Much has been made, and rightfully so, of the “Big-3” in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. have completely dominated that form of racing in 2018 by winning the majority of the races and holding the top spots in the standings. At the same time, however, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series is shaping up in a very similar way.
Drivers Mike Marlar, Chris Madden and Brandon Sheppard have separated themselves from the pack in terms of the 2018 point standings and have accounted for 18 wins in the 28 events contested on the WoO Late Models schedule so far. Devin Moran is the only other driver counted as one of the ten series regulars following the tour who has tallied victories this season.
Following the Monday night WoO Late Models feature race held at Plymouth Dirt Track in in Wisconsin, Marlar held a lead of a mere 14 points over Madden with Sheppard just 44 markers back. Moran is currently fourth in the standings, a full 220 points behind the leader. Certainly, this looks to be a three horse race as the season heads toward its final third.
Moran scored the biggest win of his career last weekend as he drove to victory in the Prairie Dirt Classic at the legendary Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois. The 23-year-old earned a $30,000 payday for his efforts but only made a minimal gain in the overall standings as Marlar, Sheppard and Madden crossed the finish line right behind him.
Even when they don’t win, the “Big-3” consistently finish high up on the leader board.
Marlar has picked up four WoO Late Models wins on the season but leads the standings by virtue of his 21 top-5 and remarkable 26 top-10 results. The Winfield, Tenn. driver, who does not have as many years on a national Late Model tour as most other competitors, has shown the ability to adapt to various track types and conditions throughout the year, as his statistics would indicate.
Madden, who finished second behind Sheppard in the 2017 WoO Late Models standings, has also piled up 21 top-5 finishes this season. Like Marlar, the Gray Court, SC driver has shown the ability to make the most of even his off nights as he has placed within the top-10 in an amazing total of 25 times in his 28 series starts. Further, the Barry Wright Race Cars house car driver has grabbed the winner’s trophy five times so far in 2018.
Sheppard has proven to be the most prolific winner among these three stars in 2018 as his Monday night triumph in Wisconsin was the ninth checkered flag he has added to his collection. Like both of his fellow “Big-3” members, the New Berlin, Ill. driver has finished in the top-5 a total of 21 times this season while also adding 23 top-10 results to his statistical numbers. The Rocket Chassis house car pilot has pocketed over $175,000 so far this year from this series.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is heading toward one of its biggest weekends of the season as the tour is set to roll into Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, WI for a $6,000-to-win feature on Thursday preceding the crown jewel USA Nationals on Saturday night that will dole out $50,000 to the winner.
No doubt, a large number of “outsiders” will enter the races at Cedar Lake but the top three in the WoO standings have shown the ability to stand up to these invaders when they have made the presence known. And each is almost certain to not only put up a fight against the other this weekend but also against every competitor for the prestige and the big payout that comes with Saturday’s main event.
Following the USA Nationals, there will be twelve feature races remaining on the WoO Late Models schedule. The championship fight between Mike Marlar, Chris Madden and Brandon Sheppard looks very much like it will not be settled until the final weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in early November.