2024 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at East Bay Raceway Park

T-Mac's Back: All-Tech Glory Pumps New Life In Tim McCreadie

T-Mac's Back: All-Tech Glory Pumps New Life In Tim McCreadie

Tim McCreadie returned to prominence Saturday at All-Tech Raceway with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

Feb 4, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Tim McCreadie isn’t ignorant to the sport’s evolution this last calendar year and where he falls in the midst of the shuffling, both on an operation’s and hierarchy level, who's performing at the top of the sport and whatnot.

It’s well known by now the Paylor Motorsports operation and the Watertown, N.Y., driver no longer represent the Longhorn Chassis house car team — something McCreadie isn’t bitter about, by the way. | Complete Speedweeks coverage

Soon to turn 50 years old on April 12, it’s not necessarily wrong to scrutinize McCreadie’s 2023 season — a season during which for the first time in eight years he failed to win a full-field Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series or World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series feature — and start to wonder if his days as a true contender are beginning to wane. But is it necessarily right to scrutinize McCreadie so deeply that those judgments write him off?

Try answering that question after Saturday at All-Tech Raceway, a night McCreadie led all 50 laps to claim his first full-field Lucas Oil Series feature victory since Oct. 8, 2022, at Alabama’s Talladega Short Track. Right as McCreadie returned to his pit area on Saturday, a bystander quipped, “You’re not dead yet.”

Though the undertone of the remark had been lighthearted, McCreadie answered pretty seriously.  

“That’s right,” he started, “we’re not dead yet.”

Saturday was so much more than a run-of-the-mill feature where the front-row starter dashed away with the victory. In turn, it’s fair and not too cliché to say the All-Tech doubleheader finale breathed new life in McCreadie — at least for a night.

For one, McCreadie “can’t remember” the last time he won a race of Saturday’s nature where the track had been so — in dirt racing parlance — elbows up. He did win last June 30’s split-field feature at Ohio’s Muskingum County Speedway in which he had to “slam his car into a ledge for it to work,” but that was a 3/8-mile and not half-mile.

McCreadie has spent the last few years searching for how he can make his timeless, old-school driving ways conducive to Dirt Late Model racing’s new-age technology. He’s been on this search even dating back to his 2022 Lucas Oil Series championship season where he said his cars “would get there — a (desired) feeling that’s hard to describe — but not all the time.”

“But this deal tonight, it was closer. Really close,” McCreadie said. “I’m looking for this car to put me in a spot that makes me think I can conquer the world. And tonight it felt way closer to that than it’s ever been. We may go to (East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla.) on Monday and run like s—. That’s the problem. Until we can do what Ricky Thornton (Jr.) does, it’s one good night, you know what I mean?”

'Time To Get Yourself One'

Anyone who knows McCreadie at all would understand that he’s not just content with winning races sparingly, an event here and a feature there. It had been 44 races since McCreadie’s most recent victory last June 30, one of the longest winless droughts of his career. (McCreadie went 96 races between wins from July 15, 2015, through Nov. 4, 2016.)

To start the Lucas Oil Series season at Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway, another bystander asked McCreadie how he was doing and when we could expect to see him win next. The usual forthright McCreadie didn’t want to partake in any hypotheticals.

“Don’t tell me how long it’s been since I last won,” McCreadie said flatly.

Lining up on the outside pole of the staging lane on Saturday, McCreadie was slapped upside the helmet by somebody that sincerely caught him off guard because “nobody smacks me around” moments before the feature. Turns out, it was Thornton’s crew chief Anthony Burroughs, who had a message for McCreadie.

“It’s time to get yourself one for all the bad runs,” Burroughs told McCreadie, as paraphrased by the New York veteran.

McCreadie, aboard the same car in which he was put a lap down in and finished 14th on Friday, outgunned polesitter Daulton Wilson on the initial start and never let his guard down.

"I thought, man, if I don’t get through this hole into one — I know they filled it in, but it’s still softer there — I thought Daulton was going to slide up in front of me and I was shocked that he drove like a regular race car driver and just doesn’t slide up on top of me," McCreadie said. "He’s probably kicking himself a bit because if he got the lead, maybe it could be different. Like I’m saying, I was surprised he didn’t come up because that’s kind of how they do it now. Once I got the lead, it was a matter of not messing up.”

The two-time Lucas Oil Series champion said All-Tech was “faster than it needed to be” on Saturday, but further added that it was a welcomed challenge.

“When it’s like that, (a mistake) is a big mistake when you make one,” McCreadie said. “I don’t know every driver, everyone wakes up differently, but when I watched my dad (legendary big-block modified driver Bob McCreadie) as a kid and all these guys that are amazing, you want to see guys pay for their mistakes. Drivers pay for big mistakes. As you could see, one lap time I’m slow and he’s going to get me. It’s just such a neat racetrack when it’s right. It’s so much fun.”

All-Tech kindles feelings of nostalgia for McCreadie because it reminds him so much of the big, sweeping dirt ovals he grew up racing in his native New York state.

“From the first day I came here, I always loved coming here,” McCreadie said. “It feels like a northern, New York racetrack with a little more bite in it. It’s icy-slick in spots. Such a cool racetrack.”

Longhorn Loyalty

Back to the topic of McCreadie’s race cars conforming to his liking: The legwork of Saturday’s result really began last September when McCreadie followed Paylor Motorsports teammate Carson Ferguson by running Longhorns by Wesley Page, a distributor of the chassis brand that McCreadie is still very much committed to though he’s no longer its house car driver.

“When the deal with Longhorn ended, we had to figure out where we wanted to be,” McCreadie said. "It made sense. Wesley goes good with his own car (with Ben Watkins). … It wasn’t like we made a move where we wondered if it would work or not work. We made a move that made sense because Donald was already doing business with him.”

McCreadie would be remiss to not say “it was an honor to work for Justin Labonte, his uncle Terry, all the guys that have come through from the beginning to where Longhorn is today,” and he continues to value those relationships established along the way.

“It was a pleasure to work with them,” McCreadie said. “Like Earl (Pearson), it was a pleasure to work with him. I don’t have a problem with them. I have real-world problems to worry about. I don’t have time for that. … I try to carry myself professionally.”

McCreadie admits the move to running Page’s tailored chassis means that he’s “not in the main artery of the whole thing” in terms of Longhorn’s culture.

“But we’re happy,” McCreadie said. “If we weren’t happy, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing.”

McCreadie’s first weekend in the Page-tailored Longhorn had been Sept. 22-23’s Jackson 100 last fall, a productive weekend that really gave the team what they sought at Eldora Speedway’s Dirt Track World Championship in Rossburg, Ohio, on Oct. 21-22.

The New Yorker led laps 41-43 that night and ran second to Bobby Pierce much of the back half of that chaotic 100-lap thriller. McCreadie finished fourth that night, but moral of the story is Eldora had been exponentially choppier than All-Tech on Saturday, which taught McCreadie that he can indeed navigate the most adverse, turbulent of conditions.

“I thought we were good enough to win,” McCreadie said. “Once (Brian Shirley) broke, I was like, ‘We’re good enough to win this thing.’ We were pressured in that rough stuff for the lead (battle) there with Bobby, and then Brandon (Sheppard) came along and ended up winning it.”

“I thought, ‘This is the first time I can do some of this stuff in these conditions.’ I thought that for the first time in awhile. I thought I was as good as anybody. I thought I handled the bumps. These cars, it’s crazy. These cars couldn’t handle this punishment 10 years ago. They could not. They’d fall apart. They’d break. Now the people that build all the parts now, it’s wild how you can put them through all kinds (of stuff).”

McCreadie added that his decline in performance last year had more to do with his approach toward setups and mechanical side of things rather than his sheer driving ability.

“There was a time not that long ago we didn’t have a drawing board,” McCreadie said. “We’d go back there and not come up with anything. But now I feel like we have the ability to do things maybe we couldn’t do (beforehand). That’s how I try to race. I know I’m all over the board, but you can’t race with handcuffs. Financially … even with your brain.”

McCreadie went as far to say that complacency sticking with the same old routines hurt him as well.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, I need to run this same stuff. It always wins,’” McCreadie said. “I’d say it can happen any year. With points, it can make you get complacent. But it’s so much money, you have to do it. I’ve told everybody, if you’re not winning 40 races, or 30 races a year, you have to run a points deal.”

Driving wise, McCreadie has never been complacent at the wheel. Though “it doesn’t look like it, I always drive with my hair on fire,” he exclaimed before adding, “I drive just as sideways as I was 25 years ago.”

“It’s just guys run way (more) sideways than I do now,” said McCreadie, who monitors the trends and upstarts of the sport better than anyone. “As I told some people over there, we’re in trouble if Ricky is going 85 percent, you know what I mean? And I’m not saying that to be an ass.

“I’m saying we’re in trouble because that’s crazy. If 100 (percent) is the top or if 150 is the top, or 1,000 even, I’m a 1,000 (percent) every damn lap. Ever since I’ve started racing I’ve been that way.”

'This S---’s Hard'

McCreadie doesn’t turn a cold shoulder to the newcomers and upstarts of the sport. On Saturday, the 18-year-old Drake Troutman approached McCreadie with a handshake and congratulatory remarks.

Before Troutman walked away, McCreadie had to make something known.

“If you need anything, you let me know,” McCreadie told Troutman.

Like most interactions with the unreserved McCreadie, it didn’t stop there.

“When I was your age, there were so many people who helped me: (Rick) Eckert, (Steve) Francis, all the time,” McCreadie said. “The other night, I didn’t mean to kill your s— (at Ocala Speedway). You do really good. You really do. Good for what you’re trying to do (run for Lucas Oil Series Rookie of the Year).

“You remind me of how I did it. Me and Tommy Grecco at Sweeteners (Plus team), we weren’t going to run Late Models, then we thought, ‘Let’s go run World of Outlaws!’ On a whim. We had AFCO springs, all kinds of (odds and) ends on that car. One car. You’re doing the same thing.

“As you said, you need anything, you let me know,” McCreadie said as parting words to Troutman.

“People say, ‘A lot of guys really like you.’ And I’ll say, ‘It’s because I like them,’” McCreadie said. “Every time I want to be mad at a guy, a fellow competitor, I think, ‘Why am I carrying that?’ You know? Maybe you need to be kill, kill, kill. But that’s not me.

“Being respected by my peers, it means the world. Maybe you shouldn’t go into competition like that. But it means the world to me we’re doing this all together. And it makes me think we’re OK people. Maybe we’re not doing as good as we want … and I’m not sure that’s the right way to go about business, but at the end of the day, I only know this one way. I’d rather talk to people than ignore people when they walk around.”

Perhaps the reason McCreadie is so affable because he’s journeyed through a lot and has seen so much. He can testify to being tried by fire.

“This s—’s hard. This s—’s demoralizing,” McCreadie said. “Every day gets more demoralizing when you’re not running good. To be able to just do it with these guys, it’s hard to do things the way we’re doing it and have success unless you have a great bunch of people. Tonight, we’re going to savor this thing. These guys deserve this.”