CONCORD, N.C. — Saturday night’s finale for the World of Outlaw Craftsman Late Model Series at The Dirt Track at Charlotte had a marked feeling of déjà vu, with Mike Marlar and Dennis Erb Jr. again scrapping at the front of the field.
After both were overhauled late in Friday’s feature by newly-crowned champion Brandon Sheppard, Marlar again found himself just short of a Textron Off-Road World Finals victory, after Erb passed him with five laps to go and went on to his first series win of the season on the calendar’s final night.
The first half of the feature was dominated by Shane Clanton, who powered from the outside pole into the lead and was only briefly challenged by Marlar through the opening stages.
A little further back, Sheppard was trying to roll his traditional outside momentum into a record-setting victory, coming from seventh early on and making his way into the top-five by lap 15.
Marlar made his bid for the lead right at the halfway point, roaring around Clanton off turn four and appearing set to put Friday night’s near-miss behind him with a big victory.
However, the race’s lone caution came out on lap 27 as Ross Bailes slowed in turns one and two, setting the stage for Erb’s late rally to the lead and the eventual win.
Erb moved to second on the restart and tailed Marlar relentlessly as Sheppard tried once more to get the high lane rolling, but ultimately a battle with Jimmy Owens dropped Sheppard back and left the lead duo to settle things among one another.
With five laps remaining, Erb slid past Marlar exiting turn two and never looked back, pulling out to a margin of nine-tenths of a second when the twin checkers waved to conclude the race.
Saturday marked Erb’s first-ever World Finals win, as well as the fifth of his World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series career, moving him into a five-way tie for 20th all-time.
“We’ve been working real hard,” said Erb Jr. “[Crew chief] Heather [Lyne] has put a lot of time into this. To get here (on the podium) last night with a second place was good. We had a good car last night … we just tweaked on it a little bit, and we were able to get the job done [tonight].”
“We had a good run with [Marlar] there and I knew the car was good,” Erb added. “I think he slipped-up a little there, and we took advantage of it, and didn’t look back after that because we had a full field behind us. The car just worked great. It’s really feels good to come [to The Dirt Track at Charlotte] and pick a victory up in front of everybody.”
Marlar came home second, closing his season with a quick time and a pair of podium finishes.
“We had an awesome weekend,” Marlar said. “We had a fun time down here and with a sell-out crowd … it is awesome to race in front of all these people. Dennis was good last night and he was good again tonight. It was just an awesome race. … These guys raise us to a new level and make us race hard every lap and it’s always fun.”
Owens completed the podium, followed by Sheppard and Tim McCreadie.
Sheppard’s title is his first with the Outlaws and the fifth for car owner Mark Richards.
“Our team is amazing,” Sheppard said. “Mark Richards, Steve Baker … I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this thing. I had some big shoes to fill with Josh [Richards] driving last year, and hopefully we lived up to it.”
“I think we did. We tied the record for the most wins in a season and I was kind of hoping to get that other one tonight, but we tried our best. This team, in my mind, is the best team out there and I think we proved it this year.”
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…