RURAL RETREAT, Va. (July 11) — At Smoky Mountain Speedway on Friday, Brandon Overton said he felt like his Wells & Sons Motorsports Longhorn Chassis could “win any race we go to if we do our job and we don’t have any bad luck.” It took the Evans, Ga., driver less than 24 hours to back up his statement.
Grabbing the lead from Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., on lap 21, Overton drove away before having to turn back Madden’s last-lap bid to reclaim the lead. Overton beat Madden to the checkered flag by 0.188 of a second to win Saturday’s Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Series feature at Wythe Raceway. He earned $10,053 for his second straight series win at Wythe, while denying Madden a second victory in as many nights.
Third-starting Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., finished where he started and Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C, slipped two spots to fourth after starting alongside Madden on the front row. Fourth-starting Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., completed the top five.
The race was slowed by two cautions, with the second one, which waved on lap 19, giving Overton the opportunity he needed to get around Madden. Overton started fifth, but lost a couple of spots on the initial start. Once he regained a rhythm, however, he quickly began picking off competitors. Overton dispatched Bailes for third on lap 11 and was in second by lap 18.
“I fell back to I think seventh or eighth at one time,” said Overton. “I don’t know if the 14 (Mark Whitener) was in front of me and Kyle Hardy passed me. Like I fell back again right off the start. I kinda lost (aero on) my nose behind Dale (McDowell) one time and I said, ‘Damn I gotta go. I just gotta go and stay up there with them three and I’ll be fine.’”
After climbing to second, Overton got the break he needed when the yellow was displayed for a driveshaft on the track in turn one. At the same time, Cory Hedgecock and Vic Hill simultaneously slowed as the both pulled to the infield, relinquishing top-10 positions.
“We had that caution right at the right time and that kinda let me move around to where I needed to go,” said Overton, who said he may have pushed his car a little too hard in establishing a half a straightaway lead midway through the 53-lap race. “When I took the lead, I shouldn’t have ran it that hard. I don’t know if running it that hard … it definitely killed the tire. But I think what killed it more than anything was when I got to them lap cars. Sliding across that black like that, it hurts them tires bad. But I didn’t want to let Madden just drive back by me or get me in traffic, so I was just trying to do anything I could to stay out in front.”
While it looked like it was going to be a runaway, Madden made it interesting over the final eight circuits, running Overton back down and then taking one last shot at the lead.
“When you’re leading here, it’s hard,” said Overton. “Like you do not know where to go, like in the end. I took the lead at the top and I kept telling myself ‘Man I think I need to leave low in (turn) two because I passed Vic (Hill) that way.’ Then I just saw the last lap where (Madden) cut off the corner down there and about caught me down the backstretch and he dive bombed (turn) three and he made up a lot of time.
“But it’s so hard to tell yourself. (Crewmen giving signals are) just telling you how far somebody is, and it would’ve been hard for them to tell me, ‘Hey go in high,’ you know when you go by them at 100 MPH. So, I was just running the wrong line right there at the end and my tire was hurt, so I just got lucky. We got the lead at the right time. I probably should’ve eased up on it a little bit but I just … as much bad luck as we’ve been having, I just didn’t want any questions. I wanted to go and hurry up and finish these 53 laps.”
Though pleased with his runner-up finish in his second outing in the Millwood Motorsports machine, Madden thought he was just an adjustment or two away from recording his second Southern Nationals victory in as many nights.
“We still learning,” Madden said. “It’s just our second night out in this (Rocket) XR1. It’s been phenomenal so far. We just needed to make another couple more fine adjustments right there and we would have been really good. We struggled a little bit on starts and restarts for probably five or six laps and then we’d pick up speed and go back to (Overton). Right there at the end we honestly just needed one more lap and I think we would have got us another victory tonight.
“Hat’s off to Brandon and David and all them guys. They work hard too. You know it’s tough out here right now. We got awesome race teams here. You got Dale (McDowell) and his brother (Shane McDowell), they’re one of the best in the country and our team that we put together in just two or three days to come and compete with these guys and to be up on the podium with them and to already win one is pretty awesome.”
Like Madden, McDowell, who does not plan to chase the full 12-race Southern Nationals slate, was on the podium again as well. He got by Bailes on the initial start and ran second for 17 laps until Overton came blasting by.
“We were just a little free,” said McDowell. “We helped the car last night (at Smoky Mountain) and we didn’t do the same thing tonight. We were just a little free on exit. We were right there within striking distance we just weren’t as maneuverable as we needed to be. These guys are tough. Every night there’s gonna be five, six, seven guys there that’s right up front. So as long as you can stay right there where you can see it, you can adjust and teak from there. It was a decent night for our E-Z-Go hot rod.”
Notes: Overton has 14 career Southern Nationals victories and joined Madden (three), Vic Hill (three) and McDowell (two) as a repeat winner at Wythe. … Twelve of the 20 starters finished the race, with nine completing 53 laps. … The first caution appeared on lap three for G.R. Smith of Cornelius, N.C., who slowed to pull to the infield.
Winning the first heat after starting on the outside front row, Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., earned the pole for the 53-lap main event. Madden is chasing his fourth career Southern Nationals victory at Wythe Raceway, which would be a series high. Madden last won at Wythe on July 15, 2013. Other wins came in 2007-’08. … By contrast, second heat winner and fellow front row starter Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., is seeking just his second career Southern Nationals victory. His lone series triumph came at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., last season. … After experiencing trouble in hot laps, G.R. Smith of Cornelius, N.C., went to a backup car, missing both time trials and his heat. With only 21 entries, Smith will be able to tag the rear of the feature. … Brian Nuttall Jr. of Claxton, Jr., had engine issues during hot laps and scratched for the remainder of the program. … Mark Whitener of Middleburg, Fla., didn’t unload his Barry Wright Race Cars ICON machine. Instead he climbed behind the wheel of the No. 14 of John Baker of Norman Park, Ga. … Daniel Baggerly of Rural Retreat, Va., is making his first series appearance at Wythe since finishing 17th in the 2011 feature here. He was a student 36 miles away at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va., at the time.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; all transfer)
First heat: Chris Madden, Dale McDowell, Brandon Overton, Mark Whitener, Cory Hedgecock, Tyler Millwood, Pearson Lee Williams, Jake Knowles, Ryan Crane. DNS: G.R. Smith.
Second heat: Ross Bailes, Donald McIntosh, Vic Hill, Kyle Hardy, Chris Ferguson, Trent Ivey, Jensen Ford, Corey Gordon, Daniel Baggerly, Rick Utsman.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., set the overall fast time as he went out early in Group A and tripped the clock at 16.526 seconds to earn the pole for the first heat. Chris Madden (16.726) was next and will start alongside McDowell in the first heat, while Brandon Overton (16.819) and Cory Hedgecock (16.855) will fill out the second row. Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., was the quickest in Group B and the second quickest overall with a time of 16.6651 seconds. Bailes will start on the pole of the second heat with Donald McIntosh (16.731) joining him on the front row. Vic Hill (16.733) and Trent Ivey (16.825) were third and fourth in the second group. G.R. Smith’s struggles continued as he didn’t make a qualifying lap, nor did Brian Nuttall Jr.
Time trial results (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.526
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.726
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 16.819
Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., 16.855
Tyler Millwood (31), Kingston, Ga., 17.059
Mark Whitener (14), Middleburg, Fla., 17.147
Jake Knowles (66), Rome, Ga., 17.218
Pearson Lee Williams (2), Dublin, Ga., 17.356
Ryan Crane (10), Panama City, Fla., 17.370
Brian Nuttall Jr. (16), Claxton, Ga., no time
G.R. Smith (89), Cornelius, N.C., no time
Ross Bailes (58), Clover, S.C., 16.651
Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 16.731
Vic Hill (1), Mosheim, Tenn., 16.733
Trent Ivey (88), Union, S.C., 16.825
Kyle Hardy (79), Stephens City, Va., 16.867
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 16.909
Jensen Ford (83), Piney Flats, Tenn., 16.989
Corey Gordon (5), Concord, N.C., 17.139
Daniel Baggerly (16), Rural Retreat, Va., 17.434
Rick Utsman (U12), Blountsville, Tenn., 19.278
The 16th annual Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Series heads 200 miles northeast to Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., for Saturday’s second round. Wythe, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, has been a series stalwart, hosting the Ray Cook-promoted tour 13 times previously. As the series visits for the 14th time, Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., and Vic Hill of Mosheim, Tenn., will each be chasing a fourth career Southern Nationals victory at the high-banked, high-speed, half-mile oval.
Madden, a five-time series champion, leads the tour to Wythe fresh off a $10,053 series triumph at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., where he made his victorious debut in a Millwood Motorsports-prepared Rocket XR1 on Friday. Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., who has two series wins at Wythe, is second in points and Cory Hedgecock of Loudon, Tenn., is third.
Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., who won last year’s race at Wythe, hopes to have an easy night following transmission trouble that hampered him at Smoky Mountain, although the reigning series champion did manage to rebound by night’s end with a fourth-place feature finish.
Saturday’s action includes time trials, heat races and a 53-lap main event, with four local divisions on the undercard as well. DirtonDirt.com subscribers can watch every lap at no additional charge.
5 p.m. - Pit Gates open
6 p.m. - Grandstands open
7 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
7:30 p.m. - Hot laps/time trials
- Pro mini hot laps
- Super Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps
- Super street hot laps
- U-car hot laps
- Super Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Pro mini feature (15 laps)
- Super Late Model heats (8 laps)
- Modified feature (20 laps)
- Super Late Model feature (53 laps)