Mike Marlar has typically been a very hands-on driver throughout much of his career. At the same time, the veteran racer realizes that extra pairs of hands and eyes can provide new perspectives and solutions.
Coming into the 2022 Rio Grande Waste Services Wild West Shootout there was every reason to believe that Marlar would be a serious threat to win feature races and contend for the mini-series championship. After all, the Winfield, Tennessee driver had ended 2022 on a high note by running well at the end of the season and he was coming into this year’s event as the WWS defending champion. But up until the fifth night of racing action at New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park, things had not gone as well as the Ronnie Delk-owned team and many observers might have expected.
“We won with this car late last year at Charlotte and ran good at Senoia,” Marlar told FloRacing.com in victory lane on Saturday night. “I was ready to come out here and put it on these guys but it’s been a rough week so far. It’s a humbling sport, it’s really tough and there’s a lot of good competitors.”
In the previous four races on the 3/8 mile clay oval located near the New Mexico-Texas state line, Marlar’s best finish had only been a fifth with two sixth-place results and an eighth also mixed in.
To help remedy the situation, Marlar decided to take his hands off of the No. 157 Longhorn Chassis and that decision paid immediate dividends as the former World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series champion wheeled his car into victory lane after a thrilling night of racing.
Marlar had to pass the red hot Jonathan Davenport of lap 27 of the 40-lap feature then hold off a hard charging Kyle Larson over the closing laps to secure the $10,000 first prize.
“I needed that,” Marlar declared. “It’s been a long week so far. I was happy to get a win there, it was some fun racing. I seen the 6(Larson) on the board and I figured he was probably running the cushion so I just tried to make my entry wide enough down here. I was really way better through the middle and I just wanted to make my entry wider, I don’t know if I was hurting him or not. I tried to stay as high as I could but I was definitely a little better off the cushion.”
Marlar believes his car was better in traffic than those of his rivals.
“I got in a really good race with Jonathan there in lapped traffic,” he explained. “It just worked out for me. His car got a little loose in that air, more than mine, so it worked out good and I got by him. At the end of the race, the lapped cars were really helping me.”
Always quick to praise car owner Ronnie Delk and crew members Josh Davis and Jerry Sprouse, Marlar stated that their input made a difference in Saturday’s result. And more, he plans to again allow his crew to handle the preparation duties on the car prior to the WWS finale while he stays occupied doing other things.
“That will be Josh’s problem,” the driver said of his team’s efforts to win the $25,000 payday on Sunday night. “I said earlier today that I was going to let the crew chief be the crew chief and he’s one-for-one. Him and Jerry, I’m so proud of those guys. I watch National Lampoon and two or three movies a day and these guys gave me a good race car so you know where you’ll find me tomorrow.”
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