The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series three-day swing through the southeast continued on Friday night with an event at the Lavonia Speedway. A surprise winner would ultimately take the top prize as Ben Watkins earned his first win with the WoO Late Models at the Georgia track. The Longhorn Chassis driver from Rock Hill, SC picked up $10,000 as payment for the triumph.
A total of 26 cars were signed in for competition.
Zack Mitchell led the way in qualifying after posting a time of 15.378 seconds around the 3/8 mile clay oval to top Brandon Sheppard, Ben Watkins, Tyler Bruening and Brandon Overton.
Tyler Bruening captured the first heat race by defeating Zack Mitchell, Daulton Wilson, Ricky Weiss, Chris Madden and Ryan Gustin.
Brandon Overton emerged victorious in the second preliminary over Brandon Sheppard, Payton Freeman, Brent Larson, Dennis Erb Jr. and Trent Ivey.
The third heat went to Ben Watkins as he finished ahead of Cla Knight, Kenny Collins, Michael Brown, Ross Bailes and Brent Dixon.
The WoO Late Models redraw set the top-6 starters as Bruening, Watkins, Knight, Sheppard, Mitchell and Overton.
The start of the 40-lap feature saw Watkins set off with the race lead followed by Bruening, Sheppard, Overton and Knight tailing in his tire tracks. The race leader then began to slip away from his pursuers as he built a lead of almost a full straightaway during the early going. However, a lap 7 caution for the slowing car of Ethan Wilson erased the advantage built up by the No. 16 machine.
Watkins maintained the lead after the restart while Knight, Mitchell and Wilson engaged in a fierce battle for positions 5-7. By lap 12, Watkins again began to build a relatively comfortable margin over those giving chase. However, that would change just a few laps later when the lead found himself among slower traffic which allowed Bruening and Sheppard to catch up.
Bruening closed in enough that he was able to make a serious bid for the lead on lap 22, drawing his No. 16 alongside the No. 16 of Watkins.
Cautions were scattered throughout the second half of the event but no one was able to get the jump on Watkins when the high speed action would resume. However, the were battles further back as Overton, Wilson and Mitchell wrestled for the positions at the back of the top-5.
But over the closing laps, Watkins was able to maintain his advantage then sail under the checkered flag for his first career WoO Late Models win.
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Feature Finish: 1. Ben Watkins, 2. Tyler Bruening, 3. Brandon Sheppard, 4. Brandon Overton, 5. Zack Mitchell, 6. Daulton Wilson, 7. Ross Bailes, 8. Rocky Weiss, 9. Dennis Erb Jr., 10. Chris Madden, 11. Cla Knight, 12. Trent Ivey, 13. Ryan Gustin, 14. Ryan Wilson, 15. Payton Freeman, 16. Kenny Collins, 17. Boom Briggs, 18. Brent Dixon, 19. Brent Larson, 20. Nick Schalger, 21. Michael Brown, 22. Will Harris, 23. Ethan Wilson. 24. Walker Arthur