RURAL RETREAT, Va. (July 13) — Leading the entire 53-lap distance, Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., scored a $10,000 Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Series victory in Saturday’s miniseries opener at Wythe Raceway.
Winning his heat race to start outside the front row of Saturday’s main event, Overton shot to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, outrunning last year’s Wythe winner Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., to capture his 11th career Southern Nationals victory.
“We just took advantage of that heat race and got us put on the front row,” Overton said. “Then just made all the right calls. That’s what it takes. We took a couple of weeks off and got everything fixed back up and ready to go. There’s just a lot of good people behind this car. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Stretching his lead to nearly a full straightaway at the halfway mark, Overton survived the caution-plagued distance that saw several early frontrunners retiring before the checkered flag waved. The race was halted by a red flag on lap 39 when Michael Page of Douglasville, Ga., blew a right-rear tire, tearing down the guardrail in turns one and two when he crashed into the wall. Cars were stopped on the frontstretch as track crews made repairs.
“My left-rear tire looks worse than my right-rear,” Overton said of his tire wear brought on by the race's red flag. “I didn’t think I was hurting it that bad. I thought I was driving it straight, maybe I wasn’t. All in all, a great car. It was fun to drive for sure tonight. That makes me feel good. We’re going in the right direction.”
Never able to seriously challenge Overton for the race lead, McDowell finished runner-up, with eighth-starting Kyle Hardy of Stephens City, Va., running third. After suffering a mid-race flat tire, Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., rallied back to a fourth-place finish, with 15th-starting Tanner English of Benton, Ky., rounding out the top five.
Moving into second when polesitter Michael Brown of Pageland, S.C., retired under a lap-15 caution, McDowell was able to close the gap between himself and the Overton in lapped traffic. But he lost ground when mid-race restarts reset the race leader at the front of the field.
“We got banged up just a little bit in lapped traffic, so I think towed us in there a little bit,” McDowell said. “But Brandon was good. We just misbalanced a little bit. I could run probably middle, bottom, better. I felt like I was a little better there in lapped traffic. But those guys were better in open racetrack. So it’s just an adjustment. The guys did a good job. We’ll keep the wheels on it and see if we can’t go to the next one.”
Knowing it would be a long race, Hardy's strategy of patience paid off with a podium finish.
“Fifty-three laps is a long race around a big half-mile,” Hardy said. “You’ve just got to keep your tires underneath of you and just wait there until the end. We dodged some stuff out there, a couple guys fell out. But we kept the nose clean and didn’t tear anything up and I’m happy to bring it home third.”
Notes: Overton scored his 11th career Southern Nationals victory; his last came July 28, 2018, at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway. … The first yellow flag waved on lap 15 when Christian Hanger slowed off the pace; second-running Michael Brown retired under the caution. … After racing among the top 10, Ross Bailes retired to the pits on lap 27; other frontrunners to retire early without drawing cautions were Kyle Strickler and Corey Gordon. Strickler ran as high as third, Gordon fifth. … Cla Knight slowed to draw a caution on lap 38 when his hood flew up, blocking his view; another yellow flag waved on the ensuing restart when third-running Donald McIntosh slowed with a flat right-rear tire. … Ripping down the guardrail when he got into the wall in turns one and two, Michael Page drew a red flag on lap 39. The incident was the result of Page’s blown right-rear tire. Making contact with Page, Vic Hill came to a stop in the top of turn two, his car later towed off the track. The race was delayed roughly 15 minutes while the guardrail was repaired.
Row 1: Michael Brown, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Ross Bailes, Vic Hill
Row 3: Dennis Franklin, Dale McDowell
Row 4: Brandon Kinzer, Kyle Hardy
Row 5: Donald McIntosh, Corey Gordon
Row 6: Aaron Ridley, Michael Page
Row 7: Daulton Wilson, Tyler Clem
Row 8: Tanner English, Kyle Strickler
Row 9: Cla Knight, Benji Hicks
Row 10: Dustin Mitchell, Johnny Pursley
Row 11: Matthew Nance, Jake Knowles
Row 12: Chris Blackwell, Anthony Sanders
Row 13: Jeff Neubert, Christian Hanger
Row 14: Jason Miller, Travis Greer
Row 15: Austin Horton
Outside polesitter Kyle Hardy shot to the lead at the drop of the green flag, with third-starting Vic Hill powering to second as fourth-starting Michael Page and polesitter Kyle Strickler made contact in turns one and two. With Hardy continuing to show the way out front at the halfway mark, Strickler, who slipped back to fourth early, attempted to reel in third-running Page. Hardy and Hill raced door-to-door coming to the white flag, with Hill nosing ahead at the line to lead the ninth lap. Hill finished .003 seconds ahead of Hardy at the checkered flag to win the heat.
Finish: Vic Hill, Kyle Hardy, Michael Page, Kyle Strickler, Johnny Pursley, Anthony Sanders, Travis Greer.
Shooting ahead of polesitter Dale McDowell down the backstretch, second-starting Brandon Overton took an early lead. The top-two cars distancing themselves from the field early, McDowell ran a close second to Overton on the fourth lap. Unable to challenge Overton out front, McDowell settled for second, with Corey Gordon finishing third.
Finish: Brandon Overton, Dale McDowell, Corey Gordon, Tyler Clem, Benji Hicks, Jake Knowles, Christian Hanger.
Rolling around the outside, second-starting Brandon Kinzer took an early lead. Running nearly side-by-side with Kinzer when the pair crossed the line on the second lap, polesitter Ross Bailes edged ahead to lead the third circuit. Bailes began stretching his lead at the halfway mark, as Aaron Ridley raced on second-running Kinzer’s back bumper. Bailes won the heat, with Kinzer holding off Ridley to finish second.
Finish: Ross Bailes, Brandon Kinzer, Aaron Ridley, Tanner English, Dustin Mitchell, Chris Blackwell. Scratched: Jason Miller.
With the front-row starters racing side-by-side out of turn four, Dennis Franklin nosed ahead of polesitter Michael Page to lead the opening lap. The pair continued to battle through the early running, with Brown assuming the point on the fourth lap. Brown stretched his lead to a half straightaway late in the distance, as fourth-starting Donald McIntosh attempted to reel in second-running Franklin. A yellow flag waved on lap eight when Austin Horton came to a stop on the frontstretch, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Page led the final two laps to win the heat, with Franklin and McIntosh rounding out the pdoium.
Finish: Michael Brown, Dennis Franklin, Donald McIntosh, Daulton Wilson, Cla Knight, Matthew nance, Jeff Neubert, Austin Horton.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; all transfer)
Row 1: Michael Brown, Dennis Franklin
Row 2: Cla Knight, Donald McIntosh
Row 3: Austin Horton, Daulton Wilson
Row 4: Jeff Neubert, Matthew Nance
Row 1: Ross Bailes, Brandon Kinzer
Row 2: Tanner English, Aaron Ridley
Row 3: Dustin Mitchell, Chris Blackwell
Row 4: Jason Miller
Row 1: Dale McDowell, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Benji Hicks, Corey Gordon
Row 3: Jake Knowles, Tyler Clem
Row 4: Christian Hanger
Row 1: Kyle Strickler, Kyle Hardy
Row 2: Vic Hill, Michael Page
Row 3: Anthony Sanders, Johnny Pursley
Row 4: Travis Greer
Tripping the clock with a time of 16.445 seconds, Michael Brown of Pageland, S.C., was Saturday’s overall fast qualifier at Wythe. He’ll start on the pole of the evening’s first heat race. As the quickest qualifier in his respective time trial group, Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., will start on the pole of the third heat race.
Suffering a burned piston in his engine, Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., scratched from the remainder of Saturday’s program following hot laps. He said he plans to make repairs and return to action for Sunday’s series stop at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C.
The Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Series kicks off its 15th season of action on Saturday at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va. The quarter-mile oval nestled in the Virginia mountains hosts Southern Nationals competitors for the 13th time in series history.
Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., is the two-time and reigning Southern Nationals champion. Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., is a two-time series winner at Wythe, scoring his most recent victory last season.
All cars in attendance will be allowed to start Saturday’s $10,000-to-win feature so long as their lap times are within 1.5 seconds of the fifth fastest qualifier, they have an all-aluminum engine and the driver has raced at least two times already in 2019.
Saturday’s program will include hot laps, time trials, preliminary races and the 53-lap main event. No cars will be locked in to the feature lineup through time trials; all will run heat races. DirtonDirt.com is offering live pay-per-view coverage of the event.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Michael Brown (79), Pageland, S.C., 16.445
Ross Bailes (87), Clover, S.C., 16.486
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 16.535
Brandon Kinzer (18), Allen, Ky., 16.655
Cla Knight (42), North Augusta, S.C., 16.676
Tanner English (58), Benton, Ky., 16.747
Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 16.789
Aaron Ridley (81), Chatsworth, Ga., 16.839
Austin Horton (16), Newnan, Ga., 16.881
Dustin Mitchell (D89), Pine Level, N.C., 16.896
Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., 16.926
Chris Blackwell (6), Gray’s Creek, N.C., 16.961
Jeff Neubert (86), Rockford, Tenn., 17.305
Jason Miller (94), Winchester, Va., 17.380
Matthew Nance (4), Ronda, N.C., 17.564
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.593
Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., 16.666
Brandon Overton (2), Evans, Ga., 16.684
Kyle Hardy (36v), Stephens City, Va., 16.685
Benji Hicks (55), Mount Airy, N.C., 16.779
Vic Hill (1), Mosheim, Tenn., 16.800
Corey Gordon (5), Concord, N.C., 16.857
Michael Page (18), Douglasville, Ga., 16.937
Jake Knowles (66), Rome, Ga., 17.009
Anthony Sanders (421), Spartanburg, S.C., 17.029
Tyler Clem (58T), St. Petersburg, Fla., 17.044
Johnny Pursley (09), Clover, S.C., 17.145
Christian Hanger (29), Winchester, Tenn., 17.639
Travis Greer (11G), Marion, Va., 18.011
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., no time
6:30 p.m.: Drivers meeting
7 p.m.: Hot laps/time trials
- Late Model hot laps
- Super streets
- Late Model qualifying (2 laps)
- Mini feature (20 laps)
- Late Model heat races (10 laps)
- Super street feature (25 laps)
- Late Model feature (53 laps)
- Modified feature
- U-CAR feature