PETERSEN MEDIA: Austin O’Neal had a weekend to remember. After charging from 14th-4th at I-80 Speedway on Friday night, Saturday night the Missouri native made his debut at the most famed dirt track in the country, Knoxville Raceway.
“We were really confident on getting back to I-80 after running well there in our most recent visit,” Austin O’Neal said. “Unfortunately, a tough draw coupled with some misfortune in our Heat put us in a hole, but we rebounded extremely well in the feature.”
Lining the Marmon/Keystone/Weld Racing/River Valley Ag backed No. 11 entry up seventh in his heat race, O’Neal endured contact to his right front after picking up a few positions and it resulted in him fading back to seventh.
Finishing seventh in his heat, O’Neal had his work cut out for him in the feature event as he took the green flag from the seventh row. With the green flag in the air, O’Neal was able to get a great jump on a very fast surface after rain earlier in the week kept the track in good shape.
Getting into eighth in the opening five laps, the ensuing restart saw O’Neal make a daring move that allowed him to get into fourth. Once in fourth, O’Neal found himself in better air, but it was partly due to the top three breaking away.
Hitting his marks, O’Neal was able to reel in third running Cody Ledger, but the initial advantage was too much as O’Neal capped his hard charged off with a fourth place run from 14th.
Following an impressive showing at I-80, O’Neal made the trek to Knoxville, IA on Saturday where he made his long-awaited debut at the famed Knoxville Raceway.
At the new facility against a strong local contingent, O’Neal set the early goal of simply making the feature event, and after a hard-fought night he was able to check that goal off of his list.
With time trials not a part of his normal racing routine, qualifying at Knoxville would present an early hurdle as he timed in 27th fastest.
Missing the heat race inversion, O’Neal found himself at the back of a tough heat and was able to race to a seventh-place finish. Though he missed the direct transfer to the ‘A’, O’Neal made good laps and continued to grow comfortable as he headed to the semi with one final shot to transfer into the ‘A’.
Lining up seventh in the ‘B’, the field would jockey for position on the bottom of turns one and two, and O’Neal opted to make the middle work as he powered his way into second off the exit of turn two.
Running second for much of the race, a slight bobble would allow Knoxville regular, Clint Garner, to get by and it relegated him to a third-place finish, however it was still good enough to lock him into the ‘A’.
Taking the green flag from 23rd in his first ‘A’ at Knoxville Raceway, O’Neal was mired in traffic and dirty air on the ½ mile speedway. Getting back to the middle, O’Neal was able to make headway as he did in the semi and raced up to 16th.
With the middle lane losing traction late in the race, O’Neal dipped back to the bottom and maintained 16th as the race drew to a close.
“It was great getting to Knoxville, and to finally race there and make a feature was really a dream come true,” O’Neal added. “I felt like we learned a ton as a team, and I can’t wait to get back and try again.”
Austin O’Neal Racing would like to thank Marmon/Keystone, Weld Racing, River Valley Ag, Kaw Valley Companies, RacinBoys, HMC Performance Coatings, Mel Hambelton Ford Racing, Champion Oil, Taffs Carpets, Rod End Supply, Clemons Home Team, Mettec Titanium, V&L Properties, Toby’s Coatings, NGK Spark Plugs, Maxim Racing, Capital Sign Co., Wesmar Racing Engines, and Schure Built Suspensions for their support.
BY THE NUMBERS: Races-8, Wins-0, Top 5’s-2, Top 10’s-4
ON TAP: O’Neal returns to action on Friday night at US 36 Raceway with the Lucas Oil ASCS National Tour.
STAY CONNECTED: Stay updated with Austin O’Neal by following him on Twitter @austinonealrcgn, or by ‘Liking’ him on facebook at www.facebook.com/austinonealracing.
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