After a thrilling photo finish, an emotional Brandon Overton paid tribute to a friend and crew member while celebrating his $20,000 win in the ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series USA 100 at Virginia Motor Speedway (VA).
Overton held off a late charge from Rick Eckert, taking the checkered flag by a 0.119-second margin after 60 laps. Afterwards, Overton was overcome with emotions in victory lane, as earlier this week crewman Billy Vacek passed away.
“Steven’s here, Billy’s brother, and his wife,” Overton said in victory lane. “It’s pretty damn special. He’s here with me, no matter what, but I wish he’d be here to see this, he’d be tickled to death. I can’t help it, I’m pretty emotional.”
On Thursday night, Overton finished second in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Fayetteville Motor Speedway (NC), a race Overton badly wanted to win in Vacek’s honor. Two nights later, Overton got the much-desired checkered flag.
“I was just hanging on there, those last couple of laps,” he said. “I guess Billy was riding with us tonight. I wanted to win Fayetteville the other night so bad, but I’d much rather take this 20 [thousand] than that 10.”
Overton knew he had his hands full in the closing laps, as Eckert closed in after starting 10th in the 60-lap feature. On the final lap, Eckert pulled alongside Overton exiting turn four, but Overton was able to power back to the finish line in first place by a scant margin.
“I thought I gave it away in four,” Overton confessed. “I kept overrunning that corner. I was just so anxious to get done. When I looked out there and saw 0, I said, ‘Damn, I know that’s Rick.’ He’s good. That’s where he shines. I don’t know how I beat him back to the line, I thought he was going to drive right around me. I’m glad it fell the way it did.”
Eckert struggled throughout the day to find the right setup for his Super Late Model, but found the speed he was looking for in time to race his way to a runner-up finish.
“It was a little too late,” Eckert said about his charge. “Hats off to my crew, I made them change springs and shocks six times tonight. We struggled early in the night and I just got myself behind the eight-ball. We had to start tenth and ease our way up through there.
“Right there at the end, we got worse and Ross got worse,” he added. “I really didn’t need a lot of them cautions. Second’s better than third, and I wish we had won it.”
While Eckert nearly took the win away from Overton, he knew his last-lap shot at the victory was unlikely to pay off.
“Off of four, I knew I was ahead of him but I knew he was in the good lane and was going to drive back by me,” Eckert said. “I was giving it all I could give it. I was just trying not to spin the tires and I could hear his motor digging and I knew I was going to get beat.”
Ross Bailes finished third after leading during the early stages of the race. Overton took the lead from Bailes on lap 21 as the duo negotiated around slower cars on the half-mile race track.
“I took the lead, everything was going as planned,” Bailes said. “I let him get by me in lapped traffic. I got beside him at the end and didn’t capitalize on it. I just went a little bit too hard at the end and used up my tires. It was a fun race.”
Fans who missed Saturday’s USA 100 can watch an on-demand replay of Speed51’s free live broadcast of the event by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo