From Mike Warren / worldofoutlaws.com
A well-timed change and a little luck kept Mike Marlar’s Wisconsin streak alive Thursday night at Cedar Lake Speedway.
The Winfield, TN driver was chasing Jonathan Davenport for the lead when he moved to the top in Turns 1 and 2. That’s when the 2018 World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series champion got the break he needed.
As Marlar started inching closer to “Superman,” heartbreak struck Davenport as ignition box issues sidelined him for the rest of the night on Lap 11.
From there, Marlar led the final 20 laps to score his third Series triumph of 2022—all of them in the Badger State.
The “Winfield Warrior” knew Davenport’s misfortunes meant it was his race to lose as he reached the podium in his eighth straight World of Outlaws start.
“I’m not going to say I was faster than [Davenport], but I found a little bit better line than him,” Marlar said. “But these guys have a knack of moving to that line right when they need to, too.
“You can’t count your chickens before they hatch, but definitely when he broke there, it was all mine to lose then.”
Marlar survived several restarts once he got the lead and challenges from Brent Larson and Gordy Gundaker.
However, his ability to use the outside line in Turns 1 and 2 paid dividends en route to the $6,000 payday.
“The groove for me that was better was high in (Turns) 1 and 2 and low in (Turns) 3 and 4,” Marlar said. “It was kind of weird because it was an extreme high right against the wall, and down there in 3 and 4, it was left front up over the tires and left rear against the tires. It was definitely a real technical racetrack, and these places up here always are.”
Larson held on for second, matching his best World of Outlaws finish. However, he felt he needed a few more adjustments to find Victory Lane at the track where he cut his teeth in a Late Model.
“I stayed a little bit too conservative in my setup,” Larson said. “I just needed to make a few more changes than I made, and I might’ve had something for him in the middle if I had done that.
“But it’s tough when you get off to a good start because you don’t want to change too much either. I’m happy with the night overall and happy knowing we’re a second-place car and that I know what changes I need to make to get better.”
Tanner English, Thursday’s Rookie of the Race, crossed the line third—his second straight podium finish.
The Benton, KY driver, stated restarts were his strength, allowing him to get to the top three from his 14th starting position.
“It came to the front the whole time, and every restart, it would really jump out there and go,” English said. “I was just hanging on, but every time someone would make a mistake, I would get my nose up underneath them and pass them.”
Like English, four-time and reigning Series champion Brandon Sheppard also charged into the top five, finishing fourth.
The New Berlin, IL driver, felt his car was good but knew he had to go to the outside if he wanted to gain positions
“We had a really good car that whole race,” Sheppard said. “I could run top, middle, the bottom where I needed to. There at the end, I feel like I had my left rear tire used up a little bit because I was running that top so hard early. But they were all on the bottom, so I had to get out and try to make something happen.
“Our team did a great job tonight. Our car was really good. We gave it all we had, for sure. I felt like we had a really good balanced car, so it’s exciting for the rest of the weekend.”
World of Outlaws Series points leader Dennis Erb Jr. rounded out the top five—his 15th top five of 2022.
Despite the top-five run, the Carpentersville, IL driver isn’t satisfied with how he’s running right now.
“It was getting a lot better, but it needs to get a lot better in the Feature,” Erb said. “We started off a little bit and worked our way in there, but I’m really not happy with it right now, so I just have to tweak on it and hopefully get it a little bit better on [Friday].”
English gained points on Erb for the second consecutive race. He’s now 164 points behind Erb after Thursday night’s Feature. He also gained on Max Blair in the battle for Rookie of the Year—20 points ahead of the Centerville, PA driver.
The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet return to Cedar Lake Speedway on Friday, Aug. 5, for night two of the 35th USA Nationals. Drivers will run a program of double Heat Races and a dash to help set the lineup for Saturday’s 100-lap, $50,000-to-win finale.
CASE Construction Equipment Feature (30 Laps):
1. 157-Mike Marlar; 2. B1-Brent Larson; 3. 81E-Tanner English; 4. 1S-Brandon Sheppard; 5. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 6. 1T-Tyler Erb; 7. 18C-Chase Junghans; 8. 18-Shannon Babb; 9. 97-Cade Dillard; 10. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 11. 3S-Brian Shirley; 12. 111V-Max Blair; 13. 32-Bobby Pierce; 14. 25-Shane Clanton; 15. 1-Boom Briggs; 16. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 17. 16-Tyler Bruening; 18. 7-Ricky Weiss; 19. 44-Chris Madden; 20. 8-Kyle Strickler; 21. 76-Brandon Overton; 22. 10S-Garrett Smith; 23. 28M-Jimmy Mars; 24. 49-Jonathan Davenport
See the full story and results:
Photo: worldofoutlaws.com / Jacy Norgaard