The Dairyland Showdown at Mississippi Thunder Speedway lived up to its billing. After 60 laps of slide jobs, crossovers, and battles through traffic, it was Chris Madden who stood tall in Victory Lane Saturday.

The Gray Court, SC driver took the lead from three-time and defending champion Brandon Sheppard early, en route to his second win of 2021. It’s also Madden’s 30th career World of Outlaws victory.

Even though Madden led most of the race, he didn’t have much time to breathe. “Smokey” was challenged from start-to-finish in the 60-lap Feature. After he dealt with Sheppard, it was Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Gustin who tried to steal the top spot toward the end.

Madden knew he was in for a battle when he saw the Marshalltown, IA driver move into second.

“I watched [Gustin] go around here all weekend, and that boy’s tough,” Madden said. “When he got into second, I said boy, you better get your elbows up and give it all you got.”

A couple of late restarts kept Gustin on Madden’s back bumper, but “The Reaper” didn’t have enough to get by.

Madden used his experience to make sure he saw the checkered flag first.

Madden and Gustin race for the lead
Gustin tried to run down Madden in the closing stages/Jacy Norgaard Photo

“I just had to make sure I hit my marks, and not slip my wheels when I didn’t need to,” Madden said. “I just had to do the best I could do, and if they beat me, they beat me.”

While Gustin settled for second –his best World of Outlaws finish – the rookie was still happy with his performance at a place he’s familiar with.

“I love [Mississippi Thunder Speedway], it’s my favorite racetrack in the country,” Gustin said. “It’s huge to know you can actually run up front and be a contender, and it feels really good. Hopefully this is the upside of things.”

Brandon Sheppard and Kyle Strickler were locked in an exciting battle for most of the race. The “High Side Tickler” attempted multiple slide jobs on Sheppard, but the “Rocket Shepp” powered underneath him to get the position back each time.

Sheppard, Strickler and Madden Battle for position
Kyle Strickler and Brandon Sheppard battled for most of the event/Jacy Norgaard Photo

While he managed to cross the line in third ahead of Strickler, the New Berlin, IL driver wasn’t happy with Strickler after the race.

“The eight car couldn’t pass me without hitting me, I don’t know what his problem is,” Sheppard said.

Strickler had a different view of what happened.

“I don’t think we touched, but I need to run over him because I feel like I’m giving him too much room, and being too nice to him,” Strickler said. “There was times I was clear and needed to commit to the slider.

“It doesn’t matter who he is or who he drives for. He puts his pants on the same way I do, so I’m going to go out there and run as hard as we can.”

Strickler’s fourth-place finish is his first top-five since February at DIRTcar Nationals.

Tim McCreadie crossed the line fifth, rebounding from an early setback. T-Mac had to start last in his Drydene Heat Race, after his time was disallowed for not going to the scales after Qualifying.

Sheppard leaves Mississippi Thunder Speedway with a 60 point lead over Madden in the standings. Strickler is third—120 points back. Tyler Bruening is fourth—146 points behind, and Ricky Weiss is fifth—156 points out of first.

Up Next: The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet visit Port Royal Speedway, May 21-22, for the Huey Wicoxon Memorial, and Billy Vacek Memorial.

Morton Buildings Feature (60 Laps)-1. 44-Chris Madden [1][$22,500]; 2. 19R-Ryan Gustin [10][$10,000]; 3. 1-Brandon Sheppard [2][$5,000]; 4. 8-Kyle Strickler [4][$4,000]; 5. 39-Tim McCreadie [13][$3,500]; 6. 97-Cade Dillard [8][$3,000]; 7. 49-Jake Timm [5][$2,800]; 8. 16-Tyler Bruening [9][$2,700]; 9. 28M-Jimmy Mars [6][$2,600]; 10. B1-Brent Larson [19][$2,500]; 11. 18B-Shannon Babb [15][$2,000]; 12. 11-Gordy Gundaker [18][$1,800]; 13. 32S-Chris Simpson [12][$1,600]; 14. 7-Ricky Weiss [21][$1,500]; 15. 29-Spencer Diercks [16][$1,400]; 16. 10S-Taylor Scheffler [17][$1,300]; 17. 77-Jordan Yaggy [24][$1,200]; 18. 32-Bobby Pierce [3][$1,200]; 19. 99B-Boom Briggs [7][$1,200]; 20. 15-Nick Anvelink [22][$1,200]; 21. 74-Mitch McGrath [14][$1,200]; 22. 20-Rodney Sanders [11][$1,200]; 23. 90-Lance Matthees [25][$1,200]; 24. 25J-Jared Siefert [20][$1,200]; 25. 28-Dennis Erb [23][$1,200] Hard Charger: B1-Brent Larson[+9]

Qualifying Flight-A –1. 32-Bobby Pierce, 13.613; 2. 28M-Jimmy Mars, 13.927; 3. 97-Cade Dillard, 13.935; 4. 44-Chris Madden, 14.045; 5. 16-Tyler Bruening, 14.072; 6. 18B-Shannon Babb, 14.088; 7. 7-Ricky Weiss, 14.091; 8. 20-Rodney Sanders, 14.117; 9. 10S-Taylor Scheffler, 14.171; 10. 25-Chad Simpson, 14.187; 11. B1-Brent Larson, 14.347; 12. 77-Jordan Yaggy, 14.442; 13. 55C-Chad Mahder, 14.501; 14. 99JR-Frank Heckenast, 14.513; 15. 43-Jeremy Grady, 14.559; 16. 28-Dennis Erb, 14.744; 17. 90-Lance Matthees, 14.85; 18. 10-Paul Parker, 14.882; DQ. 39-Tim McCreadie, 13.889

Qualifying Flight-B-1. 1-Brandon Sheppard, 13.889; 2. 99B-Boom Briggs, 14.145; 3. 19R-Ryan Gustin, 14.169; 4. 8-Kyle Strickler, 14.282; 5. 74-Mitch McGrath, 14.323; 6. 32S-Chris Simpson, 14.355; 7. 49-Jake Timm, 14.402; 8. 76-Blair Nothdurft, 14.485; 9. 15-Nick Anvelink, 14.536; 10. 24-Brad Waits, 14.585; 11. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck, 14.612; 12. 29-Spencer Diercks, 14.667; 13. 25J-Jared Siefert, 14.672; 14. O4-Tad Pospisil, 14.721; 15. 11-Gordy Gundaker, 14.736; 16. 6M-Jeff Massingill, 14.824; 17. 3-Brett Swedberg, 15.041; 18. 10C-Chad Olsen, 15.063