GAFFNEY, S.C. – Friday night at Cherokee Speedway saw double the features and double the fun for the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series.
The 42-car field was split into two groups, running two 25-lap feature events as part of night one of the Rock Gault Memorial doubleheader.
While the number of laps were equal, the two features were anything but similar.
The first main event was a war of attrition, with drivers working to manage their tires. When the dust settled, Jimmy Owens won the war, picking up the $5,000 prize.
Chris Madden wasted no time using the track’s new configuration, rim-riding on the top side of the speedway in turns one and two. That’s where speedway officials added banking earlier in the week.
Madden used that lane for the first 10 laps, until he started getting pressure from Kyle Strickler and Owens.
Strickler pulled a slide job on Madden in turn two, taking the lead for a few car lengths on lap nine. But that’s when Owens decided to strike. He took advantage of the open lane on the bottom of the speedway, powering past Strickler and Madden for the top spot.
Tire wear became an issue for some drivers in the final 10 laps, bringing out a few late cautions. That put all eyes on Owens with each restart.
Strickler chose the high side on the double-file restart, putting him in a side-by-side battle with Madden.
Strickler lived up to his nickname, the “High Side Tickler,” trying to power past Madden as Jonathan Davenport and Chris Ferguson raced wheel-to-wheel behind them. That’s when the bad luck bug hit Strickler, as his right rear tire went flat with six laps to go.
He wouldn’t be the only one with trouble, as the same problem plagued Madden a few laps later, costing him a top-five finish.
The Grey Court, S.C., campaigner said damage early in the race led to the flat tire.
“I got run into, and it pushed the quarter panel into the tire,” Madden said. “After lap three, we were kind of just hanging on.”
Owens held on for the victory in the final two laps of the race, putting the Ramirez Motorsports car in victory lane.
“The track turned out pretty good,” Owens said. “I would’ve liked to run [turns] one and two a little bit better because it was really dusty, but overall, it worked out for us.”
Davenport finished second, Trent Ivey was third, Tim McCreadie came home fourth, and Brent Larson crossed fifth.
In the second feature, the outside lane became the main factor in the race’s outcome.
Dale McDowell took the lead early and began to pull away from the field in what looked to be a dominant victory.
But three-time and defending champion Sheppard pulled into second with 15 laps to go and started using the high lane to reel in McDowell.
Sheppard caught McDowell with two laps to go. He rocketed around the outside of him in turn three, using a slower car as a pick to get by.
“Towards the end we got to lap traffic, and luckily my tires must’ve been just right at the end, because I could roll the middle and top pretty good compared to early in the race,” Sheppard said.
It was a big win for the reigning champion, being his first of the season – however the twin features won’t count as official points-paying wins for either Owens or Sheppard.
“We’ve been on the struggle bus for most of the year, but I knew not to count ourselves out,” Sheppard said.
McDowell led the first 23 laps of the feature and said lap traffic wasn’t the only reason he lost the lead in the final two laps.
“I started losing grip in my right rear tire, I’m pretty sure [Sheppard] went with a harder tire. It was the right choice for 23 laps, but it is what it is,” McDowell said.
The Chickamauga, Ga., driver held on for second place, while Brandon Overton finished third, Scott Bloomquist was fourth, and Jeff Smith placed fifth.
Morton Buildings Feature 1 (25 laps): 1. 20-Jimmy Owens [$5,000]; 2. 49-Jonathan Davenport [$2,500]; 3. 88-Trent Ivey [$1,750]; 4. 39-Tim McCreadie [$1,500]; 5. B1-Brent Larson [$1,200]; 6. 79-Casey Roberts [$1,100]; 7. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,000]; 8. 22-Chris Ferguson [$950]; 9. 421-Anthony Sanders [$900]; 10. 57M-Zack Mitchell [$850]; 11. 58-Ross Bailes [$800]; 12. 20H-Bryson Harper [$750]; 13. 44-Chris Madden [$700]; 14. 1D-Brent Dixon [$650]; 15. 18D-Daulton Wilson [$600]; 16. 7-Ricky Weiss [$550]; 17. 8-Kyle Strickler [$525]; 18. 11-Austin Kirkpatrick [$500]; 19. 6JR-Parker Martin [$500]; 20. 42-Doug Sanders ; 21. 23-Ahnna Parkhurst ; 22. 14-Josh Richards .
KSE Hard Charger Award: 49-Jonathan Davenport [+8]
Morton Buildings Feature 2 (25 Laps): 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$5,000]; 2. 17M-Dale McDowell [$2,500]; 3. 76-Brandon Overton [$1,750]; 4. O-Scott Bloomquist [$1,500]; 5. 70-Jeff Smith [$1,200]; 6. 16-Tyler Bruening [$1,100]; 7. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,000]; 8. 6B-Dillon Brown [$950]; 9. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$900]; 10. 1P-Earl Pearson [$850]; 11. 29V-Darrell Lanigan [$800]; 12. 97-Cade Dillard [$750]; 13. 24D-Michael Brown [$700]; 14. 57-Adam Yarbrough [$650]; 15. 40B-Kyle Bronson [$600]; 16. 42K-Cla Knight [$550]; 17. 89-G.R. Smith [$525]; 18. 6-Blake Spencer [$500]; 19. 25-Shane Clanton [$500]; 20. 99B-Boom Briggs [$500]; 21. 54-David Breazeale .
KSE Hard Charger Award: 24D-Michael Brown [+6]