DELMAR, Del. — Veteran Howard O’Neal lived up to his nickname, ‘The Real Deal’, dominating Saturday’s NAPA Big Block Modified feature at Delaware Int’l Speedway to score his first-career win in the division since 2009.
Hailing from Lincoln, Del., O’Neal battled with rookie Brandon Watkins and ultimately held back last week’s feature winner Matt Hawkins during the 25-lap event to capture the win at the half-mile dirt track.
Following his triumph last weekend, Hawkins recorded a runner-up finish after starting the race from the eighth position in his father Dale’s No. 83 Start2Finish Collison Modified — his regular No. 38 Start2Finish Collison Modified was injured while being loaded into the transporter.
“Have to thank my dad [Dale Hawkins] for allowing me to run his car,” Hawkins said following the race. “The starter jears jammed up while we were loading our No. 38 machine. I started eighth and finished second. H.J. [Bunting] has a huge points lead so we are all basically [fighting] for second in points.”
“Hopefully, I can continue to have good finishes and remain in second.”
H.J. Bunting, the all-time winningest driver in big-blocks at the Delmar, Del. circuit, rallied to finish third. Entering the event, the veteran held a 250 point advantage over second place in the championship standings.
Watkins, who made the jump to big-blocks this season after a stint in the track’s AC Delco PSC Modified division, and Robert Dutton rounded out the top five.
Shawn Ward, Dave Dissinger and Scott VanGorder were the final three cars to finish the event.
After entering the race eighth in the championship standings, Watkins began the feature from the pole position and battled with O’Neal for the top spot during the beginning stages.
As the two danced back and forth, O’Neal finally began extending the margin between he and the rookie with eight laps to go. During that time, Hawkins was able to get past Watkins and began giving chase to O’Neal.
However, O’Neal would not be denied and cruised to his first feature win in over six seasons — making it an emotional night for the longtime racer and track regular.
Rookie Carson Wright had issues before the feature and was unable to start the race. He entered the weekend fifth in the points standings.