Story By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – MECHANICSBURG, PA – Chalk up the 61st Champion Racing Oil National Open to the Pennsylvania Posse.
Brent Marks is a native of Myerstown, PA, cut his teeth in the Sprint Car hotbed before embarking on a national schedule for a few seasons, and has refocused a majority of his racing on the region in recent years. On Saturday night at Williams Grove Speedway, Marks made his home state fans proud by topping the 2023 National Open for the Posse.
Marks started on the pole of the 40-lap Feature and slipped back to third early before rallying to snatch the top in the second half of the main event on his way to victory in the final leg of Sprint Car racing’s Triple Crown and a huge $75,000 paycheck.
The grandstands erupted as the “Myerstown Missile” took the checkered flag. In Victory Lane, the roars thundered even louder as he rose atop the wing of the Murray-Marks #19. One of PA’s own had taken down the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars at the state’s premier event.
“It feels awesome. To be standing up here in front of this crowd is just absolutely amazing,” Marks said. “The support in Pennsylvania is second to none. I can’t thank all of the fans for coming out tonight enough and supporting this event and supporting us. Got a win for the PA Posse.”
Adding to his 2019 National Open triumph, Marks became the 13th driver in history to top the crown jewel multiple times. The win also served as his 13th with The Greatest Show on Dirt. Four of those have occurred at Williams Grove. The Posse now own back-to-back National Open titles after Lance Dewease notched his fifth “Natty O” in 2022.
While Marks began the main event from the front courtesy of winning the Toyota Racing Dash, the route to victory was no walk in the park. The 32-year-old led the opening circuit, but Justin Peck threw a successful slide job on the second lap to take over the lead. In the next set of corners, sixth-starting Daryn Pittman rolled by Marks on the bottom to snatch second.
Peck maintained roughly a one second advantage over Pittman for the next handful of laps. But as the leaders approached traffic, Pittman began to close in on the Buch Motorsports #13. On the 12th lap, Peck slipped up exiting Turn 2 allowing Pittman to power into the lead behind the wheel of the Kreitz Racing #69K.
World of Outlaws and Posse fans united in their joy as Pittman moved into the top spot. The 2013 World of Outlaws champion and former regular in Pennsylvania entered the weekend with five National Open runner-ups on his résumé but no wins. The semi-retired racer has only competed a handful of times this year but made sure to climb aboard a potent ride for the race that had long eluded him.
Marks lurked close behind as Pittman claimed the lead. Only three laps after Pittman passed Peck, Marks also moved ahead of him to grab second and set his sights on Pittman.
A pair of restarts bunched the field together as the Feature neared the halfway point, but Pittman aced both of them in his pursuit of National Open glory and pulled ahead. While Pittman initially gapped Marks on the second restart, Marks began to mount a charge as he got the #19 rolling on the top.
The race reached the 20-lap halfway mark, and it became clear was Marks was closing. The margin visibly shrank lap after lap as Pittman stayed glued to the bottom while Marks remained committed to the cushion. On Lap 22, Marks got a huge run out of Turn 4 and powered alongside Pittman down the front straightaway before sliding him in Turns 1 and 2. Pittman looked under Marks exiting the second corner but couldn’t nose back ahead.
“Our care is just a long run car. We always struggle a little bit at the beginning of a race with a full fuel load,” Marks explained. “We just need laps. That’s all it took tonight, just getting laps. The top started to clean off a little bit more and come in more than it was, and Daryn was running around the bottom down there.”
Even after getting passed, Pittman continued to put up a fight as he didn’t let Marks pull away at first. The Owasso, OK native kept the powder blue machine a few car lengths behind Marks lap after lap in search of his first National Open.
Eventually, Marks began to inch away from Pittman as the lead duo made their way through traffic, the margin extending beyond a second and a half at one point. One last glimmer of hope gleamed on the 32nd circuit when Pittman slashed Mark’s advantage from 1.1 seconds to nearly half a second in traffic.
But ultimately, Pittman also found himself slightly held up by the same cars, allowing Marks to again grow the gap. Marks expertly worked his way through lapped cars on his way to a comfortable 2.4 second lead when the checkered flag flew.
“To get my second National Open title is really special,” Marks said. “We had a shot to win this back in 2021, and I hit a lapped car and spun out while leading and last year we finished second. This kind of felt like a little bit of redemption for me. Just hats off to this whole team. The Murray-Marks Motorsports team is just awesome.”
Pittman crossed the finish line in second for his sixth National Open runner-up in a fifth different car as Kreitz Racing came up a spot short of two consecutive National Open victories. The effort was worth a $25,000 payday. Driving from sixth to first and leading 11 laps but ultimately coming up short again left Pittman with a tough pill to swallow.
“Second still sucks. I’ve just been so close,” Pittman said. “That one’s hard to swallow. Honestly, I just feel like I let these guys down. At the end of the day, this car is amazing, and I’m disappointed. Man, if we would’ve pulled that off, I can guarantee they were going to have to find a driver to start and park that second Feature because you weren’t ever going to see me here again. I would’ve gladly walked away with a National Open win and hung up my career at Williams Grove.”
Rounding out the top three was the night’s Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award winner – Rico Abreu. The St. Helena, CA native pocketed $10,000 for the third place run as he notched his 15th World of Outlaws podium of the year.
“It’s amazing to race in front of such a big crowd here at Williams Grove Speedway,” Abreu commented. “Those guys just had a little bit faster pace than us. The more I moved around the more I felt kind of numb leaving the corners, and I just needed to be up top.”
Sheldon Haudenschild and Brad Sweet completed the top five.
Sweet’s fifth coupled with his win in the second Feature of the night allowed him to extend his points lead up to 90 markers.
Danny Dietrich scored KSE Racing Hard Charger honors with a drive from 27th to 9th.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Rico Abreu. NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Justin Peck, Brad Sweet, and Brent Marks.
Buddy Kofoid won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returns to Port Royal Speedway for the two-day Nittany Showdown, Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (40 Laps): 1. 19-Brent Marks; 2. 69K-Daryn Pittman; 3. 24-Rico Abreu; 4. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 5. 49-Brad Sweet; 6. 13-Justin Peck; 7. 2-David Gravel; 8. 15-Donny Schatz; 9. 48-Danny Dietrich; 10. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 11. 5-Spencer Bayston; 12. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 13. 11-Cory Eliason; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 15. 9-Kasey Kahne; 16. 8E-Freddie Rahmer; 17. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 18. 99-Skylar Gee; 19. 41-Carson Macedo; 20. 21-Brian Brown; 21. 83-James McFadden; 22. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 23. 71-Anthony Macri; 24. 26-Zeb Wise; 25. 39M-Lance Dewease; 26. 91-Kyle Reinhardt; 27. 8-Aaron Reutzel