SARVER, Pa. (June 23) — Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., didn’t need much time to comprehend the strength of the car he had underneath him for Saturday’s 12th annual Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway.
“When we started the night I think we done a little different combination than everybody else,” Madden said of his Barry Wright Race Cars house car team. “And when we fired up (for the feature) and I was able to run the middle of the racetrack like I was, I knew, if nothing happened, we was gonna be the car to beat.”
Madden was, in fact, unbeatable. He roared off the pole position to dominate the century grind, brushing off some token mid-race pressure from Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, to drive away and capture the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series event’s $30,000 top prize for the first time in his career by a commanding straightaway-plus margin.
A 43-year-old star who sits atop the WoO points standings as he nears the midway point of his second season as a regular on the national tour, Madden was never challenged over the A-main’s final stretch of 30 uninterrupted circuits. He clinched his second WoO triumph of the three-day Firecracker 100 weekend and fourth overall of 2018 by 5.573 seconds over a late-charging Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.
Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, ceded the runner-up spot to Marlar on lap 91 but held on to finish third, giving the 21-year-old his first top-five run of the ’18 WoO campaign. Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, swapped second place several times with his good buddy Erb before settling for a fourth-place finish and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., completed the top five after reaching fifth place on lap 85.
Madden, who won his first-ever feature at Lernerville on Thursday night and finished third in Friday’s 30-lap preliminary A-main, entered the weekend’s finale with an unquestionable sense of confidence.
“I just had that feeling today that if I didn’t mess it up we really had a chance at winning this thing,” Madden said. “We were real good Thursday night and then we made some changes and tried some stuff (Friday) night and it really wasn’t that good, so we kind of backed up from where we was Thursday night and made some more adjustments to it. We really hit on something today that had some speed in it.”
Madden had a specific plan to reach the promised land, too. He was well aware that the 4/10-mile oval, which was swamped by a heavy downpour just before 4 p.m. but was still ready for hot laps to start on time at 6:50 p.m., had stacked up a thick cushion, but he had no intentions of testing that treacherous high side.
“It had a big rim around the top, and I told my guys before we went out, I said, ‘Look, I’m gonna work on our car to where we’re gonna be (running) three-quarters of the racetrack down and that’s the racetrack we’re gonna race on,’” Madden related. “So those other guys could have that rim, and if they beat us, they beat us.
“But man, we had an awesome race car. We could run the middle of the racetrack and cut left real good and hit the traction off the corners.”
In a race slowed by six caution flags — all coming during the first 70 laps — Madden’s only significant threat was briefly offered by Moran, who slid past Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., for second on lap six and, after trading some sliders with Erb at the one-third mark, began to chase down Madden. When Madden was hampered by heavy lapped traffic just after the halfway point, Moran erased a 2-second deficit to almost reach Madden’s rear bumper on lap 60.
But just as Moran, 23, was readying himself to make a bid for the lead with his Tye Twarog-owned XR1 Rocket, a caution flag flew on lap 65 when Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., slowed while running 10th. Moran never challenged Madden again because, he said, his car was better on longer runs. He lost second to Erb on the ensuing restart, regained it briefly on lap 70 and then relinquished it to Erb for good on the 72nd circuit.
Moran was eventually overtaken for third by Marlar on lap 85. The 2017 WoO Rookie of the Year then spent much of the remaining distance fighting off McDowell to claim a $6,000 fourth-place finish that was his third top-five outing in as many weekend outings.
The 40-year-old Marlar, meanwhile, came on strong after passing Moran, wrestling control of second from Erb with nine laps left. Without a caution to erase the straightaway-plus between him and Madden, however, the first-time WoO regular had no shot at the win.
“I went a little harder on right-rear tire, but I really had a good car the whole race,” said Marlar, who set fast time and earned a top-five finish in both preliminary programs. “I just couldn’t show it till the end. I was just in a lot of traffic and really nothing ever went my way. Every restart I’d be in the line that didn’t get a good take-off, and a lot of times I’d pass maybe two guys at one time and then there’d be a caution and I’d have to go back behind them.
“I had a good enough car. All I needed was some things to not go against me, and finally, when they quit going against me and everyone got spread out, then I could go. There, late in the race, the last 20 or 30 laps, it all went to where I wasn’t getting held up in bad positions.”
Did Marlar feel he was fast enough to deal with Madden in a one-on-one situation?
“You never know,” commented Marlar, who sits second in the WoO points standings. “I think I made some time up on him after I got to second. It seemed to me like I was catching him, but at the same time, he didn’t have a reason to be trying hard and I had a lot of reasons to be trying hard.
“But congratulations to him. They’re doing an awesome job and they’re fun to race with guys that are professional. We’re having a good time out here (on the road with the WoO).”
Marlar recorded a runner-up finish in the Firecracker 100 for the second consecutive year.
“I’ve got this $30,000,” he said of the Firecracker first-place check. “It’s just that it took me two times (a pair of $15,000 second-place runs) to do it up here.”
Erb was well satisfied with a third-place result.
“I was never gonna catch Madden — one-hundred percent, was never gonna catch him,” said Erb, who started eighth. “So I just rode once I got up there (to third), and then we caught lappers and Devin almost started racing with Madden. Then we had a caution and Devin messed up and picked the top and the bottom was just better so I slid him, and then we crossed each other and it was, like, haymakers, for what seemed like awhile after that.
“Once I got to second comfortably (late) I was just kind of riding. I knew I wasn’t catching Madden, not a chance, so I was just setting my own pace and seeing if anybody was gonna slide me. Then when Marlar got beside my tires were just giving up … I had 30s and they had harder stuff on, and I just was fading at the end.”
There was no drop-off in Madden’s performance, though. He kept up his assault at a track that fits him.
“We come up here one time, when I was in Scott’s (Bloomquist) cars, and run second to Scott and about won it,” Madden said, recalling the inaugural Firecracker 100 in 2007, one of his three previous appearances in the event’s feature. “I love slick places, I love kind of momentum places, and definitely this place has got some character to it.”
The victory continued Madden’s spectacular season behind the wheel of Barry Wright cars.
“It’s definitely a huge boost for us,” he said of his richest win since he earned $30,000 for capturing the 2007 National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, Ala. “We for sure don’t have the fundings behind us that a lot of teams have, so anytime we can come out of a weekend with a big paycheck like that it definitely helps out for the rest of the year.”
Notes: Madden’s triumph was his seventh overall of 2018 and the 19th of his career in WoO competition. … Early caution-causing spinners were Colton Flinner of Allison Park, Pa. (lap five) and Charles Powell Jr. of Brockville, Pa. (lap 38), who both twirled at the bottom of turn four. … Jared Miley of Pittsburgh, Pa., went over the the outside berm in turn three to draw a caution flag on lap 40. … Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., spun between turns one and two for a lap-69 yellow flag. … Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., climbed as high as fourth with a lap-67 move by Sheppard, but moments later he went over the backstretch’s berm and fell to seventh before a flat tire forced him to slow for a caution on lap 70 and pit to get a new shoe. He finished 12th. … Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who started 17th, relinquished sixth place during the lap-70 caution period to change a flat tire he sustained while battling with Sheppard. He rallied to salvage a seventh-place finish. … Morgan Bagley of Tyler, Texas, broke into the top 10 just after the halfway mark and proceed to run the inside lane all the way up to fourth place on lap 69 before he slipped back to eighth in the final rundown.
Firecracker 100 finish
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., Barry Wright, $30,000
2. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., Rocket, $15,000
3. Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket, $7,000
4. Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, Rocket, $6,000
5. Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., Sweet-Bloomquist, $5,000
6. Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., Rocket, $4,000
7. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., Capital, $3,000
8. Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, Rocket, $2,500
9. Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., Club 29, $2,250
10. Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., Rocket, $2,000
11. Rick Eckert (7), York, Pa., Rocket, $1,900
12. Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., Rocket, $1,800
13. Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., Longhorn, $1,600
14. Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., Rocket, $1,500
15. David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., Rocket, $1,500
16. Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., Rocket, $1,400
17. Charles Powell Jr. (94), Brookville, Pa., Longhorn, $1,300
18. Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., Kryptonite, $1,200
19. Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., Club 29, $1,100
20. Dan Stone (21d), Thompson, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
21. Jared Miley (10), Pittsburgh, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
22. Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., Rocket, $1,000
23. Jason Covert (72), York Haven, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
24. Alex Ferree (4), Saxonburg, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
25. Ken Schaltenbrand (29), Sarver, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
26. Gary Lyle (10L), Leachburg, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
Lap leader: Madden 1-100
Non-qualifiers’ race winner: Michael Maresca (7), Potsdam, N.Y.
Preliminary feature winners: Madden, Norris
Heat race winners (among 36 cars): Madden, Lanigan, Sheppard, Moran
Consolation race winners: Clanton, Miley
Provisional starters: Spencer, Stone, Schaltenbrand, Lyle
Lap 100: Madden cruises under the checkered flag first to win by 5.573 seconds over Marlar.
Lap 95: Madden working traffic with lead of over a straightaway on Marlar, who passed Erb for second on lap 91.
Lap 86: Marlar overtakes Moran for third ... McDowell to fifth by Sheppard.
Lap 80: Madden has extended lead to over 3 seconds on Erb; Moran, Marlar and Sheppard in a close battle for third, with McDowell up to sixth.
Lap 70: Seventh-place Satterlee stops in turn two for a caution and then pits; Madden still leads over Moran, who slid Erb on the restart to regain second; Erb is third, followed by Bagley, Sheppard, Marlar, McDowell, Norris, Junghans and Lanigan. Clanton was sixth but pitted during caution.
Lap 69: Chub Frank spins between turns one and two for a caution; Madden leads Erb, who slid by Moran on the previous restart; Moran sits third, followed by Bagley (charging from the rear after an earlier pit stop), Sheppard, Clanton, Satterlee, Marlar, McDowell and Junghans.
Lap 65: Caution flies for a slowing Lanigan, stopping a tight race for the lead through traffic with Madden and Moran. Erb sits third, followed by Sheppard, Satterlee, Clanton, Marlar, McDowell, Bagley and Norris; Lanigan pits and returns.
Lap 62: Moran catches Madden in lapped traffic.
Lap 50: Madden leads by half-straight over Moran, followed by Erb, Sheppard, Satterlee, Clanton, Marlar, Lanigan,
Lap 40: Caution for Miley sliding over turn four's outside berm; Madden leads Moran, Erb, Sheppard, Satterlee, Clanton, Marlar, Lanigan, McDowell and Norris.
Lap 38: Caution for Powell on inside of turn four; with Madden's 5-second edge wiped out, he leads Moran, Erb, Sheppard, Marlar, Satterlee, Lanigan, McDowell, Ferguson and Breazeale.
Lap 31: Madden has lead of over 3 seconds on Erb, who passed Moran for second on lap 27.
Lap 25: Madden in heavy lapped traffic leading Moran, Erb, Sheppard and Marlar; Erb and Sheppard exchanged second twice.
Lap 10: Madden 1-second lead over Moran, followed by Erb, Sheppard and Marlar.
Lap 5: First caution flies for Flinner, who spun to the inside of turn four; Madden leads Sheppard, Moran, Lanigan and Erb.
Lap 1: Madden leads over Sheppard and Moran.
10:35 p.m.: Engines have fired and the 26-car field is rolling for pace laps.
10:30 p.m.: Driver introductions are underway with all cars parked on the frontstretch.
Row 1: Chris Madden, Brandon Sheppard
Row 2: Devin Moran, Darrell Lanigan
Row 3: Mike Marlar, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Dale McDowell, Tyler Erb
Row 5: Chris Ferguson, Chub Frank
Row 6: Michael Norris, David Breazeale
Row 7: Alex Ferree, Rick Eckert
Row 8: Morgan Bagley, Brent Larson
Row 9: Shane Clanton, Jared Miley
Row 10: Chase Junghans, Charles Powell Jr.
Row 11: Colton Flinner, Jason Covert
Row 12: Blake Spencer, Dan Stone
Row 13: Ken Schaltenbrand, Gary Lyle
Uncle Sam 20 results
Finish: Michael Maresca ($3,000), Joe Petyak, Bump Hedman, Tommy Beck, John Weaver, Clay Ruffo, Justin Williams, Joey Moriarty, Dan Angelicchio (DNS) Matt Lux.
Uncle Sam 20 lineup
Row 1: Michael Maresca, Joey Moriarty
Row 2: Dan Angelicchio, Joe Petyak
Row 3: Justin Williams, John Weaver
Row 4: Bump Hedman, Clay Ruffo
Row 5: Tommy Beck, Matt Lux
First B-main finish (15 laps; top 3 transfer): Shane Clanton, Chase Junghans, Colton Flinner, Michael Maresca, Dan Angelicchio, Dan Stone, Justin Williams, Bump Hedman, Tommy Beck (DNS) Ken Schaltenbrand.
Second B-main finish (15 laps; top 3 transfer): Jared Miley, Charles Powell Jr., Jason Covert, Joey Moriarty, Joe Petyak, John Weaver, Blake Spencer, Clay Ruffo, Matt Lux, Gary Lyle.
(15 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Justin Williams, Shane Clanton
Row 2: Michael Maresca, Dan Stone
Row 3: Chase Junghans, Bump Hedman
Row 4: Colton Flinner, Dan Angelicchio
Row 5: Ken Schaltenbrand
Row 1: Charles Powell Jr., Matt Lux
Row 2: Joey Moriarty, Joe Petyak
Row 3: Jason Covert, Blake Spencer
Row 4: Clay Ruffo, John Weaver
Row 5: Gary Lyle, Jared Miley
Heat race notes
Shane Clanton had to restart at the rear of the second heat after slipping over the backstretch lip on lap three and coming to a stop. He fell one spot short of transferring. … A lap-four restart scramble that between turns one and two during the second heat that began with polesitter Michael Norris spinning around resulted in Dan Angelicchio rolling over lightly. He was uninjured in the incident, which also included Bump Hedman and Tommy Beck, and Norris went from leading the race to restarting fifth. … Hedman later slipped over the turn-two bank on lap nine and became stuck in the thick mud; a lengthy delay followed as a wrecker pulled Hedman’s car from the muck. … Dan Stone had trouble on a lap-four restart in Heat 2, coming to a stop in turn two after getting hung up in the heavy cushion. … When Jason Covert slid sideways in turn three on the second lap of Heat 3, Joey Moriarty and Gary Lyle had nowhere to go and piled in. Moriarty slid over the bank and got stuck in the mud while Lyle bounded down the hill and smacked the outer retaining wall hard, leaving him in need of a help from a tow truck’s winch to escape the slop. … Chub Frank and Rick Eckert exchanged pleasantries heading to the scales after Heat 3 following Frank’s door-rubbing pass of Eckert for third place late in the distance. … Devin Moran ducked underneath Gregg Satterlee rounding turns three and four on the final lap of the fourth heat to pull off a dramatic pass and emerge victorious by 0.178 of a second.
Heat race results
First heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Chris Madden, Mike Marlar, Chris Ferguson, Alex Ferree, Justin Williams, Michael Maresca, Chase Junghans, Colton Flinner, Ken Schaltenbrand.
Second heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Tyler Erb, Michael Norris, Morgan Bagley, Shane Clanton, Dan Stone, Bump Hedman, Dan Angelicchio, Tommy Beck.
Third heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Dale McDowell, Chub Frank, Rick Eckert, Charles Power Jr., Joey Moriarty, Jason Covert, Clay Ruffo, Gary Lyle.
Fourth heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Devin Moran, Gregg Satterlee, David Breazeale, Brent Larson, Matt Lux, Joe Petyak, Blake Spencer, John Weaver, Jared Miley.
The status of Saturday night’s Firecracker 100 finale appeared uncertain when heavy rain began to deluge Lernerville Speedway shortly before 3:45 p.m. and lasted for about a half-hour, but the skies almost immediately became sunny once the rain stopped. While streams of water ran through the pit area and parking lots, the racetrack was sealed up and drained off well; packer trucks and other equipment were soon able to hit the surface and it was run in to allow hot laps to start right on schedule at 6:50 p.m. The forecast for the remainder of the evening has improved considerably, raising hopes that the weekend will be completed. … Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., has his Club 29 machine ready for action after he took a hit from Jared Miley of Pittsburgh, Pa., when he came back onto the track over the turn-three berm on lap two of the feature. “I needed a new left-side door anyway,” Frank said. “I put a new right-side door on (for the weekend) and I haven’t even nicked it up yet … but the left side, I destroyed it.” … Michael Norris of Sarver, Pa., enjoyed a post-race celebration in the pit area with family and friends after his dramatic first-ever World of Outlaws triumph in Friday’s 30-lap preliminary A-main, but he didn’t stay up too late with tonight’s finale looming. He starts from the pole position in the second heat as he bids to make his third career Firecracker 100 feature start; his previous finishes are 26th in 2015 and ninth in ’17. … With three-time Firecracker 100 champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., ineligible to compete after being suspended by World Racing Group officials for failing to compete a random drug test on Friday night, former Firecracker 100 winners in the field are Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Rick Eckert of York, Pa.
Heat race lineups
(12 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Chris Madden, Mike Marlar
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Chase Junghans
Row 3: Alex Ferree, Justin Williams
Row 4: Michael Maresca, Colton Flinner
Row 5: Ken Schaltenbrand
Row 1: Michael Norris, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Shane Clanton, Darrell Lanigan
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Dan Angelicchio
Row 4: Tommy Beck, Dan Stone
Row 5: Bump Hedman
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Rick Eckert, Chub Frank
Row 3: Jason Covert, Charles Powell Jr.
Row 4: Joey Moriarty, Gary Lyle
Row 5: Clay Ruffo
Row 1: Devin Moran, David Breazeale
Row 2: Jared Miley, Gregg Satterlee
Row 3: Brent Larson, Blake Spencer
Row 4: Matt Lux, Joe Petyak
Row 5: John Weaver