The start of Fall brought both cooler weather and added wins for two World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series drivers during this series’ Fall Nationals weekend.
It began with the 20th running of the Late Model National Open at Pennsylvania’s own Selinsgrove Speedway, where Chris “Smokey” Madden picked up his eighth win of 2018. Redrawing the outside pole after winning his heat race, Madden took control of the Sears Craftsman Feature ahead of pole sitter Shane Clanton on lap one and never looked back, leading all 50 laps on way to his 24th $10,000 career payday.
“We had a great racecar this weekend,” said Madden. “Of course, conditions at this track were perfect and allowed us to race in any of the three available lanes, which made this win easier than most.”
After a strong qualifying lap and a win in heat number two, pole sitter Shane Clanton redrew the pole and was hoping to take this to his first Late Model National Open victory, but fate had different plans. Instead, while battling for position with Devin Moran, Clanton blew a left-front tire early on and wound up finishing 12th.
Defending World of Outlaws Series Champion Brandon Sheppard also struggled at Selinsgrove after blowing an engine when challenging Madden for the lead at the end of the weekend’s first 50-lapper.
After struggling on Saturday at Selinsgrove, defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series Champion Brandon Sheppard and his Rocket1 Racing team would turn things around on Sunday when the Series made its debut at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, NY.
Starting fifth for this 50-lap feature, Sheppard quickly made his way into the top three by the second lap, and then began to chase down race leaders Shane Clanton and Mike Marlar. By lap 20, Sheppard was well on his way to leading the 24-car field.
Sheppard went on to battle a few yellow flag restarts and with third-place finisher Mike Marlar around the 2/3-mark, but surrendered the lead only briefly for one lap at a time in a back-and-forth battle which ended with Sheppard losing Marlar in lapped traffic. Ten laps later, the rocket born dirt driver collected his 12th checkered flag of the 2018 season.
Much like Madden felt about Selinsgrove, Sheppard said that the track surface at the small dirt track just 12 miles north of famed Watkins Glen was ideal for racing.
“We had a really good racecar and I could drive wherever I needed to go in lapped traffic and all that,” said Sheppard. “This definitely made it easier to pull off this win. Our car has also been really good, so I think that we will be tough to beat at the next few tracks.”
This was the night Sheppard needed to get back into the thick of the points battle with now-leader Mike Marlar and second-place Chris Madden, who is still a whole 40 points behind Marlar but has four races left to make one last-ditch effort for the title.
“My team works really hard and nobody wants to win more these guys do,” said Sheppard. “Of course, someone will still have to have a bad night to make it possible for us to earn this title. Regardless, we will do everything that we can to bring home the championship for our Rocket1 racing team.”
Mike Marlar completed the podium and once again grabbed the points lead away from Chris Madden, who ended up breaking a left-front ball joint on lap eight on Sunday. According to the current points leader, a tire compound decision may have been the deciding factor in this loss, as a lack of grip off the corner seemed to hinder the Delk Equipment No. 157 a bit in the long run.
“After a few laps, I would lose my steering capabilities,” said Marlar. “That was making me have to run a weird line and I actually got by Brandon two or three times; I think I got the lead and then I would start pushing and he would get back by me.”
The champions from the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series return to racing action next weekend with a two-day show at the Atomic Speedway, in Chillicothe, Ohio, for the Outlaw Invasion. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all your dirt racing coverage.