Hudson O’Neal On Top After Thrilling End to Chase for the Championship

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Hudson O’Neal earned his first-career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Championship after a thrilling end to decide the title in the Big River Steel Chase for the Championship – Presented by ARP.

The industry record $200,000 for winning the point championship title went to O’Neal after he slipped past Devin Moran in turn four on the final circuit of the 100-lap finale at Eldora Speedway. O’Neal earned the Championship title based on his second-place finish in the season finale, the highest finishing driver among the Big River Steel Big Four. Moran finished third, while Ricky Thornton Jr finished eighth and Jonathan Davenport finished tenth in the final run down at Eldora Speedway. O’Neal becomes the youngest driver to etch his name in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series history and only the eighth different driver to win the prestigious title since 2005.

O’Neal ended his 2023 campaign with six victories, 32 top five finishes, and 44 top ten performances. That consistency kept the 23-year-old inside the Big River Steel Big Four all season long.

“As far as the race went, I don’t think it could’ve got any better for the championship,” O’Neal acknowledged after capturing the title that his father, Don, won in 2014. “You know, you hate to see that Ricky had bad luck early in the race and J.D. break like he did. But at the end of the day, we were all on the same racetrack and it’s just part of it I guess — bittersweet sometimes.”

“You think about the way it all went down, two of them broke, and the race was pretty goodfor the championship. We’ll take it, and it doesn’t make it any less important to me. We still won the championship. We proved all year that we had a good car, and we were just able to take advantage of it in the last race of the year.”

O’Neal was humbled following the ultra-successful season of his young career where his Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series earnings alone crossed the half-million-dollar threshold. “Man, I’m so fortunate,” O’Neal said. “Anybody who can do what they love for a living and be successful at it is a blessed person, a blessed man, and I’m for sure blessed. If it weren’t for my family and everybody that’s here — Mark Richards, Steve Baker — for believing in me, and everybody that came before Mark and Steve (like former car owner) Todd Burns, Craig Sims, Roger Sellers, MasterSbilt Race Cars, if it weren’t for each and every one of them, I wouldn’t be standing where I am today. Every one of them played a role in my upbringing today to be able to win a Lucas Oil championship. 

Moran’s late season success earned him the final spot in the Big River Steel Big Four after narrowly edging out Tim McCreadie and Brandon Overton in the final bonus round at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway. He ultimately finished second in the point standings in 2023, a career best on the tour for the Dresden, Ohio driver. 

Ricky Thornton Jr. finished third in the final championship standings, followed by Jonathan Davenport and Tim McCreadie rounding out the top five. The top five drivers in the final standings each earned more than $300,000 in total earnings in 2023 with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series – another record in the dirt late model industry.

2023 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Point Fund: 1. $200,000, 2. $150,000, 3. $125,000, 4. $100,000, 5. $75,000, 6. $60,000, 7. $50,000, 8. $45,000, 9. $40,000, 10. $35,000, 11. $30,000, 12. $25,000, 13. $20,000, 14. $15,000

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