CONCORD, NC – The Friday portion of the 2018 World of Outlaws World Finals presented by Can-Am Off Road at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway was finally completed on Saturday afternoon, after it was rescheduled from Friday night due to the city of Charlotte’s curfew.
Brandon Sheppard collected his 13th win of the season and inched closer to a repeat championship, still to be decided in the Saturday portion. 2006 Series Champion Tim McCreadie gave “The Rocket Shepp” a good run through 50 laps, swapping the lead back and forth several times, but was unable to catch and pass Sheppard in the end.
Current points leader Mike Marlar came from outside row four to pickup the final podium spot, minimizing the damage to his points lead, now over Sheppard instead of Chris Madden. Coming into the race only 22 points out of the lead, Madden suffered the worst fate of all early on in the race, dropping out on lap six with a broken oil line. Madden now sits 66 points back from Marlar, officially eliminating him from title contention.
Sheppard started from outside row three and quickly moved into the top three, taking the lead on lap nine away from 2004 Series Champion Scott Bloomquist. He would go unchallenged until the halfway mark, as “T-Mac” shot to the bottom of the track and swiped the lead away on lap 26.
Side-by-side they raced until lap 30, when Sheppard was able to pull away in lapped traffic. A late-but-great restart was the magic he needed to pull away from McCreadie and grab his 37th-career World of Outlaws victory.
“Our car was really maneuverable and that was the key,” Sheppard said. “The track was awesome, just like it always is. Hats off to my team, this thing’s a dream to drive.”
The five-lap battle with the 2018 World 100 Champion McCreadie had Sheppard in a bit of a pinch, losing the lead multiple times over the stretch. But the Defending Series Champion knew how to work the bottom groove to his advantage.
“McCreadie showed me a nose there a few times so I knew I had to get down in [turns] three and four as soon as I could,” Sheppard said. “All in all, it just worked out for us.”
McCreadie also had a solid race, coming from the fourth spot to finish second, giving him his 2nd top-five of the 2018 season.
“First little bit of the race I didn’t really get into second like I was hoping for,” McCreadie said. “Just the way it shook out with the race, I got jumbled up a little bit behind some cars in the first five or sixth laps. Then Brandon immediately got by me… it just made me work a lot more.”
His battle with Sheppard was his biggest highlight of the race, ultimately ending with Sheppard pulling away in traffic, but a great show nonetheless.
“I thought we were just a tick better, well we were probably the same,” McCreadie said “[Sheppard’s] better in three and four, I’m better in one and two, and we just had to work around it as best we could. Brandon’s a hell of a driver.”
Mike Marlar engaged in quite a few passes to work his way up to third from the eighth spot, chasing down leaders McCreadie and Sheppard in the closing laps.
“I passed five [cars] there and when the caution came out, me and Timmy and Brandon were having a really great race in traffic,” Marlar said.
The track may have been slightly slicker than it was the night before, but Marlar seems to shine when the track cleans off.
“Things are always best, to me, when they’re slow and slick and have a little dust laying on them,” Marlar said. “They’re always way more racy.”
The championship situation has now tightened up, as Marlar leads Sheppard by 34 points. Sheppard must win with Marlar worse than 17th to go back-to-back.
See how the final race of the 30th Annual World of Outlaws Late Model Series tour ends tonight in the Saturday feature, live on DIRTvision!