Chris Madden (0M) battles Kyle Strickler Saturday at Volunteer Speedway. (Michael Moats Photo)
Chris Madden (0M) battles Kyle Strickler Saturday at Volunteer Speedway. (Michael Moats Photo)

The Grinch Is No Match For Chris Madden

BULLS GAP, Tenn. – Chris Madden is now two-for-two in the new Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series.

Madden played his cards perfectly on Saturday night to win Volunteer Speedway’s inaugural running of the Grinch 40, making a move to the inside of runner-up Kyle Strickler for the lead on lap 23 to pick up his second consecutive Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series win.

Madden extended his point lead to eight over Saturday’s third-place finisher Brandon Overton, who drove the wheels off of his Wells Motorsports No. 76 Longhorn in the final corners to claim the final podium spot.

Madden dominated the entire day. He was quickest in hot laps, fastest in qualifying, won his heat race and put on a show in the feature. It wasn’t easy as the tough Southeastern competition made him work for it.

After redrawing the sixth starting spot, Madden began his charge to the front patiently, moving into third by lap 15. After a restart on lap 17, he really cracked the whip, closing in on leader Strickler’s rear bumper just three laps later.

“I think [Strickler] was just a little bit free and we were able to maneuver a little bit better than he was,” Madden said. “We had a good racecar tonight, and Strickler did too. He hasn’t been in a Late Model that long, but he did a great job.”

With Madden working the bottom of the track and Strickler leaving the door open one groove higher, Madden was able to wedge his way underneath Strickler and take the lead coming out of turn four to complete lap 22.

By this time, the leaders had already entered lapped traffic again, and Strickler eventually got caught up behind a few of the slower cars. This allowed Madden to pull away and seal the deal for his first win of the season at Volunteer Speedway.

“A 40-lap feature kind of worries me a little bit to start sixth, that’s not real long,” Madden said. “Fortunately, we had a couple of cautions work our way and our car was good enough that we could maneuver around [in traffic]. We had an awesome race car tonight.”

After two of six races in the inaugural year of the series, Madden currently leads the standings and is the clear favorite to win the $20,000 championship at Modoc Raceway on Feb. 29. The Gray Court, S.C.-pilot isn’t making any absolute promises, but as of Saturday, he’s down to chase that championship prize.

“It’s whatever these guys, Scott and them, decide to do,” Madden said. “Our plan is to keep going as long as our work program at our shops doesn’t interfere with our big-picture stuff.”

Strickler was able to defend his runner-up spot through the checkered flag to pick up his first top-five finish in the series after giving up the lead in lapped traffic. He led the first 22 laps, ducking-and-weaving his way through the slower cars, all while playing defense on several restarts. In the end, nobody was going to deny Smokey of his victory on Saturday night.

“The lapped traffic was sketchy, for sure,” Strickler said. “I knew where Chris started and I saw him start clicking them off when we had all those restarts. I knew he was really good, and when the signal guy was telling me someone was really close, I figured it was him.

“I was really comfortable up until we got into that one lapped traffic deal where they were two-wide in front of me and stacked three-deep ahead of them.”

Finishing behind the top-three were Shanon Buckingham and Chris Ferguson.

The finish:

Chris Madden, Kyle Strickler, Brandon Overton, Shanon Buckingham, Chris Ferguson, Donald McIntosh, Logan Roberson, Robby Moses, Cory Hedgecock, Pearson Lee Williams, David Webb, Jeff Smith, Steve Smith, Tim Vance, Aaron Guinn, Tommy Bailey, Michael Chilton, Jordan Rodabaugh, Will Harris, Trent Ivey, Ryan King, Daniel Dial, Zack Mitchell.

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