While there are other Dirt Late Model races still left on the schedule for 2019, the Can-Am World Finals for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series will be the last outing of the season to be sanctioned by a national touring series. As a result, there is certain to be a stellar field on hand and much on the line for virtually every driver entered into this weekend’s races at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Numerous teams are no doubt hoping to show off for potential sponsors while some drivers may be looking to secure a solid ride for the 2020 campaign. Others may simply be trying to salvage a season that has not gone as well as planned or possibly seeking to add to an already great effort up to this point. Whatever the goal, virtually everyone here has something to shoot for.
Here are just a few of those drivers and what might be on the line for them in this marque event.
Hudson O’Neal– This young and talented driver found just within the past few days that his SSI Motorsports team will dissolve following the World Finals. The son of former Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Don O’Neal has himself won numerous feature races and has earned top-10 finishes in the final LOLMDS standings twice over the course of his career.
While his talents and abilities are quite well known to those who follow the sport closely, a win or even a noteworthy run in one or both of these feature races would absolutely serve the younger O’Neal well going into an off-season that, at the moment, appears to be filled with uncertainty.
Don O’Neal– While teammates have come and gone, the elder O’Neal has been a fixture with Clint Bowyer Racing for several years. However, it took longer this year than usual for the NASCAR star to nail down a contract with Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2020 season which has led to speculation regarding the status of his two-car team that has regularly fielded cars on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
In a recent interview posted on SpeedSport.com by Adam Fenwick, Bowyer was somewhat noncommittal regarding the status of his team and drivers for 2020 only saying “I hope so” when asked if O’Neal and teammate Josh Richards would be back with him next season. The driver who has qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs in each of the past two seasons pointed out that sponsorship would be the determining factor as to what his team would look like next year.
Perhaps both O’Neals could be tying to impress potential new owners during this weekend in Concord, NC.
Josh Richards– Much of what was said about Don O’Neal applies to Richards as well in regard to Bowyer’s somewhat noncommittal statements. But, of course, Richards has the close ties to Rocket Chassis being that his father Mark is one of the partners in that highly successful business. Whether it be with Bowyer or any other team, this driver brings the potential for considerable assistance from the chassis builder with him.
There have been rumors of Richards linking up with Dunn-Benson Motorsports ever since it was announced that the North Carolina-based team was parting ways with driver Devin Moran. However, there seem to be almost as many rumors that DBM will not be as heavily involved in racing after the end of this season.
As with everything else in this sport, much of what happens with this former World of Outlaws Late Model Series and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion will be determined by finances.
Dennis Erb, Jr.– It’s probably safe to say that this season in which Erb made the jump from the Lucas Oil tour to the WoO Late Models has not gone quite as well as might have been hoped. While the fiercely independent competitor currently resides in the sixth position in the WoO Late Models standings, he has not won a series race and only scored eight top-5 results in 39 starts so far.
Erb did win a $10,000 preliminary feature this year at Eldora Speedway but beyond that his most lucrative victory came in a weekly race at Fairbury American Legion Speedway where he collected $2,500.
Two good showings in the shadows of NASCAR’s Charlotte Motor Speedway would go a long way toward getting Erb set up for 2020.
Chris Madden– What began as somewhat of a roller coaster ride in 2019 after Madden started out with Skyline Motorsports then split from that organization midway through turned into a remarkable run for the South Carolina driver. After hooking up with Scott Bloomquist Racing, unprecedented success followed as Madden scored crown jewel wins in the USA Nationals, North-South 100 and the Topless 100.
But even his time with SBR did not go entirely without a hitch as Madden missed races due to a broken eye socket suffered in a golf cart accident prior to the Dirt Million.
No official announcement has been made regarding Madden’s future following this weekend. So while his future plans are being worked out, adding one or even two more wins in the World Finals would make a great second half of the season even better.
Scott Bloomquist– Like Madden, this legendary driver has experienced a somewhat unusual season in 2019. After getting off to a solid, but winless, start during Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks, Bloomquist suffered serious leg and hip injuries in a motorcycle accident. The recovery from those injuries sidelined the driver for several weeks.
As a result of the time away from the track and all the issues related to the those injuries, Bloomquist has not won a major feature race this season. For a driver who has collected so many crown jewel trophies, that has to have been somewhat of a letdown. The leader of Team Zero did pull into victory lane following preliminary races held in Mansfield, Ohio and Batesville, Ark.
While the World Finals may not be considered a crown jewel, there will be a field very much like those at the sport’s top events on hand. As a result, winning one of these races would put this legendary racer back in a place where he has become so accustomed to over the past few decades.
Brandon Sheppard– What could a guy who has already secured the 2019 World of Outlaws Late Model Series title, won 18 series races, and scored three victories in events that paid $100,000 or more have to prove? Well, nothing.
However, there has never been such a thing as too much winning. And what better way to cap off one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport than with a win or two against an elite field?
Chase Junghans, Darrell Lanigan, Shane Clanton & Ricky Weiss– Even though Sheppard has already secured the WoO championship, there is still something for regulars on that tour to race for. As detailed in a story posted here earlier this week, these four drivers currently rank second through fifth in the series standings separated by only 32 points. With $30,000 in posted awards separating the payout from second to fifth, each would obviously like to beat out the others to secure the most money.
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