October 20, 2020
(By Tyson Graves)
The offseason driver and team shakeups tend to happen earlier and earlier as the years go by. In the last week we have learned that three of the top future drivers in our sport have set their eyes on the 2021 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title. All three drivers had wins on the 2020 tour and have proved they are a force to be reckoned with on the highest stage of our sport.
At the end of 2019 we learned that 2017 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year driver Hudson O’Neal would leave the SSI Motorsports team after the team reported their inability to fund a full time ride on a National tour. This opened the door for Hudson to jump behind the wheel of the Mastersbilt house car that for years was made famous by his father Don O’Neal. Midway in the 2020 season Hudson and Tader Masters, owner of the Mastersbilt team parted ways after a dismal run at the Show Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway. In the weeks following Hudson broke the news that his sponsor Craig & Shannon Sims would launch PCC Motorsports with Hudson behind the wheel. Hudson had success behind the wheel of their Rocket XR1 including a win on the Lucas Oil tour at Portsmouth. We give you this back story to set the stage for the announcements that have been made in the past few days.
Just eight days ago Hudson O’Neal announced that in 2021 he will be behind the wheel of the Tennessee-based Double Down Motorsports machine. They will gun for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title in Rocket XR1 Chassis’. Hudson will be filling the driver void left when Shannon Buckingham walked away from the team due to work commitments. This will be Hudson’s fourth team in 12 months as he has tried to find a permanent place to land.
During the 2020 race season the SSI Motorsports team fielded cars for Modified ace Ricky Thornton Jr in select marque events including several on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series tour. With a lot of success this year the chemistry is strong with Ricky and Taylon Center, crew chief on the 20RT machine. Ricky has shown he can compete at the highest level with many podium finishes at crown jewel events and finally got that big Lucas Oil win at the Pittsburgher 100. Ricky will now eye the entire Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series schedule for 2021. The news broke this past weekend during the season finale at Portsmouth Raceway Park.
The final announcement came today when PCC Motorsports, a newly founded team in 2020, made their driver selection known for the 2021 race season. The Mooresville, NC driver Kyle Strickler will be behind the wheel and the team will attempt to run for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title next year. Strickler, a modified ace, has made some serious noise in his first year and half behind the wheel of his own equipment. Kyle has proved he belongs on the big stage with competitive runs in 2020. Kyle nearly picked up the $50,000 Intercontinental Classic but a flat tire on the closing lap left Kyle devastated. The next weekend Kyle came back and got his first big win at I-80 Speedway on the Lucas Oil tour. Kyle will be fun to watch in 2021.
The end of the carousel lands three up and coming drivers in rides for the 2021 season that begins at Golden Isles Speedway January 22, 2021. The Lucas Oil Late Model Series has set a 62 race schedule for the upcoming season. The complete schedule can be found at lucasdirt.com.