HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Overcome by exhilaration and the checkered flag in hand, Tim McCreadie pumped his fists into the shower of confetti and celebratory screams Saturday night at Hagerstown Speedway.
The 47-year-old racer has won his fair share of epic races over the years, but few quite Saturday’s race at Hagerstown, where he used a last-corner pass to win the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Model Series Red Nininger Memorial at the historic half-mile over Ricky Thornton Jr.
Thornton led 49 of 50 laps, but it was McCreadie who led the circuit that mattered. It all developed too rapidly for McCreadie to fully process. But once he stepped off the roof of his No. 39 Longhorn Chassis and soaked in that victory lane setting, he started to grasp what just transpired.
“It happened so fast it was hard to know what I was doing,” said McCreadie, who hoisted that $15,000 winner’s check on the frontstretch of Hagerstown Speedway. “A lot of luck, man. I was going to go where he wasn’t. What hurt [Thornton on the last corner] is what cost him in turn one. The lapped car didn’t go in on the cushion, then he didn’t go in on the cushion, and they both sat in the middle. I kind of crabbed around the infield and got a pretty good bit of traction off [turn two].”
The win is as timely as it gets for McCreadie. Prior to Saturday, he had one win in the opening 18 races of the season. That was a $7,000-to-win DIRTcar show at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 8. Questions about his trajectory didn’t arise, but McCreadie knew he had to make something happen soon.
With the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship chase intensifying in the coming weeks, McCreadie puts his name back into the conversation. On Saturday, he became the ninth winner in 11 series races this year.
He also takes a 10-point series lead in the standings over Hudson O’Neal heading into Port Royal Speedway Sunday night.
“For us to win a big show, a Lucas [Oil Late Model Dirt Series] race, the whole thing, knowing our car was good … we’re excited,” McCreadie said.
McCreadie knew he had an advantage as he lurked behind Thornton in the closing stages Saturday at Hagerstown Speedway.
“The minute he got off [the cushion], my tire was way better,” McCreadie said. “The problem is the cushion was saving a lot of them on softer tires.”
With five laps to go, Thornton showed no sign of cracking, but McCreadie stuck to his observation. Over the next two circuits, McCreadie closed the gap and a finish to remember had brewed.
On the final lap, Thornton had to make a decision: stick to the top or consume the lower part of the track, the place McCreadie made his gains.
Thornton stayed true to the top, where he got pinned behind a lapped car, which parted the seas for McCreadie to generate the run he needed on the bottom. McCreadie had the advantage as the two raced down the backstretch. He sailed it into the last corner and up the banking to finish off Thornton.
“When I went into [turn] three, I saw him for a second, then I didn’t see him,” McCreadie said, describing his thought process when he drove it in hard on the bottom. “I thought, ‘Well, if I [stayed on the bottom] then he’s going to roll right around me.’ So I just carried it up to the cushion, then came off the cushion and hung a left down the straightaway, just in case he was back under me.”
Thornton, meanwhile, hoped to join Tyler Erb and Hudson O’Neal as the only repeat winners of the year. He started second and raced by polesitter Dylan Yoder on the initial start for the lead.
The first 26 laps went green, before a car failure for fourth-running Matt Cosner brought out the only caution. From there, Thornton maintained a second lead and navigated traffic without much trouble.
But when he caught Devin Moran in lapped traffic, everything changed.
“I could never get close enough to slide Devin,” Thornton said. “I wouldn’t say that cost me the win. I got to him, then I couldn’t get by him. I couldn’t get by him. So I started riding behind him. I mean, I was trying to get by. Just wasn’t good enough.”
Once victory lane mellowed, McCreadie tried recalling if he had any victories that produced this kind of finish. A few modified triumphs came to mind, but none that drew any specifics.
“You can’t remember them all,” McCreadie said.
But will he remember Saturday and all the ecstasy that came with it?
“Oh my God,” McCreadie said. “Of course.”