VADO, N.M. — Garrett Alberson was crushed after falling from first to third in the final laps of Sunday’s Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts event at Vado Speedway Park.
The Las Cruces, N.M., driver’s emotions swung 180 degrees Wednesday when he flipped the script, going from third to first on the final lap when frontrunners Mike Marlar and Bobby Pierce tangled in turn three.
Alberson swept around Pierce’s spinning car and edged Marlar at the line by 0.101 of a second to top the polesitter and race-long leader for a $5,000 victory, Alberson’s first of the miniseries.
“I could not have scripted it any better, to do it in front of my hometown,” Alberson said in victory lane after his dramatic victory. “It’s going to take a while to sink in. This is really cool.”
Marlar, the 2018 miniseries winner, couldn’t regain enough momentum after his side-by-side collision with Pierce to hold off Alberson and settled for second ahead of sixth-starting Tyler Erb.
Earl Pearson Jr. and Brandon Sheppard— the winner of Saturday’s and Sunday’s features — rounded out the top five while Pierce ended up sixth after starting 10th.
Sheppard’s first loss of the miniseries ends his chance of the Penske Racing Shocks $300,000 Paydirt Jackpot.
He’s still in line for $100,000 from the bonus program if he can win five features while he or Alberson can pocket $25,000 by sweeping the final three events beginning Friday.
Alberson, now an Iowa resident who races for Roberts Motorsports, popped the event’s trademark black cowboy hat on his head and fired the six shooters for not the richest, but rather one of the most satisfying victories of his career.
“I’m been waiting to wear that (hat) for a long time. Sometimes you’ve just gotta get what you can get,” the 32-year-old Alberson said. “Bobby was really good and him and Marlar were getting after it. I was a little tight on that cushion, but something told me not to give. Sometimes you’ve just gotta be there at the end.”
Alberson felt strong the first 10 laps and regained the second spot from Pearson on the 14th lap, but Pierce went by on lap 22 and Alberson was half a straightaway behind the leaders when the white flag appeared.
“(Marlar) and Bobby had kind of started to get away, and I was really couldn’t do a whole lot on that cushion any more,” Alberson said. “Then they both dropped to the bottom to get by them lapped cars, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if it’s going to work out, but I’m going to sail it in there one more time.’ And all the sudden Bobby’s around backwards and it’s just like get all you can get, and it worked out right there at the line.”
Marlar comfortably led throughout the race, but Pierce cut his lead to less than three-tenths of a second with four laps remaining. When the low-running Marlar didn’t exit turn two well on the final lap, Pierce raced to the outside on the frontstretch to edge ahead with lapped cars ahead.
With the slower Jake Timm on the outside entering turn three side-by-side with fellow backmarker Steve Stultz, Pierce dove low in turn three with Marlar doing the same. The cars slapped together and Pierce lost control while Marlar’s car nearly got sideways before he was able to point it straight.
“I heard Bobby coming around me down the backstraightaway there and I knew he was going be trying to, you know, trying to slide across my nose getting into the corner, and I just didn’t let him do it,” Marlar said, unhappy with Pierce’s postrace reaction of flipping him off and calling the sixth-place finisher a “whiner.”
Marlar said his car “was pretty good all night long, but you know what? Obviously Garrett did a little better job than all of us.”
Pierce said he was trying to beat Marlar to the best part of the racetrack.
“That corner was so slick getting in with a little tiny mud line around the bottom and he flew in there to kinda try to get there before I got there. But I was there … I was getting there before him,” he said. “Things happen in split-second decisions, so it’s hard to say, but obviously I wouldn’t have spun out if he didn’t hit me. That’s just racing and it’s going for the win on the final lap, so in a way I applaud him for going for it, but I feel like I was kinda there.”
A single lap-11 caution slowed the action when Jeff Schildmeyer spun in turn two.
In RHRSwag.com X-Mod competition presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson Kansas’ racer Andy Bryant appeared to have claimed his first win of the miniseries after leading all 20 laps of the feature. However, Bryant was disqualified for a rules infraction in post-race inspection, which handed the win to Cole Campbell with Gabriel Hodges, Aaron Blacklance, Greg Gorham and Jake Smith rounding out the Top-5 finishers.
The victory was the second-straight for Campbell, who is two wins away from claiming a $2,500 bonus in the Arizona Differential Four or More Challenge.
Meanwhile, in the Mesilla Valley Transportation / Border Tire Modified feature presented by Rancho Milagro, third-starting Rodney Sanders fended off a late-race challenge Saturday and Sunday’s winners, Dereck Ramirez and Tanner Mullens to become the third-different winner in as many events. Tyler Wolff and Tyler Peterson rounded out the top-five finishers.
The miniseries takes its final day off Thursday before returning to action Friday with another $5,000-to-win event. Saturday’s program is also highlighted by a $5,000-to-win super late model event with Sunday’s $25,000-to-win finale wrapping up the action.
The pit gate opens at 2 p.m. MST, and grandstand gates opening at 4 p.m. The driver’s meeting for the second round of the mega miniseries is at 3:30 p.m. with on-track action beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Super late models ($5,000 to win), modifieds ($1,000 to win), and X-mods ($500 to win) will run complete programs.
1. 58-Garrett Alberson; 2. 157-Mike Marlar; 3. 1-Tyler Erb; 4. 46-Earl Pearson Jr; 5. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 6. 32-Bobby Pierce; 7. 7-Ricky Weiss; 8. 91P-Jason Papich; 9. 2S-Stormy Scott; 10. 15-Donny Schatz; 11. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 12. 42S-Don Shaw; 13. 1CJ-Rusty Schlenk; 14. 86-Kyle Beard; 15. 49-Jake Timm; 16. 6T-Terry Carter; 17. 38-Thomas Hunziker; 18. 503-Jason Miles; 19. 14W-Dustin Walker; 20. 78S-Steve Stultz; 21. 93-Mason Oberkramer; 22. 75-Terry Phillips; 23. 20-Rodney Sanders; 24. 19-Jeff Schildmeyer