Busy “Silly Season” for Driver/Team Splits as 2022 Approaches its Conclusion

Every racing season contains its own “Silly Season” as drivers and teams make changes as they prepare for the next season. As the 2022 campaign winds down, some moves have already been revealed. Here is a quick re-cap of those changes already announced:

Brandon Sheppard leaving Rocket Chassis No. 1:

Brandon Sheppard

Brandon Sheppard was first hired to drive the Mark Richards Racing car in 2014 as a temporary replacement for Josh Richards. That role was then expanded in 2017 when he took on the title of full-time driver for the Shinnston, WV-based No. 1 Rocket Chassis house car ride. After a highly successful run that has resulted in four World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series titles and dozens of feature wins, the New Berlin, Ill. ace will depart that organization to return to his family-owned team based in his home state.

Sheppard is the winningest driver in WoO Late Models history with 81 triumphs on that tour, most of which came in the Rocket 1 Racing ride. In 2019, the No. 1 team achieved one of the greatest seasons in Dirt Late Model racing history by winning all three of the events contested that year which paid $100,000 or more(Dirt Late Model Dream, Dirt Million & Dirt Track World Championship).

Few drivers and teams have achieved so much over such a short period of time. However, both are likely to remain successful in the future even after going their separate ways.

Hudson O’Neal leaving Double Down Motorsports:

Hudson O’Neal

Hudson O’Neal took the wheel of the Double Down Motorsports ride for team owner Roger Sellers at the beginning of the 2021 season and the pairing has had a highly successful run together. A second place finish to eventual champion Tim McCreadie on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series along with wins in the Show-me 100, the Topless 100 and the Pittsburgher highlighted a season that feature 11 total victories.

So far this season, O’Neal and Double Down sit fourth in the Lucas Oil standings with four series wins and a total of eight triumphs with a $22,022 payday from the Castrol FloRacing Night in America event in Marshalltown, Iowa being the most lucrative of the season. The No. 71 machine also pulled into victory lane following one of the World 100 preliminaries.

O’Neal will move to the Rocket Chassis house car team in 2023 to fill the seat vacated by Brandon Sheppard. Double Down Motorsports has not yet announced its future plans.

Max Blair parting ways with Viper Motorsports:

Max Blair

Max Blair had been a dominant force on dirt ovals located in and around Pennsylvania for several years but decided in 2022 to tackle the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series full-time as the driver for Viper Motorsports. That move has proven to be a fairly successful one as the No. 111v Rocket Chassis currently sits third in the overall standings with two feature wins along with ten top-five and 22 top-ten finishes on that tour.

Those two entities will parts ways at the end of the current season.

The Centerville, PA driver has steered the Viper Motorsports car since 2021 winning a total of 25 races. Both are working to finalize 2023 plans.

Tanner English parting ways with Riggs Motorsports:

Tanner English began driving for Riggs Motorsports three years ago with several wins achieved over the course of their time together. But that run of success will come to an end at the end of the 2022 season when they go their separate ways.

Tanner English

The announcement of their amicable separation came just as the No. 81E team seemed to be hitting its stride. English currently sits second in the World of Outlaws Case Construction Late Model Series with two series victories achieved in 2022. The Benton, Kentucky driver is now in search of a ride for next year while Riggs Motorsports will scale back to a part-time operation in 2023 for Jason Riggs.

***Soon after it was announced that Blair and Viper Motorsports had parted ways and that English had parted ways with Riggs Motorsports, a deal was struck for English to take over the driving chores for Viper. That team’s base of operations will be moved to a shop in English’s hometown of Benton, KY.

Together, English and Viper will seek to run the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series schedule along with other big events.

Payton Freeman to drive for G.R. Smith:

Payton Freeman

Payton Freeman has experienced success in his family-owned team car but is now looking to expand his racing efforts by taking the wheel of the Team 22 Inc. operation headed up by North Carolina’s G.R. Smith. The new pairing will begin working together at the start of the 2023 season.

Freeman was the XR Southern All-Stars Dirt Racing Series champion and Rookie of the Year in 2021. This season the Commerce, Georgia native stepped outside of his home region to compete with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals tour in the Midwestern portion of the country, ultimately finishing second in the final standings behind Bobby Pierce. He has also won features at Boyd’s Speedway and Tri-County Race Track in 2022.

Smith’s cars have been driven by the likes of Jonathan Davenport, who won the World 100 and the Hillbilly Hundred in 2017 while in the ride, Brian Shirley, Ross Bailes and, most recently, Ashton Winger.

According to a press release describing the move, Freeman and the Smith-led team will compete on a national touring series which will be named later.

This page will be updated as more news is made available.

Please consider also reading:

Kyle Larson not shying away from dirt even during NASCAR Playoffs


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