2023 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at East Bay Raceway Park

Tyler Erb Isn't Calling It A Comeback After Monday Win At East Bay

Tyler Erb Isn't Calling It A Comeback After Monday Win At East Bay

After a tough start to his 2023 season, Tyler Erb won Monday night's Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at East Bay Raceway Park.

Feb 7, 2023 by FloRacing Staff
Tyler Erb Isn't Calling It A Comeback After Monday Win At East Bay

GIBSONTON, Fla. — Tyler Erb’s not ready to call his latest win a comeback.

“I never left,” said Erb with a wry smile while standing in victory lane Monday night at East Bay Raceway Park.

Maybe not, but the New Waverly, Texas, driver has been no where near a win since closing out the 2022 season with a $30,000 triumph in the Gateway Dirt Nationals finale inside the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Dec. 3.  After a less-than-stellar start to the 2023 season — before Monday Erb had just two top-five finishes in 12 starts, a stretch that included eight consecutive finishes outside the top 10 — he may have finally turned things around.

Erb took the lead from polesitter Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., on lap three of Monday’s 30-lap Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series main event at East Bay and led the final 28 laps for a $5,000 victory in the Wieland Winternationals opener, his first triumph of the season and the 19th Lucas Oil Series win of this career. He finished 2.604 seconds ahead of Hudson O’Neal of the Martinsville, Ind., who started third in the Rocket Chassis house car and managed to finish just ahead of a charging Tyler Millwood of Kingston, Ga., who rallied from 20th to finish third.

“We ended on such a crazy note there at the Dome and unloaded at (New Mexico’s) Vado (Speedway Park in January) with really high expectations and just have struggled really,” said the winner. “Just can't say enough about everybody who helps me. You know (team owner) Eric (Brock), we bitched and complained and said we needed a new car and Mark (Richards at Rocket Chassis) then built us a car in two days. (We) just have worked really really hard.”

Evans, Ga.’s Brandon Overton, moonlighting in John Henderson’s new Warrior Race Car, started fifth and finished fourth, while reigning World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. (no relation to the winner) of Carpentersville, Ill., completed the top five after starting fourth.


VIDEO: Watch highlights from Monday night's Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at East Bay.

It was a great pick-me-up for Tyler Erb, who insists that East Bay Raceway Park is one of his favorite tracks. Perhaps all Erb needed was a trip to the Sunshine State. He’d already shown signs of improvement with a fourth-place finish at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., on Jan. 30 and his fifth-place effort at All-Tech Raceway in Ellisville, Fla., on Feb. 5.

“(Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Ga.) wasn't good and Bubba's wasn't good until the second night and then we just got things turned around,” Erb said. “It feels awesome because in the middle of Vado everybody told us we should have went home. It was terrible, it really was. I knew at All Tech we were really close and I just made a mistake qualifying. (I) just can't thank everybody enough. It's fun to drive a really good race car.”

It was obvious from the onset that Erb was fast. While Bronson, racing at his home track, immediately jumped out front, it didn’t take Erb long to began applying pressure. He looked to Bronson’s inside exiting turn two. The two frontrunners — good friends who vacationed in Key West, Fla., together in the offseason — made contact as they battled for the lead on lap two. A lap later Erb squirted by and pulled away.

As Bronson slipped backwards, sixth-starting Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., moved forward and challenged Erb for the lead. Winger, who won a pair of Crate Racin’ USA Winter Shootout features at East Bay Jan. 27-28, pulled alongside Erb following a lap-11 restart, but Erb managed to close the door exiting turn four to maintain the lead.

That was just one of five harrowing restarts Erb had to endure.

“It's just East Bay man. You got to know when to start it by the fence and when to get low,” said Erb. “The first start, it was still a little greasy out there on the initial start. Me and Kyle raced hard and then he kind of messed up on the bottom. I think everybody from that point forward just kind of gave up on the top. I guess it was like (lap) 15 or so I guess somebody hit it. I think it was Winger.

“Then (the groove) kind of moved all around. I was just comfortable enough and ran a really smart race and I think we had enough tire left so it was awesome. I love East Bay. I didn't think it was going to be too good. I knew (the track) was rubbered. I could tell someone was close and I left Winger about as much room ... there was literally the wall, Winger, me. It was close. I'm just happy to win man, it's awesome.”

Despite not leading a lap, O’Neal was pleased to record his best Georgia-Florida Speedweeks finish if the season and his fourth top-five overall of 2023. He felt had he been better on the restarts, he possibly could have gotten a little closer to Erb.

“I felt pretty good there. It was just on those restarts I was getting caught in that slime sometimes around that top where they watered (the track),” O’Neal said. “They said that Millwood was coming around the top so maybe it finally cleaned up there at the end. On that last restart I got cleared of Overton and then got cleared to the bottom because I knew it was trying to take a little bit of rubber and I knew it was safe down there.

“I knew our tires were cutting it close and I just didn't know if I could get up there and make any hay. So we'll take a second. It's our first podium (finish) of Speedweeks, though it doesn't really seem that way. We've been knocking on the door and just can't quite completely seal the deal. We're pretty close tonight, just a little bit here and a little bit there and I think we'll be competing with them.”

While O’Neal recorded his first podium finish of the season, Millwood’s high-side charge late in the race netted the Georgian his first career podium finish with the Lucas Oil Series while electrifying the East Bay fans.

“(I) just got tired of following everybody on the bottom there,” said Millwood. “I seen a couple people moving up top, so I just laid her on the floorboard and give her all I could give her. It's awesome to come from 20th and run on the podium with these guys in front of me and this guy (Brandon Overton) behind me here. It's awesome for us.”

Notes: Tyler Erb posted his seventh career Georgia-Florida Speedweeks victory and his fifth career East Bay Winternationals triumph. His last Speedweeks victory was Jan. 30, 2021 at East Bay. … Monday’s 30-lapper was slowed by five cautions. … Ross Robinson slowed with a left rear flat tire to draw the first caution on lap three. … On lap 11 Ross Bailes and Logan Roberson got together on the front stretch to bring out the second caution. … On lap 12 Jensen Ford spun after contact from Mark Whitener, collecting Ross Bailes and Daulton Wilson. … G.R. Smith slowed to a stop on the back straightaway on lap 18. … Ashton Winger’s flat tire drew the final yellow on lap 24. … Kyle Bronson faded to 13th after leading the first two laps. … Eddie Carrier Jr., driving fellow West Virginian Matt Cosner’s car, finished 10th. … Garrett Smith of Eatonton, Ga., was pushed to the infield during the first caution as the first retiree.