CLEVELAND, Tenn. (Nov. 21) — Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., needed a bare minimum of words to make his feelings clear after winning Saturday night’s 77-lap Southern Nationals Bonus Series-sanctioned Gobbler event at Cleveland Speedway.
“It’s just been really amazing,” the 40-year-old Madden said after his continuing his torrid late-season surge since returning from a three-month summer break from racing. “That’s just about all I can say about it.”
The flag-to-flag Gobbler victory worth $10,000 was the latest in a string of success for Madden, who returned from an extended layoff with a new Longhorn Race Car on Sept. 6 and hasn’t looked back. He’s made 15 starts and rung up six wins, 12 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in just two-and-a-half months of competition.
“I’ve been very blessed to just have the success that I’ve had coming back,” said Madden, whose first-place earnings during his hot streak total $65,000.
Saturday night’s score might have been one of Madden’s most dominant performances. He roared off his outside-pole starting spot to grab the lead from polesitter Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., at the initial green flag of the feature and never faltered thereafter, controlling the action from start-to-finish on a track that took rubber and developed one primary groove.
McDowell, 49, chased Madden throughout the distance but was unable to offer a serious challenge. The driver of the Team Dillon Racing Warrior settled for a runner-up finish, duplicating his second-place effort to Madden in the Nov. 14 Southern National Bonus Series event at Boyd’s Speedway, the Ringgold, Ga., track that McDowell co-promotes.
Fourth-starter Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., picked off one spot early in the race and followed McDowell the rest of the way to finish third. World of Outlaws Late Model Series regular Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., placed fourth after starting third while Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., improved two spots to finish fifth.
Madden felt fortunate that he was well positioned at the start of the headliner to take advantage of the conditions.
“They tried hard with the racetrack to give us a racing surface to race on,” said Madden, who recorded his third win in the last four Southern Nationals Bonus Series events run over the past six weeks. “The thing just kind of got one-lane there and we was in the right position on the start to get the position. That’s just the way it fell tonight.
“But Dale and those guys, you never count ‘em out even though it’s rubbered up and one-lane. You never count those guys out until the checkered flag falls.”
McDowell acknowledged that the initial green flag was the key to the race, which was slowed by just a single caution flag on lap 62.
“When we redrew (for starting position among heat winners), we may have needed that outside line,” said McDowell, who raced at a track located about 45 minutes northeast of his Georgia home. “The outside was better tonight when the bottom left.”
Nevertheless, McDowell’s hopes of staying close enough to Madden to seize on any stumble by the leader were hampered by tire wear.
“Right there at the last we lost tire,” McDowell said. “Me and Randy (Weaver) lost a little bit more tire than Chris did. We just slicked our tire and kind of got in line and rode.”
The 46-year-old Weaver, meanwhile, simply found himself behind two strong rivals with little racetrack left to battle them.
“I think we had as good a car as Chris in the race but the racetrack kind of dictated that (third-place finish),” said Weaver, who closed out a satisfying campaign in which he won 12 times in 28 starts. “This time of year you never know what you’re gonna get (with the track surface), but at least we got to race one more time this year.”
Madden was certainly happy to have another chance to extend his hot streak before settling down for the winter.
“We’re gonna try to look for some more races for next weekend,” Madden said with a sly smile.
Preliminary lineups and results:
Row 1: Dale McDowell, Chris Madden
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Randy Weaver
Row 3: Jimmy Owens, Billy Ogle Jr.
Row 4: Mike Marlar, Jason Hiett
Row 5: Aaron Ridley, Riley Hickman
Row 6: Derek Ellis, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 7: Ray Cook, Todd Morrow
Row 8: Bryan Rowland, Cory Hedgecock
Row 9: Donald McIntosh, Shawn Chastain
Row 10: Mack McCarter, Tommy Bailey
Row 11: David Payne, Skip Arp
(15 laps; top five transfer)
Row 1: David Payne, Cory Hedgecock
Row 2: Donald McIntosh, Mack McCarter
Row 3: Shawn Chastain, Ross Bailes
Row 4: Austin Horton, David Doherty
Row 5: Tommy Bailey, Caleb Ashby
Row 6: Kurt English, Skylar Marlar
Row 7: Brian Ligon, Jason Welshan
Row 8: Skip Arp
Friday’s heat results
(15 laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Dale McDowell, Randy Weaver, Mike Marlar, Riley Hickman, Ray Cook, David Payne, Mack McCarter, Austin Horton, Caleb Ashby, Brian Ligon.
Second heat: Chris Madden, Jimmy Owens, Jason Hiett, Derek Ellis, Todd Morrow, Cory Hedgecock, Shawn Chastain, David Doherty, Kurt English. Scratched: Jason Welshan.
Third heat: Chase Junghans, Billy Ogle Jr., Aaron Ridley, Billy Moyer Jr., Bryan Rowland, Donald McIntosh, Ross Bailes, Tommy Bailey, Skylar Marlar. Scratched: Skip Arp.
Friday’s time trials
1. Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 13.893
2. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.028
3. Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 14.050
4. Randy Weaver (116), Crossville, Tenn., 14.113
5. Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 14.117
6. Billy Ogle Jr. (201), Knoxville, Tenn., 14.119
7. Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., 14.121
8. Jason Hiett (1), Oxford, Ala., 14.215
9. Aaron Ridley (81), Chatsworth, Ga., 14.229
10. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 14.272
11. Derek Ellis (99), Chatsworth, Ga., 14.283
12. Bryan Rowland (20x), Woodward, Ok., 14.310
13. David Payne (8) Murphy, N.C., 14.363
14. Shawn Chastain (x15), Murphy, N.C., 14.369
15. Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 14.380
16. Riley Hickman (R1), Ooltewah, Tenn., 14.397
17. Todd Morrow (T1), East Ridge, Tenn., 14.441
18. Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 14.456
19. Mack McCarter (51), Gatlinburg, Tenn., 14.467
20. Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., 14.476
21. Ross Bailes (5), Clover, S.C., 14.576
22. Austin Horton (16), Newnan, Ga., 14.629
23. David Doherty (25), Sydney, Australia, 14.631
24. Skylar Marlar (11) Winfield, Tenn., 14.669
25. Brian Ligon (4), Augusta, Ga., 14.731
26. Kurt English (17), Murphy, N.C., 14.836
27. Tommy Bailey (11), Corbin, Ky., 14.931
28. Caleb Ashby (61), Cunningham, Tenn., 14.938
29. Jason Welshan (29), Maryville, Tenn., no time
30. Skip Arp (1), Georgetown, Tenn., no time