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'Smokey' Mountain Climber: Chris Madden earns redeeming Tennessee Tipoff win
By Mike Warren
MARYVILLE, TN – March 6, 2021 – Everything in racing can be going right until the unexpected creates heartbreak.
Flashback to one year ago, when Chris “Smokey” Madden was leading at Smoky Mountain Speedway. That’s when power steering issues sidelined him for the night on Lap 25.
One year later, he got his redemption, leading every lap of Saturday night's Tennessee Tipoff en route to his 29th World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Feature win, and second at Smoky Mountain.
The win makes Madden only the second driver in World of Outlaws history to win multiple Feature events at the track.
While leading all 50 laps seemed like a dominant performance, Madden held off challenges from last year’s winner Mike Marlar, and Jonathan Davenport in heavy lap traffic, to take home the $12,000 prize.
Madden got the jump at the initial green flag, powering to the number one spot outside of Davenport in Turn 2. He would hold that position easily through the only two cautions of the race, the first for debris on Lap 5, the other for a collision between Cade Dillard and Sam Seawright on Lap 7.
After the final re-start, Madden had to fight through a long green flag run and heavy lap traffic. The driver of the Drydene #44 machine caught the tail end of the field on Lap 16, and five laps later, he’d face his first challenge from Marlar. The 2018 Series champion consistently got a run on Madden into the corner and poked his nose under him each corner. That’s when Madden made a switch to the bottom of the racetrack, blocking Marlar’s runs low line runs.
“We got in lap traffic there at the end and I knew he (Marlar) was closing up on me, and I had to try to get some lap cars in between me and him, so I made a move to get a couple in front of him, and I did what I had to do to win the race,” Madden said.
Even after making that move, Madden knew patience would be the key in the closing laps of the event.
“I knew I had to be patient, not miss my marks, and not overcharge the corners,” Madden said.
The win keeps Madden’s momentum rolling, coming off his second consecutive Drydene Xtreme Dirtcar Series Championship last weekend. He also picked up a Drydene Heat Race win earlier in the night.
One of the things he’s been happy with to start the season is the help from two new team members.
“I got two new guys, Ricky and Steven, they’re working extremely hard, and learning fast, and just doing an outstanding job for me, and I’m proud to have them,” the Court Grey, SC campaigner said.
Madden’s biggest challenger throughout the night was Marlar, of Winfield, TN. He kept the pressure on Madden throughout the night but couldn’t get a good enough run to win his second consecutive World of Outlaws race at the track.
“Chris (Madden) did a really good job getting in the right lane at the right time, I almost got him and then he knew to move down, and kind of hit a sweet spot in the bottom of the track,” Marlar said.
Overall, the 2020 winner of the Tennessee Tip-Off was happy with a second-place finish, after starting in the fifth spot.
“Racing’s a humbling sport, I’m never going to complain about second,” Marlar added.
While Marlar was trying to put the pressure on Madden, he had even more pressure from Davenport all 50 laps. The two drivers swapped second and third on multiple occasions. One of those occurred during the first 10 laps, as Davenport pulled a slide job on Marlar just as the caution came out on Lap 7.
“That second caution came out right at the worst time,” Davenport said. “It was right before it (the track) started taking rubber, and I got the top going pretty good, and was going to slide Mikey (Marlar) right there.”
The two battled again in the final 10 laps, when the Blairsville, GA campaigner snuck by Marlar on the bottom on Lap 44, before drifting high while trying to get by a slower car, allowing Marlar to get the spot back two laps later.
Hudson O’Neal finished fourth, while Tim McCreadie crossed the line in fifth. Rounding out the top-10 were Jimmy Owens, Chris Ferguson, Brandon Sheppard, Darrell Lanigan, and Josh Richards.
Points leader Kyle Strickler finished 15th, holding on to a 66-point lead over three-time defending champion Brandon Sheppard, whose seventh-place finish vaults him into the number two spot in the standings.
If you’re unable to make it to the track can watch all of the action live on DIRTVision with the annual Platinum FAST PASS subscription for $299/year or the monthly FAST PASS subscription for $39/month.
QUALIFYING FLIGHT-A- 1. 157-Mike Marlar, 17.757; 2. 8P-David Payne, 17.861; 3. 97-Cade Dillard, 17.896; 4. 29V- Darrell Lanigan, 17.930; 5. 71-Hudson O’Neal, 17.959; 6. 20RT- Ricky Thornton Jr., 17.976; 7. 14- Josh Richards 17.981; 8. 1-Brandon Sheppard 18.046; 9. 76-Brandon Overton, 18.050; 10. 44F-Stewart Friesen, 18.077; 11. 16S- Sam Seawright, 18.103; 12. 8-Kyle Strickler, 18.127; 13. 17M-Dale McDowell, 18.176; 14. 18-Chase Junghans, 18.193; 15. 16- Tyler Bruening, 18.301; 16. 21K- Dakota Knuckles, 18.324; 17. 79-Daulton Wilson, 18.577; 18. 99B- Boom Briggs, 18.627; 19. 58- Ross Bailes, 18.650; 20. 4T- Tommy Kerr, 18.864; 21. 17- Colton Profitt, 18.936; 22. 6JR- Parker Martin, 19.069, 23. 17V- Tim Vance, 19.987; 24. 6- Blake Spencer, 19.994; 25. 3X- Bo Eaton, 20.297; 26. 22R-Will Roland, NT.QUALIFYING FLIGHT-B- 1. 7M- Donald McIntosh, 17.537; 2. 22- Chris Ferguson, 17.764; 3. 39- Tim McCreadie, 17.813; 4. 49- Jonathan Davenport, 17.828; 5. 44- Chris Madden, 17.845; 6. 23-Cory Hedgecock, 17.872; 7. 20- Jimmy Owens, 17.939; 8. 54-David Breazeale, 18.029; 9. 29- Christian Hanger, 18.037; 10. 25-Shane Clanton, 18.058; 11. 7-Ricky Weiss, 18.082; 12. 21- Robby Moses, 18.112; 13. 83-Jensen Ford, 18.201; 14. 11B- Stacy Boles, 18.202; 15. 40B- Kyle Bronson, 18.238; 16. 0- Scott Bloomquist, 18. 360; 17. 19R- Ryan Gustin, 18.471; 18. 6C- Clay Coghlan, 18.583; 19. 00- Dalton Polston, 18.658; 20. B1- Brent Larson, 18. 749; 21. 3- Steve Smith, 18.853; 22. OS- Ryan Scott, 18.881; 23. J27-Jay Scott, 19.043; 24. 56- Tony Jackson Jr., 19.265; 25. 28- Dennis Erb Jr., 19.315.