A driver rarely wants to see yellow flags when he’s leading a race. But it’s precisely what Mike Marlar hoped for on Friday at Atomic Speedway.
The Winfield, TN driver aced four restarts in the final 20 laps, staying out of lap traffic to earn his third World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models Feature win of 2023.
Germfree Rookie of the Year leader Nick Hoffman jumped to the early lead, fending off challenges from the Marlar, the 2018 Series champion. However, that only lasted eight laps as Marlar got a burst of speed in Turn 2, pulling even with Hoffman. Then, Marlar saw his opportunity, sliding in front of the Mooresville, NC driver to grab the lead.
As Marlar pulled away and reached lap traffic, Hoffman and Bobby Pierce were in a battle behind them for second. But as the two tried to get the upper hand in traffic, Jimmy Owens took advantage, sneaking them to take over second.
The Newport, TN driver quickly closed on the back of the #157, trying to take the position away on the inside. But just as Owens had his best shot, a yellow flag came out for Brandon Sheppard’s right rear flat tire, giving Marlar a clean track.
On the restart, Marlar pulled away as Owens held off Hoffman before three cautions in the next five laps kept the top three in their positions.
From there, one more caution for debris on Lap 38 kept traffic out of Marlar’s way, allowing him to earn the $10,000 victory on night one of the Outlaw Invasion.
“I didn’t mind seeing those [yellow flags] whatsoever,” Marlar said. “They were two and three wide. A lot of the Ohio-type racetracks have a little dust that comes off the back of the cars, so they were dirtying it up, so I couldn’t do any better than they could. They were three-wide in front of me and two-wide. I didn’t mind seeing those cautions for sure.”
The win is Marlar’s third World of Outlaws CASE Late Models win of the season, and 16th of his career. It’s also his third win on a 3/8-mile track in 2023—one where he needed to find a way past Hoffman to earn the victory.
But it’s a win that didn’t come easy, as he said passing Hoffman was a challenge.
“[Hoffman’s] hard to pass because he’s fast,” Marlar said. “He slid me down there in Turn 1 and got the lead, and he just had me where I needed to be for the lead. And then, a little while later, I caught him and was looking under him for a few laps until I really got a good run off of two and just had a ton of momentum down the backstretch. Then, I was just able to slide in there and get the lead. It was definitely a good race with him for sure.”
Fellow Tennessee driver Jimmy Owens finished second after starting eighth. “The O-Show,” who earned his first World of Outlaws top five of the season, said he was happy with how the car ran on the bottom.
“Everybody was a little all over the track,” Owens said. “The track was good tonight. When I jumped to the bottom, the car had a really good dig down there with that moisture. But then, as it dried out, I felt like we still had a pretty good car, too.
“We’ll make some fine tunes on it tomorrow, and maybe we’ll be a whole lot better.”
Hoffman settled for third—his third podium of the season coming at a track he says fits his style.
“The racetrack was in great condition,” Hoffman said. “I was able to move all over it. I mean, [Owens] started eighth and ran second, so that says a lot right there. Our race car was pretty good. I felt like watching Marlar go around there; his car was a lot tighter than mine was. And I felt like my only downfall was that I was probably a tick too loose.”
While those three drivers stayed in podium positions for most of the race, that wasn’t the case for the drivers behind them. Tanner English and Cade Dillard waged war for fourth in the final few laps before the two made contact in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 39, costing both a top-five run.
On the next lap, they made contact in Turn 2, dropping English to 10th and Dillard to 16th.
As a result of that contact, Pierce and Brent Larson found themselves in the top five, with Pierce getting the upper hand. The Oakwood, IL driver’s 22nd top five of the season moved him one step closer to the championship, extending his points lead to 142 over Chris Madden, Friday’s Fox Factory Hard Charger, who finished sixth.
Larson earned his first top-five of the season, giving him back-to-back World of Outlaws top 10s at the track.
“I was kind of in the right place at the right time,” Larson said. “There were things going on out there in front of me, and I just kind of picked a lane and stuck to it. And that’s where I got most of my spots after the last caution.”
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.
CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Feature (40 Laps): 1. 157-Mike Marlar; 2. 20-Jimmy Owens; 3. 9-Nick Hoffman; 4. 32-Bobby Pierce; 5. B1-Brent Larson; 6. 44-Chris Madden; 7. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 8. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 9. 10-Garrett Smith; 10. 96V-Tanner English; 11. 25-Shane Clanton; 12. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 13. 71R-Rod Conley; 14. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 15. 3S-Brian Shirley; 16. 97-Cade Dillard; 17. 30-Todd Cooney; 18. 68-Adam Stricker; 19. 55-Jesse Wisecarver; 20. 00-Justin Cooper; 21. S21-Seth Daniels; 22. 14W-Dustin Walker; 23. 21-Kirk Phillips; 24. C4-Freddie Carpenter; 25. 19R-Ryan Gustin FOX FACTORY HARD CHARGER: Chris Madden [+15]