The primary story coming out of any race is that of the winner. And Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. turned in a magnificent effort this past weekend at the Fayetteville Motor Speedway to claim the top prize of $25,001 for winning the World of Outlaws Late Model Series sanctioned event on the track located in eastern North Carolina. The ‘Newport Nightmare’ set the fastest overall time in qualifying, won his heat race, took the checkered flag in the $2,001-to-win ‘Big C Dash for Cash’, and led the most laps on his way to the feature win.
However, every race also has one or more secondary stories as well. This race was certainly no different in that respect.
Entering the weekend, Chris Madden of Gray Court, SC held the WoO Late Models points lead over Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn. by just 24 points with third and fourth place drivers Shane Clanton and Brandon Sheppard well within striking distance. And almost from the get-go, the two leaders encountered issues that threatened to dislodge them from their positions in the series standings.
Both Madden and Marlar tend to be very good qualifiers. However, Marlar could only muster a 10th place effort among those who made an attempt in Group B time-trials on Friday night while Madden placed one spot lower than Marlar in that same group. With the top-4 from each heat race transferring to the feature, neither driver was able to lock himself into the feature as Madden finished fifth in third heat race of the night while Marlar came home fifth in the fourth and final preliminary on Friday.
As a result of their heat race finishes, both drivers were assigned to compete in the Last Chance Showdown races to be run on Saturday prior to the main event. Marlar finished second in his LCS, which placed him 20th on the starting grid for the ‘First in Flight 100’ main event. But things did not go so well for Madden as his No. 44 had a mechanical issue that did not allow him to even start the LCS race. He was then relegated to the 23rd starting spot for the feature after having to use a provisional to make the show.
When the green flag waved over the 100-lap main event, Marlar encountered even more troubles. His No. 157 car spun on the initial start attempt and he was forced to restart from the tail of the field. Once everything got rolling, Madden made quick work of many of the cars starting ahead of him as he rose through the running order. By the halfway point he was contending for a place inside the top-10 of the running order.
However, things were not going so well for Marlar. World of Outlaws Late Model Series announcer Rick Eschelman on the race broadcast carried by DirtVision.com described the fact that Marlar was finding it somewhat of a struggle to even stay on the lead lap in the early going. But after stops to change tires under caution, Marlar’s car would eventually come to life.
By the final ten circuits of the race a number of competitors began to have trouble with tire wear. Madden and Marlar hung tough and gained spots over those closing laps with Eschelman even pointing out that Marlar appeared to be the fastest car on the track as the laps clicked off.
In the end, Madden came home 5th and Marlar finished 6th on a night that did not look nearly so promising in the early going. As a result, Madden still holds the WoO Late Models Series lead over Marlar by 26 markers. However, the second finishing Sheppard and the fourth finishing Clanton did manage to close the distance on both as those two racers sit in a tie for third just 52 points off the lead.
At the end of any racing season, the eventual champion can often look back on a race or two that turned out better than may have originally been expected and point to that event as one in which the title was truly earned. For Chris Madden and Mike Marlar, the ‘First in Flight 100’ at Fayetteville Motor Speedway could be that race of either of them goes on to win the series championship.