O’Neal gets first win of 2024 in Florida


One year after beginning their season with struggles at Volusia Speedway Park, Hudson O’Neal of Hope and Rocket1 Racing flipped the tables with a triumphant start to the 2024 campaign at the Florida oval.

O’Neal drove the team’s Valvoline/Seubert Calf Ranches No. 1 Ace Metal Works/Performance Grading/Professional Concrete and Cutting/Fox Shocks/XR1 Rocket Chassis/Durham Racing Engine Super Late Model to the $15,000 victory in the Jan. 20 Sunshine Nationals finale with the World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series.

“It’s ironic,” O’Neal said. “If anybody remembers my first outing with Rocket1 and how bad it was at Sunshine Nationals one year ago, then to turn around and come back and have a good showing like we did (tonight), I think we had a critical test session here last year, came back and got to make a lot of laps and it helped a lot. I don’t know, I think I’ve found something that I’m comfortable with and something that this place likes. We’re just happy to be in contention, and we are so far ahead of where we started last year, and hopefully, we can go to Speedweeks and win a few more.”

With the Jan. 18 opener falling to persistent rain, Rocket1 Racing and O’Neal kicked off the 2024 season Jan. 19 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, for the fifth annual DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals.

Joined by a stacked field of 55 Late Models, O’Neal raced into the opener with a consolation victory after missing a transfer spot by one car in his heat. Climbing six spots in the 35-lap feature, he rolled to a 13th-place finish.

Improving on his qualifying effort the next day, he backed up the fifth-fastest time in his group with a convincing flag-to-flag victory in his heat race.

Outrunning Friday night’s winner and fellow front-row starter Devin Moran in the feature, O’Neal stole the top spot from Moran on Lap 27 and led the final 14 circuits to secure the $15,000 victory. After leading laps 1 to 14, 20 and 21, O’Neal regained the lead for good on Lap 27 and went onto capture Rocket1’s first win of the season ahead of Kyle Bronson, Devin Moran, Ricky Thornton Jr. and Brandon Sheppard.

O’Neal now turns his attention to the start of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series season tonight at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Georgia, with the General Tire Super Bowl of Racing. O’Neal begins his title defense with a $25,000 winner’s check on the line for tonight’s race.

For information, visit lucasdirt.com.

Moran takes Volusia opener

Devin Moran has made Volusia Speedway Park his January home to package feature wins with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series.

He delivered for the second year on Jan. 19 at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” winning the series’ season opener and picking up his third straight Sunshine Nationals feature victory between 2023 and 2024.

Polesitter Ethan Dotson, defending Series champion Bobby Pierce, Ricky Thornton Jr. and Moran traded positions in the top five through the first 12 laps of the 35-lap feature race.

When the race restarted after the feature’s only caution flag, Dotson slid back to fifth place, while Moran, Thornton and Pierce kept battling for the lead.

And while they battled, four-time series champion Brandon Sheppard neared and knocked. The New Berlin, Illinois, driver was on a mission, charging his way through the field from 16th, eager to bring his Longhorn Factory Team car to victory.

After Moran claimed the lead with 10 laps to go in the feature, Sheppard began to close in on the Dresden, Ohio, driver, who was driving as hard as he could through the lap traffic in front.

With that determination, Moran never relinquished the lead and crossed the line to win his first race of 2024.

“I had to drive really hard,” Moran said. “I was really determined to win tonight. My guys worked really hard all winter on making our car drive really fast, and we came out of the box proving it. It was a lot of fun, and we zigged where we needed to and zagged when we had to, and life was good.”

Sheppard came home second in his Sheppard Riggs Racing Longhorn Factory Team #B5 – earning the Fox Factory Hard Charger Award – with a car able to drive well on any lane of the half-mile surface.

“(The feature) was crazy, honestly,” Sheppard said. “Right off the get-go, I knew I was pretty good as I pulled out alongside of the guys, and I was able to roll around them. Throughout the race, I could enter high, exit low and enter low and exit high. I could run the middle, bottom, top wherever I needed to, so the guys did a phenomenal job for giving me a really good race car there, and we could put it where we wanted to.”

Despite his own mistake of not applying enough helmet tear-offs for the feature, Thornton was able to hang on for a spot on the podium.

“I felt like we had a car capable of winning,” he said. “The driver screwed up by not putting enough tear-offs on. I couldn’t see the second half of the race, but it is what it is. My own fault. The car was really good. The track turned out better than I thought, than I think a lot of us thought it was going to.”

Pierce, who started the night by winning the Simpson Quick Time Award and broke the Volusia Speedway Park track record with a lap time of 15.100 seconds, finished fourth after getting caught behind lap traffic, eliminating his chances for a podium. Last year’s DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator champion, Tim McCreadie, rounded out the night’s top-five finishers.

Lawrenceburg releases 2024 schedule

Lawrenceburg Speedway has announced its 2024 racing schedule. The track will be under the direction of new race promoter Shane McHenry and his family.

March 30 Open practice

April 6 Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

April 13 USAC Sprint Cars and support classes TBA

April 20 Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

April 27 Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

May 4 Fan Appreciation Night – Modifieds, Pure Stocks, Hornets, Crown Vics and Sport Mods

May 11 Great Lakes Super Sprints (Winged Sprints), Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

May 18 Northern Allstars Late Model Series and the Ohio Valley Legend Car Series; other support classes TBA

May 31 High Limit Racing Series 410-Winged Sprint Cars

June 8 305 Racesaver Sprint cars, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

June 22 BOSS Sprints, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

June 29 TBA

July 6 Merrill Downey Memorial – Modifieds and Crate Late Models

July 13 Sprints, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

July 28 USAC Indiana Sprint Week and support class TBA

Aug. 3 Night of Destruction

Aug. 17 Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

Aug. 24 Hornet Nationals with support classes TBA

Sept. 7 Final points race for Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

Sept. 14 Valvoline American Late Model Iron Man Series

Sept. 21 Sprints, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Hornets

Oct. 11 USAC Sprint cars Fall Nationals Night 1

Oct. 12 USAC Sprint cars Fall Nationals Night 2

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