Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WATERTOWN, NY – To say the ride to the 2022 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) championship was an easy one for Tim McCreadie and the Paylor Motorsports team would be a lie.
Namely, they had to beat one of the best teams in the business to do it, that being Rocket1 Racing with driver Brandon Sheppard, who had decided to shift their focus from the World of Outlaws to Lucas during this season.
At that time in late April, they were atop the standings while McCreadie was mired back in fourth position, some 120 points behind. From that point on, the 39 team made a march through the series that would like McCreadie’s father proud.
They ultimately overtook the likes of Moran and Erb before leapfrogging Sheppard for the top spot and went on for their second consecutive series crown.
“We had our ups and downs this year,” McCreadie said. “There were a few months where were just kind of off and had a fairly good deficit. To be able to climb out of that and track down Brandon Sheppard and beat those guys in a points championship is pretty rewarding for our Paylor Motorsports team.”
McCreadie knows exactly how significant this was to achieve given the standard the Rocket1 Racing team has set over the last handful of seasons.
“When you get right down to it, they’ve been probably the ultimate championship team,” he said. “No matter what happens, they seem to knock down title after title so for us to be able to slip in there for one year, it’s pretty neat.”
The dedication of both teams was evident to McCreadie as the season progressed.
“I know how hard they work and I know how hard we work,” he said. “It was fun to race against them every week and prove that we were equals and to come out on top at the end.”
Winning one of these titles is never easy but going back-to-back is even more difficult. Was this year any easier?
“Last year when we won the title, JD (Jonathan Davenport) was there for 90% of the year before he had some health issues and then Hudson (O’Neal) was right there,” he said. “That season, every time it looked like we were going to lose the point lead, we battled back and won a race. This year, it was different.”
“In ’22, between both us and Sheppard, neither team was winning through the mid stages of the season,” he said. “Then, we were able to win a couple and get things rolling.”
The greatest part of the season for the 39 team had to be crunch time was the year wound down.
“The best part, for me and our team, had to be the last month,” he said. “We were really good. We were starting to get some fast time awards and win some features. After winning Brownstown after losing a bunch of points at Knoxville was a big deal for our team.”
The dedication of the entire Paylor Motorsports / Longhorn Chassis team, not just McCreadie behind the wheel, is what will put them at the head table during the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series banquet come this December in Indianapolis once again. The Watertown, NY driver knows it was a total team effort.
“To be able to put a cherry on top of the season, get a fast time award at Talladega and clinch the title, is a testament to these guys,” he said. “I’ve got great guys behind me that do this. I’m in a position where it’s been many years to get here so to do this two years in-a-row is amazing.”
Was this season more of an achievement for McCreadie knowing the adversity the team had to overcome?
“This year was very rewarding,” he said. “To have some of the struggles we had and to turn it around was all done off of hard work by this team. It may sound cliché, but you put your nose to the grindstone and you just work your way out of it.”
McCreadie knows just how fortunate he is to have the team he has behind him and is grateful he gets to go to battle with them each and every time they hit the track.
“We never stop working and that’s what the good teams do,” he said. “This year, we were fortunate to do it a little quicker this year than Brandon’s team was.”
Since the first time he sat behind the wheel of a late model, McCreadie has been a championship caliber driver, even capturing the World of Outlaws Late Model Series title back in 2006 as well as several crown jewel victories along the way.
Now, he’s been able to get two straight titles on the Lucas Oil trail some 15 years later. Has the sport changed much?
“When I first started, you had different designs with these cars,” he said. “There were different swing arm designs and different tire choices. There were a lot of things that I didn’t understand and things I didn’t always agree were the way to do things. A lot of times, I would probably hurt myself by stepping outside what the norm was for tires or even shock and spring choices. That went for about ten years, maybe even longer, where we were stuck in the same realm of how we did things.”
What was the turning point?
“As we’ve evolved to what we have today, these cars definitely don’t drive like they did in the early 2000’s,” he said. “It’s crazy that I was able to keep doing it because sometimes, you get left behind. When the sport changes, cars change, set-ups change, and the feel I’m looking for as a driver should change, it’s hard to take that step.”
To McCreadie, he understands that everything has to be right for success to be achieved. You can’t just wish it to happen.
“Sometimes, it’s luck and perseverance,” he said. “A lot of it is having a great race team behind you and great people behind you. All of it has to be wrapped into one and I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to keep going as this ball keeps rolling and to stay on top of it. I’m hoping to be able to do it for a while longer. It’s not over yet.”
Has the second-generation driver let this second consecutive Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship sink in yet?
“I’ve raced so much, all over, and done a lot of different things, that I’ve had some ups and downs that, for me, it’s a high point again,” he said. “That’s the whole point of this deal. You get down and you climb back up the ladder and just try to do your best. We’ll saver this because it’s cool to be able to do this for my owners, Donald and Gena (Bradsher), who are amazing and for this entire team.”
To say 2022 was successful for Tim McCreadie, all you have to do is look at his record. In 91 starts, he may have visited victory lane just nine times but was in the top 5 for a third of those starts and in the top 10 for more than two-thirds of them.
That’s astonishing and he’s not done yet. This weekend, he’ll visit the Hard Clay of Orange County Fair Speedway where he’ll chase both the Big Block & Small Block Modified titles during the 61st Eastern States Weekend, driving for the Petruska family in the #66.
Then, he’ll cap off his 2022 at the Dirt Track at Charlotte with the World of Outlaws World Finals. Both tracks are very good for McCreadie and he could win during both weekends.
It’s good to be Tim McCreadie right now!