VADO, N.M. (Jan. 14) — Employing the same car that won last year’s World Finals finale, Mike Marlar surely thought he’d perform better than just one top-five finish through four races at the Rio Grande Waste Services Wild West Shootout.
“I was ready to come out here and put it on these guys,” Marlar said. “It’s been a rough week so far. It’s a humbling sport. It’s really tough, a lot of good competitors. It’s always tough, you know?”
Fortunately for Marlar, those words were delivered in a much nicer setting on Saturday at Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, as the Winfield, Tenn., veteran outpaced Jonathan Davenport and Kyle Larson to win the miniseries penultimate race worth $10,000.
Marlar, who is last year’s Wild West Shootout champion, hasn’t been all that far off to begin the 2023 season. It’s just he’s expected more than his finishes of eighth, sixth, fifth and seventh to begin the week.
“Man, been a long week so far,” Marlar said. “Happy to get a win there. It was fun racing.”
What made Saturday’s feature enticing was the fact that Marlar ran down and passed Davenport, the winner of the first three Wild West Shootout races, with 14 laps to go and then staved off a charge from Larson, who erased a 1.6-second deficit with four laps remaining to attempt a last-corner slide job rounding for the checkers.
While Davenport, Larson and early contender Bobby Pierce committed to the uppermost part of the track most of the race, Marlar exploited a groove two lanes off the very top that no driver could seemingly duplicate.
“I saw (Larson) on the board, and I figured he was running the cushion, so I was trying to make my entry wide enough down here,” Marlar said. “I was really way better through the middle. I just wanted to make my entry wide enough down here. I don’t know if I was hurting him or not. I knew he was coming. I was trying to stay as high as I could. He was definitely better off the cushion.”
Larson, who started 11th, made his way to fifth with 12 lap to go when a caution for 14th-running Billy Moyer gave the NASCAR star a fine shot at the win. As Pierce threw a slide job on Davenport into turn one on the restart to briefly regain second, Larson one-upped them both by finding a window of opportunity around the bottom.
“I was hoping we would get a caution there when we did,” Larson said. “I kind of figured Bobby would throw a slider or something into one on the restart, and if I plugged the bottom a couple laps, maybe things would work out. And it did.”
Larson officially dispatched Pierce for second with seven laps to go, as Pierce lost control of his Longhorn Chassis in the midst of the tense battle for second through turns three and four.
“I was able to show my nose at the right time and he got over the cushion in four to get to second,” Larson said. “I put together some good laps. Made one mistake as soon as I got to second in three and four, and lost like a straightaway on (Marlar). I had to plug away trying to get back to him.
“I think if I hadn’t made that mistake, it’d be a different result. But he was obviously getting signals and running a lane where it was going to be difficult to make a move on him once I did get right to him, which I did the last lap there. Fun race again and another good car.”
The caution for Moyer with 12 laps left was the lone stoppage of the race. Eight laps prior to that, Davenport held a one-second advantage over Marlar at the halfway mark and appeared on his way to banking a $25,000 portion of the Penske Racing Shocks Paydirt Jackpot with his fourth win of the week.
But Davenport, who eventually finished fourth behind Ricky Weiss, couldn’t navigate lapped traffic as fluid as earlier in the week. A rare mistake along the turns one and two cushion on lap 27 caved Davenport’s chances as Marlar generated the go-ahead run through the middle of the corner.
“I got in a really good race with Jonathan there in lapped traffic. It just worked out for me,” Marlar said. “His car got a little loose in that air, more than mine, I feel like. It worked out, got by him there. Then, at the end of the race, lapped cars really were helping me.”
Weiss, meanwhile, came from seventh to keep his run of top-sixes going. The Headingley, Manitoba, native doesn’t have much to nitpick about a ledger that includes finishes of third, fifth, fourth, sixth and third.
“We were just picking our way up to the front there,” Weiss said. “Larson got by me and I tried to follow him. He took off for a little bit. We started reeling him back. I was questioning how this guys were making these tires work. That caution, I was like, we’ll see right here. You could tell (Pierce) and (Davenport), their stuff kind of gave up a little bit. They’ve been so good this week, so it’s good to get by them, and get up near the front.”
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Garrett Alberson
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Brandon Sheppard, Johnny Scott
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Billy Moyer
Row 5: Stormy Scott, Dustin Sorensen
Row 6: Kyle Larson, Cade Dillard
Row 7: Dillon McCowan, Tad Pospisil
Row 8: Morgan Bagley, Rodney Sanders
Row 9: Tyler Erb, Terry Phillips
Row 10: Ian Whisler, Kyle Beard
Row 11: Jake Timm, Collen Winebarger
Row 12: Josh Cain, Bill Leighton Jr.
Row 13: Preston Luckman
(12 laps; top four transfer)
First consolation: Tyler Erb, Ian Whisler, Jake Timm, Josh Cain, Cole Wells, Rusty Schlenk, Jon Kirby, Jason Strand, Kent Rosevear, Mikey Kile, Dustin Holmes, Walton Kyle Jr., Steve Stultz, Cole Farmer, Brandon Lewis. Scratched: Trenton Jessen.
Second consolation: Terry Phillips, Kyle Beard, Collen Winebarger, Bill Leighton Jr., Prestin Luckman, Justin Mills, Clayton Stuckey, Kylan Garner, Don Shaw, Thomas Hunziker, Jimmy Whisler, Mercedes Abercrombie, Devan Smith, Jeff Schildmeyer, Scott Lewis, Chris Simpson.
Pro Power Dash finish: Preston Luckman, Rusty Schlenk, Cole Wells, Kylan Garner, Justin Mills, Jason Strand, Jon Kirby, Kent Rosevear, Don Shaw, Clayton Stuckey
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Garrett Alberson, Brandon Sheppard, Stormy Scott, Dillon McCowan, Mikey Kile, John Cain, Cole Wells, Kent Rosevear, Rusty Schlenk, Jon Kirby, Walton Kyle Jr., Brandon Lewis.
Second heat: Mike Marlar, Ricky Weiss, Kyle Larson, Morgan Bagley, Ian Whisler, Jake Timm, Tyer Erb, Jason Strand, Cole Farmer, Dustin Holmes, Steve Stultz. Scratched: Trenton Jessen.
Third heat: Jonathan Davenport, Johnny Scott, Dustin Sorensen, Tad Pospisil, Kyle Beard, Preston Luckman, Chris Simpson, Kylan Garner, Justin Mills, Jeff Schildmeyer, Mercedes Abercrombie, Scott Lewis.
Fourth heat: Bobby Pierce, Billy Moyer, Cade Dillard, Rodney Sanders, Terry Phillips, Collen Winebarger, Bill Leighton Jr., Clayton Stuckey, Thomas Hunziker, Devan Smith, Jimmy Whisler, Don Shaw.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.147
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 14.198
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 14.324
Ian Whisler (82), Otis, Ore., 14.391
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.392
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 14.406
Dillon McCowan (8), Urbana, Mo., 14.302*
Kyle Larson (6), Elk Grove, Calif., 14.526
Mikey Kyle (25), West Lake, La., 14.570
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 14.571
Kent Rosevear (02), Yuma, Ariz., 14.691
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 14.703
Jon Kirby (11), Russellville, Ark., 14.729
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 14.753
Cole Wells (7c) Aurora, Mo., 15.015
Dustin Holmes (24H), Murfreeboro, Ark., 15.021
Josh Cain (3J), Rio Rancho, N.M., 15.204
Jason Strand (E85), Portland, N.D., 15.291
Walton Kyle Jr. (250), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.404
Cole Farmer (26R), Glenwood, Ark., 15.486
Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio, 15.514
Steve Stultz (78s), Peoria, Ariz., 15.757
Brandon Lewis (44), Denver, Colo. 15.923
Trenton Jessen (89J), Pineville, Mo., scratched
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.292
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.379
Tad Pospisil (04), Norfolk, Neb., 14.411
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.524
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.560
Don Shaw (42S), Ham Lake, Minn., 14.579
Preston Luckman (77), Coos Bay, Ore., 14.643
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 14.665
Dustin Sorenson (28), Rochester, Minn., 14.668
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 14.690
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 14.693
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 14.697
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 14.851
Collen Winebarger (14s), Corbett, Ore., 14.856
Bill Leighton Jr. (24), La Vista, Neb., 14.904
Justin Mills (38m), Pineville, Mo., 14.908
Kylan Garner (USA1), Diamond, Mo., 14.932
Clayton Stuckey (15s), Shreveport, La., 15.098
Mercedes Abercrombie (29x), Deming, N.M., 15.139
Jimmy Whisler (28w), Olis, Ore., 15.221
Scott Lewis (99), Henderson, Colo., 15.252
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 15.322
Jeff Schildmeyer (19), Las Vegas, Nev., 15.430
Devan Smith (01), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.447
*Docked four positions for deck height violation
(All times local)
12 p.m.: Pits open
2 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
3 p.m.: Grandstands open
Hot laps (by heat races)
- Super Late Models hot laps/time trials
4:55 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
5 p.m.: Heat races
- X-Mods (8 laps)
- Modifieds (8 laps)
- Super Late Models (8 laps)
- X-Mods (10 laps)
- Modifieds (12 laps)
- Super Late Models (12 laps)
Pro Power Dash
- Super Late Models (laps TBA)
- Super Late Models (40 laps)
- X-Mods (25 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)