Hudson O'neal
Hudson O'Neal (Heath Lawson photo)

O’Neal Pockets $50,000 Port Royal Prize

PORT ROYAL, Pa. — Hudson O’Neal battled his way to the lead with seven laps to go and pulled away in the final laps to win the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Rumble by the River on Saturday Night at Port Royal Speedway.

O’Neal earned $50,000 from the $150,000 feature purse for the Rocket1 Team. 

O’Neal’s winning margin of 1.808 seconds was the largest lead anyone had held during the 50-lap event. Mike Marlar came home in second as he passed Jonathan Davenport with two laps to go. Davenport was third with Matt Cosner and Brandon Overton completing the top five.

Overton jumped to the lead at the start of the race as he and O’Neal, who started alongside Overton on the front row tucked into the second spot. Those two ran first and second for the first 16 laps of the race until Davenport was able to secure the second spot on lap 17.

Davenport then moved to the lead on lap 21 as the first caution flew with that lap was scored. On the restart Davenport had to contend with O’Neal, Marlar and Overton in a tightly contested battle for the race lead. With O’Neal and Marlar all over Davenport another caution came out with 27 laps complete.

All eyes were on the current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader Ricky Thornton, Jr. who was slicing through the field after starting in 25th for having to go to back-up car. Thornton moved to fifth by lap 36 and trailed only Davenport, Marlar, O’Neal, and Devin Moran. 

Thornton would not be around at the finish as he slowed on the track under a caution with 10 laps to go after just reaching second past Marlar in the running order. Thornton’s night ended after a spectacular run from the tail of the field as he would be pushed back to the pit area after stopping in the middle of the back straightaway with mechanical issues.

Davenport was still on the point with Marlar and O’Neal behind him on the single-file restart. O’Neal then got past Marlar and set his sights on Davenport. With seven laps to go O’Neal made his move for the lead getting by Davenport and then going on to win his seventh Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event of 2023.

Marlar passed Davenport at the white flag to pick up the second position at the finish.

“It’s awesome,” O’Neal said. “I had to get up on the wheel I was just so tight against that cushion I was afraid to run it. It just came down to the last ten laps and I knew I had a shot at it if I could run it hard enough if I could get enough of a run down the straightaways. The crew gave me a great race car all weekend, we were able to get back into victory lane last night and I knew coming into today we had a great piece we just needed to play our cards right.”

Marlar earned $20,000 for his third straight podium finish.

“It was a good race you know we just talked to the man who preps the track he does a phenomenal job on the race track really,” Marlar said. “We owe him a lot of thanks for the awesome racing we saw all weekend. It was fun for sure. My car was balanced really good, but it won’t wheel spin good so when I wheel spin on the cushion, I am just a little wrong there somehow and that’s how a lot of these races are getting won. We are so close it depends on how it all plays out. We got one or two more laps before those cautions; I think we could have got the lead and I would have been gone.” 

Davenport’s third-place finish earned the three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion $10,000 as he led a race high 24 laps.

“Those guys were just a little better than me I thought I was OK and then Mikey could run a little bit lower than I could and Hudson could just run around the cushion a little bit better than I can. I gave it all we had. I tried to not tear it up too bad. I just wish it would have been a 40 lapper tonight.”

The finish:

Hudson O’Neal, Mike Marlar, Jonathan Davenport, Matt Cosner, Brandon Overton, Tim McCreadie, Devin Moran, Cody Overton, Garrett Alberson, Logan Roberson, Earl Pearson Jr., Spencer Hughes, Tyler Erb, Daulton Wilson, Gregg Satterlee, Colton Flinner, Max Blair, Rick Eckert, Ross Robinson, Jeff Rine, Kyle Hardy, Ricky Thornton Jr., Michael Norris, Chris Ferguson, Mason Zeigler.

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