PADUCAH, Ky. — For the second consecutive night, the battle to the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series checkered flag came down to Brian Shirley and Kyle Bronson.
This time Shirley came out on top.
The Chatham, Ill., driver inherited the lead from Bobby Pierce on lap 34 and held off Bronson to earn his first Series win of 2023 Saturday at Paducah Int’l Raceway.
Bronson, the polesitter, jumped out to the lead early in the race, with Pierce chasing him down.
The “Smooth Operator” kept the pressure on until Bronson jumped the cushion in turns one and two, allowing Pierce to sneak his Longhorn Chassis underneath the No. 40b on lap 21.
Pierce held on through several restarts and started to pull away until he made contact with the turn-four wall on lap 33.
That contact led to a flat right rear tire, ending his chances for a second win in three days and handing the lead to Shirley with 16 laps to go.
When the race resumed, Shirley held off Bronson and Dennis Erb Jr. through turn two, allowing him some breathing room.
But once the Brandon, Fla., driver cleared the defending champion, it was another battle between best friends — this time for $15,000.
Bronson used the outside line to close on Shirley, cutting the lead to three car lengths with five laps to go.
However, as the two approached the lap car of Dustin Walker, Shirley snuck by the No. 14w on the top while Bronson got caught behind him on the bottom, losing both his momentum and his chance to win.
Shirley held on from there, scoring his fourth USA World 50 victory at Paducah and seventh World of Outlaws Late Models triumph.
“I’ve been lucky enough to win this race a couple of times,” Shirley said. “For them to bring it back; The history in Kentucky, to have a big race in Kentucky is really cool.
“All in all, it’s just really good for my team. My car owner, he puts a lot of money and a lot of effort into this race team. So, to get the win for them and all the sponsors that do help us is huge and lets them know that we’re really working hard.”
Despite multiple flat tires appearing throughout the race, Shirley only worried a little. Instead, he was focused on the checkered flag, hoping it would be his night.
“I was definitely a little nervous, but at the end of the day, it’s going to boil down to whether it was my night,” Shirley said. “I was out there, and I was thinking about it a little bit, and I was kind of messing up. So, I was like. You know what? You’ve got 15 laps to go, do the best that you can do, and if it’s your night, it’s your night.”
Bronson held on for second, his third consecutive World of Outlaws podium.
“I feel like we put the wrong tires on,” Bronson said. “And I zigged when I should’ve zagged when we caught that lap car late in the race, and that would’ve been my option to slide him there.
“It’s good when we can come here and run second and leave frustrated. Overall, we’re happy with our weekend. Three podiums in three days, and that’s what it takes to get back going in the points.”
Series points leader Chris Madden finished third after starting 13th.
“We had to make sure we got a few cars on the restarts and get ourselves in position and just maintain,” Madden said. “If I had started up front, I would’ve done a different tire combination, but starting where I did, I did something to help me on restarts because, in big places like this, you’re not just going to pull out and pass somebody.”
Madden’s podium helped extend his points lead to 40 points over Bronson, Nick Hoffman and Pierce, who are tied for second.
Hoffman crossed the line fourth, his third consecutive top five, and four-time series champion Brandon Sheppard rounded out the top five.
Feature (50 Laps): 1. 3S-Brian Shirley; 2. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 3. 44-Chris Madden; 4. 9-Nick Hoffman; 5. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 6. 25F-Jason Feger; 7. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 8. 32-Bobby Pierce; 9. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 10. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 11. 96V-Tanner English; 12. 97-Cade Dillard; 13. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 14. 25-Shane Clanton; 15. 54-David Breazeale; 16. 36-Logan Martin; 17. 14W-Dustin Walker; 18. 31-Kye Blight; 19. 99-Dylan Thompson; 20. 54D-Dane Dacus; 21. B1-Brent Larson; 22. 18-Matt Cooper; 23. 30-Todd Cooney; 24. 99G-Hunt Gossum