CONCORD, NC – The World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series hit the track for the last time in 2017 on Saturday at The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the Textron Off Road World Finals. When the checker flag waved after 50-laps it was Dennis Erb Jr. who came out on top in front of a sold-out show.
“You know, we’ve been working real hard,” said Erb Jr. “[Crew chief] Heather [Lyne] has put a lot of time into this. To get here last night with a second place, we had a good car last night we just tweaked on it a little bit, and we were able to get the job done [tonight].”
Friday’s and Saturday’s World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series feature saw an epic battle for the lead boil between Mike Marlar and Erb Jr. The pair battled almost all 50-laps on Friday until Brandon Sheppard inserted himself into the dance for the lead leaving Erb Jr. and Marlar to settle for second and third. On Saturday, the crowd saw the same plot developing between Marlar and Erb Jr. who ran door-to-door for several laps. On lap 46 of the 50-lap event, Erb Jr. slid past Marlar to grab the lead and refused to let the top spot slip away for the second night in a row.
“We had a good run with [Marlar] there and I knew the car was good,” added Erb Jr. “I think he slipped-up a little there, and we took advantage of it, and didn’t look back after that because we had a full field behind us. The car just worked great. It’s really feels good to come [to The Dirt Track at Charlotte] and pick a victory up in front of everybody.”
With two podium finishes and Friday’s quick-time award, Marlar still had a great World Finals weekend even despite not getting a win.
“We had an awesome weekend and we had a fun time down here,” said Marlar. “A sold-out crowd. You know, it’s awesome to race in front of this many people. It really is. I would like to thank all of these fans for coming out. This was a cool deal and it worked out good for us. Congratulations to Dennis. He was really good last night and wouldn’t have surprised anyone if he had one last night. It was just an awesome race.”
“[The track] was really racy and the competition is so strong that you want to preserve a little bit but you can’t. If you slow a little bit then somebody is passing you,” added Marlar. “These guys raise us to a new level and make us race hard every lap and it’s always fun.”
Rounding out the podium was Jimmy Owens who charged to third from a ninth place starting position. Owens appeared in the top five by lap 20 of the feature. He then steadily began working his way through lapped traffic. Owens reached the battle for the lead a few times but was unsuccessful moving forward from third. Owens held off charges from Sheppard, Tim McCreadie and Josh Richards to secure the final podium position.
Crowning a Champion
Headed into Saturday night’s World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series feature at World Finals, setting a new single-season wins record was at the top of Sheppard and his Rocket #1 Racing team’s to-do list. Friday evening at The Dirt Track, Sheppard tied the record by scoring his 18th win of the season after a thrilling feature. On Saturday, Sheppard began the night by winning his heat race after starting on the pole. Sheppard then moved to the redraw where he would choose the sixth position for the second night in a row. Unfortunately, Sheppard settled for a fourth-place finish in the feature.
Although Sheppard did not top the series record, the Rocket 1 Racing team had a remarkable season across the board. In 43 series races, Sheppard totaled 18 wins, 36 top-five’s, 39 top-10’s finishes all boiling down to receiving his first ever World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series championship title by an impressive 326-point lead.
“You know, our team is amazing. Mark Richards, Steve Baker, I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this thing,” said Sheppard. “I had some big shoes to fill with Josh [Richards] driving last year and hopefully we lived up to it. I think we did. We tied the record for the most wins in a season and I was kind of hoping to get that other one tonight but we tried our best. Like I said this team, in my mind, it’s the best team out there… I think we’ll be back next year so we’ll see what we can do [about breaking the single-season wins record] then.”
The 2017 season officially comes to a close on Sunday night at the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series banquet where drivers, crews, family and friends will join for a special night of awards. Before we know it the 2018 season will be here and the series will be back for more exciting nights of racing. For more information on the happenings of the 2018 season, stay tuned to the series social media channels and the series website.
The Dirt Track at Charlotte Abbreviated Results:
Craftsman Club Feature: 1. 28- Dennis Erb Jr; 2. 157- Mike Marlar; 3. 20- Jimmy Owens; 4. 1- Brandon Sheppard; 5. 39- Tim McCreadie; 6. 49- Jonathan Davenport; 7. 17M- Dale McDowell; 8. 1r- Josh Richards; 9. 72c- Jason Covert; 10. 25- Shane Clanton; 11. 0- Scott Bloomquist; 12. 116- Brandon Overton; 13. 44- Chris Madden; 14. 71- Hudson O’Neal; 15. 101- Casey Roberts; 16. 91- Tyler Erb; 17. 22*- Brian Shirley; 18. 9- Devin Moran; 19. CJ1- Rusty Schlenk; 20. 0h- Dale Hollidge; 21. 7- Rick Eckert; 22. 18- Eric Wells; 23. 11- Jared Hawkins; 24. 14m- Morgan Bagley; 25. 1*- Chub Frank; 26. 18c- Chase Junghans; 27. 40- Ross Bailes; 28. 18K- Brandon Kinzer; 29. 31m- Tyler Millwood