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Pierce, Marlar, Sheppard Conquer DIRTcar Nationals Triple Features

Gator Trophy

Nearly 50 of the best dirt Late Model drivers in the country gathered at Volusia Speedway Park for a tripleheader of DIRTcar Late Model action at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals Wednesday night.

The stout field was split into three 20-lap, $5,000-to-win, Features with World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model champions Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar and Brandon Sheppard each taking home another gator trophy.

Here’s how each Feature played out:

FEATURE # 1: Redemption For Bobby Pierce
After a flat tire ended Bobby Pierce’s chance at victory Wednesday night, he left that memory in the past by leading all 20 laps of the first DIRTcar Late Model Feature Wednesday night.

Pierce, of Oakwood, IL, set Quick Time in his group to claim the top starting spot in the Feature with multi-time national Late Model champion Tim McCreadie starting to his outside and Cade Dillard behind him.

Once the green flag was shown for the Feature, Pierce continued to act like he was making qualifying laps, pulling away by half a straightaway in two laps.

Seven cautions plagued the pace of the race, but never hindered Pierce’s drive. By the time he was through the first corner, the field was still racing to Turn 2 on every restart.

While he was on cruise control out front, the rest of the top five argued lap after lap for position.

Cade Dillard stole second from McCreadie on the Lap 4 restart, leaving the Late Model veteran to hold off attacks from division youngsters Ethan Dotson and Ashton Winger.

Doston, on the charge from fifth, followed Dillard by McCreadie to take third and then set his sights on the #97. He got within a car length, but a caution on Lap 14 negated the run. Then, when the race resumed, McCreadie slid in front of the #174 through the center of the corner. That took the air off Dotson’s front nose and caused him to push up the track, into the cushion, and spin around.

Fueled by frustration and determination, Dotson was able to driver back to sixth by the end of the Feature.

Winger moved up and down the running order throughout the night. In the first half of the race, he charged from eight to fourth, but then fell to sixth after a slip up at the halfway point. From there, he raced his way back to fourth by the checkered flag.

Max McLaughlin earned his career-best dirt Super Late Model finish, surviving the cautions and running a clean race to finish fifth.

For Pierce, the victory is his third at DIRTcar Nationals, giving him momentum for when the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model season continues Thursday.

“It feels like a rebound pretty good there,” Pierce said. “We’ve had a bad fast race car this whole time. It’s awesome to finally put it in Victory Lane where it belongs. I can’t thank my crew enough; they’ve been working hard.”

RESULTS:
Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 32-Bobby Pierce[1]; 2. 97-Cade Dillard[3]; 3. 39-Tim McCreadie[2]; 4. 12-Ashton Winger[8]; 5. 22*-Max McLaughlin[13]; 6. 174-Ethan Dotson[5]; 7. 25B-Mike Benedum[6]; 8. 11B-Stacy Boles[12]; 9. 20TC-Tristan Chamberlain[16]; 10. 1Z-Logan Zarin[4]; 11. 14JR-Jason Fitzgerald[15]; 12. 11-Austin Smith[7]; 13. B1-Brent Larson[10]; 14. 76-Blair Nothdurft[9]; 15. 40B-Kyle Bronson[11]; 16. 19-Dustin Sorensen[14]

FEATURE #2: First Gator Since 2019 For Marlar
Taking notes from the Falcon 9 rocket that launched out of Florida Wednesday evening, Mike Marlar was a rocket in the second DIRTcar Late Model Feature, leading all 20 laps unchallenged.

When the race commenced, Marlar gapped the field by two car lengths into the first corner. Behind him, Nick Hoffman, who started on the outside pole, bounced over the cushion and fell from second to fifth.

Jordan Koehler benefited the most from Hoffman’s misfortune, sliding into second, hoping to battle for his first DIRTcar Nationals win.

However, a caution on Lap 11 changed the outcome for several drivers. When the race resumed, Hoffman built a strong enough run to power around the outside of Dylan Thompson and Koehler to go from fourth to second. And behind him, Erb also made the leap from fifth to third.

On Lap 14, Erb moved by Hoffman for second, but Marlar was untouchable, already seconds ahead of him. The 2018 World of Outlaws champion cruised around the high side and crossed the finish line with a 1.2 second lead.

It’s his first DIRTcar Nationals victory since 2019.

“Happy to win one,” Marlar said. “We’ve had kind of a hard speedweeks. I’ve been fast a lot, just can’t win anything. Tearing up a lot of stuff. Happy to win one for sure there. The car was really good.”

RESULTS:
Feature 2 (20 Laps): 1. 157-Mike Marlar[1]; 2. 1T-Tyler Erb[4]; 3. 9-Nick Hoffman[2]; 4. 111-Max Blair[8]; 5. 5-Mark Whitener[6]; 6. 99T-Dylan Thompson[5]; 7. 114-Jordan Koehler[3]; 8. 23-David Breazeale[13]; 9. 4-Amanda Robinson[11]; 10. 18-Chase Junghans[9]; 11. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck[10]; 12. B2-Brian Booze[14]; 13. 14W-Dustin Walker[15]; 14. 17Z-Jimmy Zacharias[16]; 15. 17M-Dale McDowell[7]; 16. 6JR-Parker Martin[12]

FEATURE # 3: Sheppard Steals One
Devin Moran and Ricky Thornton Jr. gave Volusia Speedway Park fans the show of the night, throwing slider after slider for the win in the closing laps. However, their thrills led to Brandon Sheppard stealing the victory.

At the start of the race, Moran followed the trend of starting on the pole and then running away from the field like the fastest man alive.

Thornton and Sheppard settled into second and third, respectively, racing about a car length apart as Moran had over a second lead.

Their running order and distance apart remained the same by the halfway point, but two laps later Thornton found a head of steam. In one lap he cut Moran’s lead down from a second to half a second.

On Lap 15, Thornton jumped the cushion exiting Turn 2, costing him a few tenths to Moran.

After a lap to reset, he was back on Moran’s bumper. Running high through Turns 3 and 4, Thornton had a run to charge around the outside of Moran, but the white #99 swerved right to block Thornton’s run.

Not willing to lift, Thornton quickly swerved left to dive under Moran into Turn 1 and then cleared him for the lead off Turn 2. They ran in that order until the next time around when Moran pulled the same move and reclaimed the lead.

Their battle came to blows when Thornton stayed tight to Moran’s left rear off the corner and the two made contact. Thornton’s right front fender bent up, while Moran suffered a flat left rear, bringing out the first caution of the race.

With Moran having to pit, Thornton inherited the lead with Sheppard behind him. The #20RT shot ahead of the field into the first turn, looking strong enough to run away with the win. But as he entered the second turn, his damage turned worse than expected and shot him up the track.

Sheppard snuck by to take the lead and Ryan Gustin entered the picture, moving into second.

With only a lap to go, Sheppard piloted his #B5 Longhorn Chassis around the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” with ease and claimed his 11th DIRTcar Nationals victory.

“Probably didn’t have the fastest car there, those guys were a little better than we were,” Sheppard said. “You know, we were there when we needed to be and capitalized off of them guys’ bad luck. Super thankful to be standing up on (the Victory Lane stage).”

RESULTS:
Feature 3 (20 Laps): 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard[3]; 2. 19R-Ryan Gustin[4]; 3. 18D-Daulton Wilson[5]; 4. 16-Tyler Bruening[6]; 5. 1-Hudson O’Neal[9]; 6. 7T-Drake Troutman[7]; 7. 3S-Brian Shirley[11]; 8. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[8]; 9. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[1]; 10. 20-Jimmy Owens[10]; 11. 89-Mike Spatola[13]; 12. 93-Cory Lawler[14]; 13. 30-Todd Cooney[15]; 14. 97C-Cody Overton[12]; 15. 99-Devin Moran[2]; 16. 44-Chris Madden[16]

Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park continues Thursday, Feb. 15, with the Super DIRTcar Series and return of the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models. Tickets are available at DIRTcarNationals.com.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every lap live on DIRTVision.

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