The top-5 Dirt Late Model performers coming out of SpeedWeeks were …

A lot of racing took place between January 19 and February 18 for drivers who plan to compete on either the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series or the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series or who simply plan to run a pick-and-choose sort of schedule in 2023. During the course of all that racing, some shined, some were mediocre, and for some things did noy go as well as they would have liked.

So who came out of the period known as Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks having had the most success?

Below is a list of drivers who, in the view of this writer, performed best in the 22 scheduled events. While a few shows were rained out, there was still a great deal of racing that took place over the month in the far southeastern corner of the country to provide an early season snapshot of how drivers and teams will perform.

*Disclaimer: I am a voter in the Top-25 Poll Position. The viewpoints listed below are not a direct reflection of my votes in that poll as other races such as the Wild West Shootout were taken into account. Below is simply a review of the action that took place in Georgia and Florida.

Hudson O’Neal

1. Hudson O’Neal: The beginning of SpeedWeeks was less than inspiring for Hudson O’Neal and his Rocket Chassis house car team. In the first WoO Late Models events held in mid-January at Volusia Speedway Park the Martinsville, Indiana driver posted a 9th place and failed to make the feature in the two races held there. The beginning of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series portion of the month-long beginning of the season at Golden Isles Speedway also did not go well when he ended Thursday night with a 19th place result. But things began to turn as the No. 1 car placed 5th the next two nights.

Finishes of 4th, 17th and 6th at Bubba Raceway Park and All-Tech Raceway followed. But it would be at East Bay Raceway Park where O’Neal’s fortunes turned solidly for the better. Two runner-up finishes were then followed by two victories. Then, another win came when the WoO Late Models returned to Volusia. Throughout the week, results of 3rd, 3rd, 5th and another win would come.

A total four wins and four other podiums place Hudson O’Neal at the top of the list of drivers coming out of the four week stretch in Georgia and Florida.

Tim McCreadie

2. Tim McCreadie: Remarkable consistency places Tim McCreadie second on the list of those who had ventured south to start their seasons. The Paylor Motorsports Longhorn Chassis got off to a good start in Florida with a pair of seconds at Volusia. Another runner-up finish at Golden Isles was followed by a slip to 11th then a recovery to 6th.

One of McCreadie’s truly poor finishes came in the first race at Bubba when he ended his night in 22nd but recovered the next day to finish 6th. Another second came at All-Tech before a somewhat disappointing run of 8th, 11th, 5th and 27th feature results at East Bay.

But at Volusia, McCreadie’s No. 39 team came back to life with two wins, a 3rd, and a 4th.

Two wins and a total of five additional podiums highlighted a strong run during SpeedWeeks which placed Tim McCreadie second on this list.

Ricky Thornton Jr.

3. Ricky Thornton Jr.: The driver who got off to the strongest start in Georgia and Florida was Ricky Thornton Jr. and his SSI Motorsports team. SpeedWeeks began with six consecutive top-5 finishes at Volusia and Golden Isles along with a win at Bubba Raceway Park. The only thing that kept the driver of the No. 20RT Longhorn from finishing higher in this ranking was a bit of inconsistency during the second half of the month.

Thornton followed his Bubba win with a disappointing 19th place finish but quickly fixed that with a second victory at All-Tech Raceway. Two straight results outside the top-20 lifted by a 5th on the final night came from East Bay. Solid but unspectacular outcomes of 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 3rd at Volusia ended the Arizona native’s SpeedWeeks efforts.

Two wins and five more podiums land Ricky Thornton Jr. in the third position of these rankings.

Brandon Overton

4. Brandon Overton: Brandon Overton didn’t race quite as often in January and February as some others but his finishes were noteworthy nonetheless.

The No. 76 Wells Motorsports Longhorn Chassis skipped the early events at Volusia but when it went on track at Golden Isles, it was ready to perform posting two wins and a 3rd during the three-night race weekend. Bubba Raceway provided a 5th and an 8th for the Evans, Georgia driver while a 4th was registered at All-Tech.

Overton logged efforts of 4th, 4th, 6th, 30th and 8th at East Bay with some of those runs coming in the Warrior Race Car normally driven by John Henderson. ‘Big Sexy’ concluded his SpeedWeeks at Volusia with finishes of 6th, 22nd, 1st, 2nd and 5th.

Brandon Overton earned a 4th place ranking by scoring three wins and two additional podiums.

Devin Moran

5. Devin Moran: The new pairing of Devin Moran and Double Down Motorsports started off with a bang winning their first two starts at Volusia in January. Golden Isles offered up results of 4th, 8th and 24th for the Dresden, Ohio racer who remained steady with efforts of 10th and 5th at Bubba Raceway.

It was a bit of an up-and-down ride at East Bay for the No. 99 Longhorn Chassis with finishes of 10th, 9th, 27th and 4th. A 2nd and 3rd were joined by a 12th and a 17th in the final week at Volusia to SpeedWeeks for ‘The Mailman’.

Two victories and two other podium finishes place Devin Moran in 5th for the these rankings.

Honorary Mention:

Chris Madden: The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series points leader coming out of SpeedWeeks is Chris Madden. The Gray Court, SC driver scored one victory at Volusia and also had a pair of 3rd place results. The thing that kept him from making the top-5 is that he only raced in the events held at the Barberville, Florida track for a total of six shows. His was probably the smart play being that he intends to focus on winning his first WoO Late Models title in 2023.

Jonathan Davenport: At the beginning of the Wild West Shootout at New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park, it looked as if Jonathan Davenport might be on his way to yet another dominating season. However, the Blairsville, Georgia native only collected one checkered flag(Bubba) during SpeedWeeks and that was his only podium finish in eleven starts. Running for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship in 2023 likely led his team to enter fewer races during the month.

Bobby Pierce: Like Madden, Bobby Pierce plans to compete for the WoO Late Models championship so he only raced in the events at Volusia. Like Davenport, the Oakwood, Illinois driver looked strong earlier this year at Vado but engine issues in the first events held at Volusia derailed his early runs. ‘The Smooth Operator’ did score one feature win in the second set of shows held at Volusia.

Please consider also reading:

Earl Pearson Jr. discusses the evolution of Dirt Late Model racing

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