EASTABOGA, Ala. — Mired in his longest stretch of races without a top-five finish in more than four years, it's no wonder Brandon Overton wanted to skip a weekend trip to Talladega Short Track. But the 32-year-old Evans, Ga., driver is sure glad he changed his mind.
Benefitting from Bobby Pierce's broken left-rear wheel with 15 laps remaining in the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series event, Overton led the rest of the 60-lap Alabama Gang feature for a $50,000 payday and his 20th career victory on the national tour.
"We needed this. I wasn't even gonna come here. You know, it took every ounce of energy for me to pull in this gate," said Overton, who also picked up $4,000 for his Friday semifeature victory in an event drawing a whopping 62 cars. "So thanks (to) a lot of good friends, my fiancee, you know, they're keeping us pumped up. Like I said, we really, really needed this, so we'll take 'em any way we can get 'em."
Overton, who challenged polesitter Tanner English of Benton, Ky., for 26 laps through the race's middle stages before Pierce overtook both of them, took the checkers a comfortable 2.602 seconds ahead of English in the tour's debut at the third-mile oval that sits across the highway from the famed Talladega Superspeedway. Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, rallied eight positions in finishing third while Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., was fourth. World of Outlaws points leader Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., overcame an early flat tire and a variety of run-ins to round out the top five.
When Pierce blew around English in turn two on lap 42, it appeared he'd run away from the field. But the Oakwood, Ill., driver slowed four laps later with a broken left-rear wheel and brake caliper, forcing him out of action in his TST debut.
Overton, who watched Pierce sneak past him on the last lap in the WoO's Feb. 16 race at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., was sorry Pierce ran into trouble but didn't mind ending up on the winning side of their latest battle.
"He took one away from me earlier in the year, so s---, what goes around comes around," Overton said. "So like I said, hats off to him. He was giving her hell up there on the top."
Overton ran third early in the race behind English and Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., who nearly took the lead himself on the 11th lap in a move that was erased by a caution. Overton took second from Bronson on the next restart and turned up the heat on English but couldn't find a way past. But when Pierce, who started in the seventh row, raced past both of them with fewer than 20 laps remaining, Overton finally eclipsed English and put himself in position to inherit the point for the lap-46 restart upon Pierce's demise.
In victory lane, Overton was glad to put a difficult stretch behind him that included no finishes better than seventh in his last seven appearances, including the failure to make the feature lineup for Thursday's WoO event at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., that had him determined to point his hauler toward his Georgia home instead of Alabama. But he changed his mind — and his fortunes.
"It helps us a lot. I seen real quick how mental it is. You know, I mean, you get in your feelings and in your head and you start doubting everything you've ever done," Overton said. "So yeah, it feels good to get it back on our side and I just want to thank my crew. They've been busting their butt, you know. It's been a miserable last couple weeks."
English wasn't dominant but looked solid in leading the first 41 laps. He knew Pierce had the best car and couldn't keep up with Overton in the final stages.
"I was way too tight to run the top (groove) like they were," said English, last year's WoO Rookie of the Year. "They could sail it off in there and still turn, you know? I would go in there and kind of skate and shove up the racetrack. I could kill 'em (in turns three and four) I think, I don't know, I felt pretty good down here the whole race on the bottom, but you know, (Overton) got rolling up here on top just got some momentum going and got to going."
After starting in the sixth row, Gustin broke into the top five on the 11th lap but then dropped to sixth through the middle stages before rolling again.
"I knew we were pretty good at the drop of the green there," said Gustin, who started his 99th career WoO feature. "Just watching Overton, he was (running) a little bit higher, but I missed it down here one time on the bottom. I felt like I was on crumbs. So I don't know if he was that much better or there was something up there. But it was a good run for us from 11th or whatever to third. We'll take it for sure."
The race was slowed by seven caution flags (five in the first 12 laps) and a lap-five red flag.
The red-flag cleanup was required when Todd Cooney's car ended up nose-first into the backstretch wall after a multicar tangle that included Carson Ferguson, Garrett Smith, Brent Larson and others. Cooney got the worst of it with his car's nosepiece and right-side sheetmetal ripped completely off while Ferguson's machine was also towed away.
The most serious of the yellow flags came on the 10th lap when Brandon Sheppard and Spencer Hughes made contact in turn two with Sheppard, Madden, Stormy Scott and Garrett Smith getting caught up in the mess.
The first caution flew on the second lap when Madden slowed with a shredded right-front tire. Drake Troutman had a flat tire for a lap-nine yellow and a lap-11 yellow flew for a Garrett Smith-Dennis Erb Jr. tangle in turn two. A lap-12 caution appeared when NASCAR Cup driver Kyle Larson ripped his left-rear wheel off the hub after apparent contact with Jonathan Davenport. A lap-43 caution came out for a slowing Chris Ferguson and Pierce's wheel problems drew the final yellow on lap 46.
Notes: Overton's previous WoO victory came Feb. 16, 2022, at Volusia Speedway Park. ... He was glad to see the Talladega oval host its richest-ever Super Late Model race. "I hope this deal really takes off," he said in victory lane. "This is an awesome event." ... Overton's previous longest stretch without a top-five finish came from March 9 to March 30, 2019, when he was better than 10th just once with an eighth-place run at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. ... Nineteen of 28 starters completed 60 laps. ... Talladega drew a record-setting crowd on Saturday. The series announced it will return to the track for NASCAR weekend in 2024 to make the tour's second-ever visit. ... None of 12 home-state drivers entering the event cracked the feature's starting lineup. ... Iowa veteran Todd Cooney repelled Stormy Scott to win his first career series heat race. His first career WoO start lasted just five laps.
Row 1: Tanner English, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Brian Shirley
Row 3: Jonathan Davenport, Gordy Gundaker
Row 4: Drake Troutman, Kyle Larson
Row 5: Brandon Sheppard, Chris Ferguson
Row 6: Ryan Gustin, Todd Cooney
Row 7: Chris Madden, Bobby Pierce
Row 8: Nick Hoffman, Shane Clanton
Row 9: Spencer Hughes, Stormy Scott
Row 10: Carson Ferguson, Garrett Smith
Row 11: Garrett Alberson, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 12: Max Blair, Wil Herrington
Row 13: Brent Larson, Johnny Scott
Row 14: Cade Dillard, Boom Briggs
Consolation race results
(10 laps; top two transfer)
First consolation: Carson Ferguson, Dennis Erb Jr., Cade Dillard, Johnny Scott, Logan Martin, Matthew Brocato, Heath Hindman, Morgan Bagley, Jeremy Cropper. Scratched: Ashton Winger.
Second consolation: Garrett Smith, Max Blair, Dale McDowell, Jay Scott, Trevor Landrum, Mike Benedum, Tyler Clem, Ryan Wilson. Scratched: Brad Berry, David Breazeale.
Third consolation: Garrett Alberson, Wil Herrington, Joseph Joiner, Boom Briggs, Jadon Frame, Brent Larson, Dustin Walker, Todd Morrow. Scratched: Dillon Tidmore, Josh Adkins.
(Six laps; sets first three rows of feature lineup)
Dash: Tanner English, Brandon Overton, Kyle Bronson, Brian Shirley, Jonathan Davenport, Gordy Gundaker.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top two transfer)
First heat: Drake Troutman, Chris Madden, Dennis Erb Jr., Logan Martin, Johnny Scott, Matthew Brocato, Jeremy Cropper.
Second heat: Kyle Larson, Bobby Pierce, Carson Ferguson, Cade Dillard, Ashton Winger, Heath Hindman, Morgan Bagley.
Third heat: Brandon Sheppard, Nick Hoffman, Garrett Smith, Jay Scott, Mike Benedum, Trevor Landrum, Brad Berry.
Fourth heat: Chris Ferguson, Shane Clanton, Max Blair, Dale McDowell, Tyler Clem, Ryan Wilson, David Breazeale.
Fifth heat: Ryan Gustin, Spencer Hughes, Garrett Alberson, Joseph Joiner, Todd Morrow, Brent Larson, Dustin Walker.
Sixth heat: Todd Cooney, Stormy Scott, Wil Herrington, Dillon Tidmore, Jadon Frame, Boom Briggs, Josh Adkins.