Chris Madden has established himself as one of the top Dirt Late Model racers in the country, with 14 wins and two top-three points finishes in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series over the past two years. This weekend, he gets to return home and attempt to defend his victory in March Madness at Cherokee Speedway (SC).
Madden hails from Gray Court, South Carolina, roughly an hour’s drive from the Gaffney, South Carolina track known as “The Place Your Momma Warned You About.” The driver of car No. 44 is a three-time winner at March Madness and a five-time winner at Cherokee’s signature fall event, the Blue Gray 100.
Madden might be one of the favorites to pick up another win on Sunday, but the biggest deal to him is getting to come back home, racing in front of his local fans.
“The biggest thing is being able to race close to home, so your fans can come to see you race that don’t get to see you race much anymore, since I’m always on a traveling tour,” Madden told Speed51. “Some of your local fans can’t get out and see you race, so that gives them an opportunity to come and see you race. It’s important to take care of your fan base that helped get you to the level that you’re at.”
Madden said the key to success in the signature races at Cherokee is tire management. With the longer races, gauging how much the tire will fall off and adjusting accordingly plays a huge role in determining who will finish the race first.
“Your car changes, your tire wear changes,” said Madden. “It’s more your car and your tires on that long race over there. You just have to endure it, stay away from the idiots as long as you can, and be there at the end.
“We won this race last year,” Madden added. “We didn’t pit. Overton pitted that last race there [the Blue Gray 100]. We had gotten run over by Michael Brown and stuff, so that took us out of the hunt. I don’t think we would have had the speed at the end of the race with the tire wear we had to hold Brandon off. He was extremely fast on fresher tires.
“It’s always a gamble over there. Sometimes the best car doesn’t win. Sometimes the best strategy wins.”
This year, the event has been named “Ginger Owens March Madness” to honor the passing of Ginger Owens, a long-time and beloved scorer in the community. Madden hopes that people value Owens’ passion and dedication to the sport entering a weekend honoring her.
“She put a lot of her life into our sport,” Madden said. “We appreciate her dedication to it, for sure. The thing that’s important for everybody to remember, people who dedicate their whole lives, whether it’s scorekeeping, whether it’s secretary work, whatever it is, this sport demands a lot of time. People don’t have a clue how much time the sport demands away from other life, away from your family, and whatnot. Everybody should appreciate everything she did while she was here, and it’s important we dedicate this race to her.”
Ultimately, Madden hopes to play his cards right and put himself in position to take another win at his home track, against a stout field of some of the best Dirt Late Model racers around.
“Depends on track condition when we start the race on how much tire wear we have during the day, how hard we can run the last 25 laps of the race,” he said. “If we don’t have the tire wear, if it’s not a real big factor, then we should be able to run the whole race and have enough tire to run hard the last 25. If not, our strategy’s going to come into play. You just hope that you choose the right one.”
Race fans who want to see Madden in action this weekend at Cherokee Speedway can click here to order their pay-per-view video ticket for Sunday’s broadcast on Speed51.com.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com