Sheppard wins Dirt Track World Championship; O’Neal crowned 2023 Lucas Oil champ

Brandon Sheppard won his record-tying fifth General Tire Dirt Track World Championship presented by Automotive Racing Products on Oct. 22 at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

On the week, the sport lost Freddy Smith, the driver Sheppard tied for the most wins in the 43-year history of the race, as the Illinois racer earned $100,000 for his victory.

Sheppard, who had just enough fuel on the final lap, coasted across the finish line to barely edge out Hudson O’Neal for the win in a race that saw a record amount of lead changes with eight different drivers leading the race at one point during the crown jewel event. The previous high for lead changes was the first DTWC in 1981, where five different drivers led the race.

O’Neal with his runner-up finish won his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Seres Championship, which will earn him and his car owner, Mark Richards, a dirt late model record $200,000. O’Neal finished one car length behind Sheppard at the finish.

Devin Moran battled with O’Neal for several laps as the two went back and forth to decide the LOLMDS title as Moran came home in third in the final race rundown, which clinched second place in the championship points. Tim McCreadie clinched fifth in the championship points by placing fourth in the DTWC. Dale McDowell rounded out the top five drivers in the 100-lap race.

Jonathan Davenport led the first six laps of the race. It was a close battle up front with him and Mike Marlar, who led Lap 7. But O’Neal, who in his last appearance at Eldora won the World 100 in September, came from the sixth position to grab the lead on the eighth circuit.

The car on the move was Wes Virginia’s Tyler Carpenter, who roared from his 17th starting spot as he passed O’Neal for the race lead on Lap 24. Carpenter was in front until Lap 32 when Brian Shirley became the fifth different driver to lead the race, but Shirley’s lead was short-lived as mechanical issue sent him pit side under caution, ending his night. Carpenter, who was third at the time, also pitted during this time.

McCreadie picked up the lead as the two-time and defending LOLMDS champion went to the front of the field for four laps until Bobby Pierce took the lead until Lap 60.

Then fellow Illini driver Sheppard became the eighth and final leader of the race. A caution with 97 laps complete showed Sheppard in front with McCreadie holding down the second spot. On the final restart of the race, Sheppard hed the lead, but his car started to burp, indicating he was low on fuel as O’Neal and Moran were able to close on the final lap as Sheppard was able to eke out the win.

Sheppard, who took the lead on Lap 60 and led the final 40 laps for his 31st career win with the LOLMDS, was relieved to make it to the finish line.

“I was able to make it to the line. Hudson almost got me there,” he said. “That was a pretty crazy end to the night. When I crossed the line for the white flag, I ran out of gas. I had just enough gas to make it to the line. Every time I have driven this car, it has been good all year. It was phenomenal. The first couple of laps, I don’t know what happened. I think I knocked the brake line loose on the left rear or something. I came in and the guys got it tightened up. I didn’t have time to get the brakes bled. I went back out and the caution came back out, luckily really quick, and we were able to come in get it bled out. It was perfect after that.

“I went pretty hard there at the beginning just to get some distance just in case the leaders would come around and I would get lapped,” he added. “There about halfway, I was running around the middle to the bottom, and I really felt pretty good there. Also, about midway through the race, I found a line that worked pretty good for me through the middle in one and two. Once I saw some of those drivers dropping out and we were picking a few of them off, I thought I was finally trying to wake up.”

O’Neal fell 0.084 seconds behind Sheppard at the finish line as the winner sputtered to the finish line, coming up just short of his first DTWC win.

“This is unbelievable. It was a war of attrition,” he said. “I had two flat tires, led at one point, was a lap down at one point, so I had every emotion I could think of that happened during that race. What a race it came down to with me and Devin. It was kind of rough and tumble out there, but the way it came out, it made a great race for the championship, and it about made it a great race for the win. I think somebody (Sheppard) ran out of fuel coming to the checkered or something. Hats off to my whole team and family. This sport will drive you crazy sometimes. It helps to have a good backdrop of people to rely on.”

O’Neal joins his father, Don, who won the LOLMDS title in 2014.

“I can’t believe it turned out the way it did,” he said. “Hats off to the Eldora track crew. They worked their tails off all weekend. No matter what the racetrack was, they couldn’t help it. They did the best they could. It rained for three days straight. They did a great job.”

Moran, his best career finish in the DTWC and in the LOLMDS championship points, was in position to take the championship as he and O’Neal went back and forth in the final laps.

“It was a great comeback year,” he said. “We got off to a good start in Speedweeks, and then we really struggled in the first month or two after that. That was about as exciting there at the end as it could get. I think everyone is going to talk about this for a very long time. Thanks to the whole Lucas Oil family for a great series to race with.”

Completing the top 10 were Bobby Pierce, Jimmy Owens, Ricky Thornton Jr., Garrett Smith, and Jonathan Davenport.

This week in racing history

From 60 years ago in 1963, Cecil Beavers was named the South-Central Racing Association champion, winning the points over Bob Kinser, Calvin Gilstrap and Orville Yeadon. The rest of the top 10 drivers were Roy Robbins, Kenny Inman, Johnny Johnson, Larry Miller and Mike Johnson.

From 50 years ago in 1973, Jim Curry was named the late model track champion at Brownstown. Don Hobbs was second in points, followed by Woody Smith, Dennis Boknecht, Paul Crockett, Bob Fleetwood, Ira Bastin, Jack Owens, John Davis and Ezra Bastin. Terrence Johnson was named rookie of the year.

Also from 1973, Eldora Speedway named its track champions as Gene Petro (late models), Dick Gaines (sprint cars) and Glenn Adams Jr. (stock cars).

From 50 years ago at Salem Speedway, Johnny Anderson won the ASA Midwest 300 over Ed VanDerlaan, Bobby Watson, Terry Bivins and Dave Watson.

Upcoming local racing schedule

Saturday – Columbus Speedway Go-Kart Racing – Tony Stewart Speedway – Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds – Halloween Havoc – Rain date Nov. 11

Saturday – Circle City Raceway – Indianapolis – Season finale – modifieds, steel-block sprints, hornets, TQW midgets, super stocks, pure stocks, IMCAR RaceSaver sprints, crown vics and 600cc micros. For information, visit

Saturday – I-65 Speedway – Scottsburg – Crown vics, hornets, smack talkers, scrappers and side-by-sides. Racing starts at 3 p.m.