Sylvania, GA – The debut of the Morton Buildings brand across the face of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and the new man in charge of its direction, Casey Shuman, left everyone wondering only one thing – how would the action on the track be at the drop of the green flag?
If you weren’t in the seats of Screven Motor Speedway or watching live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene, you missed quite a show. Never before has the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series been set to broadcast live video from each of its scheduled shows in any prior season, and the first of 51 race nights was full of hammer-down racing, from start to finish.
“Big Sexy” Brandon Overton definitely had the hammer down in the inaugural Morton Buildings Feature event, leading all 50 laps to claim his fourth career Series victory and his first with the Outlaws since his big $30,000 payday at the Firecracker 100 back in June of 2017.
Simply put, Overton excelled in all areas of competition on Friday night. Qualifying sixth fastest out of 39 cars in the pit area, Overton sat on the pole of Heat 2 and led all 10 laps. He redrew the outside pole, took the lead on lap one over polesitter Chase Junghans and never looked back, going flag-to-flag for Rum Runner Racing’s best finish with Overton behind the wheel of the Schaeffer’s Racing Oil No. 2.
The big win to open the 2019 World of Outlaws season comes just two-and-a-half months after Overton and Rum Runner Racing went public with their plans to team up this year. Former pilot Joey Coulter stepped down from his driving duties at the end of 2018 to make room for the 2015 Rookie of the Year, and the decision seems to have paid off well against the Outlaws. But Overton said it didn’t start out that way in his ventures racing elsewhere earlier this week.
After two average finishes of 12th and 14th at Golden Isles Speedway and a dismal 23rd earlier this week at East Bay Raceway Park, Overton found his mojo on Wednesday and Thursday with a fourth and an eighth to give him a boost of confidence heading into Screven. Overton said with a big smile that it was about time things started looking up.
“I just rolled off on the outside of that front row,” Overton said. “Hell, if I’d have lost tonight, I’d have been pretty upset, myself. I just got the job done, I guess. Everything fell our way and it had been going pretty [bad], so, it’s time for a change.”
Believably, Overton’s previous three finishes at Screven in non-Outlaw competition were all wins aboard three different Rocket Chassis. He said there’s just something about them that makes him more comfortable in them. That, and the fact that he’s had years of experience racing on the grounds, admitting he used to race go-karts on the dirt track behind the 3/8-mile oval. He also makes his home in the town of Evans, Georgia, just 90 minutes North of Screven. Looks like the home-state/field advantage actually does pay off, literally. $10,000 on the big check is quite a solid cut to start the season.
“I’m comfortable, I don’t have a bunch of pressure as far as going out there and cutting a lap, I’m pretty good at that,” Overton said. “I don’t know, it just… feels like home again.”
But his journey to Victory Lane on Friday night was anything but comfortable, and full of pressure from runner-up Chris Madden and third-place finisher Brian Shirley. Madden started directly behind Overton but had a costly miscue on the opening lap, jumping the cushion in turn three and lightly scrubbing the wall, throwing him all the way back to 9th before the first caution came out. Several yellows and even a red flag for Scott James and Boom Briggs, who managed to stack their cars on top of each other after a jingle in turn 1, gave Overton headaches all race long with constant restarts.
This, much to their liking, gave Madden several opportunities to make up the lost ground and aided in Shirley’s efforts to keep up with Overton through lapped traffic. Madden got his new Skyline Motorsports Capital Chassis No. 44 straightened out rather quickly, getting back to fourth by lap 10. He finally broke into the top three with 15 laps to go, getting around Darrell Lanigan after chasing him for half of the race. Then came the pass for second, when Shirley, who drove runner-up for nearly 80 percent of the race, slipped up in turn three with 11-to-go, opening the door for Madden’s slidejob out of turn four.
“We finally got some green flag laps in and got to rolling pretty good,” Madden said about his efforts after a large group of cautions. “I was able to rebound from something that could have been real tragic, but we turned it around into a real positive night. To come back and run second here is pretty impressive for our new team.”
After starting fifth, Shirley knew his mistake was costly, but said that he had a great night overall and will be ready to come back on Saturday.
“I was trying to keep pace with Brandon and I just went into [turn three] and didn’t get turned and it pushed,” Shirley said. “Chris must have been right there on me so he just got to slide by in the rubber better than me. Thankfully, we were able to get back in there and run third. It’s just one of those things where you make a mistake sometimes and it costs you.”
Ricky Weiss – The Scott Bloomquist protégé, Canadian sensation and now-five-time WISSOTA Late Models champion had a great night at Screven, qualifying fifth in Group A, finishing third in Heat 1 and capping off the night with a solid eighth-place finish. The highest-finishing rookie started ninth and jumped up to fourth on the first lap, showing his tenacity behind the wheel. Look for him to get even more involved with the top five in Feature racing on Saturday, as those wins at the Wild West Shootout back in early January certainly gave him a boost of confidence.
Kyle Hardy – The 2018 Ultimate Late Model Series runner-up gave it all he had in the Viper Motorsports No. 36V, winning his Last Chance Qualifier, starting 18th and crossing the line 11th. His previous experience at the track will propel him even farther forward on Saturday.
Cade Dillard – The former Modified star had an up-and-down night, to say the least, after qualifying fifth in Group B but finishing eighth in his heat race. Things didn’t get much better in LCS No. 2, as a seventh-place effort forced him to use his one and only emergency provisional for the year. But he did get things figured out in the Feature, as he climbed from his 26th starting spot to 14th, earning him hard-charger honors.
Night number two of Winter Freeze IX gets underway on Saturday, Feb. 9, with hot laps scheduled for approximately 6 p.m. Watch every lap LIVE on DIRTVision with your Late Model Fast Pass!
-World of Outlaws Press Release
-Photo credit: World of Outlaws Late Model Series (Twitter)