Brandon Overton paused as he sat on the door on his Late Model before climbing to the roof to celebrate a $50,000 win.
He needed it.
Not the money. Not the trophy. Not the confetti bath. The pause. The win.
It took every ounce of his energy to show up to the inaugural Alabama Gang 100 at the Talladega Short Track with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models. He questioned even going.
Continuous struggles haunted his mental enthusiasm, spinning questions of doubt.
But minutes before climbing from his #76 machine, that vile cloud in his head dissipated when he inherited the lead with 18 laps to go. Race leader Bobby Pierce suffered a broken wheel and brake failure, taking him out of the race. That opened the door for Overton to inherit the lead and run away with a needed win.
“I saw real quick how mental [this sport] is,” Overton said. “You get in your feelings and in your head, and you start doubting everything you ever done. It feels good to get it back on your side and I just want to thank my crew. They’ve been busting their butt and it’s been miserable the last couple of weeks.”
The Evans, GA driver was strong all weekend, winning one of three Prelim Features Friday night, locking himself into Saturday’s main event and then finished second to Tanner English in the CASE Construction Equipment Dash to start on the outside pole for the 60-lap Feature.
When the green flag flew for the main event, the record crowd at the Talladega Short Track were treated to a barn burner brawl.
English jumped to the early with Overton hanging on to his tail. The early portion of the Feature was hindered by multiple cautions with Overton and Kyle Bronson taking shots at the lead but having them halted by a yellow flag.
When the race found its rhythm, you could throw a blanket over the top four competitors for most of the race. English led, but was given little breathing room with Overton, Bronson and Bobby Pierce keeping him in their crosshairs.
At the halfway point of the race, English found himself in lap traffic, but navigated through the slower cars with ease, putting about a two car-length gap between he and Overton – who was also trying to keep Bronson behind him.
And while Overton and Bronson argued over second, Pierce was on a charge, finding himself in fourth at that point after starting 14th.
Ripping the top of the track, Pierce timed his moves, pulling back the hammer on the entrance into the turn and squeezing the trigger by the exit to rocket around the outside of everyone he came across. In doing so, he made quick work of getting by Bronson, Overton and English to steal the lead with 18 laps to go.
However, his moment of glory was short lived. After a brief caution and another full speed trip around the track, Pierce suffered the part failures and saw his night come to an end.
His misfortune became Overton’s chance for solace. With the lead in hand, Overton used every ounce of confidence he had in himself and his car, pulling ahead by half a straightaway when the race resumed.
At the checkered flag, Overton had a 2.6 second lead over second-place Tanner English.
“I hate it for [Pierce],” Overton said. “He took one away from me earlier in the year, shit, what goes around comes around.
“Like I said, hats off to him, he was giving it hell up there on the top.”
While English fell a spot short from the victory after starting on the pole, the runner-up result is still the best points finish for he and his Viper Motorsports team, so far, this season.
“I was way too tight to run the top like they were,” English said. “They could sail it off in there and still turn. I would go in there and kind of skate and shove up the racetrack. I could kill them [in Turns 3 and 4] I think. I don’t know. I was pretty good over here the whole race on the bottom, but he rolled up there on the top and got some momentum going.
“People don’t know how hard we’re working in there. Especially when we’re dealing with an ill-handling race car. I’d put it up there with just about anything. It’s tough for sure. We’re working hard. I know [Overton] was probably doing the same thing and he was a little tight, too. I don’t know, we got to give congratulations to Brandon and just have to thank everybody on my team.”
In the closing laps of the race, Ryan Gustin continued his sneaky climb from 11th, finding his way into third with four laps to go and settled there for his first podium of the season.
“I knew we were pretty good at the drop of the green,” Gustin said. “I don’t know, it just seemed watching Overton he was a little bit higher, but I missed it down here on the bottom one time and I felt like I was in crumbs.
“I don’t know if he was that much better, or if there was something up there but it was a good run for us from 11th or wherever to third. We’ll take it for sure.”
Jonathan Davenport finished fourth and, after spinning twice, Chris Madden had the rebound of the night with his fifth-place finish – now with an 18-point lead over Bronson in the championship battle. Wil Herrington won the Fox Factory Hard Charger Award with his charge from 24th to 11th.
After parking in Victory Lane with the World of Outlaws for the 20th time in his career, Overton paused as he sat on the door on his Late Model before climbing to the roof to celebrate his $50,000 win. Then, he stood atop his car with his arms out and checkered flag in hand.
“We needed this,” Overton said. “I wasn’t even going to come here. It took every ounce of energy for me to pull into this gate. So, thank a lot to my good friends, my fiancé. They were keeping us pumped up.
“Like I said, we really, really needed this. We’ll take them any way we can get them.”
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models return to Mississippi Thunder Speedway for the Dairyland Showdown, Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6 – featuring another $50,000-to-win Feature on Saturday.
CASE Construction Equipment Feature (60 Laps): 1. 76-Brandon Overton; 2. 96V-Tanner English; 3. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 4. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 5. 44-Chris Madden; 6. 9-Nick Hoffman; 7. 3S-Brian Shirley; 8. 6-Kyle Larson; 9. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 10. 58-Garrett Alberson; 11. 19M-Wil Herrington; 12. 25-Shane Clanton; 13. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 14. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 15. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 16. 97-Cade Dillard; 17. 111-Max Blair; 18. B1-Brent Larson; 19. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 20. 11H-Spencer Hughes; 21. 32-Bobby Pierce; 22. 22-Chris Ferguson; 23. 10S-Garrett Smith; 24. 2S-Stormy Scott; 25. 7T-Drake Troutman; 26. 30-Todd Cooney; 27. 93-Carson Ferguson; 28. 99B-Boom Briggs