Turn 2 Blog: How worried should Dirt Late Model teams be about tire failures?

Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American All-Star Pro Late Models Presented by PPM Racing Products

Doesn’t it seem unbelievable that this was the first World 100 won by the Rocket Chassis house car?

Richard: I had always been amazed at the lack of wins at Eldora Speedway for the Rocket Chassis house car. The Mark Richards-led team is one of the best prepared, most organized operations in all of racing. Furthermore, they have had some of the best drivers in the history of the sport in their cars which makes it seem all the more unlikely that the No. 1 machine would go so many years without a win in the World 100(Brandon Sheppard did win the Dirt Late Model Dream in 2019).

Driving that car, Brandon Sheppard and Josh Richards achieved more World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series feature wins than any other driver. The two have also won four series championships each for Rocket 1 Racing.

Hudson O’Neal

Another first that might have seemed surprising to some is that 2023 victor Hudson O’Neal was the first member of his family to earn a Globe Trophy. Even as successful as his father Don O’Neal was, he never scored a World 100 win even though he did take the Dirt Late Model Dream in 2011.

Also, it took 53 runnings of this race for there to be an Indiana native to capture the checkered flag.

All in all, Hudson O’Neal’s World 100 win was a first on multiple fronts.

Michael: That was surprising when I first heard that. But as Mark Richards clicked off the names of previous drivers that had driven for him before, I knew then it wasn’t as surprising since I never saw any of them win the World 100 driving that car.

It’s still amazing as successful as that team has been they haven’t been able to win at least one of those races before Saturday night. Really, the World 100 has been cyclical regarding winners. There was a period that Billy Moyer dominated that race, sprinkled in with a few wins by Scott Bloomquist, a streak of unexpected winners, and the recent domination of Jonathan Davenport. Since none of those drivers drove for Mark Richards, there weren’t many opportunities for that team to win one.

How worried should drivers and teams be in regard to the tire failures we saw at Eldora?

Richard: The full weekend at Eldora produced as many tire failures as we have seen over such a short period of time. And it was high profile stars such as Bobby Pierce, Hudson O’Neal and Dennis Erb Jr. who were among those to have experienced problems over the three-day event.

The real question is whether or not those failures were the fault of the tire itself or if the teams were overdoing it in terms of camber or air pressures. If it was because of the tires themselves, then that’s a significant problem because those troubles could prove to be very costly over the remainder of the season. If the teams were making poor choices, then that’s on them.

Tires were a question at Eldora

If somehow the problem was magnified because of something related to the track surface at Eldora then there should be a great deal of concern considering that the championship-deciding Dirt Track World Championship for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will play out on this very track in October.

On Sunday we saw Martin Truex Jr.’s shot at a NASCAR Cup Series title take a hard hit due to an early tire failure. It would be a shame if something similar happened in the DTWC.


Michael: I’ve talked to a couple of different teams that say the tires are the problem. I was shown a couple of tires that came off a car that had only been used for hot laps, qualifying, and an 8-lap heat race. This was from a race earlier in the season. They were blistered. Chunks of the tread blocks were completely done. This particular team told me they weren’t being aggressive with setups that caused this. I’ll have to take them at their word.

It was just a few years ago Hoosier was having issues to the point they were replacing the tires with brand new tires at no cost to the teams. It will be interesting to see if Hoosier does something similar or stands firm and says teams are being too aggressive with air pressures and camber. If they start replacing tires, they will be admitting fault. I don’t know that will happen this time.

Of course, all of this opens up the conversation whether one tire brand should be exclusive for certain series and certain events. I believe competition makes everyone else better. When one of those brands offer big money to a series or a track for their points fund, it really is hard to turn that down when money in racing can be hard to come by these days.

Did you see anything to lead you to believe that a driver other than Pierce, O’Neal or Thornton will be the favorites in the bigger races over the remainder of the season?

Richard: Of course, drivers such as Jonathan Davenport and Brandon Sheppard can never be counted out of anything. That said, Pierce, O’Neal and Thornton remain as the class of the Dirt Late Model field following this past weekend.

One driver who really got my attention was Brian Shirley. He won one of the preliminary features on Friday night. In the times he has raced in the Team Zero Race Car he acquired from Chris Ferguson he has been very fast. It makes me wonder if he might slip that car into his rotation more often.

Michael: I think Sheppard is the one to watch the rest of the season. He’s figuring out some things with his Longhorn. He drove from the back in the World 100 to run as high as 5th driving for Kevin Rumley. And with his team being named the official program team for Longhorn, you have to think they will already be offering him more support.

Another driver I think is going to win a race soon is Daulton Wilson. He has run so well in the last couple of months. He’s getting closer to a win. I can see him winning one of the Lucas Oil races between Knoxville and Eldora.

Please consider also reading:

What if Ricky Thornton Jr. doesn’t win the Lucas Oil championship?

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