KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Mike Marlar took a late lead from Josh Richards and captured the $40,000 14th annual Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals at Knoxville Raceway Saturday night.
The Winfield, Tenn., driver became the first in the event’s history to repeat as champion. His win came aboard Ronnie Delk’s No. 157 late model.
Jonathan Davenport took the early advantage in the 100-lap event. Richards quickly moved into second. The track was lightning fast early as a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay followed a B main won by Jesse Stovall.
The first of a number of cautions came out when former champ Brian Shirley got into the wall on lap 17. That was a curse for Davenport, who lost his lead to Richards on the restart after jumping the turn-two cushion. He would recover after falling back to sixth. A number of flat tires would plague contenders like Chris Simpson, Terry Babb and Jimmy Mars early.
Davenport battled back by Mike Marlar for second before the mandatory red flag came out for fuel at the halfway point. Davenport’s right front was flat at that point and he restarted at the tail.
Richards led the field at the start of the second half, followed by Marlar, Brandon Sheppard, Don O’Neal and Jared Landers. While several battles behind him were furious, Richards maintained his quick pace on the cushion to pace the field.
Richards would continue to lead with Marlar in tow. Jimmy Owens grabbed third on lap 89, followed by Mars, who had restarted at the tail on lap 28. Marlar pulled up on Richards, showing his nose with nine to go. He made his winning pass a lap later.
With five laps to go, disaster struck Richards, who suffered a flat tire of his own that sent him into the Turn 3 wall.
That was of no consequence to Marlar, however, who sailed to the popular win ahead of Davenport, who made a fantastic run from the tail at the halfway point.
“Tonight really makes me feel good about being a race car driver,” said Marlar. “That wasn’t a race, it was a battle. With 25 to go, I thought I needed to start going there and give it everything I had. I let Jared get by me, and when I got back by me, I thought, ‘I’m good’. I think Josh wasn’t at his best when I passed him. I think he was having an issue. I can’t say enough about my team, my crew and my owner.”
“I had a plan there (on the last restart) and it worked out,” added Davenport. “I thought, ‘where’s everyone going?’ They were all down in the slick and they left the door open. Our car just wasn’t good in traffic. We were blowing the nose over and lay on the right rear. I’m sure the best car won. Josh passed me early too. I have to thank my guys for getting me back out here, and congratulations to Mike.”
Landers was third, ahead of Mars and Owens.
“I hurt my tire on lap 50, and I was worried about it,” said Landers. “I got to racing with Josh there and I started running hard. I got a good rhythm, and then we had a caution and I started jumping the cushion. I took myself out of (second), but we’ll take a top three. That was a lot of laps. I haven’t done that in a while. This is awesome. We had a great weekend.”
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…