end of the year. That may not be the case this year as the points race is still very close; meaning it could be anyone’s for the taking.
Feature: 1.5- Don O’Neal; 2.39-Tim McCreadie; 3.21-Billy Moyer Jr; 4.40B-Bronson; 5.44-Chris Madden; 6.9-Devin Moran; 7.28-Dennis Erb Jr; 8.18-Eric Wells; 9.7-Rick Eckert; 10.15s-Donny Schatz; 11.3s-Brian Shirley; 12.14-Darrell Lanigan; 13.25-Shane Clanton; 14.1-Brandon Sheppard; 15.91-Tyler Erb; 16.17M-Dale McDowell; 17.1*-Chub Frank; 18.18c-Chase Junghans ; 19.7F-Jason Fitzgerald; 20.2H-Nick Hoffman; 21.99j-Frank Heckenast Jr; 22.14M-Morgan Bagley; 23.2c-Joey Coulter; 24.99B-Boom Briggs; 25.116-Brandon Overton; 26.15-Steve Francis
Qualifying Group A: 1. 40B-Kyle Bronson, 17.376; 2.3s-Brian Shirley, 17.387; 3.21-Billy Moyer Jr, 17.418; 4. 39- Tim McCreadie, 17.42; 5. 93- Donald Bradsher, 17.444; 6. 15s- Donny Schatz, 17.453; 7. 1- Brandon Sheppard, 17.52; 8. 99B- Boom Briggs, 17.575; 9. 14M- Morgan Bagley, 17.589; 10. 7- Rick Eckert, 17.661; 11.4-Ds-Chad Hollenbeck, 17.663; 12. 14- Darrell Lanigan, 17.679; 13. 2c- Joey Coulter, 17.696; 14. 18c- Chase Junghans, 17.903; 15. 5- Don O’Neal, 17.913; 16. 2F- Dennis Franklin, 17.115; 18.0v-Coleby Frye, 18.231; 19. 7W- Ricky Weiss, 18.471; 20. B1- Brent Larson, 18.535; 21. 99- Dylan Thompson, 18.708; 22. 16H- Mike Hammerle, 19.385; 23. 18-Eric Wells, DQ(light)
Qualifying Group B: 1. 44- Chris Madden, 16.532;2. 28- Dennis Erb Jr, 16.655;3. 116- Brandon Overton, 16.95;4. 25- Shane Clanton, 16.956;5. 2H- Nick Hoffman, 16.973;6. 91- Tyler Erb, 17.017;7. 38s- Kenny Pettyjohn, 17.127;8. 1*- Chub Frank, 17.143;9. 7F- Jason Fitzgerald, 17.217;10. 20- Rodney Sanders, 17.227;11. 15- Steve Francis, 17.32; 12. 99j- Frank Heckenast Jr, 17.349;13. 9- Devin Moran, 17.369;14. 17M- Dale McDowell, 17.565;15. 1P- Earl Pearson Jr, 17.586; 16. 21L- Ivedent Lloyd Jr, 17.593;17. 6- Blake Spencer, 17.647;18. 16T- Tyler Bruening, 17.661;19. 16- Jason Jameson, 18.135;20. 3c- Charles LaPlant, 18.513;21. 14r- Reid Millard, 19.186;22. 22*- G.R. Smith, DNS
Heat 1 (Top four transfer to the Feature): 1. 40B- Kyle Bronson; 2. 1- Brandon Sheppard; 3. 21- Billy Moyer Jr; 4. 5- Don O’Neal; 5.14M-Morgan Bagley; 6.0v-Coleby Frye; 7.93- Donald Bradsher; 8.B1- Brent Larson; 9.4-Ds- Chad Hollenbeck; 10.2c- Joey Coulter; 11.16H-Mike Hammerle
Heat 2 (Top four transfer to the Feature): 1. 3s- Brian Shirley; 2. 39- Tim McCreadie; 3. 7- Rick Eckert ; 4. 15s-Donny Schatz; 5. 14-Darrell Lanigan; 6. 99B- Boom Briggs ; 7.18c- Chase Junghans; 8.18- Eric Wells; 9.7W- Ricky Weiss; 10.2F-Dennis Franklin ;11. 99-Dylan Thompson
Heat 3 (Top four transfer to the Feature): 1. 44-Chris Madden; 2.116-Brandon Overton; 3.2H-Nick Hoffman; 4.7F-Jason Fitzgerald; 5.9-Devin Moran; 6.38s-Kenny Pettyjohn; 7.15-Steve Francis; 8.1P-Earl Pearson Jr; 9.16-Jason Jameson; 10.6-Blake Spencer; 11.14r-Reid Millard
Heat 4 (Top four transfer to the Feature): 1.28- Dennis Erb Jr; 2.25-Shane Clanton; 3.91-Tyler Erb 4.1*-Chub Frank; 5.20-Rodney Sanders 6.99j-Frank Heckenast Jr; 7.17M-Dale McDowell; 8.21L-Ivedent Lloyd Jr; 9.16T-Tyler Bruening 10.3c-Charles LaPlant; 11.22*-G.R. Smith[DNS]
Last Chance Showdown 1 (Top three transfer to the Feature): 1. 14- Darrell Lanigan; 2.14M-Morgan Bagley; 3.99B-Boom Briggs; 4.0v-Coleby Frye; 5.18c-Chase Junghans; 6.B1-Brent Larson; 7.18-Eric Wells; 8.4-Ds-Chad Hollenbeck; 9.2F-Dennis Franklin; 10.2c-Joey Coulter; 11.93-Donald Bradsher;12.6-Blake Spencer; 13.99-Dylan Thompson; 14.16H-Mike Hammerle; 15. 7W- Ricky Weiss [DNS]
Last Chance Showdown 2 (Top three transfer to the Feature): 1. 17M-Dale McDowell;2.9-Devin Moran;3.15-Steve Francis;4.21L-Ivedent Lloyd Jr;5.16-Jason Jameson;6.16T-Tyler Bruening;7.14r-Reid Millard;8.99j-Frank Heckenast Jr9.3c-Charles LaPlant;10.20-Rodney Sanders;11.38s-Kenny Pettyjohn[DNS];12.1P-Earl Pearson Jr[DNS];13.6-Blake Spencer[DNS];14.22*-G.R. Smith[DNS]
CONTINGENCY WINNERS: Craftsman/Sears ($200 Cash):
Billy Moyer Jr., Chris Madden, Devin Moran, Eric Wells, Rick Eckert,; Craftsman/Sears ($100 Cash): Don O’Neal; Comp Cams ($50 product certificate): Chris Madden; MSD Ignition ($50 Cash): Billy Moyer Jr.; Quarter Master ($100 Product Certificate): Kyle Bronson; Wrisco (Three Sheets of aluminum): Eric Wells; Penske Racing Shocks ($50 Product Certificate): Eric Wells ; JE Pistons ($50 Cash): Devin Moran; VP Racing Fuels ($50 Cash): Rick Eckert; Edelbrock ($50 Cash): Rick Eckert; Comp Cams ($50 Cash): Shane Clanton; Cometic ($50 Cash):Darrell Lanigan ; JRI Shocks ($50 Cash): Tyler Erb; Superflow Dyno’s ($50 Cash): Brandon Sheppard; Quartermaster ($25 Product Certificate): Tyler Erb; JE Pistons (One set of piston rings): Chub Frank; Quartermaster ($50 Product Certificate): Joey Coulter; Arizona Sport Shirts ($100 Product Certificate): Frank Heckenast Jr.; JE Pistons (One set of piston rings): Frank Heckenast Jr..; MSD Ignition ($25 Cash): Boom Briggs.; QA-1 ($50 Cash): Chris Madden; Rookie Bonus: Devin Moran; Bonus Bucks: Don O’Neal