*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 Crate All-Star Series.
The dominos have now started to fall in regard to ‘Silly Season’ with a couple of big developments and others no doubt on the way.
Richard: I have to admit that I was caught off guard a bit by the announcement that Brandon Sheppard will leave the Rocket Chassis house car and Mark Richards Racing at the end of the season. It had been rumored for a couple of years that the New Berlin, Illinois racer was considering staying closer to home and racing for his father and grandfather in the family-owned No. B5 car but I had always considered that a ‘Believe when I see it’ sort of deal. Well, now I am seeing it.
Further, I was just as much caught off guard to learn that Hudson O’Neal would move from the Roger Sellers-owned Double Down Motorsports operation where he has enjoyed a great deal of success to Rocket 1 Racing. It’s not that the Martinsville, Indiana driver doesn’t have the credentials for his new ride because he absolutely does but I had seen his current deal as a long-term situation considering that things have gone well there.
I expect O’Neal to do well in the No. 1 and Sheppard to do well with his family team and he will no doubt enjoy spending more time with his wife and kids as well. That then raises the question of what Sellers and Double Down will do. I fully expect them to bring in a quality driver to fill a quality seat.
There are a number of uncertainties remaining though. For example, Leon Ramirez, who owned the ride currently occupied by Jimmy Owens, passed away earlier this year so one has to wonder if that team will remain in place or will the four-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion be available to move to another team. I don’t have any inside information but there will have to be some sort of news to come out of Newport, Tennessee one way or another.
And like with Owens, this is pure speculation on my part, but I have to wonder about the status of Josh Richards. He has had a difficult season driving a second car for Boom Briggs. I have to believe that a change might be in the works there whether it be a move to bolster the Briggs team or for the driver who has won championships with both the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series and the Lucas Oil Late Model Series to move elsewhere.
And there always seems to be a move no one saw coming at all. I expect there are going to be plenty of moves in terms of drivers and car owners making changes, teams switching chassis brands, series announcements, and more. And now that the first major domino has fallen, the ‘Silly Season’ has officially been set in motion.
Michael: I was more surprised by the timing of the changes than the actual changes. There had been some talk last season that Sheppard was leaving, and that O’Neal was Richards’ top target. I thought if this talk would come up again it would be next month as the Lucas Oil season was coming to an end.
I talked to Sellers quite a bit on Friday. He gave his blessing to O’Neal to take the opportunity if things could be worked out. He was more upset about the timing of the news coming out. He hadn’t even told his crew, things happened so quickly. He was already fielding calls from drivers looking to get into that ride. He should have some really good candidates to choose from.
The next obvious domino will be who gets that ride. Other dominos will soon fall because of that. The silliness has just started.
The highway accident involving Modified standout Nick Hoffman and his crew illustrated some of the hidden dangers in racing, didn’t it?
Richard: We all are aware of the risks that go into racing. With the high speeds involved on the track, things can and sometimes do go wrong. But what many of us don’t take into consideration is that this sport can be almost as dangerous off the track as it is on. Shop accidents and highway troubles can put drivers and crews in as much, if not more, danger than what happens inside the pit gates.
Hoffman, his father, and a crew member were badly hurt in a crash on the highway which caused serious injuries. We can only hope and pray that each will fully recover as quickly as possible.
On a personal side, I was very much affected by this news considering that I have interviewed Hoffman on multiple occasions and always found him to be very cooperative and respectful. He is an excellent race car driver and has worked very hard to build his Elite Chassis business into a top supplier of Modified cars. And more than that, it is obvious based on his social media posts that he is very much of a family man as well.
But yes, all the travel these race teams do puts them at risk just as much away from the track as on it.
Michael: As much as these teams travel up and down the road, I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents. We hear about trailer fires, blown tires, and mechanical issues quite a bit. Three teams had troubles getting to the World of Outlaws race at Smoky Mountain Speedway on Friday. Hearing of a major accident is thankfully rare.
There’s no doubt Hoffman’s accident has definitely affected the whole racing community. Not just dirt racing, but NASCAR as well since the Hoffman family has close friendships and relationships in that part of the sport.
What do you expect from the Dream continuation/World 100 weekend at Eldora?
Richard: World 100 weekend always provides something to look forward to and this time around it is even better considering that the rain-interrupted Dirt Late Model Dream from back in June will be completed as a lead-in event to the quest for the Globe Trophy.
Chris Madden was leading the Dream ahead of Brandon Overton and Hudson O’Neal when the action was halted on lap 14. The $128,000-to-win feature will resume at that point. Red hot Jonathan Davenport had raced his way into that event through a B-main and was running 20th at the time of the red flag. It will be interesting to see if he can race his way up through the field over the final 86 laps.
As far as the World 100 is concerned, I just don’t see how one can look at anyone other than Davenport as the favorite. He has been on a great crown jewel run after winning the Eldora Million in June and it will be up to the rest of the field to step up and beat him.
That said, there will be no shortage of drivers and teams who have that capability in Rossburg, Ohio this weekend. Tim McCreadie, Chris Ferguson, Brandon Sheppard and Madden are just a few names that quickly come to mind. And even though Brandon Overton hasn’t been running as well as might be expected lately, I would never count him out at Eldora either.
I am looking forward to it.
Michael: Madden will have to do all he can to stay up front when The Dream resumes. The conditions will be different and maybe some of the cars will be different. You just never know how these continuing races play out.
As for the World 100, nearly everyone says Davenport is the one favored to win the race. Will this be the year Davenport caps off another incredible season or can a driver like Mike Marlar, Ricky Thornton Jr., or Max Blair pull the “upset?” That’s why this sport is so great.
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