The opening night of the Alabama Gang 100 at the Talladega Short Track gave drivers and fans more than they were expecting.
Initially set to showcase two 20-lap, $4,000-to-win, Prelim Features, the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series and the track agreed to add a third Feature due to more than 60 cars in attendance.
Each Feature gave fans an enticing tease of what’s to come on Saturday for the 60-lap, $50,000-to-win main event.
The top two drivers from each Feature locked themselves into Saturday’s event and placed themselves in the CASE Construction Equipment Dash, which will lineup the top six spots for Saturday’s Feature. Tanner English drew the pole for the Dash with Kyle Bronson set to start on his outside, Brian Shirley third, Brandon Overton fourth, Gordy Gundaker fifth and Jonathan Davenport sixth.
Here’s how the three Prelim Features went.
FEATURE #1: Tanner English’s familiarity with red dirt bullrings gave him the confidence he needed to earn a spot in Saturday’s $50,000-to-win Feature at Talladega Short Track.
The Benton, KY driver and reigning World of Outlaws CASE Late Models Rookie of the Year wrestled the lead from Drake Troutman on Lap 2 to win Friday’s first Alabama Gang 100 Qualifier.
Troutman, Friday’s Simpson Racing Products Quick Time Award winner, grabbed the lead at the drop of the green but had English’s Viper Motorsports #96 following off Turn 2.
English snuck underneath Troutman, racing side by side with him to finish Lap 1. The Viper car carried its momentum around Turns 3 and 4, nosing ahead of the Troutman at the flag stand to lead Lap 2.
From there, English pulled away from the 17-year-old driver to grab the evening’s first checkered flag, worth $4,000.
English said Talladega reminds him of Clarksville Speedway—one of his home tracks.
“This place reminds me of kind of my home track Clarksville Speedway,” English said. “This red dirt, this small, tight bullring. I’m pretty comfortable here.
“I’m just glad to bust off a good Qualifying lap so I start on the front row, and that’s what it was all about. So, we’re happy.”
Brian Shirley crossed the line second, after he powered past Troutman for the runner-up spot on Lap 5.
Like English, Shirley also locked himself into Saturday’s Feature. The Chatham, IL driver found some challenges being in the first 20-lap race on Friday.
“It’s definitely one of those deals where being in that first Feature was a little trickier than the second two, especially the third,” Shirley said. “It was getting to a bit of a sweet spot there where it wasn’t as rough.
“All in all, I’m just glad to do a little better tonight and not have to worry about (Saturday’s) race.”
Troutman finished third, Chris Ferguson was fourth, and Series points leader Chris Madden rounded out the top five.
FEATURE #2: Kyle Bronson proved how well his team can perform on red clay tracks for the second straight night.
After finishing third on Thursday at 411 Motor Speedway, the Brandon, FL driver backed it up by winning Friday’s second 20-lap Feature at Talladega Short Track.
Bronson took control of the race on Lap 1 and never looked back, leading every lap to score the $4,000 prize.
Despite the win, the Sunshine State competitor said he isn’t satisfied but feels he’s on the right track.
“Our car has been really good here,” Bronson said. “Just got to thank all of the guys that have been helping me. Tanner and Josh have been busting their butt. Wayne and Shirlene (Hammond) give me what I need to win the race, and like I said, we just have to do our job and go win the races.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit, but I feel like we’re on the right track. But we’re still not where we need to be yet.”
Jonathan Davenport finished second, also locking himself into Saturday’s Feature.
Rounding out the top five were Bobby Pierce, Spencer Hughes, and Kyle Larson.
FEATURE #3: A pair of restarts in the third 20-lap Feature couldn’t keep Brandon Overton out of Victory Lane Friday at Talladega Short Track.
The Evans, GA driver aced all three green flags to go unchallenged in the battle for $4,000. “Big Sexy” is one step closer to a potential $50,000 payday on Saturday, as he’s guaranteed to start in the first three rows in the Alabama Gang 100 finale.
Overton said he believes his Longhorn by Wells chassis is going in the right direction after struggling over the past few weeks.
“[I feel] a lot better than I have in the past couple of weeks,” Overton said. “The track is definitely different. I’m obviously way better at this Talladega than I am at the normal one.
“I just appreciate the fans coming out, this is really neat. I’ve seen so many people and superstars walking through the pits. So yeah, it’s a fun weekend, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
While Overton led all 20 laps, Gordy Gundaker needed the second and final restart to move into the runner-up spot.
The St. Charles, MO driver got around second-place Garrett Smith on a Lap 6 restart but quickly gave back the spot when he bobbled in Turn 1. However, Gundaker got another chance after the caution flew for Michael Page and Tyler Milwood tangling on Lap 14.
Restarting in third, Gundaker thundered around Smith on the outside of Turn 1 to take the final transfer spot away, holding on to punch his ticket into Saturday’s Feature.
Gundaker is happy to lock into the $50,000-to-win finale, he said.
“The yellows kind of worked out there,” Gundaker said. “I got past [Smith] the first time and then screwed up in (Turn 1), and he got me back. So, I got to retry it.
“I’m just thankful we got the races in. I know it’s been a hectic night, and I’m just thankful to run second and lock ourselves into (Saturday).”
Smith rounded out the podium, Todd Cooney finished fourth, and four-time Series champion Brandon Sheppard rounded out the top five.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models return to the Talladega Short Track on Saturday, April 22, for the Alabama Gang 100 finale, boasting a $50,000 to win payday.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 96V-Tanner English; 2. 3S-Brian Shirley; 3. 7T-Drake Troutman; 4. 22-Chris Ferguson; 5. 44-Chris Madden; 6. 17M-Dale McDowell; 7. 36-Logan Martin; 8. 25-Shane Clanton; 9. 78-Matthew Brocato; 10. 54-David Breazeale; 11. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 12. 29-Donald McIntosh; 13. B1-Brent Larson; 14. 97-Cade Dillard; 15. 111-Max Blair; 16. 19M-Wil Herrington; 17. 91-Heath Hindman; 18. 16H-Austin Horton; 19. 58C-Tyler Clem; 20. 57-Josh Adkins; 21. 35-Dallas Cooper
Feature 2 (20 Laps): 1. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 2. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 3. 32-Bobby Pierce; 4. 11H-Spencer Hughes; 5. 6-Kyle Larson; 6. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 7. 12-Ashton Winger; 8. 58-Garrett Alberson; 9. 93-Carson Ferguson; 10. 10-Joseph Joiner; 11. 14M-Morgan Bagley; 12. 1-Jason Hiett; 13. 99B-Boom Briggs; 14. 25B-Mike Benedum; 15. T1-Todd Morrow; 16. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 17. 18L-Trevor Landrum; 18. 25R-Tim Roszell; 19. 16-Sam Seawright; 20. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 21. 157-Mike Marlar
Feature 3 (20 Laps): 1. 76-Brandon Overton; 2. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 3. 10S-Garrett Smith; 4. 30-Todd Cooney; 5. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 6. 2S-Stormy Scott; 7. 9-Nick Hoffman; 8. 38-Dillon Tidmore; 9. 27B-Brad Berry; 10. 27-Jadon Frame; 11. J27-Jay Scott; 12. 4-Ryan Wilson; 13. 7-Jeremy Cropper; 14. 31-Tyler Millwood; 15. 18X-Michael Page; 16. 11K-Austin Kirkpatrick; 17. 66K-Dylan Knowles; 18. 20-Jimmy Owens; 19. 14W-Dustin Walker; 20. 1S-Jeremy Shaw