MERIDIAN, Miss. — Devin Moran’s first two appearances at Whynot Motorsports Park this season didn’t go all that well.
In fact, in three career appearances at the 3/8-mile Mississippi oval with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series, Moran’s average finish is a paltry 21st place. That includes lackluster efforts during of 26th and 22nd back in April.
On Saturday, the Dresden, Ohio, native turned that around in grand fashion. Taking the lead for good on lap 78, the 11th-starting Moran turned back fierce challenges from Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., and Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., to win the 24th annual Coors Light Fall Classic. Making a guest appearance in sponsor Tommy Pope’s Longhorn Chassis, Moran earned $15,000 for his effort in the unsanctioned event.
“I really wasn’t expecting this. We only race this car every once in a great while and it was awesome tonight,” Moran said in victory lane. “This place is pretty awesome. I usually suck here. I’ve been here three other times and I’ve got lapped two of the three and fell out the other one. I didn’t really have high expectations for this place. We just put our best package together and it was pretty awesome. It’s cool to come down here and race against guys we never get to race against on a track we don’t get to race very often. These guys down here are the real deal, so to come out on top … I’ve just got to thank Tommy Pope so much for everything he’s done for us.”
Marching forward after starting 23rd, Overton slipped by Pearson with two laps remaining to grab the runner-up spot, while Pearson, who led 22 laps, settled for the final position on the podium in his first-ever visit to Whynot. Two-time Fall Classic winner David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., and Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, who led 31 laps, rounded out the top five in a race that had five leaders and nine lead changes.
“I’ve got to thank all these fans for coming out, I know it was chilly and it was a long day, but these guys put a heck of a track together for us,” Moran added. “For what we had last night, I did not expect it to be like this. If you don’t like that, then you don’t like racing, I’ll tell you that.”
It was a dandy race on a long day in Mississippi. Qualifying and heats were originally scheduled for Friday night, but thanks to more than 2 inches of rain that saturated the area Thursday and into Friday morning, drivers had to deal with a terribly rough track on Friday night. The treacherous conditions promoted track officials to push Friday’s heats to Saturday afternoon, setting up a nine-hour marathon.
Moran had no problem pacing himself though. Methodically working his way to the front after starting 11th, Moran watched as Billy Moyer Jr., Tyler Erb and Pearson took turns leading the pack. Finally, after six lead changes in the first 74 laps, it was Moran’s turn. He slid ahead of Pearson, who led on three different occasions, on lap 75.
Overton briefly wrestled the lead away on lap 77 — the only circuit he led — but Moran shot right back ahead on lap 78 and never trailed again.
“The last restart when I started on the bottom, that hurt me more than anything,” said Overton. “If I could have started on the top, I think I would’ve been fine. I kinda found that middle down there in (turns) three and four. That was working good for me. But Devin would swing so far out on his run that it kinda messed me up. Like right there at the end, Earl was dead in the bottom and I think Devin was going to the bottom a little bit and I started running them back down. I didn’t think I was out of it until it was over.”
Overton was among a number of drivers who made multiple pit stops throughout the century grind.
“On a restart as soon as we went back green my car felt perfect. It would run like hell for two or three laps and then … like when I slid Devin. You go blasting through that black and your wheels are spinning, the tires get hot and the car slows down,” Overton said. “When I slid him, we got hung (together). Looking back I probably should’ve expected him to slide me back and just turned under him and I probably would’ve been fine. He had me hooked almost into the wall and I thought he was on the outside. And then he kinda backed off and got under me. You don’t really know what to do. You’re just driving. All in all, to go to the back twice and still run second, you can’t really beat that.”
After taking the lead on lap 33, Pearson controlled the middle stages of the race, save for a handful of cautions that allowed his pursuers on softer tires to battle back ahead on restarts. The race was slowed by six cautions, including a costly one for Pearson on lap 85. He’d just beaten Moran across the line when a yellow appeared for a slowing Moyer Jr., negating the pass.
“The first part of (the race), we were just kinda riding along, making our laps,” said Pearson. “That top was just way out there against the wall, so I was just riding around the bottom. It was good there. On the restarts, some of them guys could pass me, but they would get their tires so hot because they would run their soft tires in the black and they would start giving up and that’s when I could drive back by them.
“We didn’t need no cautions. I knew once that Moran kid got in front of me we were in trouble because he was running right around the bottom too. He done a good job. The last 20 laps there we married ourselves to the bottom. I tried the top a couple of laps and it was no good. He was still driving away. The 76 car (Brandon Overton) got by me there late. You know the bottom just got so slow. All in all, it was a good weekend for us … the first time we’d ever been here, so it was pretty good for us.”
Moyer Jr., who won a World of Outlaws main event at Whynot on April 21, looked stout early as he led the first 21 laps from the pole. He raced out to a straightaway advantage by lap eight before the third-starting Erb took over with an outside pass in turn four. Erb led a race-high 31 laps, pacing the field three different times between laps 22 and lap 70 before pitting on lap 73 for a fresh left rear tire. He restarted 12th and rallied back into the top five, but was never in contention to win again.
Notes: Devin Moran became the 10th different winner in the last Coors Light Fall Classics. … There were five different leaders and nine lead changes: Billy Moyer Jr. (1-21); Tyler Erb (22-32, 37-40, 55-70); Earl Pearson Jr. (33-36, 41-54, 71-74); Devin Moran (75-76, 78-100) and Brandon Overton (77). … Overton finished second for the second year in a row. … 2017 Fall Classic fast qualifier and third-place finisher Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., ran in the top 10 through the first third of the race before retiring with fuel pressure issues. … Dane Dacus of Lakeland, Tenn., lowered his own track record during time trials. ... 2017 winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., didn’t return to defend his victory. … The 2018 Fall Classic drew one more entry than the ’17 version, yet there were 20 drivers who attended last season who were not in attendance this year. … Battling a rough race track due to heavy rains on Thursday, officials opted to halt Friday’s program after qualifying was complete and push heats to Saturday afternoon. … The Fall Classic has been held at three different venues: Whynot (1995-98; 2006-present), Queen City Speedway on the west side of Meridian (1999-’04) and Jackson (Miss.) Motor Speedway (’05). … There are five two-time winners: David Breazeale, Brian Birkhofer, Don O’Neal, Jim McDuffie and Mike Boland. … Birkhofer, the only driver to win twice at the current Whynot Motorsports Park, finished 23rd. … O’Neal won at Queen City (’01) and Whynot (’12); Breazeale won at Jackson (’05) and Whynot (’16); McDuffie won at Queen City in 1999 and ‘03; and Boland won at the old Whynot Speedway (’98) and Queen City (’04).
Preliminary notes and results
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Neil Baggett
Row 2: Tyler Erb, Chase Junghans
Row 3: Dane Dacus, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 4: David Breazeale, Brent Larson
Row 5: Dennis Erb, Billy Moyer
Row 6: Devin Moran, Rick Rickman
Row 7: Jason Papich, Timothy Culp
Row 8: Morgan Bagley, Manny Falcon
Row 9: Jason Hiett, Brian Birkhofer
Row 10: Chris Wall, Colton Horner
Row 11: Eric Cooley, Hunter Rasdon
Row 12: Brandon Overton, Gavin Landers
After Mother Nature threw a curveball at the 24th annual Coors Light Fall Classic on Thursday and Friday, Saturday was a bit more idyllic with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. … The remainder of Friday’s program was wrapped up around 6:30 p.m. Saturday and after some additional track prep Saturday’s first consolation race hit the track at 8:30 p.m. Officials made the call for the feature at 9:20 p.m. … Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., was among a handful of drivers eliminated in a six-car crash on the first lap of the first consolation race. McDowell, Jason Fitzgerald, Chad Thrash and Derrick Nichols couldn’t continue after the wreck, while Brian Rickman made a couple laps and pulled in. … Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., broke the yoke on his car’s transmission as the first heat rolled to the green Saturday. His Billy Franklin-backed team made repairs and Overton started last in his consolation race. He took advantage of the big pileup on the opening lap to move into a transfer position and then held off Spencer Hughes for the final spot. … No driver improved from qualifying to the end of the heats more than Brent Larson, The Lake Elmo, Minn., native qualified 13th in his group and started seventh in his heat before rallying to finish second to earn a transfer spot. … During Friday’s qualifying, Chad Thrash of Meridian, Miss., damaged the bumper and nosepiece on his No. 1C on the second lap. Thrash’s time of 12.784 seconds was good enough for ninth in the second group, but with his front bumper dragging the ground, Thrash drove his mangled machine directly to his pit area rather than cross the scales. As a result, his time was disallowed and Thrash had to start last in his heat instead of fifth. His weekend never improved as he was one of the six drivers caught up in the wreck in the consolation race. … Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., who was scheduled to start third in the first heat, took advantage of Overton’s misfortune and moved up the front row. He parlayed that into a heat victory, thus earning the pole for the 100-lap main event. Moyer was among those who was happy to see an improved track on Saturday. “I was gonna be a spectator last night,” said Moyer Jr., who planned to load up his car Friday rather than compete on the rugged track. “I’m not sure what kind of track we’ll have in the feature, but this place is usually one of the best tracks in the country when it’s good.” … Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, easily won his heat. He said the track was “definitely smoother.” … A pair of two-time Fall Classic winners — David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., and Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, are in the 24-car starting grid. … Chris Wall of Holden, La., is the only other former Fall Classic winner in the field.
First consolation (top four transfer): Jason Hiett, Chris Wall, Eric Cooley, Brandon Overton, Spencer Hughes, Scott Abraham, Billy Franklin, Brian Rickman, Dale McDowell, Chad Thrash, Jason Fitzgerald, Derrick Nichols.
Second consolation (top four transfer): Brian Birkhofer, Colton Horner, Hunter Rasdon, Gavin Landers, Dwight Falcon, Clay Fisher, Brady Walton, Robbie Stuart. Scratched: Michael Arnold, Mark Dodson, Chris Reid.
(Top four transfer)
Row 1: Jason Hiett, Brian Rickman
Row 2: Eric Cooley, Chris Wall
Row 3: Dale McDowell, Chad Thrash
Row 4: Spencer Hughes, Jason Fitzgerald
Row 5: Scott Abraham, Derrick Nichols
Row 6: Billy Franklin
Row 1: Brian Birkhofer, Clay Fisher
Row 2: Colton Horner, Gavin Landers
Row 3: Hunter Rasdon, Jack Sullivan
Row 4: Robbie Stuart, Michael Arnold
Row 5: Dwight Falcon, Chris Reid
Heat race results
First heat (top four transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Dane Dacus, Dennis Erb Jr., Jason Papich, Jason Hiett, Eric Cooley, Dale McDowell, Spencer Hughes, Scott Abraham, Billy Franklin. Scratched: Brandon Overton.
Second heat (top four transfer): Neil Baggett, Earl Pearson Jr., Billy Moyer, Timothy Culp, Brian Birkhofer, Colton Horton, Hunter Rasdon, Robbie Stuart, Dwight Falcon, Mark Dodson, Brady Walton.
Third heat (top four transfer): Tyler Erb, David Breazeale, Devin Moran, Morgan Bagley, Brian Rickman, Chris Wall, Chad Thrash, Jason Fitzgerald, Derrrick Nichols. Scratched: Dean Carpenter.
Fourth heat (top four transfer): Chase Junghans, Brent Larson, Rick Rickman, Manny Falcon, Clay Fisher, Gavin Landers, Jack Sullivan, Michael Arnold, Chris Reid. Scratched: Brett White.
Saturday’s heat race lineups
(10 laps, top four transfer)
Row 1: Dane Dacus, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Dennis Erb Jr., Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 3: Jason Hiett, Jason Papich
Row 4: Eric Cooley, Dale McDowell
Row 5: Spencer Hughes, Scott Abraham
Row 6: Billy Franklin
Row 1: Earl Pearson Jr., Neil Baggett
Row 2: Billy Moyer, Brady Walton
Row 3: Brian Birkhofer, Timothy Culp
Row 4: Robbie Stuart, Colton Horner
Row 5: Dwight Falcon, Mark Dodson
Row 6: Hunter Rasdon
Row 1: Tyler Erb, David Breazeale
Row 2: Devin Moran, Jason Fitzgerald
Row 3: Chad Thrash, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Brian Rickman, Chris Wall
Row 5: Dean Carpenter, Derrick Nichols
Row 1: Rick Rickman, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Michael Arnold, Jack Sullivan
Row 3: Gavin Landers, Manny Falcon
Row 4: Brent Larson, Clay Fisher
Row 5: Brett White, Chris Reid
Friday heats postponed
Friday night’s heat races for the 24th annual Coors Light Fall Classic at Whynot Motorsports Park in Meridian, Miss., were postponed due to rough track conditions.
Battling a rugged surface due to more than 2 inches of rain that fell in the area throughout the day Thursday and into the wee hours of Friday morning, officials held an impromptu driver’s meeting following time trials and decided to push heat races to Saturday afternoon. The program was already well behind — qualifying didn’t get underway until 9:45 p.m. — after officials took time to rework the track following practice, which included six divisions and more than 180 cars.
Officials will open pit gates on Saturday at 9 a.m. and grandstand gates at 11 a.m. and Saturday’s program, which now includes heats, consolations and features for all divisions, will begin at 2 p.m.
Lowering his own track record, Dane Dacus of Lakeland, Tenn., turned a quick lap of 11.928 seconds to set the overall fast time during Friday’s time trials. Dacus, who went out 10th in the first of two groups, was the only driver among the 43 entrants to get into the 11-second bracket. Drivers faced rugged track conditions that eventually led to track officials pushing Friday’s planned heat races to Saturday afternoon.
Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., went out second in the first group and turned a lap of 12.001 seconds, eclipsing Dacus’s mark of 12.097, which Dacus set earlier this season. It didn’t take long for the Tennessean to knock Pearson from the top spot however, as he earned the pole for Saturday’s first heat, alongside Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga. Pearson will start from the pole of the second heat with Neil Baggett to his outside.
Though there was still plenty of moisture remaining in the third-mile oval by the time the second group made its way to the track, it had become progressively rougher. The choppy surface led to an overall slowdown as Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, was the quickest in the second group with a time of 12.381.
Erb will start from the pole of the third heat with two-time Fall Classic winner David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., on the front row with him. Rick Rickman of Columbus, Miss., stopped the clock ay 12.398 seconds and will start from the pole of the fourth heat. Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kansas, will join him on the front row.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Dane Dacus (54), Lakeland, Tenn., 11.928
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 12.001
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 12.034
Neil Baggett (21xxx), Columbus, Miss., 12.063
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 12.078
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 12.098
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 12.115
Brody Walton (B2), Pride, La., 12.398
Jason Hiett (1), Oxford, Ala., 12.470
Brian Birkhofer (30), Muscatine, Iowa, 12.476
Jason Papich (91P), Nipomo, Calif., 12.495
Timothy Culp (C8), Prattsville, Ark., 12.505
Eric Cooley (33C), Fulton, Miss., 12.556
Robbie Stuart (6R), DeRidder, La., 12.562
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 12.589
Colton Horner Jr. (56jr), Katy, Texas, 12.596
Spencer Hughes (10), Meridian, Miss., 12.607
Dwight Falcon (F4), Baton Rouge, La., 12.887
Scott Abraham (05), Clinton, Miss., 12.907
Mark Dodson (32), Columbus, Miss., 13.091
Billy Franklin (17), Calera, Ala., 13.097
Hunter Rasdon (5R), Jonesboro, Ark., 13.424
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 12.381
Rick Rickman (86), Columbus, Miss., 12.398
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 12.407
Chase Junghans (18J), Manhattan, Kan., 12.422
Devin Moran (22), Dresden, Ohio, 12.429
Michael Arnold (4), Hattiesburg, Miss., 12.494
Jason Fitzgerald (7), Jacksonville, Fla., 12.575
Jack Sullivan (18), Greenbrier, Ark., 12.655
Chad Thrash (1C), Meridian, Miss., 12.784
Gavin Landers (77), Batesville, Ark., 12.876
Morgan Bagley (14), Longview, Texas, 12.934
Manny Falcon (995), Baton Rouge, La., 12.957
Brian Rickman (90), Columbus, Miss., 12.981
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 12.983
Chris Wall (71), Springfield, La., 13.023
Clay Fisher (99), Dewitt, Ark., 13.308
Dean Carpenter (51), Goldwater, Miss., 13.473
Brett White (31), Kosciesko, Miss., 13.807
Derrick Nichols (13N), Warren, Ark., 14.157
Chris McElhenney (X), Decatur, Miss., no time
Chris Reid (04), Wiggins, La., no time
2 p.m.: Pit gates open
5 p.m.: Grandstands open
6:30 p.m.: Drivers Meeting
7 p.m.: Hot laps/Time trials/Racing
- Super Late Model
- Crate Late Model
- Street stocks
- Factory stock
- 602 Late Models
9 a.m.: Pit gates open
11 a.m.: Grandstands open
2 p.m.: Prelims
-Super Late Model
-Crate Late Model
-602 Late Models
-B-mains for all divisions (if necessary)
6 p.m.: Features
-24th annual Coors Light Fall Classic
-Crate Late Models
-602 Late Models