Chris Madden came into the Spring Nationals race at the Smoky Mountain Speedway on Saturday night as perhaps the hottest Dirt Late Model driver in the country. But he may well have been hot when he left the track for an altogether different reason.
In the early going of the 50-lap event it as if the Gray Court, SC driver was going to continue his winning ways, but a mishap with a slower car sent him into the turn one wall of the Maryville, Tenn. track and opened the door for rival Billy Ogle, Jr. to capture a win on his home track.
Madden began the night by setting fast time among the 30 cars on hand for qualifying with a lap of 15.553 seconds around the 4/10 mile clay oval. He was joined in being locked into the feature lineup by Vic Hill, Billy Ogle, Jr., Casey Roberts, Mike Marlar, Riley Hickman, Stacy Boles and Austin Smith.
Chad Ogle, Donald McIntosh and Skip Arp won the three heat races used to set the remainder of the Super Late Model field.
In the early going of the feature, Madden bolted to the lead with Ogle, Hill and Marlar trailing behind. After a lap 5 caution, Madden and Ogle pulled away from the battling duo of Hill and Marlar. At the same time Boles, Roberts and Riley Hickman were carrying on a furious fight for positions further back within the top-10.
The race’s pivotal moment came on lap 17 when Madden found himself entangled with slower cars. Contact with one of those cars sent the leader slamming into the turn one wall. Safety crews rushed to the scene of the car that had hit the concrete on the driver’s side but Madden appeared to be uninjured as a result of the crash.
At that point, Ogle assumed the lead and would never be challenged. A lap 35 yellow flag briefly bunched the field but Ogle was again able to get away on the restart, leaving others to fight for positions behind him.
A hard charging Skip Arp came through the pack from his 11th starting spot to challenge for a podium finish. After the restart from that final caution, ‘The Professor’ was able to bypass Marlar for the 3rd spot. However, no one was able to threaten Ogle over the race’s final laps.
At the finish, it was Knoxville’s Billy Ogle, Jr. earning the $6,000 first prize ahead of Vic Hill, Skip Arp, Mike Marlar, Stacy Boles, Riley Hickman, Austin Smith, Donald McIntosh, Eric Wells, Michael Chilton and Tommy Kerr.