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FIRST AT LAST: Canadian Holds Off Sheppard at Vado for First World of Outlaws Victory
VADO, NM – Jan. 4, 2019 – At last, the wait is over. Ricky Weiss has finally achieved his long-overdue goal of becoming a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature winner, and he did it in style on Saturday night, taking home the trophy in the second round of the inaugural Battle at the Border at Vado Speedway Park.
Making a brilliant move for the lead on lap 14 underneath Friday night winner Chris Madden, Weiss drove through lapped traffic and fended-off a hard-charging Brandon Sheppard to become the first Canadian-born driver to win a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature — now just under two months removed from his 13th top-three finish of his 2019 Rookie of the Year Award-winning season when, somehow, he went winless.
“It’s a great feeling, finally, to get it accomplished,” said a jubilant Weiss, of Headingley, Manitoba. “Hopefully, Madden’s right when he says once you get the first one, the rest are easy and they come in six-packs.”
Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, surged forward from seventh in the 30-lap race, tried to steal the win from Weiss, and managed to hold off Madden for his second consecutive runner-up finish. Madden, of Gray Court, SC, was third after his late-race move to catch Sheppard came up just short.
Madden and Cade Dillard led the field to the drop of the green with Weiss and three-time Series champ Darrell Lanigan following closely behind. Sheppard soon poked his head inside the top four and set up a three-car battle for the lead between himself, Weiss and Madden inside of 10 laps.
Soon, the race’s only caution flew with nine laps complete, putting Weiss right on the rear bumper of Madden. Try as he may, however, Smokey was unable to hold off Weiss or Sheppard in the circuits that followed, as Weiss got a great run on the inside lane out of turn four to swipe the lead away at the line.
“The caution came out and I knew Sheppard was right beside me, and I knew he was gonna give it everything he had to get around me. I figured if I could clear him, I’d have something for Madden,” Weiss said.
In fact, both he and Sheppard had something for Madden, as they lit the fire in their own battle for the lead a few laps later, Sheppard on the top and Weiss continuing to hug the bottom. But even the defending Series champion could not pry the lead from Weiss’ hands as they pressed onward into lapped traffic. Weiss was actually forced to switch to the topside to get around the slower cars, which made him a bit uneasy at first.
“When I got up to the lapped cars, I looked up at the board and saw lap 18, so I figured I’d have to go around them sooner or later, or I was going to get passed” Weiss said. “It was a little nerve-wracking going up there, because I knew it was definitely not the preferred lane.”
Sheppard’s duel with Weiss came to a boiling point on lap 22 when Sheppard tried to thread the needle going into turn three with Weiss and the slower car of Brent Larson on either side. Weiss shut the door while Sheppard slipped up the track and said goodbye to his last serious challenge for the lead, as Weiss just stayed smooth and out of trouble in the remaining laps to get his first Series win.
Lanigan’s consistent run netted him a fourth-place finish while 2018 champ Mike Marlar rounded out the top five. Chase Junghans surged forward from 16th to finish ninth and earn the night’s Hard Charger award.
In his record-setting 2019 campaign as the Rookie of the Year last season, Weiss gained a ton of experience on new tracks and made new fans in the stands and online.
“We were finally able to go back home for Christmas, and I had a lot of fans calling me and contacting me social media-wise just to say that they’re proud [of me] to put them on the map,” Weiss said. “Being able to say that we’re Canadian, it was a pretty cool feeling when everyone called and said that. I was pretty humbled.”
With two races now in the books, Weiss and Madden are now tied for the lead in Series points standings after a win and a third-place for each. Interestingly enough, Sheppard’s second runner-up finish at Vado created an identical top-three in Victory Lane with the winner switches for each night.
Sheppard picked up his second runner-up spot in two races on Saturday night, driving what he said was a very stable racecar. He’s been a two-time bridesmaid already this weekend in the two 30-lap Morton Buildings Features, and now he gears up for 75 laps and a chance at a $15,000 check on Sunday. Weiss may have gotten the best of him earlier on in Saturday’s main event, but the momentum he and the team are building on should fair them well in Sunday’s main event.
“I slipped up and [Weiss] got back by me, then we both got by Madden,” Sheppard said. “It just didn’t fall my way tonight. We had a really good racecar, we were right there where we needed to be.”
One of the biggest keys for success in short track racing is doing well in the qualifying events to start up front, making for an easier time in the Feature. Sheppard had that down pat in 2019 and looks to use that to his advantage again on Sunday.
“We’ve got to win our Heat race and start on the front row, that helps a lot here,” Sheppard said. “I know we can keep it out front and we’ve got a few more laps tomorrow to make something happen, so we should be able to, hopefully, get one spot better.”
Madden led the opening laps and looked strong out of the gate, and held his own inside the top three throughout the night.
“We need to keep doing what we’ve done the past few days. We need to qualify well, get us a Heat race win, or at least a second to put us in the top-8 for the Feature. That way, we’re able to be within striking distance and make our moves when we have to. If not, maybe we’ll be on the pole tomorrow and be able to set our own pace,” Madden said.
The 75-lap, $15,000-to-win Battle at the Border finale hits Vado Speedway Park for Hot Laps at 3 pm Sunday, catch every lap live on DIRTVision!Morton Buildings Feature (30 Laps) 1. 7-Ricky Weiss [$5,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$3,000]; 3. 0M-Chris Madden [$2,000]; 4. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$1,500]; 5. 157-Mike Marlar [$1,200]; 6. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,100]; 7. 21-Billy Moyer [$1,000]; 8. 2s-Stormy Scott [$900]; 9. 18-Chase Junghans [$850]; 10. 1P-Earl Pearson [$800]; 11. 3s-Brian Shirley [$750]; 12. 28-Dennis Erb [$700]; 13. O1-Garrett Alberson [$650]; 14. 12-Ashton Winger [$625]; 15. 32-Bobby Pierce [$600]; 16. 21jr-Billy Moyer [$575]; 17. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$550]; 18. 0e-Rick Eckert [$525]; 19. 99B-Boom Briggs [$500]; 20. 1st-Johnny Scott [$500]; 21. 66c-Matt Cosner [$110]; 22. 98-Jason Rauen [$500]; 23. B1-Brent Larson [$500]; 24. 6-Blake Spencer [$500]; 25. 6L-Ivedent Lloyd [$110]; 26. 4G-Kody Evans [$110]; 27. 91-Tony Toste [$500] Hard Charger: 18-Chase Junghans[+7]
SMOKE IN THE DESERT: Madden Scores in Season Opener at Vado
VADO, NM – Jan. 3, 2020 – Throughout the final six months of the 2019 racing season, Chris Madden showed the entire Dirt Late Model world why he is the hottest driver in the country with his basket of wins in several big-money races and other national and regional tour events. Now only three days into the new decade, Madden is right back at it again, picking up a win in the first World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature event of the year on Friday night at Vado Speedway Park’s inaugural Battle at the Border.
“It’s pretty awesome, it definitely keeps the momentum going,” Madden said. “I definitely want to stay consistent.”
Two-time and defending Series champion Brandon Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, was gaining on Madden in the final laps but was ultimately unable to catch the leader, settling for second while Madden’s fellow Team Drydene member Ricky Weiss, of Headingley, MB, completed the podium after an extended battle in lapped traffic.
Setting PFC Brakes Fast Time and a new track record in Qualifying, Madden was simply dominant throughout the night. The Gray Court, SC-native led flag-to-flag in Drydene Heat race #1, redrew the outside pole for the Morton Buildings Feature and made a great move for the lead on Weiss down the backstretch on lap two to kick things off in the 30-lap main event.
A three-car battle between the podium finishers ensued shortly thereafter, Madden showing the way into lapped traffic as Weiss snuck a nose under on lap 10 and got his second lap led in before Madden took it right back one circuit later.
“I thought maybe I could’ve given Madden a little run for his money there,” Weiss said. “I got beside him, just the lap cars didn’t play in my favor.”
The next 15 laps tightened up the leaders as they dove head-first into a long chain of lapped traffic that threw everyone, including Madden, a curveball.
“I was able to get my right-rear fired up and get my momentum going to pull back by Ricky on the start,” Madden said. “Then, we were out there holding our own and I guess those lapped cars might’ve knocked the yuke tires into the infield, and a whole bunch of dirt and crumbs started coming across the racetrack, so it got pretty sketchy then.”
Sheppard benefitted the most from the changing terrain, getting underneath Weiss off of Turn 4 on lap 18 to take second at the line. From that point forward, Sheppard held his ground in the runner-up spot and remained in hot pursuit of Madden, but still felt as though he had the car to win when the checkered flag dropped.
“Once we got lined-out there, Ricky slipped up and I was able to get to second,” Sheppard said. “I think I had a better car than them guys did. I stayed right on Madden’s bumper the whole time.”
Coming off of a record 18-win season, Sheppard was used to seeing more of the back of lapped cars than of the leader last year, but still showed that same intensity Friday night as he gave chase to Madden. That constant pressure gave Smokey all he could handle driving through lapped traffic in the leaders’ preferred lane at the bottom, but he was able to persevere and bring home his 28th career World of Outlaws victory.
“I knew they would be there. Anytime we catch lapped traffic and it’s one lane like that with a bunch of dirt everywhere, they’re going to catch you. I just didn’t need to make mistakes and didn’t need to choose the wrong line at the wrong time, and it worked out well for us,” Madden said.
The Rocket Chassis house car yet again showed its strength on the track Friday night, but just as most of the Dirt Late Model world was anticipating, Sheppard and the Rocket1 Racing team may have met their match this year with the return of the Scott Bloomquist Racing machines to the full-time World of Outlaws roster. Sheppard knew he had a fast and versatile car, but Madden’s was just a tick better through the same parts of the track.
“We had a really good racecar, I could drive wherever I wanted to go,” Sheppard said. “The momentum line, kind of diamond-ing the corners off and keeping your speed up was about the best line, and that was what Chris and I were both doing there, so it was going to be hard to pass him.”
As for Weiss’ venture through traffic, he was forced to make extra passes to regain position after slipping back a bit in the final third of the race. His Team Drydene teammate Scott Bloomquist and Mike Marlar engaged in a battle for position that eventually reached the bumper of Weiss and pulled him in as they waded through slower cars. But the 2019 Rookie of the Year kept his cool and was able to drive back by in the closing laps with a car he said felt very good on the brand-new track.
“I knew our car was real good, it was definitely good enough to run up front with Madden. It was maneuverable, I just needed a few breaks with the lapped cars,” Weiss said.
The inaugural Battle at the Border continues on night #2 of racing action from Vado Speedway Park with Hot Laps beginning at 3 p.m. MT. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision!Morton Buildings Feature (30 Laps) 1. 0M-Chris Madden [$5,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$3,000]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss [$2,000]; 4. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$1,500]; 5. 157-Mike Marlar [$1,200]; 6. 0e-Rick Eckert [$1,100]; 7. 3s-Brian Shirley [$1,000]; 8. 97-Cade Dillard [$900]; 9. 12-Ashton Winger [$850]; 10. 28-Dennis Erb, [$800]; 11. 32-Bobby Pierce [$750]; 12. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$700]; 13. 28m-Jimmy Mars [$650]; 14. 18-Chase Junghans [$625]; 15. 2s-Stormy Scott [$600]; 16. 99jr-Frank Heckenast [$575]; 17. 20RT-Ricky Thornton, [$550]; 18. 1P-Earl Pearson, [$525]; 19. 21jr-Billy Moyer, [$500]; 20. 1st-Johnny Scott [$500]; 21. 91-Tony Toste [$500]; 22. 99B-Boom Briggs [$500]; 23. 66c-Matt Cosner [$110]; 24. B1-Brent Larson [$500]; 25. 42s-Don Shaw [$500]; 26. 4G-Kody Evans [$110]; 27. 6-Blake Spencer [$110] Hard Charger: 28-Dennis Erb,[+9]