GAFFNEY, S.C. (Oct. 2) — Runaway series points leader Brandon Sheppard may be the dominant force in this year’s World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series title chase, but there’s another Brandon who’s just as dominant as the two-time series champion when he competes on the tour. He proved it again Friday night at Cherokee Speedway.
Racing to his fifth victory in his last five World of Outlaws appearances, Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., overtook Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., amid traffic on lap 34 of Friday’s Mike Duval Memorial at Cherokee and led the remainder of the 50-lap race to earn $10,000 in the first leg of the national tour’s weekend doubleheader in the Southeast.
The third-starting Overton notched the 12th World of Outlaws victory of his career and his 21st overall victory on a 2020 campaign that ranks among the best in the nation.
“We’ve done so good this year,” said Overton, a former WoO regular who this season has ran an independent schedule in his first year driving a Wells Motorsports Longhorn Chassis for team owner David Wells. “At the end of the day, I’m just grateful to keep getting opportunities to drive top-notch race cars for good people. I’m having fun and it’s all coming together.”
Sheppard settled for the runner-up spot after leading laps 16 through 33. He was followed closely at the line by ninth-starting Chris Madden of Gary Court, S.C. Seventh-starting Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, N.C., was fourth, while polesitter Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., slid back to fifth at the finish after leading the race’s first 15 laps.
The victory didn’t come easy for Overton. After chasing Bailes earlier in the race, Overton loss to second spot to Sheppard on the race’s only restart with five laps completed and was beginning to slip out of touch with the two leaders before getting back rolling just before halfway.
Overton took second from a fading Bailes on lap 25, and after turning back a challenge from Madden, reeled in Sheppard in traffic during the following laps. With Sheppard using the middle and high lines to attempt to lap the slower car of Derrick Ramey, Overton took advantage and used the low groove to slip ahead for the lead in turn two on lap 34.
Sheppard moved down behind Overton the next lap, and the leaders rode around the track’s low line the rest of the way. Overton never got by Ramey, but Sheppard was never able to mount a series challenge to retake the point.
"That's the bad thing about leading. You're just kind of a sitting duck,” Overton said of his race-winning pass of Sheppard. “I just told myself I just needed to keep him him in sight and take care of my tires as much as I could. When Madden passed me I kind of panicked and knew I had to get back around him.
“Hats off to Brandon. (Rocket Chassis house car team owner) Mark (Richards) and them have one of the best teams in the country. To beat them makes me proud of what we've built."
The second-starting Sheppard appeared to be headed for his series-leading 15th series victory of the season after topping a back-and-forth battle with Bailes to take the lead on lap 16. He pulled to nearly a two second advantage in the following laps, but he was struggling to get through traffic by the race’s halfway point.
“We had a really fast car again tonight here,” said Sheppard, who remains winless at Cherokee’s historic 4/10-mile oval. “Brandon done a really good job there. I moved to the middle one lap too many down here in (turns) one and two trying to get by them lappers. That let him slip by me, and then we never got out of the bottom. It latched up down there and that was all she had.”
Madden’s third-pace finish came in his debut behind the wheel of a self-owned Rocket Chassis. The Cherokee Speedway veteran recently parted ways with Rum Runner Racing after less than six weeks with the Coulter family’s Troutman, N.C.-based team.
“To start ninth and come to third tonight with our new team is pretty awesome,” Madden said. “We had an awesome race car tonight. I thought we had ourselves in position there, but we run up on lap car and Brandon (Overton) was still on the outside of me. I wasn’t able to seal the deal on the pass and he was able to get back by me. That put him in position (to make the pass for the win)."
Notes: Overton won the Mike Duvall Memorial for the second straight year. His 2019 win in the race was part of a weekend sweep of WoO events. The second-leg victory came at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn. The track will again conclude the tour’s late-season southern trip with another $10,000-to-win event on Saturday. … Overton, Sheppard and Bailes each won heat races during Saturday’s prelims. The other heat winner, Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., was never a factor in the feature. He faded from his fourth starting spot to finish ninth. … The race’s lone caution waved on lap five when Zack Mitchell of Enoree, S.C., slowed in turn four with a flat right-rear tire. Mitchell, the winner of a WoO event at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., in June. … Overton’s five wins is second most on this year’s WoO tour. Jimmy Owens, another non-series regular, is third on the wins list with four victories this year. … Twenty-tour cars were running at the finish of the race with 20 on the lead lap.