Another year has rolled over on the calendar, which means a new racing season is upon us. With it comes changes within our sport, and the Dirt Late Model scene is definitely not immune. In fact, the division’s latest silly season is one for the ages.
Ride changes, team changes, and more dot the landscape of the Dirt Late Model community. While some developments were announced late in 2019, additional ones have surfaced early in 2020.
Let’s dive into some of the notable changes.
Team Zero Rezones
Even if you aren’t a Scott Bloomquist fan, it’s hard to deny he continues to be a focal point of the Dirt Late Model community. Off-season news for the leader of Team Zero made major waves. During the annual Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show in December, Scott Bloomquist Racing (SBR) announced major changes for the 2020 season.
During a press conference, it was revealed that Drydene Performance Products is joining the team as a title sponsor. Furthermore, the team confirmed South Carolina’s hot shoe, Chris Madden, is joining the team in a full-time capacity as a teammate to Bloomquist.
Last but not least, SBR revealed its intent for both drivers to compete on the full 2020 World of Outlaws (WoO) Morton Buildings Late Model Series slate.
While Bloomquist was not in attendance at the announcement, Madden was and expressed his excitement regarding the opportunity.
“Obviously, it’s very exciting to be able to stand here and announce that Drydene has come on board and made this possible, along with all of the other great sponsors that I have,” Madden shared. “It takes every one of them, and we appreciate all of them, not just one. We appreciate every sponsor helping us out. It just helped us to be able to figure out what we wanted to do.”
The duo opened the WoO season in early January at New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park. Madden claimed a win, while Bloomquist showed speed, despite battling considerable pain from a 2019 hip injury. The National Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer is scheduled to undergo hip replacement surgery and recovery before WoO action resumes at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park in mid-February.
Three Years, Three Rides
Two drivers who piloted at least two different rides in 2018 and 2019 find themselves in a third-different ride in 2020.
Georgia-native Brandon Overton spent the first half of the 2018 season driving for Tennessee-based Randy Weaver Racing, before making a June move to Alabama-based Billy Franklin Racing. Despite enjoying considerable success with the Franklin team, Overton switched to Joey Coulter’s Rum Runner Racing in 2019. Again, Overton enjoyed a double-digit win season, but in late-2019 announced his newest plans.
Driving for Kentucky’s Wells Motorsports, Overton made a few late-season starts. The team plans to hit and miss various regional and national shows in 2020.
Meanwhile, Darrell Lanigan made waves with the announcement he was moving to the Barry Wright house car in 2020. The three-time WoO Champion vacated Clint Bowyer Racing at the end of 2018 with a move back to his Darrell Lanigan Racing No. 29. After finishing Fifth in the series points, the Union, Kentucky racer, announced his move to the Barry Wright Race Cars house car.
Additionally, Lanigan announced that he would cease building his custom-designed, Club 29 Race Cars.
O’Neal Family Returns To Their Roots
The father-and-son duo of Don and Hudson O’Neal both experienced a shake-up with their rides late in 2019.
For the elder O’Neal, he found himself ride-searching after Clint Bowyer Racing announced its intent to scale back to a single-car team with Josh Richards for 2020.
Meanwhile, O’Neal’s rising-star son also found himself without a ride after learning late in the 2019 season that SSI Motorsports was ceasing operations for 2020.
Both drivers now find themselves behind the wheel of MasterSbilt Race Cars for the 2020 campaign. Don O’Neal last piloted the MasterSbilt house car from 2009-2013 on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS). Following in his father’s legendary footsteps, Hudson looks to tackle the full LOLMDS slate in 2020 in the MasterSbilt house car.
Don O’Neal continues to firm up his season schedule, but as of right now, plans to enter only select events in a MasterSbilt team car.
“The Masters family has always meant a lot to us,” Hudson O’Neal recently told Kevin Kovac from DirtOnDirt.com. “This has always been talked about; the opportunity to start back racing together. They originally wanted to do it with dad, but with dad’s deal with [Clint] Bowyer still in the mix at that point, it just wasn’t in the cards.
“Our plan right now is to start down in Speedweeks on the Lucas deal and see where it goes from there. We’re gonna try to bring MasterSbilt Race Cars back a little bit.”
New Digs For Devin
After spending the 2019 season behind the wheel of the Dunn-Benson Motorsports No. 1, Ohio’s Devin Moran moves on to a new ride for the new season. He’ll pilot the No. 9 Longhorn Chassis for Tye Twarog Racing on the full LOLMDS slate. While it will be a new ride for the Zanesville, Ohio, racer, this won’t be the first time he’s driven for Twarog. Moran drove Twarog’s car on the WoO tour in 2017 and 2018 and finished Fourth in series points both seasons.
“I am really excited to be driving for Tye [Twarog] again this year and pumped up to get this 2020 season underway at the end of the month at Golden Isles,” Moran said. “We have a pair of new Longhorn Racecars ready to roll and Clements Chevy motors to provide the horsepower. Tye has definitely given us the equipment we need to compete throughout the year on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. I can’t thank him and his family enough, along with all of our great sponsors.
“Right now, it is just me and my brother Wylie working out of Tye’s shop in Coshocton, Ohio. So, we won’t be the most well-funded team out there on tour, but I enjoy being a bit of an underdog.”
Dunn Benson Motorsports ceased operations at the end of the 2019 campaign, where Moran finished Sixth in the LOLMDS standings.
Not Just Driver Changes
There were more than just driver changes for teams at the end of 2019. The landscape saw multiple crew changes. Perhaps the most notable being Anthony Burroughs vacating Clint Bowyer Racing to take over crew chief duties with Brian Shirley at Bob Cullen Racing.
“Everybody at Clint Bowyer Racing treated me great the whole time I was there, and we were able to accomplish a lot of things. I’m now thankful for this great opportunity with Brian [Shirley] and Bob Cullen Racing,” Burroughs shared. “We are really excited about what we have planned this year for the team.”
Fresh off the DIRTcar Summer Nationals and DIRTcar National Championship, Shirley now sets his sights on the 2020 LOLMDS title.
“Bob and Lisa Cullen, and all of our sponsors, have provided us with everything we need to be successful this year,” Shirley noted. “All of the pieces, from equipment to crew to resources, are in place. So now, I’ve just got to do my job.”
A New Year And A New Plan
Shane Clanton has spent every season since 2005 competing on the WoO tour. That all changes for 2020. Clanton, along with his Skyline Motorsports teammate, Tyler Bruening, is set to tackle the full LOLMDS slate for the first time.
“I’ve been running with the Outlaws since 2005, and it was just time for a change,” said Clanton, who was the 2015 WoO Champion. “With the way that the Lucas Oil schedule worked out this year, it made sense for us to run it. Also, several of the races are located in close proximity to Iowa. This allows our car owner, Greg Bruening, to get to see us race more often.”
Meanwhile, Iowa’s Bruening sets his sights on the LOLMDS Rookie of the Year title. This will be his first year on any national tour.
“Over the past few years, we’ve been branching out more and more with our program in preparation to run a national tour,” Bruening said. “This past season was our best to date with our open engine program. With the help of Shane [Clanton] and Marshall [Green], we’ve been able to take our overall program to a whole new level. We’ve got a lot of great supporters behind us, and we’re excited to tackle this new challenge.”
Joining the Capital Race Cars drivers on tour to start the year is Arkansas-racer Billy Moyer Jr. The 32-year-old racer made the off-season change to Capital Race Cars. He plans to evaluate where he resides in the series’ standings following the Georgia/ Florida Speedweeks before committing to his 2020 plans.
Just The Tip Of The Iceberg
For brevity, only a sampling of Dirt Late Model racing’s silly season changes were evaluated here. Other drivers in new digs for 2020 include Ross Bailes, Tanner English, Travis Stemler, Tim McCreadie, and Kyle Strickler.
The 2020 season looks to be a wild and unexpected ride, so please keep your browsers pointed here to OneDirt.com for the latest developments.