COLUMBUS, Miss. — After rallying from 13th to finish second in Friday’s Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 opener at Magnolia Motor Speedway, Dale McDowell said he needed to qualify a bit better if he wanted to increase his odds of winning. On Saturday the Chickamauga, Ga., driver did qualify slightly better — sixth in his group as opposed to 16th. And he did start the 70-lap feature in a slightly better spot — 11th rather than 13th.
McDowell’s feature result, as it turns out, was slightly better as well. Improving one position from Friday’s runner-up finish, McDowell capped a stellar weekend at the 3/8-mile Mississippi oval with his first career triumph in the annual event.
“We were a little tight,” said McDowell. “(Car owner and brother) Shane (McDowell) and them made some last-minute changes on the car so I could rotate the bottom there. (I) moved out last night and passed kinda in the middle. Tonight I kinda just stayed around the bottom … tried to take care of my tires and just be patient. That was the biggest thing.”
Working his way forward from the sixth row, McDowell caught and passed Austin Rettig of Sikeston, Mo., on lap 54 and led the final 16 laps for a $12,000 victory. The Hall of Famer had to hold off Rettig during a two-lap shootout following a late caution, but managed to keep him at bay. Rettig — who had paced the field for a dozen laps after driving by Cory Hedgecock of Loudon, Tenn., on lap 42 — settled for second, while Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., rallied from 20th to finish third. Fifth-starting Brian Rickman of Columbus, Miss., hung around the top five all night and registered a fourth-place finish while Dane Dacus of Lakeland, Tenn., marched forward from 21st to complete the top five.
McDowell, who was inside the top five by lap 10, had to wait his turn while four others spent time at the front of the pack. Friday winner Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., lead the first eight laps after starting from the pole position. He gave way to Cade Dillard on lap nine, but Dillard’s time out front was short-lived when he was forced pitside with mechanical problems on lap 14.
Ferguson led another lap before Hedgecock took over and led the next 27 circuits. Rettig, who started sixth, grabbed the lead on lap 42 and showed the way over the next 12 laps until he slipped up the track in turn two, allowing McDowell to get a solid run on the inside. McDowell drove alongside as they raced down the back stretch, taking a lead he’d never give up.
When the final cation came out with two laps remaining, McDowell had a comfortable advantage, but he knew that anything was possible over the final dash to the checkers.
“Really I thought dadgummit because I felt like that top … when you’re the leader, you really don’t know where to go, so I just ran my same line that I had been running,” McDowell said. “I moved out a little bit down the straightaways to carry a little momentum. But you’re a sitting duck if you’re the leader. If you go to the right place you’re OK, if you don’t, you’re not.
“And they’re gonna go where you aren’t most of the time. It just worked out for us tonight. The good Lord meant for it to be on our side tonight and we appreciate that.”
Though McDowell denied Rettig his first win of the season, the 24-year-old runner up wasn’t ready to use his bumper to get a victory.
“I really thought about it,” admitted Rettig during his post-race interview with Magnolia Motor Speedway Ben Shelton on the front stretch. “I thought man I could shove him up, but he’s such a good guy and he treats me well and clean racing … that’s just the way we want to do it. To be able to run with Dale McDowell here, that’s pretty awesome.”
While Moyer finished third for the second straight night, his path to another podium finish was much different. Rather than giving up two spots in the final two laps like he did in a disheartening defeat on Friday, Moyer charged around the outside to pass Rickman and Dacus on the final two laps Saturday. It completed a rally that started with a victory in the final consolation race.
“We’ll take it I guess,” said Moyer. “It was a lot of work tonight. We had some luck go our way there with a couple guys falling out in front of me or whatever … they wrecked or whatever.
“We had a pretty decent car. We’ll take it. (After) that B-main we didn’t get to work on nothing … barely got my tearoffs on to get ready for the race, so we didn’t get to tune on it like I would’ve like to. Anyway it all come out OK. Maybe we would’ve made the wrong moves on it anyway. So we’re happy with that.”
Notes: McDowell finished 0.123 seconds ahead of Rettig. … Fourteen cars were running at the finish, with 10 completing all 70 laps. … The two-day event drew 62 cars total for the two separate shows, with 57 competing each day. … Driver’s competing in Friday’s opener but not in attendance Saturday included David Doherty of Sydney, Australia; Brad Couch of Bossier City, La.; Mike Myers of Ruleville, Miss.; Ryan Carter of Blackshear, Ga.; and Craig Scott of Newnan, Ga. … Drivers joining Saturday’s program after missing Friday’s action included Jay Scott, Daniel Miller, Jadon Frame, Wayne Southernland and Mark Edwards. … Friday winner Chris Ferguson led early but eventually slipped out of contention and out of the top five. “We pinned the nose under the car a little bit, but we were really just way too tight,” said Ferguson. “I just couldn’t turn like I could last night.” … The race was slowed by five cautions: Tanner English slowed on lap 10; Cade Dillard slowed on lap 14; Jack Sullivan stopped in turn three on lap 14; Cory Hedgecock had left rear flat on lap 56; and Jared Landers slowed on lap 68.
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Tanner English
Row 2: Jason Hiett, Cade Dillard
Row 3: Brian Rickman, Austin Rettig
Row 4: Cory Hedgecock, Brandon Overton
Row 5: B.J. Robinson, Chris Wall
Row 6: Dale McDowell, Zach Leonhardi
Row 7: Jared Landers, Shanon Buckingham
Row 8: Timothy Culp, Jay Scott
Row 9: Michael Page, Josh Putnam
Row 10: Jack Sullivan, Billy Moyer
Row 11: Dane Dacus, Robbie Stuart
Row 12: Ashton Winger, Morgan Bagley
Consolation race results
First consolation (top two transfer): Jack Sullivan, Ashton Winger Hunter Rasdon, Billy Moyer Jr., Jadon Frame, Spencer Hughes, Vic Hill, Dwight Falcon, Shelby Sheedy, Daniel Miller, Jon Mitchell. Scratched: Scott Dedwylder, Mark Edwards, Michael Arnold.
Second consolation (top two transfer): Dane Dacus, Morgan Bagley, Eric Hickerson, Rick Rickman, Eric Cooley, Larry Harrod, Clay Fisher, Ray Cook, John Minon, Jason Croft, Mark Bangs. Scratched: Wayne Southerland, Brandon Brzozowski.
Third consolation (top two transfer): Billy Moyer, Robbie Stuart, Chad Thrash, Austin Smith, Manny Falcon, Jake Davis, Shay Knight, Dean Carpenter, Jamie Elam. Scratched: Lance Johnson, Keith House, Neil Baggett.
Consolation race lineups
(12 laps, top two transfer)
Row 1: Hunter Rasdon, Jon Mitchell
Row 2: Daniel Miller, Jack Sullivan
Row 3: Ashton Winger, Vic Hill
Row 4: Billy Moyer Jr., Dwight Falcon
Row 5: Jadon Frame, Shelby Sheedy
Row 6: Spencer Hughes, Michael Arnold
Row 7: Mark Edwards, Scott Dedwylder
Row 1: Dane Dacus, Eric Cooley
Row 2: Morgan Bagley, Rick Rickman
Row 3: Eric Hickerson, Larry Harrod
Row 4: Clay Fisher, Jason Croft
Row 5: John Minon, Brandon Brzozowski
Row 6: Mark Bangs, Ray Cook
Row 7: Wayne Southerland
Row 1: Robbie Stuart, Jake Davis
Row 2: Austin Smith, Shay Knight
Row 3: Billy Moyer, Lance Johnson
Row 4: Dean Carpenter, Jamie Elam
Row 5: Manny Falcon, Chad Thrash
Row 6: Neil Baggett, Keith House
Heat race results
First heat (top three transfer): Chris Ferguson, Cory Hedgecock, Jared Landers, Hunter Rasdon, Daniel Miller, Ashton Winger, Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Frame, Spencer Hughes. Scratched: Mark Edwards.
Second heat (top three transfer): Jason Hiett, B.J. Robinson, Timothy Culp, Jon Mitchell, Jack Sullivan, Vic Hill, Dwight Falcon, Shelby Sheedy, Michael Arnold. Scratched: Scott Dedwylder.
Third heat (top three transfer): Brian Rickman, Dale McDowell, Michael Page, Dane Dacus, Morgan Bagley, Eric Hickerson, Clay Fisher, John Minon, Mark Bangs.
Fourth heat (top three transfer): Tanner English, Brandon Overton, Shanon Buckingham, Eric Cooley, Rick Rickman, Larry Harrod, Jason Croft, Brandon Brzozowski. Scratched: Ray Cook, Wayne Southernland.
Fifth heat (top three transfer): Cade Dillard, Chris Wall, Jay Scott, Robbie Stuart, Austin Smith, Billy Moyer, Dean Carpenter, Manny Falcon, Neil Baggett.
Sixth heat (top three transfer): Austin Rettig, Zach Leonhardi, Josh Putnam, Jake Davis, Shay Knight, Lance Johnson, Jamie Elam, Chad Thrash, Keith House.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps, top three transfer)
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Jared Landers
Row 2: Ashton Winger, Daniel Miller
Row 3: Billy Moyer Jr., Hunter Rasdon
Row 4: Spencer Hughes, Cory Hedgecock
Row 5: Jadon Frame, Mark Edward
Row 1: Jason Hiett, Timothy Culp
Row 2: Jon Mitchell, Michael Arnold
Row 3: B.J. Robinson, Scott Dedwylder
Row 4: Jack Sullivan, Vic Hill
Row 5: Shelby Sheedy, Dwight Falcon
Row 1: Brian Rickman, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Michael Page, Morgan Bagley
Row 3: Dane Dacus, Eric Hickerson
Row 4: John Minon, Clay Fisher
Row 5: Mark Bangs
Row 1: Tanner English, Rick Rickman
Row 2: Brandon Overton, Eric Cooley
Row 3: Larry Harrod, Jason Croft
Row 4: Shanon Buckingham, Ray Cook
Row 5: Brandon Brzozowski, Wayne Sutherland
Row 1: Cade Dillard, Robbie Stuart
Row 2: Jay Scott, Chris Wall
Row 3: Dean Carpenter, Billy Moyer
Row 4: Manny Falcon, Neil Baggett
Row 5: Austin Smith
Row 1: Josh Putnam, Austin Rettig
Row 2: Zach Leonhardi, Jake Davis
Row 3: Shay Knight, Jamie Elam
Row 4: Chad Thrash, Keith House
Row 5: Lance Johnson
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Chris Ferguson (22F), Mount. Holly, N.C., 13.362
Jason Hiett (1H), Oxford, Ala., 13.401
Brian Rickman (90), Columbus, Miss., 13.508
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 13.618
Timothy Culp (c8), Pratville, Ark., 13.621
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 13.658
Ashton Winger (12), Senoia, Ga., 13.701
Jon Mitchell (5), Texarkana, Texas, 13.715
Michael Page (18X), Douglasville, Ga., 13.810
Daniel Miller (16), Lynchburg, Tenn., 13.811
Michael Arnold (4), Hattiesburg, Miss., 13.871
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 13.920
B.J. Robinson (1), Bossier City, La., 13.921
Morgan Bagley (14M), Longview, Texas, 13.913
Dane Dacus (54), Lakeland, Tenn., 13.950
Hunter Rasdon (5R), Jonesboro, Ark., 13.952
Scott Dedwylder (33D), Vossburg, Miss., 13.986
Eric Hickerson (98), Linden, Tenn., 14.003
Spencer Hughes (10), Meridian, Miss., 14.024
Jack Sullivan (18) Greenbrier, Ark., 14.068
John Minon (74), Adams, Tenn., 14.068
Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., 14.159
Vic Hill (1v), Moshiem, Tenn., 14.182
Clay Fisher (99), Dewitt, Ark., 14.279
Jadon Frame (8), Winchester, Tenn., 14.321
Dwight Falcon (F4), Pine Grove, La., 14.380
Shelby Sheedy (G4), French Camp, Miss., 14.382
Mark Bangs (376), Canoe Creek, Ala., 14.981
Mark Edwards (100), Greenville, Miss., N/T
Tanner English (22E), Benton, Ky., 13.820
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 13.903
Josh Putnam (212), Florence, Ala., 13.933
Rick Rickman (86R), Columbus, Miss., 14.001
Robbie Stuart (6R), Deridder, La., 14.077
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 14.107
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 14.140
Jay Scott (J27), Fayetteville, Tenn., 14.158
Zach Leonhardi (24), Cartersville, Ga., 14.219
Eric Cooley (33), Fulton, Miss., 14.235
Chris Wall (71), Holden, La., 14.261
Jake Davis (7D), Hackett, Ark., 14.268
Larry Harrod (27), Plains, Ga., 14.303
Dean Carpenter (51), Coldwater, Miss., 14.303
Shay Knight (3), Columbus, Miss., 14.311
Jason Croft (9), Woodstock, Ga., 14.364
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.376
Jamie Elam (80), Sanitobia, Miss., 14.544
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 14.546
Manny Falcon (995), Pine Grove, La., 14.589
Chad Thrash (1C), Meridian, Miss., 14.778
Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., 14.827
Neil Baggett (21xxx), Columbus, Miss., 14.862
Keith House (22), Monroeville, Ala., 14.914
Brandon Brzozowski (104), San Antonio, Texas, 14.985
Austin Smith (84), Rome, Ga., 14.990
Lance Johnson (67), Columbus, Miss., 15.114
Wayne Southernland (4s), Haleyville, Ala., 15.618
Noon: Annual Carl Hanson BBQ
2 p.m.: Pit gates open
3 p.m.: Grandstands open
4 p.m.: Autograph session on souvenir row
5 p.m.: Driver’s meeting
5:30 p.m.: Premier Ford Hay Ride for the kids
6 p.m.: Hot laps/Racing
-B-mains for support divisions (as necessary)
-Complete Super Late Model program
-Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 finale (70 laps)