Every father hopes for the best for their children. We wish for them to have good health, a good education, good relationships with those who are close to them, and success in whatever endeavor they choose to follow. In most cases, those of us who have kids typically have to wait until those youngsters graduate from high school or college and then leave the nest before we have the opportunity to watch our hopes and dreams for them come true. But for Dirt Late Model racing legend Don O’Neal, that time has already come as he watches the development of his 17-year-old son.
Hudson O’Neal has already experienced outstanding success following in his father’s racing tire tracks. The young prodigy scored seven victories in 2017 among his Crate and Super Late Model starts. Among those checkered flags was an Iron-Man Late Model Series feature win at Kentucky’s Ponderosa Speedway and a noteworthy triumph on the first night of competition at The Dome at America’s Center this past December in St. Louis.
The younger O’Neal finished ninth in the 2017 LOLMDS standings and was the Rookie of the Year on that national touring series.
Not only is the elder O’Neal pleased with his son’s development as a race car driver, but he is also proud of the young man’s growth as a person.
“I’m just speechless,” the proud father said in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “I’ve enjoyed watching him mature like he has in the last year and that makes me very proud. And another thing that makes me proud isn’t just what he does on the race track but he’s a good kid. That’s the most important thing. For the lifestyle he has got to do and for him to keep his head on his shoulders like he has, I’m very proud of that.”
O’Neal has won countless races and was the 2014 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion. So how does Hudson’s current level of success compare to when his father was that same age?
“I didn’t even start doing this stuff until I was in my 20’s,” O’Neal pointed out with a laugh. “I was racing dirt bikes back then. The kid has a great chance to be really good, probably a lot better than his dad. I hope he just keeps his head on his shoulders, stays a good kid, and matures a lot like it looks like he’s going to. Who knows what might happen.”
Often times, second generation racers may feel the pressure of following their famous and successful fathers. But ‘The Real Deal’ doesn’t think ‘The New Deal’ faces any undue pressure as he carves his own path through the dirt racing world.
“Not at all,” the 53-year-old veteran driver insisted. “He knows I’m proud of him and how he’s doing in this stuff. I don’t think there’s any pressure on him. When you’re 17-years-old, how much pressure have you got on you? There ain’t none, they just go out there and drive the wheels off of it.”
Of course, with the dad and son entered in many of the same races, they often find themselves racing close quarters. So do they race each other differently than they would any other competitor on the track?
“I don’t race him any different at all,” O’Neal declared. “But I tell him ‘You probably need to respect me a little more’. I’m just really blessed to be watching him do what he’s doing.”
The O’Neals will be in action this weekend when the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series takes to the track on Thursday at Volunteer Speedway(Bulls Gap, TN), Friday at Boyd’s Speedway(Ringgold, GA), and East Alabama Motor Speedway(Phenix City, AL) on Saturday.