The 2018 season wraps up at the year-end banquet as the Platinum teams reflect on their accomplishments
CONCORD, NC — November 8, 2018 — No one ever doubted Mike Marlar’s talent behind the wheel, but in 2018, he proved he can outduel the best of the best by capturing his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series championship in his first year on tour.
One of the most compelling points battles in recent memory — Marlar, Brandon Sheppard and Chris Madden all entered the final day of competition with a shot at the crown — set the stage for a highly anticipated 2019 campaign that kicks off on Feb. 8 at Screven Motor Speedway before invading Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 13 for the DIRTcar Nationals.
Marlar’s iconic black-and-yellow No. 157 bagged five wins, 29 top-fives and 36 top-10s in 40 races. In addition, Marlar was quickest in qualifying nine times — the most fast-time awards by any driver. Over the final 10 races, Marlar never finished outside of the top 10, his worst finish being a sixth at Cedar Lake in the USA Nationals. He’s also the first Tennessean to win the title since Scott Bloomquist in 2004. Overall, it was a statistically-solid season for the former UMP Modified champion that ended with a $100,000 champion’s check at the banquet.
“Running with the World of Outlaws has just been a pleasure,” Marlar said. “Win, lose or draw, it’s been great all year. We went to some awesome racetracks … and it was humbling to me to see how nice the officials were to us.”
Marlar becomes only the second driver to win the title in his first year of full-time competition with the World of Outlaws after Brandon Sheppard accomplished the feat in 2017 in the No. 1 Rocket ride. Sheppard followed up his championship season with a series-high 13 wins and 30 top-five finishes that placed him only 28 points behind Marlar when the final checkered flag waved.
But before the page turns to 2019, Marlar, car owner Ronnie Delk and the rest of the Delk Equipment Racing crew are still soaking in their accomplishments.
A packed ballroom on Sunday night at the World of Outlaws Craftsman banquet gave Marlar a standing ovation. His very emotional train of words enlightened the audience and brought smiles to each of their faces, as he reflected on the season he once was sure would be “a bucket list” run with a national tour.
Earlier in the evening, Series Director Matt Curl presented the Raye Vest Award for best and worst pill draw average to Shane Clanton and Chase Junghans. Delk Equipment Racing picked up the Integra Shocks Crew of the Year Award, and Rookie of the Year David Breazeale also received top rookie honors that included a set of custom ear molds from Racing Electronics.
During his fifth-place award speech, 2011 Series Champion Rick Eckert thanked car owner Paul Crowl for a great partnership in the No. 7 car. Crowl and Eckert have parted ways, and “Scrub” will be looking for a new ride for the 2019 season. The Hall of Famer is fifth on the all-time Series wins list with 37, and wrapped up 24 top-10s in 2018.
World of Outlaws CMO Ben Geisler presented several key awards, including Engine Builder of the Year to Jack Cornett from Cornett Racing Engines – the company’s seventh award win in 13 years. Steve Baker from Rocket Chassis accepted the Chassis Builder of the Year Award. Finally, Sheppard’s series-high 13 wins earned him a prize from VP Racing Fuels.
The 2018 World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model iRacing Series Champion Zach Leonhardi was also in attendance to receive his championship trophy, one he earned over a 12-race series on the iRacing simulator platform. Leonhardi is hopeful to one day be on the stage for winning a championship on the track to go with his e-sports crown.
The next chapter begins on Feb. 8 in Georgia. Can Marlar repeat? Will Sheppard put the Rocket No. 1 back on top? One thing is for certain, the young Outlaws are gaining, and the pressure they’ll mount on the series veterans will no doubt make every night an intense battle to the checkered flag.
2018 World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series Awards:
VP Racing Fuels – Brandon Sheppard
Rookie of the Year – David Breazeale
Crew of the Year – Delk Racing Equipment
Chassis Builder of the Year – Rocket Chassis
Engine Builder of the Year – Cornett Racing Engines
Raye Vest Award – Shane Clanton/Chase Junghans