A rainy day made way for a beautiful evening with an incredible sunset over the top of The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, North Carolina. Once the sun was behind the trees it was time for racing for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models.
Six heat races, two last chance showdowns and a 50-lap feature were on schedule for Friday’s schedule. However, due to the rain delay and a hard curfew of midnight, the 50-lap feature was forced to Saturday afternoon.
But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to talk about. That’s far from the case as the Late Models did hit the track eight times on Friday night.
Chris “Smoky” Madden has won in the past at the World Finals, and on Friday night he put himself in a good position to do that again when the feature takes place. Madden took the victory in the first heat race over Dale McDowell.
In the second of six heat races it was all about Scott Bloomquist at the front of the field. Bloomquist appeared untouchable as he went on to take the heat race victory while Don O’Neal and Earl Pearson Jr. battled hard for second behind him. That battle resulted in Pearson nearly spinning out as they came to the white flag. Pearson went from a transfer position to finishing in seventh-place.
The third heat race of the night saw this year’s World 100 winner Tim McCreadie take the checkered flag.
Shane Clanton and Mike Marlar led a stacked fourth heat race to the green flag. Clanton went on to take the victory, but 2018 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Johnathan Davenport as he went to the work area with a flat tire with two laps to go in the heat race.
The fifth heat race saw local favorite Chris Ferguson get out to a massive lead in the first half of the event. That lead vanished when Ferguson came to a stop with a parts failure on the backstretch. Ferguson’s misfortune gave the lead to Devin Moran who went on to take the victory.
The sixth and final heat race for the Late Models ended with Brandon Sheppard taking the win in dominating fashion over Tyler Erb and Jason Jameson.
Chris Ferguson’s No. 22 suffered a rare parts failure with six laps complete in the fifth Late Model heat race. Ferguson explained to Speed51.com at the end of the night that the starter broke off “where the billing and the cast come together” and broke the drive shaft.
“I’ve never seen that happen in my entire racing career,” Ferguson said.
After qualified second in Flight B on Thursday night for Friday’s events and leading the first six laps of his heat race, Ferguson finished fifth in his Last Chance Showdown and will not race in the Friday 50-lap feature on Saturday afternoon.
“It just stinks. It stinks because I think we had a top two or three car tonight, if not a chance at the win,” said Ferguson. “All weekend we’ve been right there in the hunt. Even in the B-Main on that last lap we were five-tenths quicker than the guy that won the B-Main. It’s a little frustrating. It sucks to have stupid stuff like that happen, especially in front of all of our friends and family and sponsors. The good thing is everyone here knows we’re fast and we should be up towards the front. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Trouble for Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Champion
Everyone knows that Superman has one weakness and that is kryptonite. 2018 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Johnathan Davenport is known as “Superman,” but there must have been a whole lot of kryptonite at The Dirt Track on Friday night, because Davenport was far from super.
In Friday’s fourth heat race, Davenport got as high as third, before fading to fifth and eventually heading to the pit area with a flat tire with two laps remaining in the heat race.
The poor heat race finish relegated Davenport to the second Last Chance Showdown where he finished fifth. Unfortunately for Davenport, just the top two drivers transferred out of the Last Chance Showdown races, and that meant that his fifth-place run was only good enough for a spot in the grandstands when the 50-lap feature runs on Saturday afternoon.
Georgia Bulldog Changes Engine After Heat Race
So far everything has appeared to go pretty easy for Shane Clanton. After setting fast time for Flight B in qualifying on Thursday night, Clanton started his heat race from the pole position and stayed in the top spot for the duration of the quick race. He’ll even start the 50-lap feature from the pole position on Saturday.
But Clanton and his team did encounter one issue. After their heat race victory, a problem with the engine was discovered and the team was quickly forced to change engines.
Clanton could not be reached for comment, but his crew members explained that they had taken the engine from their backup car and put it in their primary car. They then put another engine in their backup car to have that vehicle ready just in case it should be needed.
The change was made with time to spare before the feature would have been scheduled to race, but the curfew afforded the team plenty of time to tidy up their work before Clanton hits the track after 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon.
-By Rob Blount, Speeed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Featured Photo Credit: Kenny Conyers/Speed51.com