VADO, N.M. — Garrett Alberson was crushed after falling from first to third in the final laps of Sunday's Wild West Shootout presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts event at Vado Speedway Park.
The Las Cruces, N.M., driver's emotions swung 180 degrees Wednesday when he flipped the script, going from third to first on the final lap when frontrunners Mike Marlar and Bobby Pierce tangled in turn three.
Alberson swept around Pierce's spinning car and edged Marlar at the line by 0.101 of a second to top the polesitter and race-long leader for a $5,000 victory, Alberson's first-ever on the miniseries.
"I could not have scripted it any better, to do it in front of my hometown," Alberson said in victory lane after his dramatic victory. "It's going to take a while to sink in. This is really cool."
Marlar, the 2018 miniseries winner, couldn't regain enough momentum after his side-by-side collision with Pierce to hold off Alberson and settled for second ahead of sixth-starting Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas. Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. — the winner of Saturday's and Sunday's features — rounded out the top five while Oakwood, Ill.'s Pierce ended up sixth after starting 10th.
Sheppard's first loss of the miniseries halts his quest of the Penske Racing Shocks $300,000 Paydirt Jackpot. He's still in line for $100,000 from the bonus program if he can win five features while he or Alberson can pocket $25,000 by sweeping the final three events beginning Friday.
Alberson, now an Iowa resident who races for Roberts Motorsports, popped the event's trademark black cowboy hat on his head and fired the six shooters for not the richest, but surely one of the most satisfying victories of his career.
"I've been waiting to wear that (hat) for a long time. Sometimes you've just gotta get what you can get," the 32-year-old Alberson said. "Bobby was really good and him and Marlar were getting after it. I was a little tight on that cushion, but something told me not to give. Sometimes you've just gotta be there at the end."
Alberson felt strong the first 10 laps and regained the second spot from Pearson on the 14th lap, but Pierce went by on lap 22 and Alberson was a half-straightaway behind the leaders when the white flag appeared.
"(Marlar) and Bobby had kind of started to get away, and I was really couldn't do a whole lot on that cushion any more," Alberson said. "Then they both dropped to the bottom to get by them lapped cars, and I was like, 'I don't know if it's going to work out, but I'm going to sail it in there one more time.' And all the sudden Bobby's around backwards and it's just like get all you can get, and it worked out right there at the line."
Marlar led mostly comfortable throughout the race, but Pierce cut his lead to less than three-tenths of a second with four laps remaining. When the low-running Marlar didn't exit turn two well on the final lap, Pierce raced to the outside on the frontstretch to edge ahead with lapped cars ahead.
With the slower Jake Timm on the outside entering turn three side-by-side with fellow backmarker Steve Stultz, Pierce dove low in turn three with Marlar doing the same. The cars slapped together and Pierce lost control while Marlar's car nearly got sideways before he was able to gather his car up and head for the checkers.
"I heard Bobby coming around me down the backstraightaway there and I knew he was going be trying to, you know, trying to slide across my nose getting into the corner, and I just didn't let him do it," Marlar said, unhappy with Pierce's postrace reaction of flipping him off and calling the sixth-place finisher a "whiner."
Marlar said his car "was pretty good all night long, but you know what? Obviously Garrett did a little better job than all of us."
Pierce said he was trying to beat Marlar to the best part of the racetrack.
“That corner was so slick getting in with a little tiny mud line around the bottom and he flew in there to kinda try to get there before I got there. But I was there … I was getting there before him," he said. "Things happen in split-second decisions, so it’s hard to say, but obviously I wouldn’t have spun out if he didn’t hit me. That’s just racing and it’s going for the win on the final lap, so in a way I applaud him for going for it, but I feel like I was kinda there.”
A single lap-11 caution slowed the action when Jeff Schildmeyer spun in turn two.
The miniseries takes its final day off Thursday before returning to action Friday with another $5,000-to-win event. Saturday's program is also highlighted by a $5,000-to-win Super Late Model event with Sunday's $25,000-to-win finale wrapping up the action.
Row 1: Mike Marlar, Garrett Alberson
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Jason Papich
Row 3: Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Rusty Schlenk
Row 5: Johnny Scott, Bob Pierce
Row 6: Mason Oberkramer, Don Shaw
Row 7: Stormy Scott, Donny Schatz
Row 8: Terry Phillips, Jake Timm
Row 9: Kyle Beard, Rodney Sanders
Row 10: Jeff Schildmeyer, Jason Miles
Row 11: Terry Carter, Dustin Walker
Row 12: Thomas Hunziker, Steve Stultz
Results (top six transfer): Jeff Schildmeyer, Jason Miles, Terry Carter, Dustin Walker, Thomas Hunziker, Steve Stultz, Clayton Holland, Deven Brown, John David Duffie.
(Eight laps; top six transfer)
First heat: Garrett Alberson, Jason Papich, Ricky Weiss, Bobby Pierce, Stormy Scott, Jake Timm, Jeff Schildmeyer, Terry Carter, Steve Stultz.
Second heat: Mike Marlar, Brandon Sheppard, Rusty Schlenk, Mason Oberkramer, Donny Schatz, Kyle Beard, Dustin Walker, Thomas Hunzicker, Deven Brown.
Third heat: Earl Pearson Jr., Tyler Erb, Johnny Scott, Don Shaw, Terry Phillips, Rodney Sanders, Jason Miles, Clayton Holland, John David Duffie.
And just like that, the weather has shifted again here at Vado. After Sunday's cold and windy conditions, Wednesday’s weather was much more spring-like, with no rain in sight, light winds and temperatures hovering in the low 50s as time trials conclude. … With a few departures from the weekend’s Saturday-Sunday programs, the car count has dipped to 27. Among the departures: Cade Dillard of Robeline, La.; Javier Zapien Jr., El Paso, Texas; Kent Rosevear of Yuma, Ariz.; Matthew Ratzlaff of Monte Vista, Colo., Austin Kirkpatrick of Ocala, Fla.; and Devan Smith of Las Cruces, N.M. … Dillard announced Monday per his Facebook page that he was foregoing the remainder of the miniseries after testing positive for Covid-19. … Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, has his machine repaired after a fan went through the radiator on Sunday, ending his stellar fourth-place run. … For the race in as many nights, Las Cruces, N.M., native Garrett Alberson recorded the overall fastest qualifying lap of 14.665 seconds in his Roberts Motorsports machine.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.665
Don Shaw (42S), Ham Lake, Minn., 14.897
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 14.899
Jason Papich (91P), Nipomo, Calif., 14.948
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 14.953
Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.004
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.010
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio, 15.025
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.042
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 15.086
Mason Oberkramer (93), Broseley, Mo., 15.088
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.140
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.155
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 15.197
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 15.288
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 15.325
Dustin Walker (14w), Polk, Mo., 15.415
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 15.440
Terry Carter (6T), Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, 15.478
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 15.486
Jason Miles (503), Greenwood, Ark., 15.511
Jeff Schildmeyer (19), Las Vegas, N.V., 15.527
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., m15.542
Clayton Holland (71), Forney, Texas, 15.586
Steve Stultz (78s), Peoria, Ariz., 15.859
Deven Brown (18), Coquille, Ore., 16.500
John David Duffie (42), White City, Ore., 16.512
2 p.m.: Pits open
3:30 p.m.: Drivers' meeting
4 p.m.: Grandstands open
4:30 p.m.: Hot laps/time trials
- Late Models
5:55 p.m.: National anthem
6 p.m.: Competition begins
- X-mods (8 laps)
- Modifieds (8 or 10 laps)
- Late Models (8 laps)
- X-mods (10 laps)
- Modifieds (10 laps)
- Late Models (10 laps)
- Late Models (30 laps)
- X-Mods (20 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)