LAVONIA, Ga. (Oct. 3) — Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., might have led all but one circuit en route to capturing Thursday night’s 50-lap World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature at Lavonia Speedway, but he had to work hard for his $10,000 check. His car owner made sure of it.
For much of the race’s second half Madden, 44, was dogged relentlessly by Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., the Hall of Famer who fields Madden’s machine with his partner Cody Sommer. The 55-year-old Bloomquist even nosed ahead to lead lap 42, but Madden regained command the following lap and held on for dear life the remainder of the distance to beat his boss/teammate by a narrow 0.352 of a second margin.
“Heck of a race, man,” Madden said after his second WoO victory of 2019 and sixth triumph overall since reuniting with Bloomquist in mid-July to campaign one of his cars. “I seen Scott there for probably the last 10 laps door-to-door. It was pretty awesome to race in front of our home crowd and put on a show for everybody.”
Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., finished third in the Rum Runner Racing XR1 Rocket, just a half-second behind Bloomquist after engaging in a tight three-way battle for the lead with the Scott Bloomquist Racing stars throughout the A-main’s late stages.
Runaway WoO points leader Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., started second in the Rocket Chassis house car and challenged Madden for the lead several times early in the race before falling to fourth when he slipped high in turn four on lap 29 and finishing in the position. Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., completed the top five in his father Greg’s XR1 Rocket after making a late pass of Zebulon, Ga.’s Shane Clanton.
Madden started from the pole position and only ceded the top spot for that one brief moment on lap 42, but his inability to keep his Bloomquist Race Car tucked to the inside of the 3/8-mile oval added a hefty degree of difficulty to his victory march.
“We got really tight and we couldn’t run the bottom there, so I had to move up a little bit,” Madden said. “We found a spot that we could run, kind of just keep some speed going, and those guys weren’t able to finish the pass up off the corner.
“We just had to figure a way to run the middle and the top and carry enough speed off the corner where those guys couldn’t get by us and was able to do it.”
After initially turning back Sheppard’s threats during the race’s first half, Madden’s prime challengers became Bloomquist and the 28-year-old Overton, who shot past Sheppard for second and third place on lap 29. By lap 31 Bloomquist was on Madden, and one circuit later Overton was in the mix as well.
Overton actually slipped past Bloomquist for second place as lap 35 was scored, but Bloomquist surged back into the spot with a crossover move to the inside off turn four the following circuit. The top three drivers then began an entertaining tussle at the front of the field that saw Madden running higher on the track, Bloomquist staying low and Overton looking for an opening. There was even one lap when Overton peaked to the middle of Madden and Bloomquist through turns three and four, nearly making a three-wide race for the lead.
Bloomquist fell inches short of leading lap 41 and then did pop ahead of Madden on the 42nd lap. But Madden carried enough momentum off the top of turn four to lead lap 43, moments before a caution flag flew for a backstretch spin by fifth-place Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, as he battled with Clanton.
With the race restarting in single-file order, Madden maintained a slight edge over Bloomquist for the remaining distance to preserve the victory. Bloomquist made a final bid to the inside of Madden through turns three and four on the final lap but fell short.
“Chris did a good job,” Bloomquist said of his teammate.”We got underneath him there (for the lead on lap 42) … we didn’t quite have him cleared, but he gave me plenty of room, I gave him plenty of room. He just kept his composure and stayed on the outside there and didn’t slip up and he just inched back by me. I just hit that rough spot right through three and four that one lap and it shook the car up and I lost the lead back.
“All in all, though, we like to see these one-two finishes. They’re pretty sweet. It don’t make a lot of difference which one is winning or second.”
Overton appeared at times to have a car that perhaps was quicker that the Bloomquist machines, but he simply couldn’t find a way by the two cars ahead of him.
“I just needed one of them to get in front of the other,” said Overton, who started fifth at his home-state track. “One had me blocked low and one had me blocked high.”
Four caution flags slowed the feature, the most significant for an accident on lap one that saw Payton Freeman slide sideways in turn two and set off a multi-car pileup. WoO rookie Cade Dillard was among the drivers towed away from the scene.
Other caution flags flew on lap 25 (Boom Briggs flat tire), 28 (Travis Pennington flat tire) and 43 (Weiss’s spin). Weiss was in fifth when contact with Clanton sent him twirling; the Canadian showed his displeasure with Clanton — the driver who entered the race second in WoO points, just 12 markers ahead of Weiss — before his car was towed off with nose damage.
Weiss’s 14th-place finish cost him third-place in the WoO points standings to Junghans, who moved six points ahead of Weiss with four events remaining on the tour’s 2019 schedule.
Notes: Madden recorded his 25th career WoO victory, ranking him 10th on the national tour’s all-time win list. … Sheppard failed for the fourth time to establish a new single-season WoO win record, remaining tied with Josh Richards at 18 triumphs. … Bloomquist thought B-Shepp might be headed to a record-setting checkered flag early in the race. “Sheppard was really fired up and really looking like he was gonna be really tough,” Bloomquist said. “He was all over Chris (Madden for the lead), got by me on the outside. But the track went away a little bit and maybe his car did too, I don’t know.” … Former NASCAR Cup Series regular Jeremy Mayfield was an entrant but scratched from the feature after experiencing mechanical trouble during his heat race. … Also not starting the A-main was Casey Robert of Toccoa, Ga., whose car sustained right-rear damage when he hit the turn-two wall on the opening lap of his heat. … Lavonia’s WoO event was originally set for May 4 but rained out; it was the third visit to the track in series history. ... Teams were greeted at Lavonia on Thursday afternoon by record-high October temperatures that soared into the upper 90s.