NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 3) — Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., never collected a bigger paycheck for winning a race than he did Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway. He also might have never worked harder to earn his money.
Overtaking Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., with a picture-perfect slider through turns one and two on lap 96 after dogging the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series points leader relentlessly throughout the 100-lap feature, Madden scored a dramatic first career triumph in the 32nd annual USA Nationals.
Madden, 44, survived a lap-98 caution flag to steer his Scott Bloomquist Racing machine to the $50,000 top prize by 1.069 seconds over 45-year-old Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who nipped Sheppard for the runner-up spot at the finish line driving the K&L Rumley Longhorn car.
“That was a hundred-lap, every-lap race,” said Madden, who started fifth and ran inside the top five for the entire distance. “There was no point in that race, not a lap, that was ever easy. I drove a hundred laps right there, and we just happened to drive the hundred right laps.”
Sheppard grabbed the lead from race-long pacesetter Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., on lap 61 and spent most of the remaining distance in a tight battle at the front of the pack with Madden. When Sheppard bobbled slightly off turn two on lap 94, Madden took advantage to draw close enough to Sheppard to execute a slider on the defending USA Nationals champion that carried him into the lead off the second corner and on to his first-ever crown jewel win.
Sheppard settled for third after leading laps 61-95 in the Rocket Chassis house car, falling short in his bid to become the first driver to win the USA Nationals in back-to-back years since the late Jack Boggs in 1994 and ’95. WoO rookie Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, finished a USA Nationals career-best fourth after starting seventh and two-time event winner Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., advanced from 15th to finish fifth, both in Bloomquist Race Cars to give the Hall of Fame driver and chassis builder three of the top-five finishing positions.
The 55-year-old Bloomquist himself finished seventh after starting 21st — and afterward, the Mooresburg, Tenn., star joined Madden in victory lane to celebrate Madden’s first win since debuting with the operation owned by Bloomquist and special event promoter Cody Sommer just two weeks earlier
Dillard, 28, faded over the race's final third, finishing 13th after leading laps 1-60 in his first-ever USA Nationals start. The WoO rookie said his MB Customs car's setup went away steadily over the race's second half, leaving him with a disappointing result after such a promising start
Making his fourth start as Bloomquist’s teammate in the wake of his June departure from Greg Bruening’s Skyline Motorsports team, Madden registered the richest victory of his career in memorable fashion. He followed Sheppard past Dillard on lap 61 and proceeded to engage in crowd-pleasing race for the lead with B-Shepp.
While Sheppard largely charged around the third-mile oval’s cushion, Madden stayed lower on the track and gradually worked toward overtaking him. On several occasions Sheppard barely beat Madden to the start-finish line to maintain command.
“I was just trying to bide my time and race with him and race real clean, and man, we put on a heck of a show for the fans,” Madden related. “There’s no doubt. We probably run 40 laps of this race side-by-side.”
A caution flag that flew on lap 77 for Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who slowed with mechanical trouble after climbing into the top 10 from the 26th starting spot, prevented Madden from nudging ahead of Sheppard.
“I think I had gotten door-to-door and wheel-to-wheel with him, so I think I had the pass done then,” Madden said. “Then on the restart (Sheppard) was able to get back out there.”
As the circuits clicked off following the lap-77 restart, Sheppard gradually managed to open a small, though still precarious, advantage over Madden.
“I was running him hard, running him hard, and they (Sheppard’s crew) moved him around and he took my line away from me,” said Madden, who won his first WoO feature of 2019 and the 25th of his career. “In (turns) three and four, he went and started going in low where I was running. I was gonna get by him, but he took the air off of me and I got loose getting into three. I tried to follow him and I just got looser.
“Then I said to myself with nine to go, when he started inching away from me, ‘Hey man, you’re gonna run second here if you don’t get your stuff together and go after him and win this thing.’ So I kind of just got my rhythm going and cooled my stuff down and found me another way to enter three that I got some air back on my car to get me back to where I needed to be. I was able to get my momentum and get my speed back going, and I said to myself, ‘If you want to win this race, when you catch him this time you gotta quit messing around and either take the lead or run second.’”
Madden’s opportunity came after Sheppard lost speed running the cushion off turn two on lap 94. Sheppard stumble allowed Madden to close up to Sheppard’s rear bumper as lap 95 went on the board. Then, entering turn one, Madden surged to the bottom of the track in a classic slider that vaulted him ahead of Sheppard, who had to get on the brakes in turn two to avoid making contact with Madden, and as lap 96 was scored Madden was the leader for the first time.
“He bobbled and I was able to close in and that was basically all it took,” Madden said. “When I made that move (to the inside of turns one and two), I think I took my line back away from him in three and four and I was able to finish it then.”
Madden said he didn’t want to see the final caution flag on lap 98, which was displayed for a turn-two tangle involving Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, and Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., as they contested 10th place. Event rules announced the previous day, after all, called for double-file restarts to the end of the race, putting Sheppard and McCreadie side-by-side behind Madden.
But Madden mastered the restart. He rolled high through turns three and four as he engaged for the green flag and sped away from Sheppard, who was left to deal with McCreadie rather than seriously threaten Madden during the green-white-checkered conclusion.
McCreadie dipped inside Sheppard rounding turns one and two and the two drivers raced together down the homestretch with the white flag flying. Neither racer was able to make a move on Madden on the last lap as McCreadie beat Sheppard to the finish line for the $20,000 runner-up payoff by less than a car’s length.
Finishing second amounted to a $10,000 bonus for McCreadie, the 2013 USA Nationals champion who started ninth and felt he “probably had a third-place car.”
“Those two guys were the best cars,” McCreadie said of Madden and Sheppard. “But we got lucky on that last restart and it got us another $10,000.
“I just hit it on that last restart. It was double-file and we took off (from the inside of the second) and I got a good run down the frontstretch (on Sheppard) and hit it really good in the infield. I didn’t see (Sheppard) off of two and then we rubbed off of four … I wanted to go to the cushion (entering turn one on the last lap), but we rubbed off of four so I went to the middle because I didn’t want to crash him.
“I would’ve (taken a shot at Madden) because that’s where I was running anyway,” he added. “I’d run enough in the middle and the bottom to know that wasn’t gonna get it done down there, so I was gonna ring it once and then who knows? I’m sure Sheppy was thinking the same thing, and when I felt him (at the white flag) it probably hurt both of us because I was like, ‘Crap, he’s still out there.’”
Sheppard, meanwhile, was dejected after failing to win his 16th WoO feature of 2019.
“We really fought hard to get to the lead, and I think that’s kind of what I believe made me give the race away,” Sheppard said. “I ran my equipment so hard at the beginning of the race (because) I got shuffled back. (Polesitter Tyler) Erb was trying to Hail Mary on the last lap (but on the opening circuit) I guess and got in the wall there (in turn two) and got a couple of us shuffled back on the outside, and then we had to fight our way back up through there (he fell out of the top 10) and I ran my stuff harder than I wanted to.
“But we put ourselves in a good position to win it. It just took me longer to get the lead than I wanted to.”
Sheppard gave credit to Madden but also mourned his own costly late-race mistake.
“Hat’s off to Chris and them guys. They did a really good job,” Sheppard said. “He had a really good race car in the middle of the track. I felt like I had a good race car in the middle of the track too, but we had to really run up against the cushion hard to get to the lead. And then once we got there we were good, good, good, and then I messed up one time (on lap 94) and that allowed Chris to get a run on me and get by me.
“All in all, I think if we would’ve stayed green the whole time after I lost the lead there (on lap 96) I probably could’ve got to him. I don’t know if I could’ve passed him or not …
“I’m definitely disappointed,” he added, “but our team’s a hard-working group of guys and we’re not gonna hang out heads over that for sure.”
As Sheppard looked back on what could have been, Madden celebrated his long-awaited first $50,000 triumph.
“It’s awesome, man,” said Madden, whose previous career-high race payoff was $30,000, for the 2007 National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City and the 2018 Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. “I’ve struggled getting these big ones. I’ve been so good, so many times. I’ve been there at the end and just never could finish it off.
“I told these guys tonight, ‘If I’m there with 30 to go, you all can count it, I got something to get us a win tonight.’”
Madden fulfilled his promise — and, in the process, proved that he’s formed a formidable pairing with Bloomquist. Outrunning Sheppard and the stout Rocket Chassis house car team just two weeks after he finished second in the Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb., showed how good he can be.
“They’re a top class team,” Madden said of Sheppard and the Rocket gang, “and when you put a team together as quick as we have and you’re able to compete with them guys it speaks for itself.”
Nine caution flags flew during the 100-lapper. Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who finished second in last year’s USA Nationals, triggered three of them — on lap 11 (flat right-rear tire after contact with Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa.), lap 15 (another flat) and lap 57 (slowed on backstretch). Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., brought out two cautions (lap 30 when he stopped in turn one and was very nearly clipped by Madden and lap 70 when he slowed on the homestretch) while others were displayed for Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who slowed with a right-rear flat tire and rear deck damage on lap seven; Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., on lap 52; Pierce on lap 77; and the Erb/Bronson incident on lap 98.
32nd annual USA Nationals
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Chris Madden (OM), Gray Court, S.C., Bloomquist, $50,000
2. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Longhorn, $20,000
3. Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., Rocket, $10,000
4. Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, Bloomquist, $6,000
5. Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamagua, Ga., Bloomquist, $5,000
6. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Rocket, $4,800
7. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., Bloomquist, $4,600
8. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., Rocket, $4,400
9. Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., Rocket, $4,200
10. Brian Birkhofer (15b), Muscatine, Iowa, Black Diamond, $4,000
11. Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., Rocket, $3,800
12. Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., Longhorn, $3,600
13. Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., MB Customs, $3,400
14. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., Club 29, $3,350
15. Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., Rocket, $3,300
16. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket, $3,250
17. Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., Rocket, $3,200
18. Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., Rocket, $3,150
19. Brandon Overton (2), Evans, Ga., Rocket, $3,100
20. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., Club 29, $3,075
21. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., Capital, $3,050
22. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., Rocket, $3,025
23. Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., Black Diamond,, $3,010
24. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., Rocket, $3,000
25. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., MB Customs, $3,000
26. Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, Rocket, $3,000
27. Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., MB Customs, $3,000
Lap leaders: Dillard 1-60; Sheppard 61-95; Madden 96-100
Heat race winners (among 45 cars): Madden, D. Erb., Shirley, Heckenast (2), Zeigler, T. Erb, Pearson, Mars, Weiss
Dash winner: T. Erb
Consolation winners: Clanton, Overton
Last-chance winner: Junghans
Provisional starters: Briggs, Larson, Feger
Preliminary feature winner: Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.
Main event lap-by-lap
Lap 100: Madden holds on, pulling away over final two laps for his first USA Nationals triumph. McCreadie nips Sheppard for second, with Weiss and McDowell completing top five.
Lap 98: Madden pulled a slider on Sheppard to take lead on lap 96; then caution with two to go as Tyler Erb and Bronson tangle in turn two. Madden leads Sheppard, McCreadie, McDowell, Weiss, Owens, Bloomquist, Heckenast, Dennis Erb and Birkhofer.
Lap 77: Caution for slowing Pierce ... Sheppard still barely holding off Madden, followed by McCreadie, McDowell, Weiss, Dillard, Heckenast, Owens, Tyler Erb and Dennis Erb.
Lap 70: After Sheppard grabs lead from Dillard on lap 61, caution for Larson slowing ... Sheppard has been been barely holding off Madden at line each lap.
Lap 57: Shirley slows for third time to bring out caution; Dillard turning back pressure from Madden, followed by Sheppard, Weiss, Heckenast and an advancing McDowell ...
Lap 52: Caution for Pearson slowing in turn four; Dillard has felt pressure from Heckenast, but still leads Heckenast, Madden, Weiss, Sheppard, McCreadie, Tyler Erb, McDowell, Dennis Erb and Owens.
Lap 30: Caution for Brent Larson stopping in turn one; he was nearly hit by second-place Madden ... Dillard leads Madden, Heckenast, Sheppard, McCreadie, Weiss, McCreadie, Dennis Erb, Pearson, Tyler Erb and Owens.
Lap 15: Another caution for Shirley, who bounces off wall in turns three and four. Dillard leads Heckenast, Madden, McCreadie, Weiss, Sheppard, Dennis Erb, Pearson, Zeigler and Tyler Erb.
Lap 11: Caution for Brian Shirley slowing with blown left-rear tire ... Dillard leads Heckenast, Madden, McCreadie and Weiss.
Lap 7: Caution for Darrell Lanigan in turn one; Dillard has led all the way ... Heckenast runs second, followed by Madden, Weiss, McCreadie, Zeigler, Dennis Erb, Pearson, Shirley and Babb. Polesitter Tyler Erb bounced off turn two wall on opening lap and fell back, now runs 12th.
10:41 p.m.: Green flag flies ... Dillard leads lap one.
10:35 p.m.: The field begins to roll away from the homestretch for pace laps.
10:25 p.m.: After just over an hour of track reconditioning, the track's lights were turned out and the famed USA Nationals driver introductions began.
USA Nationals lineup
Row 1: Tyler Erb, Cade Dillard
Row 2: Frank Heckenast Jr., Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Chris Madden, Brandon Sheppard
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Mason Zeigler
Row 5: Tim McCreadie, Brian Shirley
Row 6: Earl Pearson Jr., Chris Simpson
Row 7: Shannon Babb, Darrell Lanigan
Row 8: Dale McDowell, Jimmy Owens
Row 9: Shane Clanton, Brandon Overton
Row 10: Brian Birkhofer, Kyle Bronson
Row 11: Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Mars
Row 12: Chase Junghans, Bobby Pierce
Row 13: Boom Briggs, Brent Larson
Row 14: Jason Feger
NASCAR Late Model feature
Two-time USA Nationals champion Jimmy Mars outdueled John Kaanta to assume command on lap 33 and held off a last-lap challenge from Jesse Glenz to win the 40-lap NASCAR Late Model feature.
Mars led the race’s first 24 laps before Kaanta moved in front for a circuit. Mars then paced laps 27-28 and ceded it to Kaanta again on lap 29 before moving in front for good on the 33rd tour.
A caution flag that set up a green-white-checkered finish allowed Glenz to mount a final bid, but Mars turned back Glenz’s backstretch charge on the last lap to triumph by 0.629 of a second.
Kaanta settled for third, followed by Don Shaw and Darrell Nelson.
The NASCAR Late Model headliner ended at 9:15 p.m., leaving only the 100-lap USA Nationals to be run. Track reconditioning and driver introductions will take place before the weekend finale hits the track.
NASCAR Late Model feature finish (40 laps): 1. Jimmy Mars, 2. Jesse Glenz, 3. John Kaanta, 4. Don Shaw, 5. Darrell Nelson, 6. Chad Mahder, 7. Greg Nippoldt, 8. Travis Budisalovich, 9. Ryan Corbett, 10. Buddy Hanestad, 11. A.J. Diemel, 12. Mike Prochnow, 13. Tim Isenberg, 14. Steve Hucovski, 15. Bryce Sward, 16. Dustin Bluhm, 17. Joel Collins, 18. Rick Hanestad, 19. Denny Cutsforth, 20. Kevin Carlson, 21. Chad Williamson, 22. Pat Doar, 23. Mike Nutzmann, 24. Jake Redetzke.
Last Chance Qualifier
Chase Junghans led all 15 laps without a challenge to take the victory and a transfer spot to the feature. The excitement, however, came behind him as Bobby Pierce made a furious late-race rally in his bid for the final berth in the A-main. Pierce overtook Terry Casey for third on lap eight, erased a half-straightaway deficit to second-place Brent Larson and powered underneath the Minnesota driver through turns three and four on the final circuit finish in the runner-up spot and move on to the 100-lapper.
Finish (15 laps; top 2 transfer): Chase Junghans, Bobby Pierce, Brent Larson, A.J. Diemel, Lance Matthees, Nick Anvelink, Chris Ferguson, Mitch McGrath, Jason Feger, Pat Doar, Jake Timm, Jeremy Grady, Kolby Vandenbergh, Terry Casey.
Last Chance Qualifier lineup
(15 laps; top 2 transfer)
Row 1: Chase Junghans, Terry Casey
Row 2: Brent Larson, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Chris Ferguson, A.J. Diemel
Row 4: Mitch McGrath, Lance Matthees
Row 5: Nick Anvelink, Kolby Vandenbergh
Row 6: Jason Feger, Pat Doar
Row 7: Jake Timm, Jeremy Grady
Turning back a late challenge from Kyle Bronson, Brandon Overton scored a flag-to-flag win to crack the USA Nationals starting lineup. Bronson, who was scheduled to start second but was penalized two spots for jumping the original start, recovered to place second, just 0.356 of a second behind Overton. Jimmy Mars ran alone in third throughout to complete the transfers. Bobby Pierce briefly climbed as high as fourth before settling for a fifth-place finish behind Terry Casey.
Finish (15 laps; top 3 transfer): Brandon Overton, Kyle Bronson, Jimmy Mars, Terry Casey, Bobby Pierce, A.J. Diemel, Lance Matthees, Kolby Vandenbergh, Pat Doar, Jeremy Grady, Boom Briggs, Paul Parker.
Shane Clanton ran away with the first consolation, leading all 15 laps without facing a challenge. He beat Brian Birkhofer to the finish line by a commanding margin of 3.104 seconds. Scott Bloomquist turned back a late threat from Chase Junghans to claim the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (15 laps; top 3 transfer): Shane Clanton, Brian Birkhofer, Scott Bloomquist, Chase Junghans, Brent Larson, Chris Ferguson, Mitch McGrath, Nick Anvelink, Jason Feger, Jake Timm, Rece Vaught, Chad Williamson.
The USA Nationals weekend concludes on a gorgeous Saturday with partly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching into the mid-80s. … Five drivers scheduled to start B-mains have scratched for the weekend, including former USA Nationals champions Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga. (withdrew after his involvement in a Round 2 heat accident with Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa.) and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. (despite being slated to start fourth in a B-main). Also departing were Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa, who pulled out after breaking a valve spring and dropping a valve in his car’s engine during Round 2 action, WoO rookie Blake Spencer of St. Augustine, Fla., and Steven Roberts of Jesup, Ga. … Briggs has pulled out his second car for Saturday’s program, parking the machine that was damaged when he rolled onto his roof. … Polesitter Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, has by far his best starting spot for a USA Nationals feature. His previously started 29th in 2016, 19th in ’17 and 12th in ’18. … The top-five starters in the feature — Tyler Erb, Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C. — have never won the USA Nationals. There are, however, five drivers among the 16 locked into the A-main that have stood on the winner’s stage as the event’s champion: defending race winner Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn.
The 32nd annual USA Nationals weekend concludes on Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway with the running of the 100-lap World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series-sanctioned feature paying $50,000 to win.
Two WoO B-mains a last-chance race are on Saturday’s agenda, which also includes a complete program for Cedar Lake’s NASCAR Late Model division. The USA Nationals field will be rounded out by provisional starters.
Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, will start from the pole position in the 100-lapper after winning Friday night’s Pole Dash. WoO rookie Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., was second in the 8-lap sprint and will take the green flag from the outside pole.
Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT with racing set to get the green flag shortly after 7 p.m. CT.
B-main lineups (revised Saturday afternoon)
(15 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Chris Ferguson
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Brian Birkhofer
Row 3: Brent Larson, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Nick Anvelink, Mitch McGrath
Row 5: Jason Feger, Jake Timm
Row 6: Chad Williamson, Rece Vaught
Row 1: Brandon Overton, Kyle Bronson
Row 2: Terry Casey, Jimmy Mars
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Lance Matthees
Row 4: Boom Briggs, A.J. Diemel
Row 5: Kolby Vandenbergh, Pat Doar
Row 6: Paul Parker, Jeremy Grady
Saturday’s schedule of events
6:30 p.m.: Hot laps
7 p.m.: Racing
- WoO Late Model B-mains (15 laps)
- NASCAR Late Model heats (12 laps)
- WoO Late Model qualified car hot laps
- NASCAR Late Model B-main (12 laps; if needed)
- WoO Late Model Last Chance Qualifier (15 laps)
- NASCAR Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Track prep
- Driver introductions
- WoO USA Nationals feature (100 laps)