2024 Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway

Storylines From The 2024 Dirt Late Model Dream At Eldora Speedway

Storylines From The 2024 Dirt Late Model Dream At Eldora Speedway

Brandon Overton was upbeat after finishing third on Saturday's 2024 Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Jun 9, 2024 by Kevin Kovac

ROSSBURG, Ohio (June 8) — Brandon Overton couldn’t catch Jonathan Davenport. He lost second place to Bobby Pierce heading to the white flag.

Yet when the 33-year-old star from Evans, Ga., climbed out of his David Wells-owned car in the technical inspection area after finishing third in Saturday night’s Dream XXX at Eldora Speedway, he was beaming almost as brightly as if he had won the race for the fourth time.

“It’s probably the best third-place finish I’ve ever had, as happy as I am,” Overton said. “We had a lot of stuff go on (during the weekend). To lose a motor (in a heat during Thursday’s preliminary program) and to come out and run third, I’m tickled. I’m pumped.”

Overton said it had been “a cool weekend just to watch everybody work on my car,” in reference to the “mind-blowing” scene of nearly a dozen fellow drivers and crew members who pitched in to change his car’s engine in roughly 40 minutes so he could start Thursday’s 50-lap feature and salvage a 10th-place finish. But tallying a podium finish sent him out of Eldora’s pits riding high — and definitely feeling better than one year ago when he didn’t qualify for the 100-lap finale following hard crashes on consecutive nights and, in fact, visited a local hospital to be checked for a concussion and sore neck.

While Overton never seriously challenged Blairsville, Ga.’s Davenport despite running second behind the flag-to-flag, $100,030 winner for laps 16-98, he was satisfied with the performance of the Infinity by Wells Chassis he debuted for the weekend.

“I was extremely good early, and then I got to (Davenport) and I said, ‘All right, I’m gonna sit right here in case it rubbers and then I know where to go,’ ” Overton said. “But by the time (the surface) started cleaning up I got shovey getting in (the corners), and then I’d have to ass-jack it a little bit and romp it to get it to cut.

“I was just a little imbalanced, but I am so damn happy, because that’s what I was feeling when I had good race cars, you know what I mean? So it’s all come back. Honestly, I wish we could fast-forward (to September) and just come back here for the World (100).

“That’s the kind of car I had when I was kicking their ass three days in a row (en route to sweeping 2021’s double Dreams). I’m getting it back, just in a different way. Now I just gotta tweak on it a little bit.”

Overton acknowledged that the 40-year-old Davenport had him covered, but he ended the race confident that he’s on the cusp of tuning his fledgling Infinity-branded cars to perform comparably to his Longhorn Chassis that carried him to so much success especially over the 2021-22 seasons. He been searching for that special sensation ever since but it’s proven difficult to find.

“J.D. did a helluva job. He’s just balanced,” said Overton, an eight-time Dream feature starter who had won his three previous appearances in the 100-lapper prior to last year’s DNQ. “But it don’t matter. I feel like I can get that. We’re just gonna keep on working. I’m gonna go home super, super happy.

“Everybody tells me, ‘You need to drive (hard on the cushion) like Ricky (Thornton Jr.). You need to drive like Bobby (Pierce).’ Well, J.D. kicked their ass right in the middle of the racetrack. When I win, I’m gonna kick their ass in the middle of the racetrack.”

Overton, who earned $20,000 for finishing third, is already anxiously awaiting Sept. 5-7’s World 100.

“We’re taking this car home and we’re gonna put it up (in the shop),” said Overton, who will drive another machine from his team’s stable in June 14-15’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned weekend at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., as he reserves his new mount for Eldora duty.

All Ripped Up

Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., didn’t intend to seize the attention of everyone watching the Dream feature in person at Eldora and afar via the FloRacing broadcast, but certainly made himself the focal point in the closing circuits. With Jonathan Davenport cruising to victory, all eyes — as well as the FloRacing cameras — turned to B-Shepp’s wild and wooly assault on the Big E’s concrete wall.

With roughly 10 laps remaining, Sheppard clipped the outside wall while running the precariously thin cushion and tore the spoiler asunder on his Longhorn Factory Team No. B5. But he just kept running the rim for the remainder of the distance, scrapping the concrete over and over tearing apart his car’s rear deck more and more with every revolution of the half-mile oval.

Sheppard, 31, finished seventh — right where he was when he sustained the body damage — so the spark-throwing antics didn’t cost him any positions. They spiced up the race, though.

“I started really ripping on it there about, I don’t know, with 30 to go or so,” said Sheppard, the 2019 Dream champion. “I started pickin ‘em off and I was really going good, and feeling good. I kept picking up speed and picking up speed, and I felt like I was getting faster and I was catching them guys (ahead) so I kept driving the s--- out of it. That was all you could do.

“I don’t really exactly know where I knocked (the spoiler) all the way off it, but I just did that with about 10, 15 to go and I was just toast after that. It was pretty much hang on for dear life after that. Literally, when that spoiler comes off, it feels like the left-rear tire is flat. Like, it’s bad.”

Sheppard figured he’d compensate for the loss of aerodynamics by just grinding away against the wall to the finish. By the end of the feature, his car’s rear deck was so thoroughly mangled that he declared it “the worst I’ve ever had.”

The hair-raising conclusion topped off an outing that didn’t go according to Sheppard’s plan.

“I was actually pretty good tonight, but we tightened up a little too much to run down on the track,” Sheppard said. “That’s why I was disappointed with the first half of that race. I was trying to really run that middle-bottom as much as I could and I could tell I was shearing. Just made some bad decisions for the feature.”

No More Magic

Just over 24 hours after climbing out of his Double Down Motorsports car in a wave of emotion on the Eldora winner’s stage, Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, pulled his machine into pit stall following the 100-lap Dream finale and just stayed in the seat for a couple minutes. A quiet 12th-place finish left him nothing to celebrate.

“Just not (feeling) in the track,” Moran said, shaking his head in frustration when he finally emerged and was asked what he lacked during the century grind. “From the start at the green, I just didn’t feel very good. Just one of them nights, you know?”

Moran, 29, barreled into Saturday’s headliner hot off his long-awaited first-ever triumph at Eldora, a flag-to-flag win in Friday’s 50-lap feature that was worth $25,000 and put the Moran family in the track’s victory lane for the first time since his father Donnie’s Eldora Million success in June 2021. The momentum seemed to carry over with a heat win that gave him the fifth starting spot in the 100-lapper, but he never emerged as a contender as he steadily slipped backward over the course of the race.

“We were really good last night and we were pretty close to how we were last night, but obviously the track was a little different,” said Moran, whose career-best finish in nine career Dream finale starts is seventh, 2016. “It was good, they had a good racetrack. It was just really dirty there at the start and I could not go in that, and then I started running the top to try and make up some time and I blasted my spoiler off and was just screwed from there.

“Just the way it goes,” he added. “Try again in September.”

Moran still left Eldora with a smile on his face thanks to his unforgettable Friday night.

“Yeah,” he said, “it’s hard to complain.”

Odds and ends

  • Bobby Pierce’s $30,000 runner-up finish marked the second straight year he’s stood on the Dream’s podium following a third-place run in 2023. The 27-year-old driver from Oakwood, Ill., has a top finish of 10th (2016) in his other seven starts in the crown jewel event’s finale.
  • Reigning World 100 champion Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., started from the outside pole but only spent four circuits in second place — the first lap and laps 55-57 after he briefly slipped ahead of Brandon Overton on a restart — before settling for a fourth-place finish in Kevin Rumley’s Longhorn Chassis. It was the 23-year-old’s best result in six career Dream feature starts, topping his seventh last year driving the Rocket Chassis house car. 
  • Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., appeared primed to finally break through for his first-ever crown jewel victory at Eldora after he moved up to second place on lap two, but he lost the spot to Overton only 15 and essentially settled in at the back half of the top five the rest of the way. The 49-year-old’s fifth-place finish ended his string of three consecutive runner-up placings in the Dream but marked his sixth consecutive top-five run and 12th straight top-10 in the race.
  • Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., continued his oh-so-steady Dream performances, calmly running the inside lane to march forward from the 19th starting spot to reach sixth on lap 88 and finish there. The 58-year-old has made 17 straight Dream feature starts and has finished outside the top-10 once in his last 12 outings.
  • Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., never cracked the top 10 before broken rear end gears forced him to retire his Tye Twarog-owned car on lap 54.
  • Josh Rice of Crittenden, Ky., reluctantly parked his brand-new Rocket Chassis in favor of starting last in his 2022-model Rocket after a busted oil-pump belt knocked him from the lead in his heat race. “(Jay) Dickens didn’t want us taking a chance on replacing the oil pump belt,” said Rice’s father, Jerry. Rice started the feature thanks to a points provisional but pitted early after sustaining damage when he got in the fence trying to avoid Hoffman, who bounced off McDowell and into his path, and ultimately retired on lap 37 for a 24th-place finish. 
  • Three fledgling chassis brands boasted Dream feature starters for the first time: Infinity (for third-place finisher Brandon Overton), Category 5 (for ninth-place finisher Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M.) and Excel (for 19th-place finisher Cody Overton of Evans, Ga.).
  • Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., saw his streak of seven straight Dream feature appearances end when he fell one spot shy of transferring in a B-main. 
  • The Dream feature was checkered at 11:15 p.m.