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Hudson O'Neal (1) battles Jonathan Davenport at Golden Isles Speedway. (Mike Ruefer photo)

O’Neal Romps To Golden Isles Glory

WAYNESVILLE, Ga. — Defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Hudson O’Neal started his title defense by winning the tour’s season opener.

O’Neal led all but one lap to win the General Tire Super Bowl of Racing on Thursday night at Golden Isles Speedway.

O’Neal yielded the lead for one lap to Jonathan Davenport on lap 22 but fought back to regain the point and go on to win the 40-lap race by .633 seconds. Davenport held on for second over Brandon Overton.

Overton came home third, followed by Ricky Thornton Jr. and Brandon Sheppard.

O’Neal started on the pole and grabbed the lead at the start of the race. Jimmy Owens, looking for his 81st career win with the series, ran in second for the first six laps until yielding the spot to Davenport.

The race was a hotly contested battle for most of the 40 laps as several drivers were in contention to pick up the opening night win. O’Neal stumbled slightly in turn two, opening the door for Davenport to take the lead on lap 22, but O’Neal came right back to regain the point from the three-time champion.

With cautions on lap 27 and lap 30, the field stayed bunched up behind O’Neal for the restarts, but when O’Neal stayed on the high-side to hold off Davenport and Overton at the end as the final 10 laps went caution-free.

In Lucas Oil Victory Lane for the 25th time in his career, O’Neal has his sights set on a second consecutive Lucas Oil National Championship after scoring his first win at Golden Isles.

O’Neal was asked about the lap that nearly led to his downfall.

“The top was just blowing a lot of crumbs across it,” O’Neal said. “If you didn’t get set enough you would lose the front end halfway through the corner. Jonathan got back by me and did the exact same thing and let me get back by him. Things just worked out in our favor, and I thought that one mistake I made it was going to be it, but fortunately he made a little bobble over there in two and got us back in it.” 

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Hudson O’Neal (Mike Ruefer photo)

Davenport, entered the event with 72 career LOLMDS wins, saw his one chance to take control of the race slip away on lap 23.

“I just kind of slid for the lead there and I knew he (O’Neal) would be coming back the next corner,” Davenport said. “He made a mistake over there. I wish I was a little bit further behind because once he started coming left, I knew he was going to block the bottom, but I was already to his inside. I wish I was a couple of feet behind because I could have went to the outside and maybe got a run off of four on him. I just didn’t capitalize on his one mistake he made.”

Overton was in the thick of things until the end. 

“Our car was actually good. These guys are good. It is what it is. They are the best in the business. It was a heck of a race for a while. This is just the first night. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I am sure we can do a couple of things to speed up the car a little bit.” 

The finish:

Hudson O’Neal, Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Overton, Ricky Thornton Jr., Brandon Sheppard, Jimmy Owens, Kyle Bronson, Devin Moran, Daulton Wilson, Dennis Erb Jr., Garrett Alberson, Drake Troutman, Mark Whitener, Ross Robinson, Clay Harris, Mike Marlar, Max Blair, Garrett Smith, Donald McIntosh, Tim McCreadie, Tony Jackson Jr., Boom Briggs, Tyler Erb, Dale McDowell, Earl Pearson Jr., Daniel Adam, Chris Madden.