The sound of race cars will roar once again Saturday night at Cherokee Speedway for the Palmetto Invitational, featuring some of the top stars in all of Dirt Late Model racing competing for a $10,000-to-win payday.
“The New Deal” Hudson O’Neal will be making the trip from Indiana for the invite-only event in the MasterSbilt House Car, a new team for him in 2020. O’Neal had a career year last year, scoring four wins and finishing seventh in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points. The year also saw the biggest win of his career, coming at his home track in the Jackson 100 at Brownstown Speedway.
O’Neal joined “The Bullring” in advance of Saturday’s Palmetto Invitational. His last start came at All-Tech Raceway on February 9, two and a half months ago. The long wait between races has O’Neal ready to get back behind the wheel.
“It feels like it’s been forever. I spoke to someone today and they said it’s been two and a half months since we last raced. I’ve got to tell you, it feels like we’re in the offseason right now and I don’t like it,” O’Neal said. “This has probably been the longest ‘offseason’ we’ve had in many years and I’m not a fan of it.
“I like where Dirt Late Model racing’s going, I like racing in the Dome in the winter and not really having an offseason and being full-bore all the time and this has reassured me of that. I’m just excited to get back to the racetrack and ready for all of this to be over, it’s been a nightmare.”
It was a busy break for O’Neal, who had a procedure done on his leg stemming from an incident at East Bay Raceway Park during the East Bay Winternationals. He says the leg is feeling good and that he will be ready for this weekend’s race.
“We had a small operation on it in March, I believe. We got it all tuned up, all fixed up and just doing some therapy trying to get it all back good. Right now, I feel like I’m about 100%. There’s just some little stuff from when I was growing when I was younger and out of my control, and it just happened to have happened at East Bay. I think we’re going to be just fine, we’re going to continue to get better and I think I’m at 100%.”
The track deemed “The Place Your Momma Warned You About” has been unkind to O’Neal during his stint with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. In three starts, his best finish has been 16th twice. He says anytime he pulls into the track, the conditions are anything but certain.
“I’ve been really good there and I’ve been really bad. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs at the place. I’ve ran as far back as you can ever imagine and I’ve competed for wins. It’s a place that always keeps you on your toes. There’s some nights you go there and you can’t do anything wrong.
“You’ll qualify good, win your heat race, start up front, run up front. There’s some nights you go there with the exact same and be completely out of the ballpark, but I guess why they call it Dirt Late Model racing.”
As he prepares for just his eighth race with MasterSbilt, he will have to contend with the tricky 3/8ths mile. O’Neal feels confident in their chances come Saturday night in the Palmetto Classic.
“It’s tough to get around, a lot of the red clay, dirty racetracks are like that. It’s definitely one of the tougher ones we go to. Hopefully we’ll go down there and get that yellow MasterSbilt No. 71 rolling around there pretty good and I have a feeling we will.”
If you missed O’Neal’s interview, click here to watch a replay of Monday night’s episode of “The Bullring.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo