Donald McIntosh reflects on solid Southern Nationals run with new team

A playful Donald McIntosh

Coming into the 2023 Dirt Late Model season, Donald McIntosh did not have a definite ride. After having stepped away from what was essentially a full-time opportunity with Maryville, Tennessee-based Blount Motorsports in 2021 he had only driven on occasion as cars were made available. But going into the Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals, circumstances changed.

With Ross Bailes no longer behind the wheel of the Billy Hicks-owned No. 79, the 30-year-old driver from Dawsonville, Georgia was invited to fill the void. However, what at first seemed to be an ideal pairing did not get off to the greatest of starts as McIntosh recorded finishes of 13th at Beckley Motor Speedway, 5th at Wythe Raceway and 14th at Senoia Raceway in the first three Southern Nationals features.

The new team needed to figure a few things out.

“We went from worrying that we weren’t going to really be able to work well together at all to now having a few pretty good runs,” McIntosh explained in an interview with “We’ve had real good speed in the car. Ross drives a lot different than I do. He drives off the right rear tire and I drive off the right front tire so with the notes they had, I couldn’t drive it. I was in left field and lost. They obviously had speed, they won races and ran well but it wasn’t what I wanted to feel in the car so we’ve made adjustments and got it closer to what I wanted to feel. Since then, it’s been really good.”

One key thing McIntosh had to adjust to was the type of car he would be driving. After years of piloting a Rocket Chassis for Blount Motorsports and then a few races in a Savage Race Car for Jason Welshan, he had to find the feel he was looking for in the Hicks-owned Double Nickel Race Car. The new union called for adjustments for both driver and crew.

“Trying to figure out the right front, for me,” McIntosh pointed out. “Since I drive off the right front the feel of the right front has been big. There’s just a few little things, really. I mean it’s a few little things here and there, and making changes for the features, and gelling as a team.”

McIntosh has experienced enough success throughout his career to know that victories cannot be achieved alone.

“This deal is a team deal as much as it is a fast race car,” he stated. “You’ve got to be able to have good communication. But yes, all these cars drive different but creating a good relationship and making some notes, we started on their notes but we’ve quit looking at his notes and we’re starting on our own notebook. It’s still been less than a month since the first time I met Billy and we’ve run a few races here. I feel like we’ve already made a pretty good notebook on what I want to feel by going to different places. It’s been good, it’s been fun.”

Before the Southern Nationals began, McIntosh already had a resumé any driver would be proud to call his own. He was the 2021 champion of this series and had also earned two Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals titles.

“Luckily I’ve run most of the tracks so that’s helped know what to expect track-wise although the tracks have thrown us a little bit of a curve with Toccoa being wide open, I’ve only actually raced there one other time,” he said. “When it comes down to it, gelling as a team and knowing what we need to feel to start with and making changes from there, making changes that work for us.”

Donald McIntosh in the No. 79 Double Nickel

Ultimately, McIntosh finished second in the final Southern Nationals standings behind champion Jimmy Owens.

So, was he pleased with the progress he and his new team made over the two-week grind?

“Absolutely,” he proclaimed. “Sure, everybody wants to win but I look at this realistically and I feel like we’ve been extremely competitive, especially this last week. That first week, we were scratching our heads on what to do. We had speed at times but it was very inconsistent. I feel like we’ve done a good job and I’m pretty excited about it.”

Is this pairing something that will carry on into the future?

“I feel like it will go longer, I don’t know exactly the whole future of it but we’ve talked about racing some more after this but there’s no real commitment or any kind of plans.”

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