by Jacob hord, @HordRaceWatcher

It was the Night That the Stars Come Out in the hills of Southern Ohio, and those stars put on a whale of a show for a packed crowd at Atomic Speedway. For the first time since 2015, the All Star Circuit of Champions and Lucas Oil Late Model Series shared the track on the same night. Forty-two entries for both the All Stars and Lucas Oil Late Models would be battling for a $10k and $12k payday respectively. 

Starting out with the All Stars, defending champion Tyler Courtney and Kyle Larson, making only his third sprint car start of 2023, paced the field to the green flag of the 30 lap feature event. Courtney jumped out to the early lead over Larson and Cale Thomas. Courtney quickly gapped Larson by about one second. The first caution flag came on lap three, as Courtney was getting close to lapped traffic on a wicked fast surface. 

On the restart, it was all Sunshine as he once again gapped Larson by about one second. By lap seven, Courtney found himself in lapped traffic, which got heavier on the next circuit. Courtney was able to hold a steady lead through lapped traffic until lap ten, when Larson would start to reel Courtney in, with Thomas lurking in third. 

Larson threw a slider on the race leader in turns one and two on lap 12 and claimed the top spot. Larson grew his lead as he didn’t have too much traffic in front of him as he pounded the cushion. The yellow flew once again on lap 19 as Sean Rayhall and Cap Henry were involved in an incident. This got Larson out of traffic and into clean air, but would give Sunshine an opportunity to pounce. 

But, it would be Larson who pounced. He pulled away from Courtney and Rico Abreu on the restart and just a couple laps later, found himself back in lapped traffic. Larson struggled a little bit in traffic this time, and Courtney started reeling Larson in. The yellow flag would come out once more on lap 26, just as Larson got a lapped car between himself and Courtney. On the restart, it was once again the Kyle Larson show. He and crew chief Paul Silva had that car dialed in and it was a rocket ship. One last wrench would be thrown into their victory lane plans, though.

Before Larson could take the checkered flag, one more caution flew for Zeb Wise. This would give Courtney and Abreu one last shot to deny Larson his first sprint car win of 2023. They had no chance. Larson nailed the restart and went on to claim his 28th career All Star win. 

Larson’s post-race interview can be found here:

One more feature was left, and the Lucas Oil Late Models did not disappoint. Hudson O’Neal and Jonathan Davenport led the field to the green flag for 50 laps and $12k to win. O’Neal and Davenport were even off the start, but O’Neal edged Superman as they crossed the line for the first lap. Davenport then slid O’Neal in turns one and two, leaving them side-by-side for the rest of lap two, before Davenport was able to solidify himself in the top spot. O’Neal then found himself clinging on to second as he had Brandon Overton haunting him for second. 

Davenport had about a one second lead on lap six as O’Neal and Overton battled for second, and Overton would claim second from O’Neal on lap eight. Overton then set his sights on Davenport as they approached lapped traffic on lap ten. Mike Marlar had gotten by Ricky Thorton Jr. on lap 11, and RTJ would bring out the first caution of the race on the same lap. On the ensuing restart, Davenport set sail with a clear track ahead of him. 

O’Neal was able to get back by Overton after some encouragement from his crew, and by lap 17, O’Neal was inching towards Davenport. A bobble in turns three and four from O’Neal on lap 18 would let Davenport slip away. That didn’t stop O’Neal, as he once again reeled Davenport back in and was on his tail by lap 22. O’Neal fell victim to turns three and four again on lap 23, giving Davenport a slight breather. The breather didn’t last long, because Davenport and O’Neal were nose-to-tail for the lead at the halfway point.

O’Neal was able to snatch the lead back from Davenport and had a clear track ahead of him on lap 29. Davenport bobbled in turns one and two, allowing him to fall into the grip of Overton in third as Marlar waited to pounce on any mistake in fourth. All this allowed O’Neal to drive away, but he would encounter lapped traffic on lap 34. O’Neal enjoyed a two second lead on lap 36 as Marlar got by Davenport for third.

Overton’s car started to come to him, and O’Neal again found himself struggling in turns three and four over the last ten laps, which allowed Overton to close the gap. O’Neal couldn’t maneuver through lapped traffic quickly on lap 42 and by lap 45, Overton was there. They went nose-to-tail for most of laps 46, 47, and 48, before on the penultimate lap, O’Neal got a run on a lapped car going into turn one, and Overton wasn’t able to match the move.

That’s all O’Neal needed to do to nab the victory over Overton, Marlar and All Star winner Kyle Larson. 

Hudson O’Neal’s post-race interview can be found here: