The Real Man
Behind the Racer, Don O'Neal-The Real Deal
by Rebecca Richards
No matter how nervous Martinsville, Indiana late model racer Don O'Neal
may be before a big night of racing, only those closest to him know it.
With a ready grin, twinkling blue eyes and a good nature, Don never lets a
case of racing jitters interfere with his interaction between him and his
many fans, of which there are many.
"Don is a racer's racer and one of the nicest guys in the sport," says
Terry Young, from Hoosier Tires.
On the track, Don O'Neal is well known for his smooth, fast and clean
racing skills. Fans are often excited by Don's ability to pass high and
low against the odds on any track, a feat most drivers strive for but have
Don displays good sportsmanship, and it's not his style to tear down
another racer-no matter how he feels.
Don O'Neal is a down to earth, honest, hard working family man who has
finally reached his dream and goal to work full time at his racing
"It has taken me all my life to get where I'm at now. I've raced for years
without making a dime, now I have great sponsors which makes all the
difference," said Don. When asked if all the hard work was worth it.
Smiling, Don said,"A bad day of working racing isn't as bad as a bad day
at a job you hate doing."
Don is quick to give credit to his sponsors who have stuck by him and
believed in him; C. J. Rayburn Racecars, B Auto Parts, Petroff Towing,
Afco Racing Parts, O'Neal Wood Products, Dave Peeden and Hoosier by Smash.
Good sponsors are hard to secure and difficult to keep, but if they
believe in the racer and are proud of the racers' accomplishments and
attitude, sponsors will stay with a racer and their team. Don O'Neal's
sponsors are very proud to be a part of his race team, and rightfully so.
Don respects other racers, their equipment, follows officials orders and
guidelines, and treats fans like they are friends. These are the very
qualities that make a talented racer a great racer.
After a long night
and chilly temps the O'Neal team kicks back for a photo op. From left to
right:C.J. Rayburn, Mark Saul, Tony Thomas, Marvin O,Neal (Don's dad),
Becky O'Neal-Don's wife, Don, Rodney Williams (Don's 2nd dad).
Throughout his early racing days, Don and older brother Marty would often
be found ripping around in go karts, through the woods, across the fields
and just about anywhere a go kart could go. After a while, Don followed
brother Marty into limited late model racing in the early 80's at Paragon,
Indiana where he had his first feature win in 1981.
That was also the location of his first date with his future wife Becky
Williams. Becky had never experienced the racing scene and had no idea
what to expect. She learned a lot!
"I loved him to distraction," she said with a bright smile, "I would have
followed him anywhere."
She has proven her love for Don time after time. As a member of O'Neal
Racing, Becky takes care of many aspects of O'Neal Racing, from handling
accounting matters to cleaning the hauler and cab, PLUS dinner delivery to
the garage when the crew is working late. She does it all with the same
cheerful, positive attitude shared by Don.
The couple have two sons which keep her hopping! Houston, age seven, and
Hudson, age 2, are Don and Becky's pride and joy. At home, Don enjoys
playing games with his sons, such as wrestling and racing through the
house. (Foot Races Only!)
The itch to move on just wouldn't go away and in 1992, Don got his first
ride in a new Rayburn late model. He couldn't have been happier.
It started a chain of events for Don's career that would lead him to some
of the most exciting experiences of his life, with the exception of his
marriage to Becky and the birth of his sons!
Through the 90's, Don fine tuned his skills and became dominant at local
tracks, always striving to be better week by week. His determination paid
off, and by 1992, Don had racked up 20 feature wins, and a win at the
Kenny Simpson Memorial that same year.
Not satisfied, he kept striving for improvement, and in 1996 he hit the
road and succeeded in capturing the Summer Nationals Victory, a highlight
for Don that he'll never forget.
Don said,"I am the most proud of my accomplishments in the last two years,
winning at East Bay (Florida) for the first time during Speedweeks (2000),
the Jackson 100 (Indiana) , and winning four features in 2002 at East Bay
(Florida) during Speedweeks with his own team, and two at Volusia
The Real Deal continued snatching victories throughout many states and
fans couldn't get enough!
Don, always ready to please his fans, obliges them to the best of his
ability, traveling to various tracks, eager to expand his knowledge-not to
mention his number of wins and earnings to pay those bills!
I asked Don about the nights every racer dreads, when everything seems to
go wrong. He advises new racers, "Don't let it get you down, keep a
positive attitude and do what my sponsor tells me-RACE! RACE! RACE! Don't
give up! (C. J. Rayburn-Rayburn Racecars) ."
Talking with O'Neal fans, you hear the normal "idol" talk, but you hear
something more that is uncommon.
Don O'Neal-The Real Deal-is just that, according to his fans, sponsors,
track officials, media and other racers.
His open, honest, firm-yet friendly, determined, serious-yet-fun face and
eyes are a true reflection of who is he every day.
Some of the people interviewed were asked the same questions about
different drivers and Don O'Neal was included in each survey. Don was in
the top of the most respected drivers in general in dirt track racing of
all the people interviewed. That really is a big compliment in racing!
By Rebecca Richards
This article is copyright protected and may not be reproduced without
written permission. All rights reserved. Rebecca Richards 2003
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I just had to add the pic of me and my bud Don O'Neal! He is a good
friend! Love his wife Becky too!