Brandon Overton was checking every box to have a perfect night at Volusia Speedway Park on Thursday, even holding the lead when the white flag pointed in his direction. Then came Bobby Pierce.
For the first time all night, Overton saw a car pass him with less than half a mile to go until the checkered flag. After Overton slid himself through the first turn, Pierce sailed underneath the #76 machine and powered ahead down the backstretch.
Hoping to rebound from two bad nights at Volusia with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series in January, and eager to bring home a golden gator trophy to his girlfriend, Pierce fended off Overton through the final corner as he ran to the finish line.
“The last time we were [at Volusia] for the World of Outlaws races, you know, I didn’t have good showings and couldn’t complete our nights, so we’ve been kind of building on that,” said Pierce, of Oakwood, IL. “We’ve ran all the Features, so far, made all the laps, and it was just fine tuning the race cars after that.
“We needed this win to make up points with [the World of Outlaws]… We got this first night out. If we can knock out another one that would be a big points jump that we’ll gain.”
The victory, coming during the first night of World of Outlaws CASE Late Model action at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, is Pierce’s second DIRTcar Nationals win – first with the World of Outlaws – and fifth Series win overall.
However, Overton didn’t initially leave much hope for anyone to steal the win away from him with the early trajectory of his night. He set Quick Time in Low-E Insulation Qualifying, won the CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat Race and drew the pole for the 30-lap Feature. Then, he drove away from the 29-car field in the caution-free race.
Pierce drew the fourth starting position, but said he’d rather have a bottom row starting spot. However, he didn’t waste time getting to the bottom lane at the start of the Feature, cruising to second-place by Lap 4.
Current Big Gator championship points leader Tim McCreadie, who started a row behind Pierce in sixth, also made a quick charge to the front. He powered to fourth on the first lap and then second the next lap. His time in the runner-up spot was short lived, though, as Pierce came through to steal it.
The two stayed within striking distance of Overton, even closing in after the halfway point when he got caught in traffic. But once Overton found clean air, he gapped Pierce by more than a second.
With five laps to go and a healthy distance between first and second, Overton’s perfect night was minutes away from being complete. Pierce wasn’t ready to give up, though.
By running the top lane, and getting some assistance from slower cars in front of Overton, Pierce closed within a car length of the #76 car with three laps to go. When flagger Dave Farney showed them the double popsicle sticks, Pierce was on Overton’s bumper going into Turn 1. He stayed there down the backstretch and through Turns 3 and 4.
Looking low before turning into the first corner on the final lap, Pierce was eager to make his move.
Overton slid up the track with a slower car hugging the bottom, opening the door for Pierce to rocket underneath him and get enough grip off the bottom to pull ahead down the backstretch.
Both drivers threw their cars into the final corner, exiting sideways off Turn 4 but Pierce held the advantage at the line with the checkered flag waving.
“I guess now thinking back, when I went to the top that flustered him up,” Pierce said. “I think his crew guys told him I had ran the top and was pretty good, because after that he kept moving up a little and I just kept poking in there on the bottom and I was getting better the lower I got. It was slimy so it had to come in.
“There at the end… one of my crew guys, he’d told me I won here before, just do what I do and a couple times when I messed up I just thought of that really.”
Overton admitted he made the wrong move going into Turn 1 on the final lap, stating it was a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
“Should’ve just stayed on the bottom, I made a wrong move,” Overton said. “I tried to arc out and tried to float across and Bobby (Pierce) was down there and blew by me. Just kind of got aggravated. I knew he was closing in… you stay on the bottom, he drives around you on the top or do what I did and he drives around you. It is what it is, we had a good car.”
McCreadie didn’t have enough to enter the battle and had to settle for third – his worst finish of the week. With the DIRTcar Late Models the first three nights of DIRTcar Nationals, he finished second, first and first. His third-place run also helped him further extend his Big Gator points lead to a 25-point advantage over Hudson O’Neal.
Chris Madden, who is the current World of Outlaws CASE Late Model points leader, earned the Fox Factory Hard Charger Award for the race, making his way from 23rd to 15th.
Both points battles continue Friday, Feb. 17, during the $12,000-to-win Feature. The Big Gator championship will be decided at the conclusion of Saturday’s $20,000-to-win main event.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series continues its 2023 season at Volusia Speedway Park, Friday, Feb. 17. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 32-Bobby Pierce; 2. 76-Brandon Overton; 3. 39-Tim McCreadie; 4. 18-Chase Junghans; 5. 1-Hudson O’Neal; 6. 17M-Dale McDowell; 7. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 8. 111-Max Blair; 9. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 10. 25Z-Mason Zeigler; 11. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 12. 99-Devin Moran; 13. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 14. 8S-Kyle Strickler; 15. 44-Chris Madden; 16. 8-Brian Shirley; 17. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 18. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 19. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 20. 9-Nick Hoffman; 21. 10-Mike Norris; 22. 18D-Daulton Wilson; 23. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 24. B1-Brent Larson; 25. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 26. 96V-Tanner English; 27. 25-Shane Clanton; 28. 22*-Payton Freeman; 29. 5-Mark Whitener