Story By: BEN SHELTON / ROCKET1 RACING – SHINNSTON, WV – In what proved to be a championship weekend filled with countless twists and turns, Hudson O’Neal and Rocket1 Racing achieved a first by claiming the 2023 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship.
O’Neal overcame a final lap duel with Devin Moran in Sunday’s rain-delayed mega finale to claim the $200,000 title. Hudson was the highest finisher of the four Big River Steel Chase for the Championship presented by ARP candidates.
He crossed the finish line in the second position aboard his No. 1 Ace Metal Works / XR1 Rocket Chassis / Durham Racing Engine Super Late Model.
Hudson’s path to the championship was anything but easy, though. He had to overcome two flat tires and being a lap down on a track surface left aggressive by week-long rain.
“What a war of attrition, man,” O’Neal said in Victory Lane. “Two flat tires. Led at one point. Was a lap down at one point. Every emotion you could ever think of happened in that race. What a race it came down to between me and Devin (Moran). The racetrack wasn’t necessarily the best. It was pretty rough and tumble, but it made a great race for the championship and about made a great race for the win.
“Hats off to my whole team. … Man, they all have a hand on this. It’s so great to be able to represent Rocket Chassis and try and do the best we can for them. … I can’t believe it turned out the way it did. Hats off to the Eldora (Speedway) track crew. They worked their tails off all week. No matter, they did the best they can. Nobody knew three, four, five, six months ago it was going to rain for three days straight. Hats off to them and everybody at Eldora.
“As far as the moment goes, I don’t know what to say. Nothing can put into words how I feel right now. It was awesome, we had a good run in second. I hate that the other two broke and took them out of contention, and that Ricky (Thornton Jr.) got in a wreck early. I wish we could all race out there in the end. I’m just happy we’re the fortunate ones that came out on top.”
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) drew Hudson O’Neal and 61 competitors to Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, Ohio) on Friday as the half-mile oval hosted the opening round of the 43rd running of the General Tire Dirt Track World Championship presented by ARP.
After Friday’s program was delayed to Saturday due to continuous rain, series’ and track officials made the decision to shift heat races scheduled for Saturday to Sunday with hopes for better track conditions.
With his qualifying time on Saturday position him on the front row of his heat race on Sunday, Hudson stormed into the $100,000-to-win Dirt Track World Championship with a heat race victory.
Vying for the massive payday and the LOLMDS point’s title, O’Neal muscled ahead of Devin Moran on the final circuit of the 100-lap finale to secure the championship and a runner-up finish.
Despite two flat tires in an eventful race that saw a DTWC record of eight different leaders, Hudson topped Moran in the waning laps to capture his first career LOLMDS title and the whopping $200,000 top prize. He finished 0.084-seconds behind Brandon Sheppard with Moran rounding out the podium.
The team will be idle this week before rolling into The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, N.C.) on Nov. 1 – 4 for the 2023 edition of the World of Outlaws (WoO) Case Late Model Series World Finals.
Action opens with qualifying on Wednesday evening followed by $15,000-to-win programs on Thursday and Friday and a $25,000-to-win finale on Saturday.