When adversity presents itself, James McFadden doesn’t allow self-doubt to overtake him. Instead, he brings out his best behind the wheel.
Back at the beginning of April, McFadden and his Roth Motorsports crew faced the troubling circumstances of four straight finishes of 13th or worse including a pair of DNFs. Their response? A win the very next race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway.
Heading into this week’s Billion Auto Huset’s High Bank Nationals presented by Menards, McFadden carried a strong streak of nine consecutive top 10s that was ended in discouraging fashion. On Wednesday’s opening night, McFadden didn’t qualify for the Huset’s Speedway main event and was forced to watch from the sidelines. His response? Driving to Victory Lane the very next night at Huset’s to bank $20,000.
McFadden raced around his Roth teammate – Buddy Kofoid – in the middle of the 35-lap main event and held off David Gravel’s last gasp on the final lap to claim the checkered flag. The Australian is now up to nine career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car victories. His total of four this season is double his previous best for any past season. McFadden is the eighth different winner in the last eight World of Outlaws races contested at the Brandon, SD oval.
“After last night, I was contemplating if I could drive a Sprint Car anymore,” McFadden said. “Hats off to Brent (Ventura), Wood (Gary Patellaro), and Rob (Beattie). I didn’t do a very good job last night. I couldn’t figure out whether I wasn’t comfortable or it was me not doing my job right. We worked hard. I felt really good all night, and it shows. These deals are tough to win, so anytime you can win one is great.”
Leading the field to green in the Feature was Buddy Kofoid and Carson Macedo. Kofoid powered ahead of Macedo but couldn’t pull away from him as they worked through the early laps.
As the lead duo began to approach traffic, Macedo made a costly mistake, getting loose in the middle of Turns 1 and 2 and looping the Jason Johnson Racing #41 before coming to a stop and bringing out the race’s first yellow flag.
Macedo’s misfortune moved McFadden to the second spot, making a Roth front row for the ensuing restart. Kofoid drove ahead of his teammate when the green flag waved and began to build the gap.
By the time Kofoid met the tail of the field, he’d constructed a sizeable advantage. But as he began to battle lapped cars, McFadden quickly began to close. Lap by lap Kofoid’s lead shrank until McFadden found himself right behind his tail tank. On lap 18, Kofoid looked low trying to pass a lapped car, and McFadden seized on the opportunity – ripping around the outside to take the top spot.
“This is probably the hardest track we come to for dirty air. I think it’s because the air is so thick,” McFadden noted. “It’s super hard to get yourself in a position to slide someone to pass them. I was hoping Buddy would do what he did and go to the bottom there to try to get a lapped car. It was enough for us to get a run.”
Shortly after McFadden grabbed the lead, a hungry David Gravel moved around Kofoid to take second. Gravel, who entered Thursday with a streak of three straight second place finishes, went to work cutting into McFadden’s lead.
The two were nearly nose to tail when a yellow flag flew in the closing stages setting up a five-lap dash to the finish.
With the luxury of clean air, McFadden initially roared away from Gravel when the green lights came back on. But then Gravel again began to close. On the final lap, McFadden tripped up on the cushion in Turns 1 and 2. Gravel looked to capitalize by going low on corner exit and driving side by side down with McFadden the backstretch. McFadden protected in the final set of corners by sliding himself, and Gravel couldn’t quite find the traction to pull alongside off of Turn 4 as McFadden crossed the finish line first.
“I thought I threw it away there on that last lap,” McFadden admitted. “I had my wing back a ways, and after that caution my left rear tire went down a little bit and kept pushing, and I knew if I didn’t keep my wing back I’d lose some drive. Just messed up there on that last lap and was lucky enough I was racing a guy like David. He’s super respectful.”
Gravel notched his fourth consecutive runner-up finish. A second straight strong outing to begin the High Bank Nationals placed he and his Big Game Motorsports/Billion Auto team atop the standings in combined points with a wide 20-point gap back to second. Gravel remains encouraged with their speed, but the hunger for a win continues to intensify.
“Man, I really wanted to win that race,” Gravel said. “James made that car about as wide as possible. It wasn’t anything dirty. He was protecting the win, but me made that wide. I really want to win for these guys.”
Rounding out the podium was early race leader – Buddy Kofoid. With McFadden claiming the win and Kofoid finishing third, Thursday marked the first time that two cars powered by Toyota Racing Engines both wound up on the World of Outlaws podium on the same night. Kofoid couldn’t help but regret leaving McFadden a lane while the two navigated traffic.
“That’s close to the best that I’ve felt here in any Sprint Car,” Kofoid said. “Happy about that. I guess if I could’ve done it over again, I would’ve stayed committed to the top. I tried the bottom to get by a lapper because I felt like I wasn’t gaining much on him, and I just should’ve stayed up and got my momentum up.”
It was also Schuchart who claimed the night’s Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award – his fourth of the season and the 35th of his career.
For the fourth time in 2023, Sheldon Haudenschild earned the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a run from 22nd to ninth.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Noah Gass (third Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Six were topped by James McFadden (40th of career), Lachlan McHugh (first of career), Bill Balog (fifth of career), Kerry Madsen (191st of career), and Carson Macedo (103rd of career).
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are back at Huset’s Speedway for the final prelim night of the Billion Auto High Bank Nationals presented by Menards on Friday, June 23. 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 (35 Laps): 1. 83-James McFadden; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 4. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 5. 1A-Jacob Allen; 6. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 7. 5-Spencer Bayston; 8. 49-Brad Sweet; 9. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 10. 24-Rico Abreu; 11. 41-Carson Macedo; 12. 20G-Noah Gass; 13. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 14. 9-Kasey Kahne; 15. 7S-Robbie Price; 16. 21-Brian Brown; 17. 5X-Kerry Madsen; 18. 15-Donny Schatz; 19. 88-Austin McCarl; 20. 6C-Carson McCarl; 21. 11S-Parker Price Miller; 22. 57-Kyle Larson; 23. 11-Cory Eliason; 24. 9R-Chase Randall