EASTABOGA, Ala. (Oct. 8) — Tim McCreadie was perfect at just the right time.
With a flawless sweep of Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series program at Talladega Short Track — fast time, heat win and flag-to-flag victory in the 50-lap feature — the 48-year-old star from Watertown, N.Y., earned a $15,000 winner’s prize and clinched his second consecutive championship on the national tour.
McCreadie’s sixth Lucas Oil Series triumph of 2022 pushed his lead in the circuit’s standings to 215 points over fifth-place finisher Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., giving him an insurmountable edge heading into Oct. 14-15’s season-ending Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.
“To go in there (to the DTWC) and not have to worry about points …” McCreadie said, his voice trailing off as he expressed relief over securing the series-record $150,000 points crown. “I think it was a few years ago when we got beat (for the title at Portsmouth). I don’t ever want to go back like that.”
Added McCreadie: “We’re bringing another big one home. That’s what we set out to do and we were able to do it.”
McCreadie was at his best in the first Lucas Oil Series event since 2020 at the 3/8-mile oval since, controlling the A-main from start-to-finish. He maintained a comfortable edge over Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., until lapped traffic in the closing circuits allowed his closest pursuer to shrink the final victory margin to a modest 0.661 of a second.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., ran third for the entire distance to earn the final podium spot just two days after he registered a $22,022 Castrol FloRacing Late Model Night in America victory at Tri-County Racetrack in Brasstown, N.C.
Michael Page of Douglasville, Ga., who started 11th, reached fourth on a lap-20 restart and crossed the finish line there with a Chevy 525 engine under his car’s hood, but he was disqualified and placed last in the finishing order because his car failed the post-race droop rule/deck height measurement.
With Page's DQ, Garrett Alberson of Las Cruces, N.M., moved up to fourth place and locked down the 2022 Lucas Oil Series Rookie of the Year award. Sheppard, meanwhile, advanced to fifth in the finishing order, though the five extra points he received still left him resigned to a runner-up finish in the Lucas Oil Series standings.
McCreadie’s only real worry came late in the race when he had to cool his Paylor Motorsports Longhorn car’s jets as he approached the slower machine driven by Ross Robinson of Georgetown, Del.
“I was trying to get by Ross there, and I know what he was doing — he was trying to lay low down the straightaway to let me maybe get a run on the outside,” McCreadie said. “But it was so bottom dominant that I don’t think I could’ve stuck. I tried it with the other lapped car there … I just figured if I backed my corner up even further and let him get out there a little bit, maybe it won’t mess me up so much in the middle.
“So once it did that I just figured, Just stay where you’re at. (Crewman) J.C. (Crockett) was giving me signals and everybody was telling me we were OK and we got it done.”
Thornton, 32, settled for a runner-up finish behind a driver whose speed he couldn’t match.
“I thought about one time just trying to Hail Mary the top of three and four, and I thought better of it,” said Thornton, who held second from wire-to-wire as he repeated his bridesmaid finish to McCreadie in Sept. 24’s Jackson 100 at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway. “I thought, at this point, if I can just run second it’ll be a lot better than destroying a car.
“T-Mac was really good. The only reason I got close was because of lapped traffic.”
McCreadie, who entered the event with a 160-point lead over Sheppard in the Lucas Oil standings, needed to leave Talladega with more than a 210-point advantage to put the title in his back pocket without any worries in Portsmouth’s $100,000-to-win crown jewel. He did just that and relished his accomplishment in victory lane.
“This hasn’t been the easiest year as far as finishes,” said McCreadie, who will shoot for his first-ever DTWC checkered flag. “We’ve really had to work hard and grind hard, and it’s all these guys (on the Donald and Gena Bradsher-owned team). I get to go home and sit around and get lazy and probably get on them about what they need to be doing, but they don’t need it because they handle it without me. It’s turned out to be a really great match. For me personally, it’s a privilege to drive I believe the best prepped car out here with the guys we got behind us and the team we have behind us.
“A lot of times when you get to this point in your career they’re talking about young guys and they’re talking about selling T-shirts. That’s good. Hopefully they keep me around and we just keep cashing checks.”
McCreadie was especially happy to emerge victorious in the first race that his crew member, Longhorn staffer Matt Langston, attended since the tragic death of his 18-year-old daughter in a September car accident.
“We got Matt Langston back,” McCreadie said. “Him and (Langston’s wife) Jennifer, what they went through, nobody deserves it, so this is for them. I’m glad I could see a smile on that guy’s face right there because it’s not easy, that’s for sure.”
The feature was slowed by three cautions, including a multi-car backstretch tangle on lap 14 that swept up Hudson O’Neal, Daulton Wilson, Dalton Cook and Scott Crigler. Other cautions flew for Shane Clanton (lap 14) and Ryan Wilson (lap 20).
Notes: McCreadie’s 34th career Lucas Oil Series victory moved him out of a tie for sixth with Josh Richards on the tour’s all-time win list. … The 56-year-old McDowell acknowledged that the Talladega surface became one-lane for the feature but credited the track for putting in pre-race work to try and “make that top work,” he said. “I think think just needed a little more time to pack that in because it had little balls up there and loose stuff so we really couldn’t use it like were hoping.” … Sheppard started third but lost spots on restarts during the race’s first half on his way to crossing the finish line sixth — before Page's disqualification — in his first-ever start at Talladega. … Brandon Overton gained entry to the feature through a provisional after apparent contact during his heat race created front suspension damage that caused him to stop in turn one and require a wrecker ride back to the pit area. He climbed as high as 12th in the feature before retiring. … Lucas Oil Series announcer James Essex recognized the recent death of World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series announcer Rick Eshelman by staying silent for the first two laps of the feature.