Hudson O’Neal (71) holds off Jimmy Owens (20) and Bobby Pierce in the Clash at The MAG on Saturday at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
June 18, 2018 10:33:30 AM
Hudson O'Neal exhibited the patience and opportunism of a driver more than twice his age Saturday, laying in the weeds before pouncing late to win the Clash at The MAG for his first feature victory on the Lucas Oil Dirt Series.
O'Neal, 17, had four podium finishes on the series this season before the win. The 2017 Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year ran consistently in the top five in the Clash before passing 2017 series champion Josh Richards with seven laps to go. O'Neal held firm to the bottom of the track as Bobby Pierce nearly reached his bumper at the finish line.
"I looked up there at the board, and I knew Bobby would be up around that top because that's where he ran all night," O'Neal said. "I didn't even look at my signal guy. I was just kind of coasting and made sure I hit my marks, stayed patient and didn't mess up."
O'Neal, the son of former Lucas Oil series champion Don O'Neal, checked every box in what was the biggest win of his career in his second start at Magnolia. Father and son embraced each other in victory lane. Don finished seventh.
"It definitely took a lot work, and there have been plenty of times when I haven't done my job," Hudson said. "It's definitely something that took a big learning curve. I still have a lot to learn, but we had a good run tonight."
Pierce took second, capping an amazing run after exiting the race on lap 20 to remove the oil cooler cover, which was running up his car's temperature. Pierce flirted with the lead around lap 60, ducking behind Richards before laying off in an attempt to preserve his tires. Pierce had been running the top for most of the race.
After falling to third late, Pierce gave it a "last-ditch effort" to run the top and try to mow down O'Neal.
"Taking the longer way around the track isn't always the easiest way, but if you hit it right, it's the fastest way," Pierce said. "Those last few laps, I gave it everything I had. If a couple of things could have fallen my way, we would have been in victory lane."
Richards finished third, while Scott Bloomquist, who'd also fallen to the rear after exiting for repairs under a caution, took fourth. Tim McCreadie finished fifth.
Richards led for the majority of the race and finished with a rear-left flat after McCreadie got into the back of him with 12 laps to go, he said.
"Had that not happened, I don't know if we could have held them off or not," Richards said. "It certainly would have helped our chances."
O'Neal said his crew made "significant changes" Friday after heat races, and after not making up much ground with the lead-cars Saturday, he had to fight the urge to venture to the top.
"I'd kind of ran the middle of the bottom the whole race," O'Neal said. "That top was really good early. I was just telling myself, 'Save my tires. Save my tires and don't use them up.' Other guys got a little bit better than I did, but I just told myself to not give up on that bottom. There was a lot still left down there. Some people kept hitting those (skidder) tires and kept knocking them in a little bit, and that helped me get a little lower down there.
"Whenever it gets that slick all the way across, you don't exactly know where to go. Some people are running through the black, and some people are chasing moisture. It's hard to read, and you just have to go wherever you have the momentum. I'm just happy it worked out for us."
McRee edges Seratt in thriller
Justin McRee and Preston Seratt continued their late-race fireworks in big-money races Saturday, as McRee passed Seratt on the last lap and held him off at the finish line for a $2,000 Street Stocks prize.
Seratt started on the pole and led the first 29 laps. He held off several hard charges from McRee as he protected the bottom of the track. But on the last lap, Seratt was hung up by a lap-car off turn two, and McRee pounced underneath.
"I tried to race him as clean as possible," McRee said. "We got a few runs on him there and kept getting the door shut on us. When we came up off of (turn) two on that last lap, I saw that lap car there. I was gonna put it in there hard, not lean on him, but when I seen the lap car, he slid the right rear and it put me in a position to win."
Seratt got underneath McRee in turns three and four. They were door to door at the checkered flag, but McRee held off Seratt in a photo finish.
"It was pretty close," Seratt said. "It'd be interesting to see it on video. It made for some good racing."
The battle between McRee and Seratt mirrored the finish to the Golden Egg Street Stock Nationals at Magnolia earlier this year, when McRee and Bryan Fortner passed Seratt late in the race. Fortner ultimately won the race, with McRee and Seratt finishing second and third, respectively.
"These guys race two or three times a week," Seratt said. "Justin's a car builder, so this is his life. This is our third time out in this car all year, so it looks like we're gonna have to get a little bit more serious if we're going to come up here. But when we do, I think we'll be trouble.
Johnny Stokes, Fortner, and Lee Ray rounded out the top five.
n In other race action, Monte Skinner won the Durrence Layne Late Model feature. Jamey Boland, Evan Ellis, Chad Thrash, and Brad Berry rounded out the top five.
Jamie Pickard won the Durrence Layne Sportsman feature. Nick Trash, Chace Pennington, Tony Shelton, and Chad McCool rounded out the top five.
Cody Chism won the Factory Stocks feature. Heath Beard, Tyler Collett, Corey Adank, and Dale Ott rounded out the top five.
2. Starkville High's Talbert leads talented defensive line group HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Kelly sees signs of growth at Caledonia HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. New Hope's Tackett sees progress despite winless start HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS