This weekend the World of Outlaws Late Model Series will make a swing through east Tennessee with stops set for 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour on Friday night and Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap on Saturday evening. Each of the feature races will dole out $10,000 to the winner.
One driver who will not have far to travel for each of these races will be Mike Marlar. The Winfield, Tenn. racer has already posted one victory so far in 2018 when he was the first to cross the finish line at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC back on May 4th and he currently resides in the second position of the series standings just 26 points behind leader Chris Madden.
A deeper look into the statistics put up so far by Marlar and his Ronnie Delk-owned team reveals that the key to their success has been consistency. After completing ten events so far on the rain-plagued series schedule, the No. 157 Rocket Chassis has scored the one victory at Cherokee along with six top-5 and nine top-10 results.
So what has led to these rock solid performances here in the early part of the campaign?
“This winter we didn’t make any changes on anything and we were able to start off this year with some solid feet under us,” Marlar explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “It’s definitely been a good start.”
An encouraging sign for the team is that even when they haven’t been at their best, they have still been good.
“There for a few weeks we were a little bit off our game but we were still having consistent finishes,” Marlar pointed out. “We got in a situation where I tore up one of my cars and was a little bit behind there, but even at our worst, we were able to maintain pace. Now we’ve got rebuilt again so hopefully if we keep everything in working order the rest of the summer we can really be strong. We’re definitely happy with running solid and being consistent.”
Being a native and resident of east Tennessee, Marlar will have a shorter distance to travel this weekend than many of his competitors. But the 40-year-old driver doesn’t necessarily think that will provide him a significant advantage.
“A lot of guys seem to feel more confident when they race closer to home but I really don’t feel any more or less confident because every track is different,” Marlar said. “Every night is a combination of reading the track, adjusting your car, and there’s always a certain amount of good or bad luck involved. It really doesn’t give me any extra boost of confidence. I feel like we could win either one or both, but I don’t feel like I have any special advantage going into it just because they’re close.”
This will be the first time 411 Motor Speedway has hosted a national touring series event. For that matter, there have not been an overwhelming number of Super Late Model shows of any kind on the 3/8 mile track that boasts a very solid weekly racing program it shares with its sister track, Volunteer Speedway.
411 is owned by Mitch and Tanya McCarter and run with the assistance of sons Pierce and Mack. The McCarter family leases Volunteer from longtime owners Joe and Phyllis Loven.
“It’s got pretty tight corners for the amount of speed you carry there and the direction change at the end of the straightaways is a little more abrupt than some places you go,” Marlar said in describing 411. “You’ve got to make a pretty sharp curve. As far as experience goes, I think I’ve run over there three or four times. I think it’s going to be a neutral zone for everybody because nobody has raced there a whole lot because it was asphalt for so long. It’s a unique deal and a little bit of a hard track to figure out. Hopefully we can do well but it’s not in anybody’s favor at this point.”
Most of those who will be in competition this weekend have raced previously at Volunteer Speedway. The 4/10 mile steeply-banked clay oval located just off I-81 between Knoxville and Bristol has hosted numerous big events throughout its history.
“It’s had a lot of different faces over the years,” Marlar explained of Volunteer. “Some of my favorite times there was when it was really slick because you could race top to bottom. And there’s been years where there was a lot of speed and a little roughness. I’m definitely hoping that it’s worked in nice and easy on equipment and smooth. Hopefully we can race top to bottom on it.”
Marlar has a mixed bag of memories regarding the Bulls Gap facility.
“I’ve went to Volunteer and had dominant performances and I’ve went there and was bad,” he said. “It’s a tough place to tame. And with all the banking and speed it’s a unique race track. It’s something that not everybody is going to be used to. I always look forward to going there and I’ve had a lot of good races there.”
Taking on new tracks while competing against top drivers is something Marlar truly enjoys. But at the same time, he also enjoys the day-to-day preparation that goes into the battles that take place on the weekends.
“That’s what keeps me hungry in racing,” the Winfield Warrior declared. “I strive to be the best or one of the best guys in the sport. It’s so competitive that every little thing has got to be right. I tell a lot of people, and they don’t realize this, but the last thing I think about is driving the race car. It’s something you’ve got to have the ability to do but that only matters when everything else is perfect. When you get everything right so you can win, then how you drive the car is just kind of a reaction to everything else.”
Racing on a weekly basis against drivers such as Chris Madden, Brandon Sheppard, Shane Clanton Rick Eckert, Brandon Overton and Devin Moran offers a tremendous challenge. And Marlar welcomes that challenge.
“With the talent pool there is in racing now, it’s unbelievable. That’s the thing I like the most about it. When I ran Modifieds we were doing good and winning races. We were racing with Jimmy Owens for a national points title the last year I ran and we were really on top of our game. But what I saw in Dirt Late Model racing was how tough it was and how big of a struggle it was for guys to be consistently good. There for a lot of years it was really, really tough and now that we’ve been doing it for a while we have a better feel for it. These are definitely the best guys in the country and any of them is capable of winning at any track.”