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A DREAM SCENARIO: DIRTcar Racers Set Sights on $129,000 Victory at Eldora

Tim McCreadie leads Hudson O'Neal and Kyle Strickler to victory on June 8, 2023 in a preliminary feature for the Dream at Eldora Speedway. (Josh James photo)
Tim McCreadie leads Hudson O'Neal and Kyle Strickler to victory on June 8, 2023 in a preliminary feature for the Dream at Eldora Speedway. (Josh James photo)

McCreadie, Thornton Jr. grab opening-night victories in 29th running of the Dream

ROSSBURG, Ohio — The battle for DIRTcar Late Model racing’s richest payday of the year kicked off Thursday night at Eldora Speedway when Tim McCreadie and Ricky Thornton Jr. split Twin 25-lap Features during the opening round of the 29th Dirt Late Model Dream.

An event paying $129,000 to the winner on Saturday night and setting the stage for the DIRTcar Summer Nationals’ five consecutive weeks of racing included 95 entries split into two groups at the historic half-mile speedway in Ohio.

With the DIRTcar Summer Nationals launching on Wednesday at Peoria Speedway, six former DIRTcar Summer Nationals champions were in the field Thursday night, including defending champ Bobby Pierce, Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb, Jason Feger, and Dennis Erb Jr., who is also the defending World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series champion. Nick Hoffman, a five-time DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion who is chasing his first World of Outlaws CASE Late Model crown topped qualifying for the second group Thursday night and was challenging for a heat race win before a tire shredded, forcing him to come through a Last Chance Showdown and charge from 22nd to 13th in his feature.

In the first of the twin features, Hudson O’Neal had the #1 Rocket out front in a battle with Ashton Winger — a prospective full-timer on the Summer Nationals tour this season — until McCreadie swept below Winger on Lap 3. O’Neal maintained his lead over McCreadie until a caution with 6 to go gave 2006 World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series champion McCreadie a chance to slide O’Neal for the lead. After crossing each other at the flagstand, McCreadie went low and slid up in front of O’Neal in Turn 1 then pulled away to the checkered flag for his first victory since the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals in February at Volusia Speedway Park.

“It’s been a little while,” said McCreadie, of Watertown, NY, who collected $12,000 for the win. “We never used to worry about it that much. The last six or seven years we’ve been on a decent little stretch, but people question you the minute you don’t win. All I can tell them is there are 95 guys in this pit area trying to do the same.

“At the end, I don’t know if we had the best car, but when Hudson took off on that one restart into Turn 3, I didn’t really expect it. The next time I thought I’m not going to get my pants pulled down again. When I stayed on his right rear corner, he started going to the wall so I tried to hang a left and slide him into Turn 1. I’m sure I cleared him by a country-mile, probably too much, I didn’t do that deal where you’re supposed to make a guy make a choice, I figure you race and clear a guy by 20 car lengths and race on.”

O’Neal finished second with Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified Big Gator champion Kyle Strickler in third, 2015 World of Outlaws champion Shane Clanton in fourth and Winger rounding out the top five.

“I felt like I was really good, I just made a bad decision getting off into Turn 1 and I didn’t quite protect the bottom enough and I let him cross me over and slide me and that was it,” said O’Neal, who won the World of Outlaws CASE Late Model finale at the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals in February at Volusia.

World of Outlaws CASE Late Model points leader Chris Madden surged eight positions to finish sixth as last Friday night’s winner Kyle Bronson was the Hard Charger by advancing 11 positions to secure ninth. Defending World of Outlaws champion Erb Jr. moved up seven spots to 11th, finishing one spot behind 2022 World of Outlaws top rookie Tanner English.

In the second feature full of DIRTcar connections, Thornton Jr. got the jump on fellow front-row starter Devin Moran as those two controlled the 25-lap race, but the battle from third on back was wild. After a series of shuffling up and down, back and forth with racers including World of Outlaws stars Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard and Ryan Gustin, it was ultimately 2018 Series champion Mike Marlar who gained nine positions to move into third. Josh Rice and Jonathan Davenport rounded out the top five.

“I got out front and I was just over-driving, got into the Turn 1 wall a couple of times,” Thornton said. “I was like, ‘What are you doing? Just slow yourself down.’ So, I finally slowed myself down and I felt like I was really good. When I got to traffic I didn’t know if I needed to move down or stay on the top, the top got me to them so I just stayed there and it worked out for us.”

Former Summer Nationals champions Shannon Babb advanced one spot to finish 15th while Jason Feger improved four spots to 16th. Five-time champion Bobby Pierce had gained two spots and was in the Top 10 on Lap 8 when a right rear tire went down, ending any chance of a prelim night victory.

The Dream at Eldora continues Friday with a second preliminary night that will set the stage for Saturday’s $129,000-to-win main event.

The DIRTcar Summer Nationals begins next week with races Wednesday at Peoria Speedway, Thursday at Kankakee County Speedway, Friday at Tri-City Speedway, Saturday at Fairbury Speedway, and Sunday at Sycamore Speedway. Follow the entire five-week tour by watching all of the action on DIRTVision. For more info, visit


Feature – Group A (25 Laps): 1. 39-Tim McCreadie[8] [$12,ooo]; 2. 1-Hudson O’Neal[1]; 3. 8-Kyle Strickler[5]; 4. 25-Shane Clanton[2]; 5. 12-Ashton Winger[3]; 6. 44-Chris Madden[14]; 7. 25Z-Mason Zeigler[11]; 8. 93-Carson Ferguson[9]; 9. 40B-Kyle Bronson[20]; 10. 96V-Tanner English[12]; 11. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[18]; 12. 17M-Dale McDowell[10]; 13. 7-Ricky Weiss[24]; 14. 22-Chris Ferguson[7]; 15. 46-Earl Pearson Jr[23]; 16. 23-Cory Hedgecock[21]; 17. 1ST-Johnny Scott[16]; 18. 18D-Daulton Wilson[13]; 19. 25B-Mike Benedum[4]; 20. 28S-Dustin Sorensen[6]; 21. 11H-Spencer Hughes[22]; 22. 111-Steven Roberts[19]; 23. 1T-Tyler Erb[15]; 24. 1N-Casey Noonan[17]

Feature – Group B (25 Laps): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[1] [$12,ooo]; 2. 99-Devin Moran[2]; 3. 157-Mike Marlar[12]; 4. 11R-Josh Rice[6]; 5. 49-Jonathan Davenport[4]; 6. B5-Brandon Sheppard[15]; 7. 8S-Brian Shirley[7]; 8. 2S-Stormy Scott[3]; 9. 76-Brandon Overton[22]; 10. 7R-Kent Robinson[10]; 11. 20-Jimmy Owens[19]; 12. 19R-Ryan Gustin[5]; 13. 9-Nick Hoffman[21]; 14. 88-Trent Ivey[8]; 15. 18-Shannon Babb[16]; 16. 25F-Jason Feger[20]; 17. 7M-Donald McIntosh[13]; 18. 31K-Kye Blight[14]; 19. 58C-Tyler Clem[23]; 20. 55-Jeep Van Wormer[24]; 21. 32-Bobby Pierce[11]; 22. 17D-Zack Dohm[17]; 23. 68-Adam Stricker[18]; 24. 114-Jordan Koehler[9]

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