Preparations for the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com are underway. The ballot was recently revealed and sent out to a panel of industry experts to determine the top 51 short track racing prospects in North America.
As we prepare for the draft, we’ll be taking a look at a handful of drivers and providing scouting reports just like you would see ahead of the NFL Draft. These scouting reports will take a look at a driver’s on-track performance, as well as other qualities that may make or break their chances of making it to the top levels of NASCAR.
We continue our round of scouting reports today with a look at Hudson O’Neal, one of the rising stars in the dirt racing industry.
Current Level: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Hometown: Martinsville, Indiana
Highest Pick: 31st (2017)
Anticipated pick: 25-28
The Skinny: O’Neal is returning as a Speed51 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes pick for the second straight year. He was selected as the 31st draft pick in 2017 with 16 Late Model wins on dirt.
O'Neal, the son of Dirt Late Model legend "The Real Deal" Don O’Neal, is making a name for himself as “The New Deal,” and has proved that he is capable of winning prestigious events. By jumping on-board with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at such a young age, he will gain an immense amount of experience that will carry him through the ranks.
Rising, Falling or Holding Steady: Rising
By making the decision to join the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series full-time in 2017 and return in 2018, O’Neal has brought the attention upon himself. The 17-year old received the Rookie of the Year honors in 2017 along with claiming seven Late Model wins including a preliminary win at the Gateway Dirt Nationals. If his progress continues in 2018, he will catch the eye of many and accomplish great things this season.
On-Track Accomplishments: B-
Fresh off his rookie season with LOLDMS, O’Neal has been a contender more than most. He picked up wins at Ponderosa Speedway and the Gateway Dirt Nationals and scored seven top-five finishes with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS). However, O’Neal is still in pursuit of that first LOLDMS win of his career.
In 2018, O’Neal made his Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals debut under the Neuman banner and is back on board with the LOLDMS. He has already picked up four top-five finishes and nine top-10s and currently sits sixth in the points standings.
While O’Neal’s main focus is to pick up that first win, you will also catch him always taking the time to chat and interact with fans and sign autographs. He always has a smile on his face and is enjoying his time and opportunities at the track, but the second the suit and helmet goes on, it’s go-time from there on out.
Sponsor Appeal: B+
With O’Neal being a young up-and-coming driver, he’s the perfect candidate for sponsors. He’s focused and driven when it comes to being on the track, but he is also very personable and respected throughout the pits and late model realm. He’s also very grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to him and tries to keep a clean reputation both on and off the track. Lastly, he’s very diverse in his racing, from Late Models to non-winged Sprint Cars, the marketing opportunities are endless.
The one thing that could boost his grade in this category would be a win on a national touring series like the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Social Media: B+
Like most drivers, O’Neal’s social media is very racing related. During the offseason, the posts slow down across all platforms; however, when the season picks up, his social media accounts are buzzing with shares, retweets and the occasional original post on all three (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
O'Neal's social media features very little insight about his life away from the track, but racing is a lifestyle.
O’Neal will make a run at the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship and looks to add a few more notable wins to his driver resume in 2018.
-By Madison Mabry, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Heath Lawson