The World of Outlaws Late Model Series took to the track on Friday night at the Cherokee Speedway for the first of a two-race weekend with a $10,000-to-win feature event. South Carolina driver Ross Bailes proved to be the big winner as he came away from the Gaffney, SC facility with the winner’s trophy and his first career win on the national touring series.
Chris Madden led the way in Group A qualifying with a lap of 14.923 seconds around the 4/10 mile clay oval to beat out Chris Ferguson, Brandon Sheppard, and Joey Coulter.
Ross Bailes was fastest in Group B qualifying and overall with a time of 14.843 to better the efforts of Josh Richards, Johnny Pursley, and Ricky Weiss.
Chris Madden won the first heat race of the night over Brandon Sheppard, Don O’Neal and Dennis Erb, Jr. while Chris Ferguson emerged victorious in the night’s second preliminary ahead of Jacob Hawkins, Joey Coulter, and Casey Roberts.
Ross Bailes took the third heat by besting Johnny Pursley, Trent Ivey, and Devin Moran just before Josh Richards took the checkered flag in the fourth and final heat ahead of Brandon Overton, Ricky Weiss, and Darrell Lanigan.
Donald Bradsher and Shane Clanton won the two Last Chance Showdown races used to set the remainder of the starting grid.
The WoO Late Models redraw placed Madden on the pole with Bailes, Richards, Ferguson, Sheppard, Pursley, Overton, and Hawkins set to follow him to the green flag.
At the start of the 50-lap feature it was Bailes who bolted to the lead with Madden, Richards, Ferguson and Sheppard in his tire tracks. The No. 87 Barry Wright Race Cars house cars immediately began to build a big lead only to see it erased by a lap 3 caution for a flat tire in the Michael Brown car.
On the ensuing restart, Richards made an attempt to get by Madden but found himself spinning at the exit of turn two. Joey Coulter and Trent Ivey would also be caught up in the incident.
As he would on each restart, Bailes jumped back out to a sizable advantage leaving Madden to give chase while Ferguson, Pursley and Sheppard fought over the remaining spots within the top-5. Sheppard moved by both Ferguson and Pursley on lap 7 to capture third and he immediately set about the task of chasing down Madden.
Bailes continued to lead through the race’s halfway point with Sheppard getting by Madden for the runner-up position on lap 17.
The second half of the feature would prove to be tough on tires as multiple yellow flags would wave with the likes of Lanigan, Clanton, Hawkins and Cade Dillard suffering deflation.
With Bailes and Sheppard established as the top-2 runners, the battles were behind them. Overton and O’Neal engaged in a slide job exchanging fight for third over the course of several laps just past halfway.
In the closing laps, Sheppard appeared poised to make a move for the lead as he closed to the rear spoiler of the Bailes machine. However, a lap 45 caution would prove untimely for the WoO Late Models points leader as he had to forfeit the momentum he had built up in preparation for a race winning pass.
Over the final five laps Bailes held off the advances of Sheppard and drove to the victory.
Feature Finish: 1. Ross Bailes, 2. Brandon Sheppard, 3. Don O’Neal, 4. Brandon Overton, 5. Chris Madden, 6. Dennis Erb, Jr., 7. Chris Ferguson, 8. Casey Roberts, 9. Chase Junghans, 10. Donald Bradsher, 11. Shane Clanton, 12. Ricky Weiss, 13. Darrell Lanigan, 14. Dustin Mitchell, 15. Boom Briggs, 16. Joey Coulter, 17. Cade Dillard, 18. Brent Larson, 19. Devin Moran, 20. Jacob Hawkins, 21. Johnny Pursley, 22. Adam Yarbrough, 23. Josh Richards, 24. Trent Ivey, 25. Michael Brown, 26. Brett Hamm, 27. Kyle Hardy
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