Don O'Neal a retired U.S. Army soldier and current Top Sportsman Driver has always been told that he has heart and passion for the sport of Drag Racing. He will tell you that he has moments that will make you look like you have lost your mind. This past weekend at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, he did not look like he had lost his mind. He looked like he was energized to accomplish his childhood dreams.
"I started in this sport because of my late father, it was his dream of going fast and building a crazy 1955 Chevrolet to compete in Top Sportsman back in the late 80's early 90's. He wanted to compete against the big names in the Southeast. He died before his dream was a reality, from cancer caused by Agent Orange from his military service in Vietnam." O'Neal paused. "I have always thought that he is with me every time I roll into a race, he always said, adversity makes you a better man. Well, if that is the case, then I guess I am pretty good, because we have had every problem in the world trying to be successful this year." O'Neal chuckled.
The VP Racing Fuels Monster Carlo that O'Neal drives receives numerous photo opportunities with the em-blazed Mad Scientist on the side of the car larger than life. O'Neal talked about VP, "They have stuck with our entire team, it is nice to be able to do nice long smokey burnouts and make consistent solid runs to give the announcer and fans that come out something to talk about, I couldn't' be racing chasing dreams of winning. I have someone that I am racing for other than all the customers, manufactures and sponsors. I am racing for my dad." O'Neal smiled.
The Monster Carlo and O'Neal finally broke into the elusive 6 Second-Zone on Thursday evening at Joliet, something that the team had been chasing for a long time. "We have flat worked our butt's off, this ol' crazy monster weighed a ton at the end of the season in 2015. We started cutting this, and removing that, and the next thing you know we are a 100lbs lighter. Our next step was the engine, we assembled a bad to the bone 632 BBC, Single Carb from Quick Fuel and we are flat flying now. I have been chasing 6 Second passes since Bowling Green last year when we failed to qualify. On Thursday we should have went in the 6's, I left the starting line and the car was solid, and at half-track the car slowed up, I am looking around going, oh know I hurt the engine, but the Mad Scientist is just trucking down thru here. My wife says, "7.009 at 186", I am in the shutdown area, look over punching the keypad on the timers, and yep, I had the wrong numbers!" O'Neal laughed.
This mistake truly was weighing on the shoulders of O'Neal, because weather was coming and it was going to be ugly. "NHRA sent a text said rain, wind, the kitchen sink was coming at us, I thought great going to lose the second qualifier for the day and I will only get one shot to get in the 6 second zone, however, I really needed a solid race day set up, I was twisted up that I messed this up for every one that has been pushing to get us here. I did not have a good outing at Bristol, however we got here and knew we had come far enough to be competitive and the rain was standing in my way." O'Neal sighed.
There must have been a little luck in the clouds for O'Neal and his band of supporters, because after the rain came, the sun popped out, NHRA and the Safety Safari went to work on drying the track for just a handful of classes with Top Sportsman being one. "In the Top Dragster/Top Sportsman pits we all said, that's it, where are we going to eat? Low and behold, we felt respected and overjoyed that NHRA was drying the track. I said, I am going to get my 6 Second Pass." O'Neal grinned.
At 8:55pm with the dew starting to fall, O'Neal pulled thru the water box with his sights set on accomplishing what is considered a small goal to most racers in today's sport, however it didn't see m so small for O'Neal and his wife, team owners, sponsors, friends and family. "I told myself this is it. There is a black and grey picture of my dad taped to the firewall right by my leg. I look at it before I do a burnout. It always makes me feel like he is there." O'Neal paused, "I waited for Tim Weise beside me to leave so he could be down the track some, I did not want anything to distract me from this moment, the car was just awesome as it went thru the lights, my wife said 6.825, baby we did it! I swelled up with emotion for everyone who ever loaned, helped, guided, provided and funded my desire, passion and drive to compete in this great sport are not forgotten in this small goal of accomplishment" O'Neal boasted.
The car O'Neal drives is owned by Mark and Deidre McDonald, along with JB Strassweg. "Mac was behind me in the staging lanes, he watched it going down the track, he came off the end of the track, and I yelled get out of the car so I can hug you!" O'Neal smiled. "Of course he laughed. I could not do any of this without Mac, JB, Marvin, Phillip and my wife Diane have been there every step of the way. I would not be competitive right now without them or any of the companies that support our team effort." It is a truly team effort for O'Neal to compete, we have great companies that provide support so that the entire Dragstersforsale.com organization can be in competition for the elusive "Wally" on a weekly basis.
O'Neal's weekend consisted of 6.80's to 6.90 passes all weekend, until his journey for "Wally" came to an abrupt end on Sunday in the Quarter-Finals against eventual event runner-up and NHRA Division 2 All Star Sandy Wilkins. " The Monster Carlo acted just like that on Sunday, one upset monster, it shook so hard it gave me a nice headache for the 5 hour drive back home, but it was hard to tell I had a headache with the size of the smile I have on my face for what the futures hold for the rest of 2016." O'Neal nodded. " We will head to Topeka, St.Louis, Brainerd, Bowling Green and then we will see where we stand, who knows where we will go if we can get this VP Racing Fuels Monster Carlo to keep makin power." O'Neal sighed.
It would be safe to say that no matter how driver Don O'Neal and the organization closes out 2016, he will have someone looking down on him with a smile after his successful weekend in Joliet. Determination and support allowed an old soldier to accomplish a childhood goal. Next stop is his continued journey to look for "Wally."
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