The 33rd Annual Paul “Butterball” Wooldridge Memorial kicked off Friday with qualifying and heat races at Richmond Raceway (KY). With $1,059 on the line in each of four heat races, there was some big money up for grabs alongside 16 starting spots in Saturday’s $20,059-to-win feature race.
Claiming the first of those 16 starting spots was South Carolina’s Ross Bailes, who will lead the field to green after setting fast time in qualifying and winning Heat Race No. 1.
“We’re really good right now,” said Bailes. “I want to thank everyone who put up the money to win the heat race. That’s pretty awesome. You don’t go to many tracks where they do that.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We did everything we needed to do tonight. I’ve got some really good company around me and behind me that will be charging hard. We’ll just try to pace ourselves and be there at the end.”
Mike Marlar is a three-time winner of the Butterball Memorial, with victories in 2004, 2009 and 2015. Marlar’s bid for a fourth Butterball win started in wild fashion, as he nearly flipped during his qualifying run.
The car safely returned to four wheels, and Marlar was still third-fastest in the second qualifying flight. “The Winfield Warrior” then won Heat Race No. 2.
“I was putting on a stunt show for everybody there,” said Marlar about his qualifying run. “I’m glad it worked out. The only thing that kept that thing from going over was God, I think. Luckily I came out of that without anything torn up.”
Marlar is excited for the chance to win a fourth Butterball Memorial trophy after cutting his teeth at the Kentucky bullring become becoming a national touring star.
“It would be awesome. When I first started running Late Models, I was coming up here a whole lot, and a little bit when I was running Modifieds before that. It’s always good competition.”
Another national standout on hand was Ricky Weiss, who won the third heat race of the night. The Canadian took advantage of an off weekend for the World of Outlaws Late Models to make the trip to Richmond, Kentucky, and will now start third for Saturday’s 59-lap feature.
Weiss was particularly excited to nab the $1,059 winner’s payday for Heat Race No. 3.
“A $1,000-to-win heat race, that’s the first I’ve heard of that at a racetrack. It got us excited to come, and to take it home was even better.”
Zack Dohm owned a provisional for Saturday’s feature race by virtue of winning the Butch Shay Memorial earlier this year at Richmond. Still, Dohm made the most of preliminary night, winning the fourth and final heat race of the evening.
Despite the win, Dohm still has plenty of work ahead of him after a mechanical gremlin stumped him throughout the evening.
“I blew a motor up last week at Eldora. I had to change oil pumps this week. Now my power steering is acting funny. When I pulled it out of the garage this morning, it felt like it didn’t have any. When I pulled it around the pits it had good power steering. Earlier in the night, it had it, but at the end of the night it didn’t. We’ll have to get that figured out.”
Saturday will feature B-Mains to complete the feature field for the $20,059-to-win Butterball Memorial before the 59-lap feature race. Fans can watch the race live on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo