There’s one man with all of the momentum heading into Saturday’s $25,000-to-win AGCO Jackson Nationals finale. And that man is James McFadden.
After claiming Thursday’s opener, McFadden delivered an encore on Friday night at Jackson Motorplex. The pilot of the Roth Motorsports machine wheeled the #83 to statement victory – leading all 25 laps at the Minnesota oval on his way to a sweep of the prelims.
Not only did McFadden claim two consecutive World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car victories, but his performance over the two nights also slotted him atop the Jackson Nationals points. That puts him as the first seed in tomorrow’s King of the Hill that will decide the front four rows of Saturday’s main event.
Topping both prelims gave McFadden back-to-back Series victories for the first time in his career. Jackson also became the first track where he owns multiple triumphs with The Greatest Show on Dirt. The Australian is now up to 11 career World of Outlaws wins – two away from equaling Brooke Tatnell as the second winningest Aussie.
“I’ve been close a couple times, but to go back-to-back is cool,” McFadden said. “Big thanks to Dennis and Teresa Roth for the opportunity. Hope you guys are pumped at home. It’s been a pretty cool weekend so far. To be locked into tomorrow is great.”
McFadden began the main event from the outside of the front row after finishing second in the Toyota Racing Dash with Giovanni Scelzi to his inside. On the race’s initial start, McFadden got the jump on Scelzi as they roared into the opening corner. McFadden then nosed ahead as they went down the backstretch.
Early on McFadden rolled the bottom while Scelzi ripped the cushion and began to close in on the top spot. But it a near replica moment from Thursday when McFadden was fending off Donny Schatz, McFadden moved to the top right when it appeared Scelzi may be able to pull alongside. One he made that move, McFadden maintained a healthy advantage.
“It was tough to know where to run,” McFadden noted of the track’s challenges. “I felt like I was really abusing my tires and engine and car up there, but we were good enough to get the job done.”
As the race moved beyond halfway and the leaders entered traffic, an opportunity for Scelzi to challenge for the lead arose. McFadden struggled with slower cars and dirty air allowing Scelzi to close in. The KCP Racing pilot found the momentum to take a big swing with a slide job in Turns 1 and 2 but came up a little short of clearing him.
“The air is so dirty behind cars,” McFadden said. “In clean air or taking off on a restart I felt pretty good, and then you get to cars and it’s like you’re driving behind a semi-trailer on the highway. It sort of buffers around and carries on… It all happens so fast in the moment that it doesn’t feel like much of a moment, but then you watch it back and you’re like, ‘Oh, that was a little close for comfort. Gio does an awesome job. He’s one of the most respectful guys out there, and I know he’s going to give you enough room.”
Shortly after Scelzi’s challenge, the yellow flag flew with nine laps remaining – giving him clean air and effectively paving the path to Victory Lane. Scelzi closed in on the final circuit, but McFadden ultimately won with a comfortable advantage.
With two prelim wins in the bag, McFadden’s focus is now squarely on the $25,000 prize that awaits the winner of the Jackson Nationals finale.
“I’m super happy with the weekend,” McFadden said. “Happy with my guys. Happy with my car. Bring on tomorrow.”
Following McFadden to the line was Gio Scelzi in the KCP #18. The result marked his fourth podium of his rookie World of Outlaws campaign and fourth top five in the last six races. The Fresno, CA native tallied 861 points across the two prelims, good enough for third most and a spot in Saturday’s King of the Hill. Scelzi finished the night feeling satisfied with he and his team’s continued speed but wished the start of the race would’ve gone differently to give him a better shot at the win.
“I felt like it was all on the start there,” Scelzi said of what might’ve decided the race. “There wasn’t much on the bottom of (Turns) 1 and 2, and the race was really won right there. I got kind of to him in traffic and threw a Hail Mary slider and knew I wasn’t going to clear him once I got to the center and just kind of turned sideways… I’m having fun right now. We seem to be making gains on it every night and being in the hunt every night.”
Rounding out the top three was another driver who punched their ticket to Saturday’s King of the Hill – Carson Macedo. The finish for the Jason Johnson Racing driver had points implications elsewhere, too. Macedo jumped ahead of David Gravel for second in the championship standings and sits a manageable 50 markers behind Brad Sweet for the top spot. It was another solid night for Macedo as he earned his 15th podium of the season.
“I think my team has continued to get my car really good,” Macedo said. “This JJR #41 team – Philip Dietz, Clyde Knipp, and Nate Repetz – they work so hard. I feel like my car has been super consistent. We obviously haven’t won both nights like James, and we’re definitely not happy with third, but I feel like I kind of did all I could there. I got a good start and kind of paced my race a little bit. I had one shot there on a restart with Gio. I hit the bottom nice in (Turns) 1 and 2 and tried to slide him, but the top is just so fast. I actually thought I cleared him, and he just ripped right around me.”
Buddy Kofoid and Brad Sweet completed the top five.
The driver claiming the final lock-in on points to Saturday’s King of the Hill was Donny Schatz. Four more spots will be up for grabs in Saturday’s Qualifiers.
After topping the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown, Kaleb Johnson drove from 21st to 12th in the Feature to claim the KSE Racing Hard Charger of the night.
In Low-E Insulation Qualifying, Gio Scelzi earned his second Simpson Performance Products QuickTime of the year and the 11th of his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to David Gravel (232nd Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were claimed by Ian Madsen (64th of career), Cory Eliason (22nd of career), and Sam Hafertepe Jr. (51st of career).
The Smith Titanium Brake Systems “Break of the Race” went to Logan Schuchart after mechanical issues while running fifth dropped him to a 20th place finish.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars wrap up the 45th Annual AGCO Jackson Nationals with the $25,000-to-win, $2,000-to-start finale on Saturday, August 19. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps): 1. 83-James McFadden; 2. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 3. 41-Carson Macedo; 4. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 5. 49-Brad Sweet; 6. 24-Rico Abreu; 7. 39M-Justin Sanders; 8. 15-Donny Schatz; 9. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 10. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 11. 2-David Gravel; 12. 22K-Kaleb Johnson; 13. 9-Kasey Kahne; 14. 10-Scott Bogucki; 15. 21T-Cole Macedo; 16. 7-Ian Madsen; 17. 25-Lachlan McHugh; 18. 44W-Austen Wheatley; 19. 2KS-Chase Randall; 20. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 21. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 22. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr; 23. 5-Spencer Bayston; 24. 11-Cory Eliason