2023 Lucas Oil Hillbilly Hundred at Tyler County Speedway

Daulton Wilson's Breakthrough Is Coming On The Lucas Oil Late Model Series

Daulton Wilson's Breakthrough Is Coming On The Lucas Oil Late Model Series

Daulton Wilson was oh-so-close to winning the Hillbilly 100 at Tyler County Speedway.

Sep 4, 2023 by Kyle McFadden

Daulton Wilson’s day is coming. Of the countless competitors that have never won a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature, the developing Fayetteville, N.C., driver has vaulted to the top of that waiting list this summer, particularly over the Labor Day weekend. 

A night after going pound-for-pound with the red-hot Ricky Thornton Jr. at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park, the sophomore Lucas Oil Series driver showcased his rising stock again in Sunday’s runner-up at Tyler County Speedway’s Hillbilly 100.

Jonathan Davenport controlled the night by leading 84 of the 100 laps, but it was the 25-year-old Wilson that led the other 16 circuits and kept the five-time World 100 champion in check. Though Wilson started the Hillbilly 100 from the pole in the race that saw little passing, it was far from an opportunity missed.

“I try to be positive and keep my guys pumped up,” Wilson said. “As I said, we know what we’re trying to accomplish here. As I said, we’re progressing. At the end of the day, that’s our goal. If we can keep on doing that, keep running these top threes and hanging around, competing for wins, that’ll come. When they do, it’ll be that much more sweeter.”

Wilson could’ve walked away with a trio of five-figure paydays this weekend, a possibility only one other driver in the nation — the surging Bobby Pierce — can claim. In Friday’s $10,000-to-win independent Boone Coleman Memorial Gator 50 at Portsmouth, the North Carolina driver had a five-figure payday in the bag until the engine went up in smoke with eight laps remaining, handing the win to Thornton.

The Rattliff family-owned team from Campbellsville, Ky., turned right around the next night and Wilson had the No. 18D up front once more, but Thornton couldn’t be contained, and the Lucas Oil points leader pounced for the win with 18 laps left. Then, on Sunday, Wilson really showed just how far he’s come.

Last year, Wilson need a provisional to participate in the 100-lap main event. One revolution around the sun later, he earned the night’s fast-time honors, raced to a heat race win, and didn’t let Davenport off the hook on the final restart with 16 laps remaining.

“We’ve had a really good week this week, led laps all three nights,” Wilson said. “We’ve had a really good car. Blew that motor up Friday night and we put our heads down. For us to come back and run top three the last few nights is huge for us. We keep hanging around there and getting better and better, we’ll be getting our picture taken here before too long.”

For much of the Hillbilly 100, Davenport kept lapped cars between himself and Wilson, making the young driver’s push for his first Lucas Oil victory that much more difficult.

“He could really maneuver in traffic a lot better than I could,” Wilson said. “We were fortunate there that the race went green and I was OK there at the end, able to run second and stay there. Just earlier in the race I couldn’t quite maneuver like he could.”

On harder tires, Wilson banked on a long green-flag run to keep him afloat. That happened when the race went uninterrupted from laps 17 to 86, but a caution five laps into the main event helped Davenport, on softer tires, get from third to second, and then ultimately from second to the lead.

“My goal was to try and get out front,” Wilson said. “I knew I was on harder tires. But if I could get out front and pace, I knew I was going to be all right there for the second half. He was just able to get past me there early in traffic and I never really pressured him. He had a good night, so congrats to him. As I said, hopefully we’ll be getting our picture taken before too long.

“I was pretty good there at the end. If I would’ve been in front of him, I think we would’ve been fine. I was really lane sensitive where I needed to be on the racetrack. He was in that lane. That’s pretty much all I could do.”

This late in the summer, Wilson could easily be solidified in Dirt Late Model racing’s proverbial third tier. If Thornton and his 13 full-field series victories have put himself on his own playing field, then Hudson O’Neal, Davenport, Brandon Overton, Tim McCreadie and Devin Moran are on the second tier of the Lucas Oil Series. Then, 245 points behind Moran in seventh is Wilson.

“To be seventh with this caliber of cars is nothing to hang our heads on,” Wilson said. “We’re not going to. We’re going to try and finish it out and let the cards fall where they may. And I think we’ll be all right.”

A tell-tale sign of a team’s improvement is what the collective group produces after racing at certain racetracks for the first time. Wilson had no reason to race at the Tyler County bullring prior to last year. Now he’s bolstering the all-important notebook of setups.

“It’s the experience and getting to come back to these places for the second, third, and whatever time,” Wilson said. “As I said, we’ll just keep on building that notebook. We’ll get there.

“There’s a whole lot more to it than just having the best race car. The more experience we’re gaining, you have an idea what to do when you’re in that situation. As I said, tonight we’ve learned even more. As long as we keep taking the information in and learn and build on it, I think we’ll be all right.

“I think we’ve really progressed since this deal started. We’re stating to get up there and get the finishes. It’s been an upward trajectory for us this whole time. We’re just going to keep digging. We’re not complacent, nor satisfied yet. As a team, we’re going to keep our head down and keep building, learning and getting better. Hopefully, in the future, we can be in the conversation of a top-tier team.

Wilson, of course, is now onto Eldora Speedway and the grand stage of the World 100 in Rossburg, Ohio. He’s not among the favorites, but he absolutely expects to make the main event and go from there. Earlier this year, making the Dream lineup at the Tony Stewart-owned oval was a major step.

Wilson’s rising confidence can be traced back to winning one of the three Chasing the Dream features this week last year, the one-off Eldora program that pitted drivers who had yet to win at the historic half-mile. Sure, it was a race that featured merely the best of the rest, but Wilson had to outduel some reputable competition, namely Ashton Winger, Gordy Gundaker and Tyler Bruening.

The win meant a lot to him and was one of those steppingstones that’s guided him on the path to ever-growing success in the tough, wide world of Dirt Late Model racing.

“That deal was huge,” Wilson said. “We went back over there and made the Dream. As I said, every night is important for us. Each and every night, if we learn something and build on it, then it’s a successful night for us."

James Rattliff has "given us the equipment we need and has trusted us to build something here. I hope he’s proud of what we’re accomplishing and where we’re going. As I said, hopefully we’ll continue to build on it. I think we’ll get there one day.”