2024 Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway

How Brandon Overton Salvaged Eldora Dream Prelim With Miracle Engine Swap

How Brandon Overton Salvaged Eldora Dream Prelim With Miracle Engine Swap

Brandon Overton's 11th-hour engine change before Eldora Speedway's Dream XXX preliminary helped salvage his night.

Jun 7, 2024 by Kevin Kovac

ROSSBURG, Ohio — Brandon Overton was skeptical. With time running short before the start of Thursday’s 50-lap Dream XXX preliminary feature at Eldora Speedway, he doubted it was possible to change his car’s engine and make it to the starting grid.

But Overton’s pal and fellow racer Tyler Erb, who was idle while awaiting his preliminary action on Friday, had other ideas.

“He said, ‘Do you want to change this motor?’ I said, ‘If you can change it…’ and then he was gone,” Overton recounted.

Erb immediately sprang into action, serving as an impromptu choreographer of a furious, 11th-hour powerplant swap that would take Overton from shaking his head in disgust over a heat-race motor issue to starting the first prelim feature of the Dream weekend from his scheduled seventh position and salvaging a 10th-place finish.

“They changed the dang motor,” Overton said in amazement while standing inside his Wells Motorsports team’s trailer after the race. “They did it. I didn’t think they was gonna get it done.”

The trouble for the 33-year-old star from Evans, Ga., materialized during the evening’s second of four 10-lap heats. He finished third to move on to the feature, but smoke wafted from his brand-new Infinity Chassis throughout the distance. What perplexed Overton was that nothing seemed to be wrong mechanically from his seat.

“I really didn’t feel anything,” Overton said. “It was just smoking, and I didn’t see s---. I smelled (oil), but I just couldn’t see it.

“I came in here and everybody was like, ‘Turn it off!’ I looked down and the gauges were good. The water temperature, oil temperature … everything was fine. We checked the O-berg (filter) and it was perfectly clean, like, nothing wrong” or the appearance of tell-tale metal shavings.

Overton’s three-man crew dived into trying to diagnose the problem. Erb, the 27-year-old from New Waverly, Texas, who was nearby in the pits helping his Georgia buddy Steven Roberts’s efforts in Thursday’s show, joined in the search. They couldn’t find a certain solution.

“You remember the night we won Volusia?” Overton said, recalling a February 2022 victory at the Florida track in which his car smoked and pushed oil for much of the feature. “Something hit the front (oil) line and it blew a little pinhole in it, and it was shooting oil and s--- everywhere and we thought we blew up.

“So we changed that (oil) line (after Thursday’s heat) and kept working while we were changing that line. We were like, ‘It’s gotta be an oil line,’ you know what I mean? Oil was everywhere (under the hood).”

“So anyway, then they’re like, ‘We gotta change motors, but we ain’t got time.’ So, all right, we gotta swap cars, but this car’s brand new and the car up top (in the trailer) is done had the s--- run out of it, so I said, ‘If we swap cars, we’re gonna run our car that we’ve beat all to hell and go the rear.’ ”

Neither of Overton’s options — risk running a potentially damaged engine that could force him to retire early or pull out a tired backup car — enthused him. It was Erb who convinced him to take a shot at Plan C.

“They called (engine builder) Glenn (Clements), and at first they thought it was like a leak in the block,” Erb said. “Dikes (an emergency stop-leak) will fix anything. We started that avenue, checked (spark) plugs, got the plugs back in it …

“Glenn said, ‘Don’t run it,’ so I was like (to Overton’s crew), ‘What does (Overton) want to do?’ They’re like, ‘We’re gonna change cars.’ So we started to get this primary car ready to get it out of the way (and pull out the backup), and then Brandon walked out (of the trailer), and the way Brandon is, he’s like, ‘We can’t change cars. We’re done.’

“I’m like, ‘Get the motor out. We can change it.’ He’s like, ‘Do you think we can change it?’ I said, ‘Me, and whoever, we can change it.’ ”

Hasty mid-program engine changes aren’t common in Dirt Late Model racing like they are in the sprint car division. There didn’t seem to be much time to make one, either, since the first of two consolation races was about to roll onto the track. It appeared the feature was barely a half-hour away from lining up.

But Erb felt there was sufficient time remaining. And he had experience with a fire-drill engine change, one that he made right in the Eldora pit area before the start of last September’s World 100 finale program. When his friend Roberts discovered engine trouble in his No. 111 machine less than an hour before the scheduled start of hot laps, Erb unloaded his own backup car and removed its engine while the sick powerplant was pulled from Roberts’s car. Erb’s motor ended up in Roberts’s framerails in time for Roberts to run his heat.

The process of swapping Overton’s engine began at approximately 8:45 p.m. An army of Overton’s friends quickly jumped in to add more hands to the effort, including drivers Spencer Hughes, Dale McDowell and Shane Clanton and crew members from several other teams.

“It was like half the damn pits,” Overton said, marveling at the swarm of humanity that engulfed his car. “That’s what’s cool. It makes you think about it. We all get pissed off with each other, but at the end of the day everybody’s here to help.

“I just sat back and watched ‘em. If they needed something, I’d give it to ‘em. You get too many people not knowing what the hell they’re doing, and then someone starts to do something and then someone don’t finish. I just let the ones who knew what they were doing do it.”

The replacement engine was fired up at about 9:25 p.m., some 40 minutes after the work began and shortly after official had blown the 10-minute horn calling feature starters to the staging area. Overton climbed into the cockpit and buckled in while bottles of oil were poured into the motor to top off its fluids, the car’s fenders were put back in place and, finally, the hood was pinned on.

Overton made it to the track just in time. He, of course, felt fortunate to complete the job, but almost as soon as he pulled into line he knew his hopes of a storybook victory were likely dashed because he hadn’t been able to put any focus on making his car itself right for the race.

“We got done, but it sucked, because I couldn’t work on the car,” Overton said. “We didn’t get to do anything but change the motor. We didn’t get to tighten the car up, and we had the wrong tire on, too — we had a 3 (compound) on (the right rear) instead of a (harder) 4. (Nick) Hoffman come up to me (in the staging area) and said, ‘You’re about the only one with a 3,’ and I was like, ‘Holy s---.’

“Literally, I’m sitting in there (the car before leaving his pit) going, ‘Please don’t blow, please don’t blow up,’ hoping we don’t cause more damage, so I wasn’t even thinking about anything else. We just put three 3’s on it because that’s what we had laid out early in the night.”

Overton shot up as high as fourth early in the feature with the help of his softer right-rear tire, but he faded as the race wore on to settle for a 10th-place finish. He was satisfied with the result after all that happened.

“We’re lucky to just salvage,” said Overton, who captured both Dreams run in 2021 and a third straight in ’22 before failing to qualify for last year’s finale because of turn-one crashes that left his neck sore for weeks afterward. “We just need them (events) points and then do good in our heat (on Saturday) and get up there. We still got as good a shot as anybody.”

Overton chalked the night up as one of those fluky twists of fate that dot a racer’s life.

“It’s probably not hurt,” he said of the engine that was pulled from his car. “Like, I’m gonna take (to Clements) and it’s gonna be something stupid. We were just making sure to be safe … it doesn’t have any laps on it, so we weren’t gonna tear up a $50,000 motor.

“I don’t know what the hell happened. Like I tell everybody, I got the best motor builder. No matter what anybody says, nobody’s ever gonna change my mind. Glenn’s the best, so whatever happened, they’ll fix it and we’ll go on and race.

“We raced now for probably four years and I’ve have way less motor troubles than probably anybody in these pits,” he added. “Stuff’s just gonna happen every now and then.”

Overton’s sense of humor remained intact at the end of the trying night when he was asked if he had chatted with Erb after the feature.

“I didn’t talk to him yet,” Overton said. “I gotta tell him, ‘If you would’ve got the motor changed quicker, maybe we could’ve worked on the car a little.’”

Overton laughed. He was appreciative of Erb’s efforts to help him, and Erb had been happy to offer his services.

“I mean, there’s not many people I would do that for,” said Erb, who had sweat pouring down his face by the end of the engine swap. “Brandon’s one of my really, really good friends.

“Not many clowns can change a motor in 32 minutes,” he continued, slyly alluding to the disparaging word that Illinois driver Myles Moos called him after a May 28 scrape at Macon (Ill.) Speedway. “I’m just happy to say that I’m a clown who can do that, and I would do that.”

Erb joked that Overton now “owes me” for his assistance.

“Listen, he’s already in the hole with me this week because I had to get him change for his T-shirt trailer,” Erb said with a smile. “In some way, shape or form, it will be reciprocated or has been reciprocated. It just is what is it.

“I’m not sure that we thought we could do (the engine change in time), but I had it in my head that we could do it,” he added. “I guess that’s what makes me different. That’s what’s crazy — so many people don’t like me, but they’re weiners. They don’t have any heart. That’s the best way I can describe it. I have a heart, and I would give my heart to Brandon, so it’s just what it was.”