KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Mike Marlar earned his third career Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals crown at Knoxville Raceway Saturday night.
The Winfield, Tenn., driver has won the last three Nationals he has entered at Knoxville. This one was worth $50,000.
Tim McCreadie led early in the 100-lapper over Thursday and Friday prelims winner Tyler Erb, Marlar, Kyle Strickler and Brandon Sheppard.
By lap six, Sheppard and Earl Pearson Jr. had gotten by Strickler into fourth and fifth. McCreadie entered lapped traffic on the eighth circuit.
On lap 11, Erb worked the low side of turn four to pass McCreadie and take the point. Pearson passed Sheppard for fourth six laps later. The first caution of the event came on lap 21, when Jonathan Davenport slowed while running 10th.
Marlar snatched second from McCreadie on the restart, and six more laps ticked off before Tad Pospisil and Jeremiah Hurst came together in turn two to bring another caution.
On lap 29, McCreadie worked back by Marlar for the second spot. Ricky Weiss moved into the top five on lap 35, by getting by Sheppard.
Erb was back in lapped traffic on lap 39, but would slow a lap later with rear-end issues, handing the lead back to McCreadie. At that point, a competition red allowed teams to refuel. Erb’s team also had time to make repairs and return their driver to the tail of the field.
Marlar surged on the restart, claiming the lead and setting a good pace. By lap 52, he was back into traffic and had a near miss, but kept the point. Weiss claimed third from Pearson on lap 53, in a battle that lasted most of the second half of the race.
Hudson O’Neal entered the top five on lap 59, and Erb was up from the tail to the top 10 by lap 63. Pearson passed Weiss again for third on lap 66, and Erb was into seventh by lap 72.
Ricky Thornton Jr. was running a strong sixth when he slowed with a flat tire with 26 laps to go, bringing the final caution. Marlar shot back out to the lead, while Erb moved into the top five trailing Marlar, McCreadie, Pearson and Weiss.
Up front, McCreadie stayed with Marlar. In traffic, McCreadie shot by to take the lead back on lap 89, but Marlar would return the favor down the backstretch a lap later.
Marlar’s fifth victory overall at Knoxville would ultimately come ahead of McCreadie, Weiss, Pearson and Sheppard, who grabbed fifth on the last lap.
“The car was really good, and once I got out in clean air, it was really, really good,” said Marlar. “My guys helped me get it tuned in really good this week. It was an awesome race. It was fun racing there with Timmy. He had me on pins and needles at the end of that thing. Once you lose your air here, you’re in trouble. We had some cars in front of us congesting things. Timmy’s a professional’s professional. He raced me clean as he could without wrecking us both. We made it through it ok. We’ve had so much success here, even before we started winning. I feel for Tyler (Erb). He was going for something awesome here (a sweep). We talk about Knoxville a lot, and he’s starting to master it, so I hate that for him. It was a fun race, and it’s hard to think about winning at a big race like this.”
“I’ve been bad here for about a decade, so hat’s off to the crew,” said McCreadie, who was paid $25,000 for second. “We put a bunch of stuff together that I hadn’t run in a while and ran good last night. We went back to that, and I had a feeling the top was going to be good for a little while. If I could do it over, I would have slid myself into three. Hat’s off to Mikie. He gave it a good shot there. For everyone on this team, it was a lot of fun out there. I hate it for Tyler, he probably had the best car out there. We’re not disappointed tonight. I gave it all I had.”
“We got better after the fuel stop there,” said Weiss, who earned $10,000 for third. “It took about seven laps and the tires took off again and we were rolling. We were really good with about 20 to go, and I was trying to run them down there. I was slicing and dicing with the lapped cars, and it was a heck of a show from what I saw. Hat’s off to my guys who work so hard on this car.”
Tad Pospisil won his second career feature at Knoxville with a flag to flag performance in the 22-lap Super Late Model Racing Series Bob Marschmann Memorial. Pospisil picked up $4,000 for his win.
Feature (100 Laps): 1. 157, Mike Marlar, Winfield, TN (3); 2. 39, Tim McCreadie, Watertown, NY (1); 3. 7w, Ricky Weiss, Headingley, MB, Can. (6); 4. 46, Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, FL (7); 5. 1s, Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, IL (5); 6. 1T, Tyler Erb, New Waverly, TX (2); 7. 71, Hudson O’Neal, Martinsville, IN (11); 8. 14, Josh Richards, Shinnston, WV (18); 9. 32s, Chris Simpson, Oxford, IA (19); 10. 1c, Chad Simpson, Mt. Vernon, IA (14); 11. 99JR, Frank Heckenast Jr., Frankfort, IN (15); 12. 66, Kyle Bronson, Brandon, FL (17); 13. 18, Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, IL (20); 14. 20RT, Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, IA (9); 15. 18J, Chase Junghans, Manhattan, KS (13); 16. 25, Shane Clanton, Zebulon, GA (21); 17. 20, Jimmy Owens, Newport, TN (12); 18. 16, Tyler Bruening, Decorah, IA (10); 19. 8, Kyle Strickler, Mooresville, NC (4); 20. Garrett Alberson (28); 21. Kyle Hammer (27); 22. 11H, Spencer Hughes, Meridian, MS (16); 23. 04, Tad Pospisil, Norfolk, NE (22); 24. Tony Jackson Jr. (25); 25. Charlie McKenna (29); 26. 49, Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, GA (8); 27. 36, Logan Martin, West Plains, MO (24); 28. Ryan Gustin (26); 29. 41, Jeremiah Hurst, Dubuque, IA (23); 30. 48, Jason Feger (30). Lap Leaders: McCreadie 1-10, Erb 11-39, McCreadie 40, Marlar 41-88, McCreadie 89, Marlar 90-100. Hard-charger: Richards.