It’s no surprise to see Don O’Neal going fast on the race track but the veteran driver is also showing that he can recover from injury at a rapid rate as well. The Martinsville, Ind. native last raced in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series events at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC and Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, TN on the weekend of June 14th and 15th. Now the 55-year-old who competes for the Clint Bowyer Racing team is anxiously looking forward to his return as he plans to hit the track later this month following knee surgery.
If all continues going to plan, the former LOLMDS champion will be back in the driver’s seat when the series visits Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City, KY and Portsmouth(OH) Raceway Park on the weekend of August 30th and 31st.
According to O’Neal the operation on his knee revealed no surprises to the doctors which has allowed his recovery to move ahead even better than originally anticipated.
“Oh yeah,” O’Neal declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “They knew exactly what was wrong with me. Before they did the surgery they said I would be out the rest of the season. But after the surgery, he said we would talk about racing in three months and now we’re down to three weeks. They’re going to let me go in three weeks as long as I’ll be real careful.”
O’Neal states that his knee, which was injured at Cheorkee Speedway while helping his crew work on the car, is healing quickly.
“It’s a lot better than expected, for sure,” O’Neal explained.
The Martinsville, Ind. driver who has won 45 LOLMDS features during the course of his career believes his performance will not be impacted by the damaged knee going forward.
“I raced two nights with the injury so this will be a cake walk,” he said. “I’m just going to have to wear a brace while I race for a while. It’s no big deal at all and I don’t think I’ll be able to tell any difference.”
O’Neal demonstrated that his mobility is returning as he walked from the inside of the track at Florence Speedway all the way to the spot where his team’s hauler was parked in the pit area following Saturday’s North-South 100. He had stayed inside the track a few extra moments after watching his son finish second to race winner Chris Madden.
Pennsylvania racer Michael Norris has driven the No. 5 Rocket Chassis for CBR in O’Neal’s absence. He finished 17th in the North-South 100 while fellow CBR pilot Josh Richards came home 20th in the crown jewel event.
“I’ve logged some miles this weekend on this crutch,” the driver known as ‘The Real Deal’ pointed out. “It’s fun to be back at a Lucas Oil race. I mean it’s hard to see your car out there and you’re not in it. I was glad to see Hudson have a good night. I wish my teammate and fill-in driver had had a better night but it is what it is. I just can’t wait to get to Ponderosa.”