BARBERVILLE, Fla. — After Saturday's heat races for the 46th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, drivers all but begged track officials to rework what had been a bottom dominant racing surface early in the evening. Fearing their tires would not hold up over the course of the 40-lap World of Outlaws-sanctioned feature, one at a time, competitors petitioned WoO officials to do something — anything — to revamp the locked down surface of the big half-mile oval.
Track prep crews spent an additional 45 minutes reworking the speedway and drivers spent about 20 minutes rolling in the surface before the main event.
The result was a stirring 13th-to-first topside run by veteran Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind. He found much-needed traction on the high side during a lap-14 caution and blasted into the lead on the restart, passing both Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and race-long leader Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.
O'Neal stayed in front the rest of the way to collect his first career World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series feature win and a $10,000 payday to go along with a victory in the 46th DIRTcar Nationals.
“They worked on (the track) all night and they got us a good race track there and made us a good feature race,” said O'Neal, who was triumphant during the DIRTcar Nationals for the first time since 2012.
McCreadie rolled by Erb as well and finished second, while Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark, was third after starting ninth. Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., was able to move from his eighth starting spot to finish fourth and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., finished fifth after starting seventh.
Erb took off from the pole and built a big lead, first over fellow front-row starter Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and then over McCreadie, who started third. Erb led the first 14 laps before fading to a seventh-place finish.
“That top just came alive up there and them guys all had softer tires on and I knew we were gonna be in trouble,” said Erb. “We just kinda bounced back and finished off where we were.”
It took O'Neal 10 laps to put himself in contention. He moved into the top five when he passed both Madden and Moyer at the same time in turn four. Moyer slid up the track in front of Madden, leaving O'Neal plenty of room on the bottom.
After breaking into the top five, O'Neal wasted little time getting by Shirley for fourth. He next flexed his muscle with a power move on Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., as the pair raced off turn two. O'Neal then inherited third from Overton.
When Overton's night ended in a plume of smoke due to apparent engine trouble — while Darrell Lanigan simultaneously looped his car in turn four — to bring out the first caution on lap 14, O'Neal was in perfect position to take advantage. McCreadie chose the bottom on the Delaware double-file restart, putting O'Neal exactly where he wanted to be.
“I thought, man, I don't have nothing to lose, and I thought, I hope McCreadie takes the bottom just to give me a chance,” said O'Neal. “And it was like, 'Wow!' He was kicking himself for not taking the top after it happened, and then we run up there the whole race.”
After the race's second and final caution flag flew on lap 25 when Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., slowed on the backstretch, O'Neal stretched his lead until a bobble in turn two gave McCreadie some hope with two laps remaining. Attempting to put Jason Fitzgerald of Middleburg, Fla., a lap down, O'Neal slid across the nose of Fitzgerald's car. O'Neal slowed momentarily as contact with Fitzgerald crunched the left-rear bodywork of O'Neal's car before getting his machine back under him, but his advantage over McCreadie was too much for the runnerup to overcome.
“He found the traction before I did. At the end I think he had the best car,” said McCreadie. “He made one little mistake there that gave us a chance. I should've probably taken the top (on the restart), but you know, you don't know.”
Moyer followed O'Neal through as well, going from fifth to third before finally easing by Erb for second. Once McCreadie was able to clear Erb, he eventually reclaimed the second sport from Moyer. Even so, it was a solid finish for Moyer, who struggled with mechanical gremlins for much of the DIRTcar Nationals.
“That restart there I was going as hard as I could and I followed (O'Neal) and we snaked up through there … the car was good, but I don't think I had anything for Don,” said Moyer.
Shane Clanton finished a quiet 13th, but that was more than enough to help the Zebulon, Ga., driver clinch the 46th DIRTcar Nationals championship. Along with a win on Friday night, Clanton also registered finishes of fourth and second during the four nights of action at Volusia to earn him the coveted big gator trophy.
There was no change in the WoO points standings after Saturday night's action because WoO officials decided to award only show-up points for the event (60 points to all entered drivers). With the DCN tire rule mandating that teams must use softer LM-20-compound tires on all corners of the car except the right-rear (harder 30- and 40-compound rubber was allowed there), officials responded to entrants' complaints that the softer LM-20s would not last the feature distance — even with the A-main shortened from its original 50-lap length — after tire wear was excessive on the hard surface during practice and qualifying.
"We made the decision (for a show-up points A-main) and announced it to the teams before the feature based on what we saw happening in hot laps, qualifying, heats and the B-mains," WoO Late Model Series direction Tim Christman said. "Drivers were burning up their tires, and with the tire rule ending up not being right for the (more abrasive) conditions we didn't want to get into a situation where everyone was blowing tires."
Christman noted that the fears of blown tires didn't materialize because the pre-feature track reconditioning improved the surface to the point that it didn't eat up the LM-20s, but "that was an unknown when we made the decision using the information we had gathered up to that point in the night."
Editor's note: adds information from Christman about show-up points decision
Preliminary results and notes:
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Shirley
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Shane Clanton
Row 3: Brandon Overton, Brandon Sheppard
Row 4: Chris Madden, Kyle Bronson
Row 5: Billy Moyer Jr., Rick Eckert
Row 6: Nick Hoffman, Tyler Erb
Row 7: Don O’Neal, Donny Schatz
Row 8: Jason Fitzgerald, Chub Frank
Row 9: Darrell Lanigan, Dale McDowell
Row 10: Morgan Bagley, Devin Moran
Row 11: Boom Briggs, Steve Francis
Row 12: Frank Heckenast Jr., Eric Wells
Row 13: Joey Coulter, Chase Junghans
The A-main field begain rolling onto the track at 10:05 p.m. ... Officials announced that both the WoO and companion DIRTcar big-block modified feature will be reduced to 40 laps from the scheduled 50 circuits. … After Friday night’s action was run on a heavy, hammer-down track surface, Saturday evening’s conditions have turned up almost completely the opposite: drier and slower. The surface rubbered up along the inside in the heat races, creating significant tire wear for the first time this week. Some track reconditioning work was done before the B-mains and the prep crew returned to the speedway before the WoO feature, but whether it will open up more lanes for racing and/or reduce tire wear is to be determined. … With the tire rule for the week allowing a hard-compound LM-40 Hoosier tire only on the right-rear corner, teams are wondering how their softer LM-20 tires will hold up on the other three corners — especially the left-rear, which could take the brunt of abuse if a groove takes rubber in the feature. … Polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., will seek his first DIRTcar Nationals victory since 2012. That triumph was also the last of his four career WoO checkered flags. … Volusia UMP modified dominator Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., starts 11th in what will be his first Dirt Late Model start of the DIRTcar Nationals.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., advanced from the sixth starting spot and snuck past race-long leader Devin Moran on the final lap to win the second B-main. Steve Francis finished third after overtaking a slowing Frank Heckenast Jr. on the last lap. Heckenast pulled to the pit area and will use a provisional to start the feature. Outside front row starter Rodney Sanders got turned around in turn two on the first lap and had to go to the tail of the field for a restart. Sanders instead pulled off the track and called it a night. Charles LaPlant and Reid Millard brought out the first caution. LaPlant brought out another yellow on lap six.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Dale McDowell, Devin Moran, Steve Francis, Ivedent lloyd Jr., Jason Jameson, Tyler Bruening, Reid Millard, Frank Heckenast Jr., Charles LaPlant, Rodney Sanders.
Darrell Lanigan passed polesitter Morgan Bagley on lap four to win the first B-main. Bagley held on for second, while Boom Briggs outran Coleby Frye to claim the last transfer spot.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Morgan Bagley Boom Briggs, Coleby Frye, Chase Junghans, Brent Larson, Eric Wells, Chad Hollenbeck, Dennis Franklin, Joey Coulter, Donald Bradsher, Blake Spencer, Dylan Thompson, Mike Hammerle.
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Morgan Bagley, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Coleby Frye, Boom Briggs
Row 3: Donald Bradsher, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Brent Larson, Eric Wells
Row 5: Chad Hollenbeck, Ricky Weiss
Row 6: Joey Coulter, Dennis Franklin
Row 7: Mike Hammerle, Dylan Thompson
Row 1: Devin Moran, Rodney Sanders
Row 2: Kenny Pettyjohn, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 3: Steve Francis, Dale McDowell
Row 4: Earl Pearson Jr., Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 5: Jason Jameson, Tyler Bruening
Row 6: Blake Spencer, Charles LaPlant
Row 7: Reid Millard, G.R. Smith
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill, had to fend off Shane Clanton at the start before leading all the way to claim the win in the fourth heat. Clanton closed in on Erb with two to go, but couldn't get within striking distance on a surface that was bottom dominant. Clanton ran second, with Tyler Erb third and Chub Frank fourth.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Shane Clanton, Tyler Erb, Chub Frank, Rodney Sanders, Frank Heckenast Jr., Dale McDowell, Ivedent Llyod Jr., Tyler Bruening, Charles LaPlant. Scratched: G.R. Smith.
Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., took advantage of his pole starting position and pulled ahead of Brandon Overton to win the third heat. Nick Hoffman started thirf and finished third, while Jason Fitzgerald finished fourth. Reid Millard brought out the race's lone caution on lap two. Kenny Pettyjohn slipped from the second row to finish sixth.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Chris Madden, Brandon Overton, Nick Hoffman, Jason Fitzgerald, Devin Moran, Kenny Pettyjohn, Steve Francis, Earl Pearson Jr., Jason Jameson, Blake Spencer, Reid Millard.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill, continued his stellar DIRTcar Nationals by winning the second heat from the pole. A fast-closing Tim McCreadie pulled to within the rear deck of Shirley on the final lap but couldn't challenge for the win. Rick Eckert finished third, while sprint car ace Donny Schatz fell from third to fourth midway through the heat. Schatz held on for the final transfer spot, sending fifth-place finisher Darrell Lanigan to the B-main.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Brian Shirley, Tim McCreadie, Rick Eckert, Donny Schatz, Darrell Lanigan, Boom Briggs, Chase Junghans, Eric Wells, Ricky Weiss, Dennis Franklin.
Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., paced the field from the pole and led every lap to win the first heat by 2.285 second over Brandon Sheppard. Billy Moyer Jr. finished third. Don O'Neal slipped by Morgan Bagley for the final transfer spot with three laps to go.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Kyle Bronson, Brandon Sheppard, Billy Moyer Jr., Don O'Neal, Morgan Bagley, Coleby Frye, Donald Bradsher, Brent Larson, Chad Hollenbeck, Joey Coulter, Mike Hammerle.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 2: Donald Bradsher, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 4: Joey Coulter, Don O’Neal
Row 5: Coleby Frye, Brent Larson
Row 6: Mike Hammerle
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Tim McCreadie
Row 2: Donny Schatz, Boom Briggs
Row 3: Rick Eckert, Darrell Lanigan
Row 4: Chase Junghans, Dennis Franklin
Row 5: Ricky Weiss, Dylan Thompson
Row 6: Eric Wells
Row 1: Chris Madden, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Nick Hoffman, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 3: Jason Fitzgerald, Steve Francis
Row 4: Devin Moran, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 5: Blake Spencer, Jason Jameson
Row 6: Reid Millard
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Shane Clanton
Row 2: Tyler Erb, Chub Frank
Row 3: Rodney Sanders, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: Dale McDowell, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 5: Tyler Bruening, Charles LaPlant
Row 6: G.R. Smith
Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., blazed around the half-mile oval in 16.532 laps during the second group, earning overall fast-time honors.
Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., appeared to register the fastest circuit in the first group, but his lap of 16.786 seconds was negated because he was disqualified for weighing in light. That gave Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., quick time in the first group at 17.376 seconds.
Madden and Bronson will be joined as heat-race polesitters by Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.
Friday-night feature winner Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., was orginally listed as starting 10th in the fourth heat after apparently experiencing trouble during qualifying, but officials ruled that his 18.626-second lap initially deemed his official time was his "warmup" lap.
The DIRTcar Nationals conclude on another gorgeous day: partly sunny skies with a high temperature approaching 80. … A 44-car field is signed in for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series action. … Drivers who competed on Friday but have withdrawn from further action are Michael Norris of Sarver, Pa., who dropped a rod in the engine powering the brand-new XR1 Rocket he drove to fast time in his qualifying group; Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., the 16-year-old sensation whose five-week Speedweeks assault ended with three struggle-filled nights at Volusia; Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., who decided to skip the finale because he’s been off the pace throughout the week; and Win Ingersoll of Port St. Lucie, Fla. … Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., has unloaded a Longhorn car he’ll drive for the first time after fighting issues with a “lagging” engine in his other machine. … Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., pulled out his second car for Saturday’s program after breaking a crankshaft in his primary mount during a Friday-night heat. … Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., is hoping to enjoy a solid run to end what has been a largely frustrating Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. “I think we’ve had more stuff go wrong in two weeks that we had go wrong all last year,” said Moyer, who was hampered by fuel-pressure problems on Friday night. … Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., has a new Longhorn ready for the finale after breaking a driveshaft in the car he drove in Friday night’s feature. … Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., will drive the same Clint Bowyer Racing Club 29 car that was knocked from Friday’s A-main by a broken yoke on the back of the transmission. … Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky., had a simple comment after retiring early from Friday’s feature due to broken nose braces on his Capital Race Car: “And a great Speedweeks continues for me.” Francis was encouraged by his performance before he hit a hump in the track in turn three and damaged his nosepiece. “Tonight was the best I’ve felt,” said Francis, who won a heat and started from the pole position. … Jay Bohannon, who has served as the crew chief for his fellow Texan Morgan Bagley since 2014, confirmed that tonight’s program will be his last working for Bagley. A full-time mechanic for over a decade (he’s also worked with USMTS modified teams), he plans to step away from the sport and take a non-racing job in the Lone Star State.
The finale of the 46th annual DIRTcar Nationals features a 50-lap World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series A-Main paying $10,000 to win. It’s also the concluding event of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks.
Saturday night’s program includes split-group qualifying, four heat races, two B-mains and the 50-lap headliner. The top two finishes in each heat race will redraw for the top eight positions in the feature lineup.
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 17.376
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 17.387
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 17.418
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 17.42
Donald Bradsher (93), Burlington, N.C., 17.444
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 17.453
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 17.52
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 17.575
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 17.589
Rick Eckert (7), York, Pa., 17.661
Chad Hollenbeck (4ds), Kingsley, Pa., 17.663
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 17.679
Joey Coulter (2c), Charlotte, N.C., 17.696
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 17.903
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 17.913
Dennis Franklin (2F), Gaffney, S.C., 18.115
Coleby Frye (0v), Dover, Pa., 18.231
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingley, Manitoba, 18.471
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 18.535
Dylan Thompson (99), Paducah, Ky., 18.708
Mike Hammerle (16H), St. Charles, Mo., 19.385
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.786 (DQ — light)
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.532
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.655
Brandon Overton (116), Evans, Ga., 16.95
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.956
Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., 16.973
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 17.017
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 17.127
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 17.143
Jason Fitzgerald (7F), Middleburg, Fla., 17.217
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 17.227
Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky., 17.32
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 17.349
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 17.369
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 17.565
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.586
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21L), Ocala, Fla., 17.593
Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., 17.647
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 17.661
Jason Jameson (16), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 18.135
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Mo., 18.513
Reid Millard (14), Jefferson City, Mo., 19.186
G.R. Smith (22*), Cornelius, N.C., no time
5 p.m.: Grandstands open
5:30 p.m.: Fan pit pass gate opens
6 p.m.: Hot laps
- World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models
6:30 p.m.: Time trials
- Super DIRTcar series Big-Block Modifieds (Timed hot laps/group qualifying)
- World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models
7:20 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
7:30 p.m.: Racing
- Super DIRTcar series Big-Block Modifieds heats
- World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models heats
- Super DIRTcar series Big-Block Modifieds last chance races
- World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models last chance races
- World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models A-Feature
- Super DIRTcar series Big-Block Modifieds A-Feature
- Super DIRTcar series Big-Block Modifieds Non-qualifiers race