NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 8) — Brandon Overton’s 2020 season went from superb to spectacular over the course of 100 racing laps Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway.
Mastering the third-mile oval, the 29-year-old standout from Evans, Ga., grabbed the lead from race-long pacesetter Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., on lap 44 and stayed ahead of some late-race mayhem while cruising to a $50,000 victory in the 33rd annual USA Nationals.
After beating Rick Eckert of York, Pa., to the finish line by 2.213 seconds to record his first-ever triumph in the crown jewel event and complete a sweep of the weekend’s World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series competition, Overton had nothing but praise for his bosses who have made his 17-win — and counting — campaign a reality.
“It all boils down to Big Dave and Eric,” Overton said of team owner David Wells and his son. “I have no reason not to run good. If I run bad, it’s because I’m messing it up. He gives me everything I need. They believe in me.
“We put a good little team together and I hope it lasts for a long time. It’s going so good right now.”
A $6,000 winner of Thursday night’s 30-lap WoO feature in his first start since clinching the Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals title on July 25, Overton was virtually flawless during his run forward from the fifth starting spot with his Longhorn Race Car. He was never seriously challenged after assuming command shortly before the halfway mark from the 62-year-old Moyer, a five-time USA Nationals champion who started from the pole position and led laps 1-43.
Eckert, 54, inherited second place on lap 85 when WoO points leader and 2018 USA Nationals winner Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., who advanced from the 11th starting spot to run second by lap 55, couldn't refire his Rocket Chassis house car following a red flag and was pushed to the pit area with terminal engine trouble. But Eckert, who won the USA Nationals in 2002, was unable to stick with Overton over the final 15-lap sprint and settled for a $20,000 runner-up finish driving Texan Allen Murray’s XR1 Rocket.
Two-time USA Nationals victor Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., overtook Moyer for third on lap 88 and finished in the final podium position with his MB Customs machine. Five-time USA Nationals champ Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., completed a march from the 19th starting to a fourth-place finish in his self-designed car after making a lap-91 pass of Moyer, who slipped to fifth in the finishing order as his Capital Race Car became “too free” late in the distance.
The race was disrupted on the 85th lap by an ugly episode involving Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, who spun out of fifth place from turn-three contact with Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., and then angrily retaliated against his fellow 23-year-old during the ensuing caution period. Erb rammed the left-rear of Pierce’s car between turns one and two, spun around off the corner trying to continue his assault and then drove backward on the track to meet Pierce head-on in the first and second turns where he ran up onto the nose of Pierce’s car.
A red flag was thrown as officials sought to diffuse the situation, which saw Pierce’s father, Bob, run onto the track and lean into Erb’s car as the Texan rolled backward toward the infield. WoO technical director Kenny Kenneda attempted to restrain the elder Pierce while also trying to hit the kill switch on Erb’s dashboard, but the official was sent sprawling and suffered cuts to his left thumb and underneath his right shoulder when Erb pulled away.
WoO officials disqualified Erb for his actions while Pierce was sent off the track and scored as the 17th-place finisher because his father’s confrontation with Erb violated Cedar Lake’s rule prohibiting team members from going on the racetrack.
Overton stayed above the fray, racing ever-so-steadily to the checkered flag in his fourth career USA Nationals feature appearance. He calmly detailed his path to the victory after the large crowd of fans that visited him in the pit area afterward finally died down.
“Thursday after I won, I was like, ‘Yeah, my car’s good, it’s digging,’” said Overton, whose previous starts in the USA Nationals finale resulted in unspectacular finishes of 22nd (2015) and 19th (twice, in ’16 and ’19). “And then the next day (Friday) I win the first heat (of the double-qualifier program) and I’m like, ‘Hell yeah, pretty sporty.’ I was just all cool and collected.
“Then I’m like, ‘All right, let’s see what I got here (starting) in the back (of Friday’s Round 2 heat). I didn’t do as good as I thought I was gonna do in that heat. I didn’t do good at all. I run fifth (picking up four spots), but I wanted to win that one from the back. That kind of took the wind out of my sails a little bit.
“And then in that dash (for the top eight drivers in passing points) I put a 40 (compound tire) on — me and Jimmy (Owens) were the only ones to put a 40 on — and I really wasn’t that good there (finishing fifth). I kind of felt like they were all driving away from me, so I kind of lost a little bit of steam.
“And today I hot-lapped and I was trying to get my car good through the middle and I see everybody out there blasting the wall, so I come in and I’m like eighth (fastest),” he added. “I’m like, ‘All right, I’m slow.’ So I just worked on it a little bit, just tried to do things that I know to do, and if that ain’t good enough to get it done, it just wasn’t gonna happen.”
Overton quickly proved himself a worthy contender in the 100-lapper by immediately shooting from the fifth starting spot to third place.
“I thought, That’s good right there,” Overton said of his strong start. “Now all I need to do is not burn my tires up and get ‘em on these starts, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the lines when the track changed.
“I kind of got settled in following (leader) Billy (Moyer). I said, ‘Hell, he knows where he’s going. I’d just as soon ride with him.’ Then Tyler (Erb) passed me (for second on a lap-16 restart) and I was like, ‘Damn, the bottom must be pretty good because he just drove right by me in the middle.’ Then I crossed him back over down there (in turns three and four) and got him back, got into second, and I just waited on Billy then and used the same line, the bottom line, to pass him (for the lead on lap 44). If you could hit it right, you could leave like hell.
“And that’s how I found the middle (groove),” he continued. “I actually pushed out of the bottom one time and I caught the middle and it stuck, and I said, ‘Damn, that middle right there is good.’ Then I just used it the rest of the race. My car would just roll. Like if I didn’t turn it or hustle it and just let it roll, I could just run like a perfect circle.”
More importantly for Overton during the race’s second half, “Nobody was catching me.”
“They (his crewmen) were telling me that Sheppard was (running) up top (after lap 70), so I knew if they closed the (signal) sticks, I gotta go knock the deck out of it,” Overton related. “But I just didn’t want to do that. It’s no different from any other big race you watch, like Eldora or whatever, and Sheppy gets up there, him and Bobby (Pierce), and they’re doing their thing and just tearing it down.
“But once you get up there, you’re committed, and I did not want to commit to running up there. It was lap 50-whatever when (Sheppard) was behind me (in second for the first time), and I was like, ‘I’m not gonna knock the deck out of it for 50 more laps. I don’t feel like doing that yet.’
“So I was really waiting on him to pass me and just keep riding again, but he never got to me so I guess I was doing it right. Every time we had a caution (five flew between laps 54 and 85) I saw on the (video) board (in turn one) had 1.8 or 2 seconds (over Sheppard), so I said, ‘I know he’s giving ‘er hell, so I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing.’”
Overton’s biggest worry came during the lap-85 red flag for the extracurricular activity involving Tyler Erb. Coming to a halt left Overton unsure of how his car would react when he went back to racing.
“If I spun those tires on the start, I was gonna call Tyler on the way home and cuss his ass out (for causing the stoppage),” said Overton, who tallied his ninth career WoO triumph. “We’re sitting there and I’m thinking, ‘This is not good.’ You can’t get those tires that hot and then sit there. They’ll seal up. So I was thinking, Man, please! I tried to spin ‘em before I went back green and I fired up good, but I still was worried about Rick (Eckert). I knew he come from a long way back and I said, ‘I bet he’s down there digging around that bottom.’”
Overton had no trouble, however, over the final 15 circuits. He controlled the action to the checkered flag.
“My car was just good, and that’s what it takes,” Overton said. “You gotta have a good car and you gotta have a lot of luck, and I had it all tonight.”
Eckert, who started 12th, came on during the race’s second half. He cracked the top five with a lap-55 pass of Newport, Tenn.’s Jimmy Owens, overtook Erb for fourth on a lap-66 restart, grabbed third from Moyer on lap 71 and found himself second with Sheppard’s departure on lap 85.
“It’s a difficult race because (the racing surface) starts out real slimy and gets really fast, then the fast lane moves about 10 times and you just gotta be on your toes the whole time,” said Eckert, whose 17th career USA Nationals feature start brought him his first top-five finish since his victory in 2002 (he finished sixth in ’03 and ’05). “And then finally at the end it gets slick.
“Before that last caution (on lap 85) I got to coming there and I was in a little bit different line than the two Brandons … but it doesn’t matter. The caution come out, and then after that last caution we sat there during the circus act (involving Erb) … I think the right front sealed up because I could never just steer after that.
“But we’ll take it,” he added. “It’s good for us, and hopefully we’ll run some more of these.”
Mars, meanwhile, was just happy to snap a five-year stretch in which he failed to finish better than 11th in the USA Nationals.
“The last few years have been a struggle just getting in it, so this year, I wouldn’t say it was exactly the easiest way to get in, but I think we were ninth in points and we got up to sixth (early in the race),” said Mars, who made his 22nd career USA Nationals feature start. “And there for awhile I had a few laps that I didn’t feel real good in the car so I was like, ‘I’m just gonna kind of ride here for a little while and wait for the track to change again.’ Then everything felt really good.
Eight caution flags slowed the race. Reasons for the cautions were outside polesitter Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill. (slowed with a cut left-rear tire on lap one); fourth-starter Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga. (slowed on lap eight with body damage); Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill. (stopped on lap 16 after being lapped); Jason Raune of Farley, Iowa (homestretch spin on lap 54); a homestretch scrape on lap 55; Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. (slowed on lap 56); and Owens (slowed with a nearly-flat right-rear tire on lap 66 after dropping from his high-water mark of third to outside the top 10).
Notes: Overton recorded his third $50,000 victory of his career, adding to his 2018 Hillbilly 100 triumph at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va., and the 2019 Fastrak World Championship for Crate Late Models at Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica. … While winner Overton is just 29 years old, the four drivers following him in the top five boasted an average age of 55 (Eckert, 54; Mars, 48; Moyer, 62; Bloomquist, 56) and accounted for a combined 13 USA Nationals triumphs. … Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., abruptly headed to the pit area while running fifth on lap 24 due to a burnt piston. … The biggest movers in the race: Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, advanced from 25th to finish sixth while Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., started 27th and finished 10th. … Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, N.C., was the highest-finishing first-time USA Nationals feature starters, placing eighth. … WoO Late Model Series director Casey Shuman indicated that Tyler Erb faces further penalties from the WoO and DIRTcar for his actions during the race.
33rd USA Nationals
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., Longhorn, $50,000
2. Rick Eckert (0), York, Pa., Rocket, $20,000
3. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., MB Customs, $10,000
4. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., Bloomquist, $6,000
5. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., Capital, $5,000
6. Ricky Weiss (7), Headingley, Manitoba, Bloomquist, $4,800
7. Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, MB Customs, $4,600
8. Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., Longhorn, $4,400
9. Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., Rocket, $4,200
10. Ross Bailes (58), Clover, S.C., Rocket, $4,000
11. Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., MB Customs, $3,800
12. Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., Longhorn, $3,600
13. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., Rocket, $3,400
14. Jason Rauen (98), Farley, Iowa, Capital, $3,350
15. Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., Rocket, $3,300
16. Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., Rocket, $3,250
17. Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., Pierce, $3,200
18. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Rocket, $3,150
19. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., Barry Wright, $3,100
20. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., Rocket, $3,075
21. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., Rocket, $3,050
22. Ryan Gustin (19r), Marshalltown, Iowa, Rocket, $3,025
23. Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., Rocket, $3,010
24. Chad Mahder (55c), Bloomer, Wis., MB Customs, $3,000
25. Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., Rocket, $3,000
26. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., Rocket, $3,000
27. Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., Rocket, $3,000
Disqualified: Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket
Lap leaders: Moyer 1-43; Overton 44-100
Heat race winners (among 45 cars): Moyer, Scott, D. Erb, Owens, Overton, Marlar, Strickler, Heckenast, Rauen
Dash winner: Moyer
Consolation winners: Mahder, Scott
Last-chance winner: D. Erb
Provisional starters: Weiss, Junghans, Bailes, Babb
Preliminary feature winner: Overton
Lap 100: Overton pulls away to beat Eckert by 2.213 seconds ... Mars, Bloomquist and Moyer follow.
Lap 85: Sheppard can't refire and is pushed to pits ... and Pierce sent to pits because member of his pit crew came onto track (father Bob Pierce).
Lap 85: Caution as Tyler Erb spins in turn three after contact from Pierce while battling for fifth ... then red flag thrown because Erb caught up to Pierce under caution, hit him in turns one and two and again on backstretch ... Erb spins, then goes backward into one and two and goes nose-to-nose with Pierce, drives up on Pierce's nose ... Bob Pierce comes onto track and leans into Erb's car, Erb backs up and WoO officials tumbles as he drives away ... Erb parks into infield, argues with WoO director Casey Shuman ... officials send Erb off and announce he will be escorted off the property ... Overton leads Sheppard, Eckert, Moyer and Pierce.
Lap 66: Caution for Owens spinning in turn two after sliding out of top 10 .. Overton leads Sheppard, Moyer, Erb and Eckert.
Lap 56: Another caution as Dennis Erb Jr. slows in turn four ... Overton leads Sheppard, Moyer, Tyler Erb and Eckert.
Lap 55: Caution returns after homestretch scrape ... Overton leads Sheppard, Moyer, Tyler Erb, Owens, Eckert, Mars, Dillard, Lanigan and Marlar.
Lap 54: Caution for Rauen's homestretch spin ... Overton leads Moyer, Sheppard, Tyler Erb, Owens, Eckert, Mars, Dillard, Marlar and Lanigan.
Lap 44: Overton goes inside Moyer to take lead ... Sheppard third, followed by Tyler Erb and Owens.
Lap 16: Babb slows to bring out caution after going lap down ... Moyer leads Overton, Tyler Erb, Bronson, Owens, Mars, Sheppard, Eckert, Rauen and Lanigan.
Lap 8: Caution for Winger slowing with damage (Sheppard made some contact after Winger slowed in front of him) ... Moyer leads Bronson, Overton, Tyler Erb, Mars, Owens, Sheppard, Eckert, Rauen and Heckenast.
Lap 1: Caution flies ... outside polesitter Brian Shirley heads pitside with flat left-rear tire (apparent contact on opening circuit).
10:45 p.m.: Green flag flies ... Moyer leads first lap.
10:33 p.m.: With the track lights back on, the 28-car starting field began rolling off for pace laps.
10:21 p.m.: After about 50 minutes of track prep, Cedar Lake's track lights were shut off and the traditional USA Nationals driver introductions began.
After Jesse Glenz won the 40-lap Cedar Lake Late Model feature by 4.265 seconds over A.J. Diemel at 9:30 p.m., officials, competitors and fans began to build anticipation for the 100-lap USA Nationals headliner. … Former USA Nationals champions in the feature field are Billy Moyer, Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Mars, Brandon Sheppard, Rick Eckert, Darrell Lanigan and Scott Bloomquist. … Six drivers are making first-ever starts in the USA Nationals finale: Ashton Winger, Chad Mahder, Stormy Scott, Kyle Strickler, Ryan Gustin and Ross Bailes. … Provisionals were claimed by Ricky Weiss (WoO), Chase Junghans (WoO), Ross Bailes (FANSFund) and Shannon Babb (track). … With the event not using the normal WoO format and offering only show-up points for the series, tour regulars were not eligible to use emergency provisionals. Boom Briggs was the lone WoO traveler who failed to make the feature field.
Row 1: Billy Moyer, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Ashton Winger
Row 3: Brandon Overton, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Jason Rauen
Row 5: Jimmy Mars, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 6: Brandon Sheppard, Rick Eckert
Row 7: Darrell Lanigan, Chris Simpson
Row 8: Mike Marlar, Cade Dillard
Row 9: Chad Mahder, Stormy Scott
Row 10: Scott Bloomquist, Kyle Strickler
Row 11: Ryan Gustin, Bobby Pierce
Row 12: Dennis Erb Jr., Brent Larson
Row 13: Ricky Weiss, Chase Junghans
Row 14: Ross Bailes, Shannon Babb
Last Chance Qualifier
(15 laps; top 2 transfer)
Finish: Dennis Erb Jr., Brent Larson, Ross Bailes, Jason Feger, Jason Papich, Mitch McGrath, Shannon Babb, Jake Timm, Gordy Gundaker, Boom Briggs, Nick Anvelink, Lance Matthees, Allen Murray, Daniel Hilsabeck, Colton Horner, Rusty Griffaw.
(15 laps; top 3 transfer)
First consolation finish: Chad Mahder, Scott Bloomquist, Ryan Gustin, Brent Larson, Ross Bailes, Jason Papich, Mitch McGrath, Jason Feger, Gordy Gundaker, Daniel Hilsabeck, Boom Briggs, Scott Ward, Dustin Sorenson, Chase Junghans (DNS) Jeff Massingill.
Second consolation finish: Stormy Scott, Kyle Strickler, Bobby Pierce, Ricky Weiss, Dennis Erb Jr., Shannon Babb, Jake Timm, Allen Murray, Rusty Griffaw, Lance Matthees, Colton Horner, Tim Isenberg, Nick Anvelink (DNS) Reid Millard.
Heavy overnight rain that had been forecast never materialized, but black clouds carrying thunderstorms have filled the skies south of Cedar Lake Speedway since late afternoon. The rain has stayed away, however, and cars began rolling onto the track to pack the surface at 6:45 p.m. CT. … The only driver among the 16 locked into the 100-lap USA Nationals feature through Friday’s qualifying program is Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., who starts fourth. The 20-year-old won his first-ever World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature at Cedar Lake on July 3. … Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., made a motor change for Saturday’s action after engine trouble knocked him out of his Round 2 heat on Friday. … Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., will try to qualify his younger brother Trevor’s car after his own machine was left with weekend-ending damage from his wild flip during Friday’s first round of heat action. … Perennial USA Nationals entrant Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., starts 12th in the second consolation after his Friday effort was ended on the opening lap of his first round heat when he couldn’t avoid hitting Jeff Massingill’s crashed car between turns three and four. The 46-year-old driver, who has his wife and two young daughters with him at the track this weekend, has started the 100-lap feature 18 times since 1999; he wasn’t in the starting lineup only in 2004, ’05 and ’11 and has finished as high as second twice (2001, ’08). … Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., has patched up his XR1 Rocket car, which was heavily damaged in a Round 2 heat accident, the best he could to compete this evening. He said the machine will need a new front clip installed after the weekend. … Reid Millard of Jefferson City, Mo., won’t compete in Saturday’s action after his car sustained a bent front clip in the same heat-race incident that involved Junghans. Millard said his impact with the turn-one wall knocked the wind out of him, prompting him to climb gingerly from his cockpit and ride back to the pit area in the attending ambulance. He reported being quite sore with some possible bruised ribs.
The 33rd 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 and a last-chance race are on Saturday’s agenda, which also includes a complete program for Cedar Lake’s weekly Late Model division. The USA Nationals field will be rounded out by provisional starters.
Five-time USA Nationals champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., will start from the pole position in the 100-lapper after winning Friday night’s Pole Dash. Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., 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.
(15 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Chad Mahder, Dustin Sorenson
Row 2: Brent Larson, Scott Bloomquist
Row 3: Scott Ward, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Jason Papich, Ryan Gustin
Row 5: Mitch McGrath, Ross Bailes
Row 6: Jason Feger, Boom Briggs
Row 7: Daniel Hilsabeck, Gordy Gundaker
Row 8: Jeff Massingill
Row 1: Stormy Scott, Allen Murray
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Kyle Strickler
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 4: Lance Matthees, Tim Isenberg
Row 5: Jake Timm, Rusty Griffaw
Row 6: Nick Anvelink, Shannon Babb
Row 7: Colton Horner, Reid Millard
Saturday’s schedule of events
6:30 p.m. - Hot laps
7 p.m. - Racing
- Cedar Lake Late Model heats (12 laps)
- WoO Late Model B-mains (15 laps)
- WoO Late Model qualified car hot laps
- Cedar Lake Late Model B-mains (12 laps; if needed)
- WoO Late Model Last Chance Qualifier (15 laps)
- Cedar Lake Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Track prep
- Driver introductions
- WoO USA Nationals feature (100 laps)