Vado, NM – At last, the wait is over. Ricky Weiss has finally achieved his long-overdue goal of becoming a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature winner, and he did it in style on Saturday night, taking home the trophy in the second round of the inaugural Battle at the Border at Vado Speedway Park.
Making a brilliant move for the lead on lap 14 underneath Friday night winner Chris Madden, Weiss drove through lapped traffic and fended-off a hard-charging Brandon Sheppard to become the first Canadian-born driver to win a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature — now just under two months removed from his 13th top-three finish of his 2019 Rookie of the Year Award-winning season when, somehow, he went winless.
“It’s a great feeling, finally, to get it accomplished,” said a jubilant Weiss, of Headingley, Manitoba. “Hopefully, Madden’s right when he says once you get the first one, the rest are easy and they come in six-packs.”
Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, surged forward from seventh in the 30-lap race, tried to steal the win from Weiss, and managed to hold off Madden for his second consecutive runner-up finish. Madden, of Gray Court, SC, was third after his late-race move to catch Sheppard came up just short.
Madden and Cade Dillard led the field to the drop of the green with Weiss and three-time Series champ Darrell Lanigan following closely behind. Sheppard soon poked his head inside the top four and set up a three-car battle for the lead between himself, Weiss and Madden inside of 10 laps.
Soon, the race’s only caution flew with nine laps complete, putting Weiss right on the rear bumper of Madden. Try as he may, however, Smokey was unable to hold off Weiss or Sheppard in the circuits that followed, as Weiss got a great run on the inside lane out of turn four to swipe the lead away at the line.
“The caution came out and I knew Sheppard was right beside me, and I knew he was gonna give it everything he had to get around me. I figured if I could clear him, I’d have something for Madden,” Weiss said.
In fact, both he and Sheppard had something for Madden, as they lit the fire in their own battle for the lead a few laps later, Sheppard on the top and Weiss continuing to hug the bottom. But even the defending Series champion could not pry the lead from Weiss’ hands as they pressed onward into lapped traffic. Weiss was actually forced to switch to the topside to get around the slower cars, which made him a bit uneasy at first.
“When I got up to the lapped cars, I looked up at the board and saw lap 18, so I figured I’d have to go around them sooner or later, or I was going to get passed” Weiss said. “It was a little nerve-wracking going up there, because I knew it was definitely not the preferred lane.”
Sheppard’s duel with Weiss came to a boiling point on lap 22 when Sheppard tried to thread the needle going into turn three with Weiss and the slower car of Brent Larson on either side. Weiss shut the door while Sheppard slipped up the track and said goodbye to his last serious challenge for the lead, as Weiss just stayed smooth and out of trouble in the remaining laps to get his first Series win.
Lanigan’s consistent run netted him a fourth-place finish while 2018 champ Mike Marlar rounded out the top five. Chase Junghans surged forward from 16th to finish ninth and earn the night’s Hard Charger award.
In his record-setting 2019 campaign as the Rookie of the Year last season, Weiss gained a ton of experience on new tracks and made new fans in the stands and online.
“We were finally able to go back home for Christmas, and I had a lot of fans calling me and contacting me social media-wise just to say that they’re proud [of me] to put them on the map,” Weiss said. “Being able to say that we’re Canadian, it was a pretty cool feeling when everyone called and said that. I was pretty humbled.”
With two races now in the books, Weiss and Madden are now tied for the lead in Series points standings after a win and a third-place for each. Interestingly enough, Sheppard’s second runner-up finish at Vado created an identical top-three in Victory Lane with the winner switches for each night.
Sheppard picked up his second runner-up spot in two races on Saturday night, driving what he said was a very stable racecar. He’s been a two-time bridesmaid already this weekend in the two 30-lap Morton Buildings Features, and now he gears up for 75 laps and a chance at a $15,000 check on Sunday. Weiss may have gotten the best of him earlier on in Saturday’s main event, but the momentum he and the team are building on should fair them well in Sunday’s main event.
“I slipped up and [Weiss] got back by me, then we both got by Madden,” Sheppard said. “It just didn’t fall my way tonight. We had a really good racecar, we were right there where we needed to be.”
One of the biggest keys for success in short track racing is doing well in the qualifying events to start up front, making for an easier time in the Feature. Sheppard had that down pat in 2019 and looks to use that to his advantage again on Sunday.
“We’ve got to win our Heat race and start on the front row, that helps a lot here,” Sheppard said. “I know we can keep it out front and we’ve got a few more laps tomorrow to make something happen, so we should be able to, hopefully, get one spot better.”
Madden led the opening laps and looked strong out of the gate, and held his own inside the top three throughout the night.
“We need to keep doing what we’ve done the past few days. We need to qualify well, get us a Heat race win, or at least a second to put us in the top-8 for the Feature. That way, we’re able to be within striking distance and make our moves when we have to. If not, maybe we’ll be on the pole tomorrow and be able to set our own pace,” Madden said.
The 75-lap, $15,000-to-win Battle at the Border finale hits Vado Speedway Park for Hot Laps at 3 pm Sunday, catch every lap live on DIRTVision!
RESULTS: 1. 7-Ricky Weiss [$5,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$3,000]; 3. 0M-Chris Madden [$2,000]; 4. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$1,500]; 5. 157-Mike Marlar [$1,200]; 6. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,100]; 7. 21-Billy Moyer [$1,000]; 8. 2s-Stormy Scott [$900]; 9. 18-Chase Junghans [$850]; 10. 1P-Earl Pearson [$800]; 11. 3s-Brian Shirley [$750]; 12. 28-Dennis Erb [$700]; 13. O1-Garrett Alberson [$650]; 14. 12-Ashton Winger [$625]; 15. 32-Bobby Pierce [$600]; 16. 21jr-Billy Moyer [$575]; 17. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$550]; 18. 0e-Rick Eckert [$525]; 19. 99B-Boom Briggs [$500]; 20. 1st-Johnny Scott [$500]; 21. 66c-Matt Cosner [$110]; 22. 98-Jason Rauen [$500]; 23. B1-Brent Larson [$500]; 24. 6-Blake Spencer [$500]; 25. 6L-Ivedent Lloyd [$110]; 26. 4G-Kody Evans [$110]; 27. 91-Tony Toste [$500] Hard Charger: 18-Chase Junghans[+7]
-World of Outlaws Late Model Series Press Release
-Photo credit: James Racing Photography