In the midst of an already-dramatic points championship finale, Saturday’s Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series Feature offered just as much excitement on the red clay of Modoc Raceway.
Brandon Overton, from nearby Evans, GA, brought the fans to their feet with a bit of outside groove magic, making the pass on runner-up Ross Bailes in the closing laps to pick up $7,000 and his second Xtreme DIRTcar Feature win of the year.
“[Modoc’s] kinda my home track. It’s the closest thing to me, so to win in front of everybody I know, it’s pretty awesome,” Overton said.
Defending Series champion and Team Drydene driver Chris Madden, of Gray Court, SC, carried a 25-point lead into Saturday night’s finale at Modoc and left still 20 points ahead of runner-up Kyle Strickler when all was said and done. A sixth-place finish to Strickler’s top-five in the Feature was good enough to seal his second consecutive Xtreme DIRTcar championship.
“It’s huge for us to win for [Drydene],” Madden said. “They help us a lot, and I’m just thankful to have them and be a part of this.”
While it all worked out in the end, Madden did not get the start to his night that he was looking for. Qualifying 22nd out of 29 cars in the field, his path to the championship was in question as he searched for the right setup for his Heat Race.
“I made a really bad decision right before Qualifying; that’s on me. But we were able to dig ourselves out of the hole,” Madden said.
Coming from eighth in Heat Race #1, Madden snagged the fifth and final transfer spot at the line on the final lap, placing him 13th on the starting grid for the Feature. Strickler had a much better Qualifying effort and earned a fourth-place starting spot for the 40-lap Feature via the redraw.
Polesitter Christian Hanger got the jump into Turn 1 at the drop of the green and led the first two laps before Dustin Mitchell made the power move to the inside to take the top spot – one he would keep until Lap 25 when Ross Bailes made the groove one lane higher work to swipe the lead away.
Overton had been riding third and decided to try the higher groove out for himself. What he found worked, as he made the move around the outside of Mitchell just four laps later.
“I had to wait on everybody’s tires to get hot so they’d start getting free in [the corner], and when they started getting free in, I knew I could attack getting into [Turn] 3,” Overton said.
By this time, Bailes had pulled out to a considerable lead as he approached lapped traffic. As the laps were winding down under 10-to-go, Overton made reeling Bailes in look easy.
“We caught that traffic just at the right time. I didn’t run the top until I got back to [Bailes]. I went up there a lap before and I got really close and I hung, and he kinda got away, so I knew not to get really, really high in [Turn] 1 and I could still do my deal down in 3 and 4,” Overton said.
With five laps left on the board, Overton knew it was crunch time. He peeled off the bottom and slung it to the higher groove he’d used on Mitchell to make the pass, bringing the Modoc crowd to their feet with his bravery as he drove off with the lead and the eventual win.
“[Bailes] just kinda got it stuck up there, and I finally got it blown-off enough to finally clear him. It was a hell of a race,” Overton said.
Strickler gave it a solid effort, bagging his fourth top-five in five Xtreme races this season, even after a bit of contact with Overton in the opening laps heading into Turn 1.
“It cost us some spots, but it didn’t cost us a championship,” Strickler said.
Madden crossed the stripe right behind him after a solid run up through the field from 13th. While he is noted for having a solid poker face in these pressure situations, Madden did admit the points situation was an active thought in his mind as he pulled onto the track for the Feature.
“It was pretty heavy,” he said. “[Strickler] drew a four, and that put himself in-position to get it done. I put myself in a position to get beat.
“Especially when you’re coming into the Feature and the guy you’re battling is up front and you’re in the back. It was mine to lose when I came here tonight, and I almost did it.”
Despite coming up just 20 points shy of dethroning Madden and winning his first Xtreme DIRTcar championship, Strickler recalls the abundant success he’s had to this point and looks to continue it as a full-time member of the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series in 2021, chasing his first national championship as a rookie.
“Top-five [finish] and second in points; I’m really proud of my guys, all my supporters and sponsors,” Strickler said. “It’s definitely a testament to how hard we’re working and how bad we want this.”
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (click for full results)
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 76-Brandon Overton [$7,000]; 2. 79-Ross Bailes [$2,500]; 3. D8-Dustin Mitchell [$1,700]; 4. 71-Hudson O’Neal [$1,400]; 5. 8-Kyle Strickler [$1,200]; 6. 44-Chris Madden [$1,000]; 7. 89-GR Smith [$800]; 8. 2-Matthew Nance [$700]; 9. 6JR-Parker Martin [$600]; 10. 18D-Daulton Wilson [$550]; 11. 19-Pearson Lee Williams [$500]; 12. 88-Trent Ivey [$500]; 13. J1-Joshua Bishop [$500]; 14. 10-Garrett Smith [$500]; 15. 421-Anthony Sanders [$500]; 16. 57-Adam Yarbrough [$500]; 17. 6-Dillon Brown [$500]; 18. 17V-Tim Vance [$500]; 19. O3-David Yandle [$500]; 20. 29-Christian Hanger [$500]; 21. 42K-Cla Knight [$500]; 22. OO-Dalton Polston [$500]; 23. 87-Walker Arthur [$500]; 24. 18-Brett Hamm [$500] Hard Charger: 44-Chris Madden[+7]