Story By: NICK GRAZIANO / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – BARBERVILLE, FL – Victory flirted with Devin Moran throughout the week, only to keep him wondering if love was ever really there.
The biggest tease was on Wednesday night – during the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model’s DIRTcar Nationals opener at Volusia Speedway Park – when Moran made a charge to the front and saw his date with Victory Lane laps away. Then, his driveshaft broke.
On Thursday night – into Friday morning – after a rain shower halted racing action for a couple of hours, Moran was no longer for playing games. He was confident. He was taking his shot.
From the fifth starting position, Moran charged his way to the front past the likes of Chris Madden and Dale McDowell to finally secure his date with Victory Lane during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals – his fifth World of Outlaws victory, tying him for 25th on the all-time wins list with his dad, Donnie Moran.
“This is awesome,” an out of breath Moran said in Victory Lane. “We’ve had just a fast race car all week and we haven’t been able to quite get there. I was bummed when I got that pill draw (to start fifth) but congrats to the track crew. They did an awesome job. We got rain and I honestly didn’t think we were going to race. Everyone back there was complaining, not wanting to race, but we’re here to race. So, that’s what we were going to do. They did an awesome job, and this is probably the raciest it’s been all week.
“It’s awesome to finally get a gator (trophy). We didn’t think we were going to come here, but it’s all happening and it’s pretty cool.”
At the start of the 40-lap Feature, on Friday morning, McDowell launched ahead of the field to lead the first lap with Madden following his tire tracks in second. By Lap 3 Madden sucked the right-side stickers off McDowell’s car as he rocketed past him off Turn 4 to claim the lead. McDowell fought back and the two raced side by side for a lap before Madden got into a rhythm and pulled away.
The second caution of the night came out with 31 laps to go and allowed Moran, in third, to line up next to McDowell on the restart. The young Dresden, OH native showed the night before that he’s not afraid to throw the holiest of Hail Mary slide jobs into the corner for a pass, too. However, he didn’t need it.
Moran bested McDowell on the restart and secured the runner-up spot by the first corner. He then began his pursuit of Madden.
With 19 laps to go and a run down the backstretch, he threw his #9 machine to the bottom of Turn 3, underneath Madden, and allowed the momentum to send his car up the track in front of his new rival. Madden was ready for the move, though, and cranked his steering wheel to the left by the center of the corner to turn underneath Moran. They went side by side down the front stretch before Madden cleared him for the lead by the flag stand.
Moran wasn’t done, yet. This was the time to shoot his shot. He pulled even with Madden down the backstretch and tried another slide job attempt into Turn 3. This time to perfection. Madden didn’t have the grip to hang with Moran off the corner and had to watch the 26-year-old drive away.
While Moran was on his way to holding hands with victory, a new challenger emerged in the late stage of the race. From the ninth starting position, Bobby Pierce navigated his way to second with nine laps to go.
He put the pressure on Moran in the closing laps, but it wasn’t enough to hinder his confidence. Moran held a steady wheel to win his first-ever DIRTcar Nationals win – and increased his points lead over Pierce for the Big Gator championship with two races remaining.
Pierce was only supposed to run the first two DIRTcar Late Model races of Late Model week during the DIRTcar Nationals, but after a win on Tuesday, he decided to stay. The decision has paid off, so far, with him still in contention for the Big Gator.
“Last night (when he blew a tire) was a heartbreaker,” Pierce said. “We’d have so many good finishes if it wasn’t for that. Congrats to Devin on the win there. I think he snookered us on tires. That explains why he was pulling away there pretty good. The car is really good. I was driving my butt off to catch him. I guess we needed so green flag runs to catch him.”
McDowell worked his way back by Madden with five laps to go to round out the podium.
“We’ve been working and been right there,” McDowell said. “Just have to drive harder in these conditions. Just out of my wheelhouse.”
Three-time defending champion Brandon Sheppard earned the hard charger award with his run from 23rd to sixth. That helped move him from ninth to third in the championship standings. He’s currently 70 points behind points leader and rookie contender, Kyle Strickler – who earned his fourth top-four finish in a row with the Series.
For Moran, he’s already thinking of beating his dad’s win record when the Series returns to action Friday night at Volusia.
“I want to say thank you to him so much. He was supposed to come out tonight but with all of the rain tonight he stayed at the hotel,” Moran said. “I texted him and said, ‘Hey, we’re racing.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’m not coming out tonight but go win that bitch. So, we did.”
The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, on Friday, Feb. 12, returns to Volusia Speedway Park during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals for round three of four.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision
Morton Buildings Feature (40 Laps) – 1. 9-Devin Moran [$10,000]; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce [$6,000]; 3. 17M-Dale McDowell [$3,500]; 4. 8-Kyle Strickler [$2,800]; 5. 28-Dennis Erb [$2,500]; 6. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$2,300]; 7. 7-Ricky Weiss [$2,200]; 8. 44-Chris Madden [$2,100]; 9. 16-Tyler Bruening [$2,050]; 10. 25-Shane Clanton [$2,000]; 11. 54-David Breazeale [$1,600]; 12. 58-Ross Bailes [$400]; 13. O-Scott Bloomquist [$1,200]; 14. 33-Jeff Mathews [$1,100]; 15. B1-Brent Larson [$1,050]; 16. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,000]; 17. 56-Tony Jackson [$1,000]; 18. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,000]; 19. 40B-Kyle Bronson [$1,000]; 20. OE-Rick Eckert [$1,000]; 21. 20-Jimmy Owens [$1,000]; 22. 6JR-Parker Martin [$110]; 23. OS-Ryan Scott [$110]; 24. 6-Blake Spencer [$110]; 25. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,000]; 26. 20RT-Ricky Thornton [$1,000]; 27. 29V-Darrell Lanigan [$1,000]; 28. 14-Josh Richards [$1,000]; 29. 42-Chad Finley [$1,000]; 30. 76-Brandon Overton [$1,000]; Hard Charger Award: 1-Brandon Sheppard[+17]
Qualifying Flight-A – 1. 9-Devin Moran, 16.054; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce, 16.089; 3. 20-Jimmy Owens, 16.158; 4. 8-Kyle Strickler, 16.199; 5. 39-Tim McCreadie, 16.287; 6. 40B-Kyle Bronson, 16.318; 7. O-Scott Bloomquist, 16.368; 8. 44-Chris Madden, 16.401; 9. 7-Ricky Weiss, 16.426; 10. 71-Hudson O’Neal, 16.453; 11. 54-David Breazeale, 16.501; 12. 6JR-Parker Martin, 16.577; 13. 19R-Ryan Gustin, 16.607; 14. 31-Tyler Millwood, 16.639; 15. 1-Brandon Sheppard, 16.651; 16. 89-G.R. Smith, 16.721; 17. 18-Chase Junghans, 16.778; 18. 99B-Boom Briggs, 16.837; 19. 33-Jeff Mathews, 16.902; 20. 6-Blake Spencer, 17.166; 21. 3-Mike Collins, 17.331; 22. 7F-Jason Fitzgerald, 17.431; 23. OE-Rick Eckert, 17.805; 24. 2-Dan Stone, NT; 25. 12-Ashton Winger, NT
Qualifying Flight-B – 1. 76-Brandon Overton, 16.146; 2. 16-Tyler Bruening, 16.332; 3. 14G-Joe Godsey, 16.339; 4. B1-Brent Larson, 16.34; 5. 42-Chad Finley, 16.406; 6. 17M-Dale McDowell, 16.427; 7. 97-Cade Dillard, 16.483; 8. 20RT-Ricky Thornton, 16.483; 9. 29V-Darrell Lanigan, 16.506; 10. 21-Billy Moyer, 16.515; 11. 72-Mike Norris, 16.52; 12. 25-Shane Clanton, 16.543; 13. 3S-Brian Shirley, 16.549; 14. 28-Dennis Erb, 16.57; 15. 56-Tony Jackson, 16.628; 16. 14-Josh Richards, 16.633; 17. 76N-Blair Nothdurft, 16.699; 18. 385-Mark Whitener, 16.706; 19. 14M-Trevor Gundaker, 16.719; 20. 7R-Ross Robinson, 16.724; 21. 58-Ross Bailes, 16.869; 22. 14B-John Baker, 16.923; 23. 1st-Johnny Scott, 16.998; 24. 3W-Brennon Willard, 17.011; 25. OS-Ryan Scott, 17.622