ROSSBURG, Ohio — Hudson O'Neal's quest to give the Rocket Chassis house car its first World 100 victory at Eldora Speedway appeared in doubt when Jonathan Davenport blew past on the 52nd lap to take command of the sport's most prestigious event.
But the 23-year-old Martinsville, Ind., driver who started outside the front row was determined to give team owner Mark Richards a globe trophy for the first time.
"I didn't really get discouraged, but I knew it's gonna be hard to get back by him," O'Neal said. "I just gave it everything I had. I drove my heart out."
Winning a back-and-forth duel with Davenport beginning on lap 90, O'Neal regained the point for good on the 92nd lap and raced to a $56,000 payday, surviving a two-lap shootout to win the race to the checkers by 1.121 seconds at the historic half-mile oval owned by Tony Stewart.
"This is gonna be a good one to celebrate," O'Neal said in wrapping up his victory lane interview atop the sport's biggest stage. "I can't wait."
The fifth-starting Davenport, last year's winner who was aiming to tie Hall of Famer Billy Moyer with his sixth career World 100 victory, settled for second with 2005 winner Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., rallying from 27th to finish third. Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., was fourth for his best-ever World 100 performance and first-time starter Tanner English of Benton, Ky., improved 20 positions in rounding out the top five.
The week's two-time semifeature winner Bobby Pierce, who entered the event with victories in 13 of his last 16 starts, was running third when he retired on the 47th lap after an apparent blown right-front tire sent his car into the turn-three wall.
O'Neal, reminiscing in victory lane about watching from the stands when he was knee-high to his grandparents and his Hall of Fame father Don O'Neal was in World 100 contention, was thrilled to give Richards his first globe after joining the team late last season.
"Mark, Rocket Chassis, they've worked so hard to try and win this race and they won the (Eldora) Dream and he just told me 50 years, 50 years (since coming to Eldora) it took him to win this race," O'Neal said. "Today this isn't for me, this is for Mark. I'm the fortunate one here, but I owe all the thanks to Mark. He's given me such a great race car to come out here all three days and just be consistently fast and put me in a position to win that race."
The Rocket1 team has "fought from behind for the last couple of years and they just keep clawing and clawing and clawing. And we've had such a great race car all year long. And I just said, it felt like we haven't taken advantage of the speed, but this weekend we were able to. I'm just happy that I'm able to be standing up here man. I don't have the words."
Shedding tears in victory lane, Richards said winning the World 100 has "just been something that just seemed like was never going to happen" and after so many near-misses, "to come back here and do with Hudson, the first year for him driving Rocket1, it's great."
Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., led the first 14 laps, but O'Neal zipped by on the 15th lap and led comfortably through a series of cautions in the first half of the race while Davenport, who took second place on the 23rd lap, gave chase.
The race became a two-car battle at halfway and when Davenport took command on lap 52, O'Neal continued to put pressure on the leader as the two frontrunners built a margin of more than five seconds on the rest of the field. O'Neal finally made his move on lap 90, diving ahead of Davenport before the five-time race winner answered the move. O'Neal stuck his nose under Davenport's deck on the next lap, then dove past again on lap 92 for a lead he'd never give up.
A lap-98 caution gave Davenport one more chance — "I said every cuss word there was under that last caution," O'Neal said — but the Indiana's first-ever World 100 winner held on. Davenport couldn't summon another charge to overtake O'Neal.
"That was all I had. Moyer's record's gonna live on for another year," said Davenport, whose Double L Motorsports team added green to the team's graphics scheme in pursuit of winning more green at Eldora. '"Congratulations to Hudson. I thought we was pretty good there because I can run off the cushion and it was pretty good and it just kept building up more and more and once they got to a big curb there, he was just a little better than we was.
"I tried to run it behind him and just wasn't as good as he was. We just was set up like our normal deal, run middle-down (on the racetrack), but just hats off to my guys, they're doing a great job. We brought this cool looking car here and it showed speed again. This ol' car here has been really good here. It ain't been beat in a while, but second's still great, you know what I mean?"
Davenport set his sights on next month's Dirt Track World Championship, the Carl Short-promoted event that shifts to Eldora for the first time with $100,000 and a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship on the line.
"We ain't going to hold our heads down," the runner-up said. "We're going to keep 'em up high and go on for the rest of the year and try to come on back here and get us a championship."
McDowell, who broke into the top 10 on lap 70 and then into the top five 10 laps later, climbed from the 14th row after subpar preliminaries on Thursday and Friday.
"We just struggled and got behind and I wished I could say I just drove it harder — (that) It was me — but we had to get the car balanced. So it come back around to us and I'm just gonna have to figure out how to start better up here and you know and hopefully we'll have a better finish," McDowell said. "I cost myself some restarts and stuff tonight, but it really never dreamed I'd get up this far, so it's surprising to me."
The Hall of Famer added that "it's really an honor to run this good and (run) with these guys. Man, these guys are awesome, awesome to race with. ... When I line up with these guys and I've raced with their dads more than I've raced with them, it's crazy. But it was a good night for us. Hopefully we can come back and get at least another podium and maybe another win here before we call it off."
Nine cautions slowed the action, the first for a called-back start and the second on the 21st lap when Jason Jameson's overheating car fell off the pace.
The third yellow flag fell on the 22nd lap when Josh Rice got into the turn-one wall, his car stopping with significant damage. Brandon Sheppard's car caught a piece of Rice and he pitted to address the damage.
Caution No. 4 came on lap 40 when sixth-running Devin Moran's car got into the wall exiting turn four and the fifth yellow appeared for Pierce on lap 47. The sixth yellow appeared two laps later for Shane Clanton's flat right-rear tire.
Ninth-starting Jimmy Owens slowed leaking fluids for a lap-69 caution and Ricky Thornton Jr. had a flat left-rear tire eight laps later.
The final caution appeared on the 98th lap for a slowing Kyle Strickler, setting up the two-lap shootout to the checkers.
Notes: O'Neal notched his 13th victory of the season. ... He was a $12,000 preliminary winner on Thursday. ... In four previous World 100 starts, his best finish was fourth in 2021. ... Chris Madden dropped a cylinder and retired on the 40th lap running sixth. ... Scheduled polesitter Mason Zeigler was tagged for jumping the first start and dropped back to the second row, putting Ferguson in the No. 1 position for the second successful opening lap. ... Brian Shirley lost a few positions on the 24th lap when he brushed the turn-three wall. ... In the second half of the race, officials elected to remove video from the turn-two scoreboard, preventing drivers from using the scoreboard to see the positions of other competitors. The scoreboard listed only driver positions. ... The feature ended at 12:10 a.m.
Correction: Fixes lap for Moran's caution to 40 sted 49.
53rd annual World 100
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Hudson O’Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., Rocket, $56,000
2. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., Longhorn, $25,000
3. Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., Team Zero, $15,000
4. Brian Shirley (8), Chatham, Ill., Team Zero, $12,500
5. Tanner English (96), Benton, Ky., Longhorn, $10,000
6. Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., Rocket, $9,000
7. Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., Team Zero, $8,000
8. Ryan Gustin (19r), Marshalltown, Iowa, Rocket, $7,500
9. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket, $7,000
10. Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., Longhorn, $6,500
11. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., Longhorn, $6,250
12. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., Longhorn, $6,000
13. Nick Hoffman (9), Mooresville, N.C., Longhorn, $5,900
14. Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., Longhorn, $5,800
15. Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., Rocket, $5,700
16. Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., Longhorn, $5,650
17. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Rocket, $5,600
18. x-Tristan Chamberlain (20tc), Richmond, Ind., Longhorn, $5,550
19. Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., Longhorn, $5,500
20. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., Capital, $5,475
21. Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., Longhorn, $5,450
22. Brandon Overton (4), Evans, Ga., Longhorn, $5,425
23. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, Longhorn, $5,400
24. Chris Madden (87), Gray Court, S.C., Longhorn, $5,300
25. Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., Longhorn, $5,300
26. Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., Longhorn, $5,300
27. x-Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., BMF, $5,300
28. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., Longhorn, $5,300
29. Josh Rice (11), Verona, Ky., Rocket, $5,300
30. Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind., Longhorn, $5,300
Lap leaders: Ferguson 1-14; O'Neal 15-51, 92-100; Davenport 52-91
Fast qualifier (among 102 cars): Madden, 15.801 cars
Heat race winners: Feger, Davenport, Bronson, Ferguson, O’Neal, Zeigler
Consolation winners: Rice, Scott
Provisional starters: Thornton, Jameson
x-Because of an officiating error, Hedgecock and Chamberlain were granted 15th-row starting spots in the scheduled 28-car field
Preliminary feature winners: O’Neal, Pierce, Pierce, Shirley
Lap 100: O'Neal wins.
Lap 98: Kyle Strickler slows to bring out the eighth caution and erase O'Neal's 1.884-second lead over Davenport. Shirley is third, with Dale McDowell up to fourth from 27th.
Lap 92: O'Neal retakes the lead.
Lap 90: Davenport leads O'Neal by 0.107 of a second.
Lap 76: Seventh caution as Thornton slows. Davenport leads O'Neal, Shirley, Zeigler and Sheppard.
Lap 69: Sixth caution appears as Jimmy Owens slows. Davenport leads O'Neal, Zeigler, Ferguson, Brian Shirley, Sheppard, Gustin, Thornton and Tyler Erb.
Lap 60: J.D. leads by 0.524 seconds.
Lap 52: Davenport grabs the lead in turn two.
Lap 50: O'Neal leads Davenport by 0.338 at halfway.
Lap 49: 18th-running Shane Clanton blows right-rear tire to draw the fifth caution. Mike Marlar heads to the hot pit area during the caution. ... O'Neal leads Davenport, Zeigler, Fergusion and Owens.
Lap 47: Fourth caution waves as third-running Bobby Pierce stops in turn three, possibly blew a tire. O'Neal leads Davenport, Zeigler, Ferguson and Owens who cracks the top five. ... Ricky Thornton Jr. pits during this caution.
Lap 45: O'Neal leads Davenport.
Lap 40: Third caution. Sixth-running Moran tags the wall in turn three. ... O'Neal leads Davenport, Zeigler, Pierce, Ferguson, Bronson, Owens, Shirley and Gustin. ... Madden pits during caution.
Lap 38: Pierce up to fifth.
Lap 30: O’Neal leads. Madden up to fifth. Pierce up to seventh.
Lap 23: Davenport to second on the restart.
Lap 22: Second caution waves. Josh Rice hits the wall in turn one. Running order: O’Neal, Ferguson, Davenport, Zeigler, Moran, Madden. … Brandon Sheppard tags Rice, heads to the pits. … Shane Clanton and Garrett Alberson head to the hot pit.
Lap 21: First caution flies for Jason Jameson, erasing O’Neal’s 3.117-second lead. Ferguson runs second followed by Zeigler, Davenport, Devin Moran and Chris Madden.
Lap 15: O’Neal grabs the lead from Ferguson with a pass on the low side.
Lap 10: Ferguson leads Zeigler, Hudson O’Neal and Jonathan Davenport.
11:09 p.m.: Green flag flies on the 53rd annual World 100. Chris Ferguson leads the first lap. (Polesitter Mason Zeigler penalized one row for jumping initial start.)
10:51 p.m. | World 100 lineup
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Hudson O’Neal
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Kyle Bronson
Row 3: Jonathan Davenport, Jason Feger
Row 4: Devin Moran, Chris Madden
Row 5: Brian Shirley, Kyle Strickler
Row 6: Jimmy Owen, Ryan Gustin
Row 7: Bobby Pierce, Shannon Babb
Row 8: Mike Marlar, Tyler Erb
Row 9: Earl Pearson Jr., Brandon Sheppard
Row 10: Ricky Thornton Jr., Jason Jameson
Row 11: Josh Rice, Stormy Scott
Row 12: Shane Clanton, Brandon Overton
Row 13: Tanner English, Nick Hoffman
Row 14: Dale McDowell, Garrett Alberson
Row 15: Tristan Chamberlain, Cory Hedgecock
10:49 pm. | Stats from 30-car field
Five drivers are set to make their first starts in the World 100: Jason Jameson of Lawrenceburg, Ind., Tanner English of Benton, Ky., Garrett Alberson of Las Cruces, N.M., Tristan Chamberlain of Richmond, Ind., and Cory Hedgeock of Loudon, Tenn.
Longhorn Chassis leads the way in the manufacturer battle with 18 of the 30 starters. Rocket Chassis has seven drivers, Team Zero claims three while Capital and BMR have one apiece.
Among states, Illinois boasts the most feature-starting drivers with five while Georgia has four and Indiana, North Carolina and Tennessee have three. Two hail from Florida, Kentucky and New Mexico while single drivers represent Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.
10:44 p.m. | Two more starters
The World 100 field unexpectedly swelled by two cars to 30 starters after a mistake by DIRTcar officials inadvertently allowed two of the four transfers in the first B-main to make pre-race changes that aren’t permitted.
After the B-mains were completed, several competitors approached DIRTcar director Sam Driggers in the pit area to report that two transfers in the first consolation changed a tire in the staging area after passing the commitment line on pit road. Driggers said his officials told the teams that they could make the changes when they should have relayed the opposite information.
As a result, to rectify the situation, the fifth- and sixth-place finishers in the first B-main — 16-year-old Tristan Chamberlain and Cory Hedgecock — were added to the back of the feature field by Eldora officials.
“We can’t take something away from them after we told them they can do it,” Driggers said, explaining why the drivers who changed tires illegally weren’t disqualified. “Our officials told them they could change tires so we can’t throw them out. (Eldora owner) Tony Stewart graciously added two more cars to the field.”
Driggers accepted blame for the miscommunication: “It’s my fault. I’m responsible for letting my officials know the rules.”
10:11 p.m. | Second consolation to Scott
Finish (top four transfer): Stormy Scott, Brandon Overton, Nick Hoffman, Garrett Alberson, Garrett Smith, Ricky Weiss, Daulton Wilson, Spencer Hughes, Dennis Erb Jr., G.R. Smith, Gordy Gundaker, R.J. Conley, Trent Ivey, Casey Noonan, Seth Daniels, Kye Blight, Jordan Koehler, Mike Benedum, Brenden Smith, Wil Herrington, Kaede Loudy. Scratched: Kent Robinson, Mike Bargo, Tyler Nicely.
9:56 p.m. | First consolation to Rice
Finish (top four transfer): Josh Rice, Shane Clanton, Tanner English, Dale McDowell, Tristan Chamberlain, Cory Hedgecock, Tyler Carpenter, Michael Brown, Tim McCreadie, Gregg Satterlee, Joseph Joiner, Richie Stephens, Kirk Phillips, Matt Cosner, Brad Dyer, Ross Bailes, Chase Osterhoff, Rod Conley, Dustin Nobbe, Travis Stemler, Justin Cropper, Austin Neely, Cody Overton. Scratched: Kody Evans.
9:43 p.m. | Consolation lineups
(20 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Tristan Chamberlain, Tanner English
Row 2: Shane Clanton, Josh Rice
Row 3: Dale McDowell, Tyler Carpenter
Row 4: Austin Neely, Michael Brown
Row 5: Gregg Satterlee, Cory Hedgecock
Row 6: Cody Overton, Richie Stephens
Row 7: Tim McCreadie, Kirk Phillips
Row 8:Ross Bailes, Kody Evans
Row 9: Joseph Joiner, Rod Conley
Row 10: Travis Stemler, Jeremy Cooper
Row 11: Matt Cosner, Chase Osterhoff
Row 12: Brad Dyer, Dustin Nobbe
Row 1: Stormy Scott, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Nick Hoffman, Garrett Alberson
Row 3: Garrett Smith, Spencer Hughes
Row 4: Wil Herrigton, Ricky Weiss
Row 5: Seth Daniels, Casey Noonan
Row 6: Dennis Erb Jr., G.R. Smith
Row 7: Daulton Wilson, Trent Ivey
Row 8: Kye Blight, Mike Benedum
Row 9: R.J. Conley, Kaede Loudy
Row 10: Kent Robinson, Jordan Koehler
Row 11: Brenden Smith, Mike Bargo
Row 12: Gordy Gundaker, Tyler Nicely
9:39 p.m. | Heat race notes
Ricky Thornton Jr. dropped back late in the fourth heat after determining that he couldn’t win the prelim; he opted to save his equipment and fall back on his points provisional to start 19th in the World 100. … Jason Jameson claimed the second points provisional to start his first-ever World 100 from the 20th position. … Former race winner Tim McCreadie started third in Heat 1 but slipped backward to an eighth-place finish. He lost third on lap three after contact with Devin Moran between turns three and four and never recovered. … Shane Clanton ran in a transfer spot for most of the third heat before ceding third to Mike Marlar on lap 12 and settling for a fourth-place finish. … Daulton Wilson sustained a cut right-rear tire and body damage on the fifth lap of Heat 5 after he checked up in turn four to avoid Garrett Smith’s sideways car and was hit by Wil Herrington. … Dennis Erb Jr. was running third on lap eight of the sixth heat when a blown right-rear tire sent him off the pace to draw a caution flag. He salvaged a seventh-place finish after a pit stop.
9:31 p.m. | Zeigler grabs pole
Dominating the sixth heat from start-to-finish, Mason Zeigler emerged victorious to earn the pole position for the World 100. He duplicated his effort in June’s Dream, which he led to the green flag from the pole and led laps 1-25 before finishing fifth.
“Man, talk about a rocket ship,” Zeigler, who has never finished better than 16th in his six previous World 100 feature starts, said of his Rocket Chassis. “I have to hold myself back in the 100 laps or we’d run away with it (with the car so fast) … but the tires would never hold up.”
Ryan Gustin finished 1.061 seconds behind Zeigler in the runner-up spot with Brandon Sheppard close behind in third.
9:26 p.m. | Ziggy rules sixth heat
Finish (top three transfer): Mason Zeigler, Ryan Gustin, Brandon Sheppard, Nick Hoffman, Spencer Hughes, Ricky Weiss, Dennis Erb Jr., Trent Ivey, R.J. Conley, Jordan Koehler, Gordy Gundaker, Brian Ruhlman, Forrest Trent, Jerry Bowersock, Jake Timm. Scratched: Freddie Carpenter, Dona Marcoullier.
9:18 p.m. | Hud on outside pole
Hudson O’Neal shot from the sixth starting spot to second on the opening lap, the inherited the lead when Donald McIntosh crashed on lap four and went on to win the fifth heat. He beat Earl Pearson Jr. to the finish line by 2.136 seconds to secure the outside pole for his fifth career World 100 feature start.
“Everything just worked out perfect,” said O’Neal, who previously sat on the front row for the World 100 in 2017 when he led the field to the green flag from the pole in his first feature start in the event. “You couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
McIntosh led the first four laps before a right-front blew out on his Billy Hicks-owned No. 79, sending him into the turn-three wall.
9:12 p.m. | O’Neal rockets to heat win
Finish (top three advance): Hudson O’Neal, Jimmy Owens, Earl Pearson Jr., Brandon Overton, Garrett Smith, Wil Herrington, Casey Noonan, Daulton Wilson, Mike Benedum, Kent Robinson, Mike Bargo, Terry Rushlow, Rob Anderzack, Jeremy Cropper, Luke Anstett, Donald McIntosh. Scratched: Terry Wolfenbarger.
8:53 p.m. | Fergy does it
Chris Ferguson slipped past Northeast big-block modified star Matt Sheppard for the lead on lap three and marched on to win the fourth heat by 1.149 seconds over Kyle Strickler. He will make his seventh career World 100 feature start from the third starting spot — just his second single-digit start in the event after he took the green flag from seventh in the first 2021 race.
“We’ve been getting better and better in these 100-lap races,” Ferguson said. “I’d love to get my first World 100 tonight.”
The polesitting Sheppard slipped back to sixth before bringing out a lap-10 caution when he nosed into the inside wall on the backstretch. His car was towed off the track.
8:50 p.m. | Fourth heat is Fergy’s
Finish (top three advance): Chris Ferguson, Kyle Strickler, Tyler Erb, Stormy Scott, Garrett Alberson, Jason Jameson, Seth Daniels, G.R. Smith, Kye Blight, Kaede Loudy, Brenden Smith, Tyler Nicely, Curtis Roberts, Bryant Dickinson, Ricky Thornton Jr., Matt Sheppard. Scratched: Gilbert Hess.
8:42 p.m. | Bronson all the way
Kyle Bronson controlled the third heat from flag-to-flag, beating Friday preliminary winner Brian Shirley by 0.526 of a second. He will make his seventh consecutive World 100 feature appearance and enjoy the best starting position of his career when he takes the green flag from fourth.
“Our car’s been extremely good,” said Bronson, whose crew made an engine change overnight after he retired from Friday’s preliminary feature with terminal motor trouble. “We just have to have a little luck go our way.”
Bronson’s only top-10 finish in the World 100 is a ninth in 2021.
8:38 p.m. | Bronson flag-to-flag in third heat
Finish (top three advance): Kyle Bronson, Brian Shirley, Mike Marlar, Shane Clanton, Tyler Carpenter, Gregg Satterlee, Richie Stephens, Ross Bailes, Rod Conley, Matt Cosner, Dustin Nobbe, Steven Roberts, Benji Hicks, David McCoy. Scratched: Jeep Van Wormer, Austin Kirkpatrick, Jeff Kohn.
8:26 p.m. | Southern stars
Veteran Southerners led the way in the second heat with Georgia’s Jonathan Davenport crossing the finish line 1.5 seconds ahead of South Carolina’s Chris Madden. Shannon Babb used a lap-12 restart to shoot into the final transfer spot as another Southerner, Dale McDowell, slipped from third to fifth in the final circuits.
Gunning for his second straight and record-tying sixth World 100 triumph, Davenport grabbed the lead from Michael Brown — another racer from the Southeast — on a lap-three restart and never looked back. He will start fifth in the finale.
“You just gotta play the game,” said Davenport, who was quiet in the two preliminary programs. “We just kept working on our stuff throughout the week, but obviously the track’s different from the last three or four years. We’ll tune out it a little more.”
8:22 p.m. | Davenport wins lengthy second heat
Finish (top three transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Chris Madden, Shannon Babb, Tanner English, Dale McDowell, Michael Brown, Cody Overton, Kirk Phillips, Joseph Joiner, Justin Cooper, Brad Dyer, Jeff Robertson, Josh Dietz, Carson Ferguson, Kenny Collins, John Tweed.
8:07 p.m. | Hard contact
The second heat was red-flagged on lap three for a multi-car incident in turn one that saw Kenny Collins and Carson Ferguson make hard contact. John Tweed and Jon Hodgkiss were also involved.
Ferguson jumped the cushion and slapped the wall while running eighth and was slammed by Collins, whose car sustained heavy right-side damage. Both drivers were able to emerge from the cars under their own power.
7:58 p.m. | Feger back in World
Shooting past 16-year-old Tristan Chamberlain for the lead on lap six, Jason Feger dominated the remainder of the first heat to emerge victorious. His triumph — by 2.905 seconds over Devin Moran, with sixth-starter Bobby Pierce close behind in third — snapped a stretch of five consecutive World 100 DNQs.
Not surprisingly, Bloomington, Ill.’s Feger was riding high after his win.
“Lot of relief,” said Feger, who will start the World 100 finale for the first time since he finished 27th in 2017. “It just feels amazing.”
7:54 p.m. | Feger hustles to first heat win
Finish (top three transfer): Jason Feger, Devin Moran, Bobby Pierce, Tristan Chamberlain, Josh Rice, Austin Neely, Cory Hedgecock, Tim McCreadie, Kody Evans, Travis Stemler, Chase Osterhoff, Donnie Jeschke, David Ellis, Will Roland, Tim Lance, Haiden Cowan. Scratched: Jason Riggs.
7:38 p.m. | Ready to go
After the completion of opening ceremonies — including the singing of the Australian, Canadian and U.S. national anthems and the traditional running of three horses around the track — the first of six 15-lap heat races rolled onto the racetrack to kick off the racing program.
7:05 p.m. | Awaiting the start
Hot laps ended at 6:59 p.m., just before the scheduled 7 p.m. start time for opening ceremonies. However, rides for fans in the Eldora Speedway two-seater Dirt Late Model at part of the Tony Stewart Foundation Ride-Along Program began at 7:05 p.m.; the pre-race fesitivites, including the national anthem, will begin after the rides (with Hudson O'Neal driving) are completed.
6:53 p.m. | Musical cars
Dennis Erb Jr. and his crew chief, Heath Lyne, have experienced a whirlwind 24 hours.
After Erb blew a right-front tire and smacked the turn-three wall while leading on the last lap of his Friday heat, he limped to the finish line to salvage a fourth-place and transfer to the preliminary feature. The damage forced him to pull out his backup car and start the first 25-lapper from the rear, but he managed to escape with a decent 12th-place finish that ended up positioning him on the outside pole of this evening’s sixth heat.
Believing they could switch back to their original car for Saturday’s finale, Erb and Lyne worked until 7 a.m. making significant repairs to the wrecked Rocket Chassis. The bulk of their attention was on the right-front corner, including some repairs to bent frame rails.
Barely an hour before the start of Saturday’s hot laps, however, Erb and Lyne learned that their long hours wrenching on the car would all be for naught. They were informed by DIRTcar officials that they must run the backup car that Erb drove in the preliminary feature.
There was a miscommunication among officials that led to Erb thinking he could switch back to his primary car after repairing it. But World 100 rules stipulate that “once a team requests to use a backup car, the primary car is officially withdrawn and cannot be used again in the event.”
6:19 p.m. | Helping a pal
When Steven Roberts of Sylvester, Ga., discovered engine trouble in his No. 111 machine less than an hour before the scheduled start of hot laps, his golden opportunity to make his first-ever World 100 — he has the outside pole in the third heat — seemed doomed.
But then his good buddy Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, and the Best Performance Motorsports team stepped up to try to save him. Erb hastily unloaded his backup car and went to work with his crew to remove its engine so it could be installed in Roberts’s car.
A large crowd of onlookers were gathered around the side-by-side pit stalls of the two friends as the work began shortly before 6 p.m. Erb, his crew and several members of other teams scrambled to remove the engine from his No. 1 while Roberts and his crew worked to pull the ailing powerplant from his machine — hopefully in time for Roberts to retain his prime starting spot in his heat sometime after 7 o’clock.
5:47 p.m. | RTJ’s close call
Don’t take your eyes off the road, right? Ricky Thornton Jr. needed to listen to that age-old driving maxim during Friday’s second 25-lap preliminary feature.
Before suffering a narrow, last-lap defeat to Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., Thornton survived a scary near-miss with an Eldora Speedway safety truck. As he was circling the track in second place during a caution period, he looked to his left while rolling down the frontstretch and, when he glanced back in front of him, suddenly saw the truck sitting in the middle of turn one and had to take evasive action to avoid it.
“I knew something was wrong (with his car’s engine) so I was trying to find (crew chief Anthony) Burroughs (standing in the infield) to see if he wanted me to keep running it or not,” said Thornton, who was hampered by what was later discovered to be a spark plug wire that came loose. “It’s a good thing I looked up at the last second or I would’ve smoked (the truck), like, perfect. I was able to turn (to the left). I barely caught (the truck) with, like, the spoiler.”
A video replay showed Thornton’s car cutting hard to the left in turn one and its right-rear bodywork clipping the left-rear corner of the pickup truck. The slight contact was enough to shatter the tail light of the truck, which had its safety lights flashing brightly and its workers already inside the cab after doing some cleanup.
“I don’t know, one lap the trucks are going and the next they’re not,” Thornton said. “I was more paying attention to trying to find my crew guy. I heard a small scrape, so I’m sure I caught it some, but not sure how bad. I’m just glad it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.”
The safety workers inside the truck weren’t injured — the truck just barely moved as Thornton glanced off it — and drove away from the scene after cleaning up the pieces of the shattered tail light.
Thornton laughed when it was suggested that he would have to pay for a new tail light on the truck.
“Heck, I don’t know,” said Thornton, who is scheduled to start sixth in Heat 4. “I’m sure (Eldora owner) Tony (Stewart) will be over (to talk about it).”
5:04 p.m. | Davenport's game plan
Jonathan Davenport has been anything but overly impressive through World 100 preliminary action at Eldora Speedway. But fear not. Superman hasn’t stumbled onto any kryptonite, nor does he feel powerless heading into Saturday’s century-grind of a finale.
Starting fourth in the second heat race and with a clear shot to start the big dance from fifth if he wins, the five-time World 100 champion remains in a fine position to potentially tie Billy Moyer for the most globe trophies in the event’s 53-year history.
Besides, his fourth- and 15th-place finishes in the semifeatures were never going to reveal much to begin with. Softer tires and a 25-lap sprint simply do not compare to harder tires for the 100-lap finale.
“It’s going be all different when we put hard tires on. This, (the prelim nights), don’t mean s--- ,” Davenport said. “Yeah, it’s going to be completely different. They’re going to have it wetter. They want the racetrack wetter than what it’s been in the past. But I feel like we have a really good balance. I think we’re just going to get better as it gets slicker.”
Davenport’s Friday finish would’ve been better if not for the flat right-front tire that knocked him out of third, a chain reaction of events that made him “nervous as (expletive)!"
“Was just trying to figure out how to keep it out of the wall,” Davenport said. “Then I was worried about somebody running me over. Luckily we have a green spoiler, so maybe they seen that and avoided it.”
While still confident, Davenport “wouldn’t say (I’m) as confident as I’ve ever been because I know how good these other guys are when they put hard tires on, too.
"Bobby ain’t no slouch when he puts hard tires on either. He’s really good,” Davenport said. “We all knew he’d be fast when the racetrack is like this. But he’s also fast when it gets slick. That’s where I seem to shine the most and more into my forte. That’s what I’ve been concentrating on.
“I’ve been trying to see how far I can go into my setup of what I want to run in the 100-lap race even though it’s really fast (in the 25-lap prelim) so it can transition through the race and still be good at the end.”
If Davenport makes it through heat race, which also features event favorites Dale McDowell and Chris Madden, he’ll be thinking even more optimistically.
“I feel like we’ve adjusted to it pretty well,” Davenport said. “I liked what I could feel there. I could circle the bottom really well while those two guys were circling the top. At least at that point, I could still see them and keep pace with them.
“We just have to get through the heat race without having any problems so we can work on it for 100 laps. That’s the main thing. The worst thing is to rush fixing body panels and anything that’s tore up.”
5:02 p.m. | McCreadie avoids major trouble
There was unquestionable worry in Tim McCreadie’s Paylor Motorsports camp when the Watertown, N.Y., driver limped into the infield during a lap-13 caution period in Friday’s first 25-lap preliminary feature with oil trailing behind his car and splashed throughout his engine compartment. A closer inspection of his race-ending problem tempered the team’s stress, however.
The reason for the spewing oil? A loose fitting on an oil line.
While McCreadie and Co. are confident that the car’s engine sustained no damage that could show up this evening, they are hoping for a better handling Longhorn Race Car.
“We’re having trouble turning,” said Longhorn staffer and Paylor Motorsports crew member Matt Langston, who noted that McCreadie was hampered by a push during Friday’s action. “We have to fix that.”
McCreadie, who was credited with a 24th-place finish in Friday’s semifeature after retiring while running seventh, is scheduled to start third in Saturday’s first heat.
4:50 p.m. | O’Neal’s misfortune
Hudson O’Neal appeared headed toward back-to-back preliminary feature victories after he passed Bobby Pierce for the lead on lap seven of Friday’s 25-lapper. It was Pierce, though, who ended up with a second semi triumph in as many nights thanks to a cut right-front tire on O’Neal’s Rocket Chassis house car as he decisively paced the field on the 13th circuit.
While O’Neal was able to keep his machine out of the wall when the tire trouble caused him to veer to the right rounding turns one and two, he experienced a few very anxious moments.
“It didn’t take no time. It cut quick,” O’Neal said. “I got lucky. I was real lucky I entered down in the middle of the racetrack that lap and I just was able to get it whoa’d up. Truthfully, I kind of panicked.”
O’Neal rallied to salvage a 13th-place finish following a pit stop — good enough to leave him fifth in the event points and starting sixth in Saturday’s Heat 5 after the inversion — but he was downtrodden after experiencing another heartbreaking flat.
“I just hate it,” O’Neal said. “Flat tires cost this team so much this year. Like (crew chief) Danny (White) said, right-front flats cost us $23,000 earlier in the year here (in the Castrol FloRacing Night in America event) and just cost us 12 (thousand).”
Team owner Mark Richards, who is seeking his first-ever World 100 victory as an owner, said Friday’s cut tire was the fifth flat O’Neal has endured in his last four outings. He was slowed by three flats during last Saturday’s Lucas Oil Series stop at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park and his right-rear tire went flat on the winner’s stage after he captured Thursday’s preliminary.
If air stays in his tires, O’Neal feels he has a real shot at success in Saturday’s World 100.
“Our race car’s so good right now,” said O’Neal, who owns a top finish of fourth (2021) in his four career World 100 feature starts. “This is the best I’ve ever been here.”
4:45 p.m. | Cloudy day
While mostly cloudy skies have prevailed throughout the day, the weather forecast for Saturday night’s 53rd annual World 100 finale shows virtually no chance of rain to disrupt the program. Temperatures that reached into the lower 70s during the afternoon are expected to drop through the 60s as the evening of racing progresses.
Competitors took part in an autograph session in Eldora’s barn outside turns three and four from 3:30-4:30 p.m. and then stayed in place for the public drivers’ meeting. Hot laps are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. with opening ceremonies slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Heat race lineups
(15 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Tristan Chamberlain, Haiden Cowan
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Jason Feger
Row 3: Devin Moran, Bobby Pierce
Row 4: Josh Rice, Will Roland
Row 5: Austin Neely, Kody Evans
Row 6: Tim Lance, Cory Hedgecock
Row 7: Travis Stemler, Chase Osterhoff
Row 8: Jason Riggs, Donnie Jeschke
Row 9: David Ellis
Row 1: Michael Brown, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Joseph Joiner, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Shannon Babb, Chris Madden
Row 4: Carson Ferguson, Cody Overton
Row 5: Kenny Collins, Tanner English
Row 6: Josh Dietz, Brad Dyer
Row 7: Jon Hodgkiss, Kirk Phillips
Row 8: John Tweed, Justin Cooper
Row 9: Jeff Robertson
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Steven Roberts
Row 2: David McCoy, Shane Clanton
Row 3: Mike Marlar, Brian Shirley
Row 4: Gregg Satterlee, Richie Stephens
Row 5: Ross Bailes, Dustin Nobbe
Row 6: Benji Hicks, Matt Cosner
Row 7: Rod Conley, Tyler Carpenter
Row 8: Jeep Van Wormer, Austin Kirkpatrick
Row 9: Jeff Kohn
Row 1: Matt Sheppard, Garrett Alberson
Row 2: Stormy Scott, Chris Ferguson
Row 3: Jason Jameson, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Kyle Strickler
Row 5: Seth Daniels, G.R. Smith
Row 6: Kye Blight, Tyler Nicely
Row 7: Kaede Loudy, Curtis Roberts
Row 8: Brenden Smith, Bryant Dickinson
Row 9: Gilbert Hess
Row 1: Mike Benedum, Donald McIntosh
Row 2: Brandon Overton, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 3: Daulton Wilson, Hudson O'Neal
Row 4: Jimmy Owens, Wil Herrington
Row 5: Casey Noonan, Garrett Smith
Row 6: Kent Robinson, Rob Anderzack
Row 7: Terry Rushlow, Mike Bargo
Row 8: Jeremy Cropper, Luke Anstett
Row 9: Terry Wolfenbarger
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Spencer Hughes, Ryan Gustin
Row 3: Trent Ivey, Brandon Sheppard
Row 4: Nick Hoffman, Ricky Weiss
Row 5: Jordan Koehler, R.J. Conley
Row 6: Gordy Gundaker, Forrest Trent
Row 7: Jerry Bowersock, Jake Timm
Row 8: Brian Ruhlman, Freddie Carpenter
Row 9: Dona Marcoullier
7-11 a.m. - Breakfast served (turn four concession building)
10 a.m. - Ticket office opens (ticket and pit pass sales)
11 a.m. - Grounds cleared and secured
Noon - All gates, suites and concessions open
2 p.m. - Church service (behind tour four house)
3:30-6:30 p.m. - Conner Albers concert (fan zone)
3:30 p.m. - Driver autograph session (fan zone)
4:30 p.m. - Public drivers’ meeting (fan zone)
6:30 p.m. - Hot laps
7 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
- Late Model heats (15 laps)
- Late Model consolations (20 laps)
- 53rd annual World 100 (100 laps)