The dread that flowed through Brandon Overton’s veins like snake venom was extracted Friday night with the help of a golden gator.
Overton, who historically hadn’t run well at Volusia Speedway Park and had bad luck throughout the first few races of the 2021 50th DIRTcar Nationals – breaking a motor and wrecking a car – found his anti-venom and dominated the 40-lap World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Feature. The event was round three for the Series during the DIRTcar Nationals and round five for the Late Model Big Gator championship.
He drew the fourth-place starting position but got to move up to the outside pole when Bobby Pierce – initially supposed to start second – had motor issues and moved to the rear in Reid Millard’s #14 car.
Once Overton saw the green flag, he never saw his closest competitors again. He didn’t even feel their pressure as he had a half-a-track lead for most of the race with his #76 car. Overton led from green to checkered, picking up his 14th career World of Outlaws victory and first at Volusia Speedway Park.
“Hell, man, I’m excited. I’ve been wanting one of these gators (trophies) for a long time,” said Overton, commonly known as Big Sexy. “I finally got me one.
“I’ve had the lowest of lows here driving other people’s cars and my own stuff. I’ve never been really good here. So, to finally get it is a relief, I’m telling you. I dread every time I look at that schedule and see Volusia. I’m like, ‘God, I suck there.’ I don’t want to go there. But we keep working on it and working on it and we finally got it.”
While Overton dominated, Devin Moran began dusting the Big Gator championship throne for himself to sit on. He had another impressive run, charging from eighth to second, powering around the outside of those in front of him. With that run, he’s nearly clinched the Big Gator championship as Pierce – his closest competitor – didn’t finish the race.
Moran initially wasn’t even sure he was going to come to Volusia for the DIRTcar Nationals. His decision to come and play earned him his first Volusia Speedway Park win on Thursday and a strong chance of securing his first Big Gator trophy.
“It really sucks for Bobby,” Moran said. “He was a lot better than me in that Heat Race. He was probably going to have something for Brandon there in the Feature. We just missed it a little bit. Got in the wall there a little bit halfway through and took me out of contention there… All in all it was still a good night.”
Florida-native Kyle Bronson ran second for the majority of the event with Brent Larson having a career run in third behind him – looking to claim his first podium finish. The two began to cut into Overton’s four-second lead while the leader was stuck in traffic. But with five laps to go, hearts broke around the half-mile speedway when Larson’s left rear tire blew. He was able to finish but had to settle for a 16th-place finish.
While Larson had to bear the weight of disappointment once again, he was still able to end the night with his head held high. Especially having won his second career Drydene Heat Race and beating current Series points leader Kyle Strickler to get it.
“Strickler is leading point and undoubtedly the star here the past couple of weeks,” Larson said. “To be able to beat him going into (turn) one and beat him in that Heat Race is a big confidence builder.”
Bronson, who won the Series’ season-opening race at Volusia during the Sunshine Nationals ended up settling for third. However, his run moved him up to second in Series points – currently 68 points behind Strickler, who finished sixth – his worst finish in the first five races of the season.
“Our car has been good all week,” Bronson said. “We’ve just had stupid stuff happen. Broke a distributor cap. Should’ve ran in the top-five the other day and a tire blew out. Things just haven’t gone our way. We had a pretty fast car all week. Things just haven’t been great. Overall, these guys have been working hard and his Longhorn car has been good all week. We just have to be a little bit better.”
While Overton was able to find his anti-venom at Volusia, three-time defending champion Brandon Sheppard is still looking for his. He finished 11th and fell to sixth in points – 80 points behind Strickler. He’s yet to secure a top-five finish this season. His championship rival last year, Ricky Weiss, was involved in a crash on the front stretch with six laps to go. It dropped him to a 22nd-place finish.
All of them will have one more chance to claim a gator trophy on Saturday when the two-week-long DIRTcar Nationals comes to an epic conclusion.
The World of Outlaws Morton Building Late Model Series, on Saturday, Feb. 13, will run the final night of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park and crown a new Big Gator Champion. For tickets, click HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
Morton Buildings Feature (40 Laps) – 1. 76-Brandon Overton [$10,000]; 2. 9-Devin Moran [$6,000]; 3. 40B-Kyle Bronson [$3,500]; 4. 44-Chris Madden [$2,800]; 5. OE-Rick Eckert [$2,500]; 6. 8-Kyle Strickler [$2,300]; 7. 28-Dennis Erb [$2,200]; 8. 16-Tyler Bruening [$2,100]; 9. 29V-Darrell Lanigan [$2,050]; 10. 14-Josh Richards [$2,000]; 11. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$1,600]; 12. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,400]; 13. 72-Mike Norris [$1,200]; 14. 17M-Dale McDowell [$1,100]; 15. 58-Ross Bailes [$1,050]; 16. B1-Brent Larson [$1,000]; 17. 18-Chase Junghans [$110]; 18. 385-Mark Whitener [$1,000]; 19. 56-Tony Jackson [$1,000]; 20. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,000]; 21. O-Scott Bloomquist [$1,000]; 22. 7-Ricky Weiss [$1,000]; 23. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$1,000]; 24. 25-Shane Clanton [$1,000]; 25. 6-Blake Spencer [$110]; 26. 54-David Breazeale [$110]; 27. OS-Ryan Scott [$110]; 28. 32-Bobby Pierce [$1,000]; Hard Charger Award: 18-Chase Junghans[+9]
Qualifying Flight-A – 1. 40B-Kyle Bronson, 16.152; 2. 76-Brandon Overton, 16.165; 3. O-Scott Bloomquist, 16.313; 4. 56-Tony Jackson, 16.376; 5. OE-Rick Eckert, 16.405; 6. 16-Tyler Bruening, 16.415; 7. 1-Brandon Sheppard, 16.442; 8. 17M-Dale McDowell, 16.447; 9. 3S-Brian Shirley, 16.519; 10. 97-Cade Dillard, 16.521; 11. 72-Mike Norris, 16.552; 12. 54-David Breazeale, 16.596; 13. 33-Jeff Mathews, 16.619; 14. 58-Ross Bailes, 16.654; 15. 385-Mark Whitener, 16.755; 16. 1st-Johnny Scott, 16.772; 17. 14G-Joe Godsey, 16.901; 18. 6-Blake Spencer, 17.023; 19. 14B-John Baker, 18.482
Qualifying Flight-B – 1. 32-Bobby Pierce, 16.138; 2. 8-Kyle Strickler, 16.148; 3. 9-Devin Moran, 16.43; 4. B1-Brent Larson, 16.546; 5. 28-Dennis Erb, 16.546; 6. 44-Chris Madden, 16.554; 7. 7R-Ross Robinson, 16.659; 8. 76N-Blair Nothdurft, 16.684; 9. 14-Josh Richards, 16.773; 10. 19R-Ryan Gustin, 16.807; 11. 29V-Darrell Lanigan, 16.811; 12. 18-Chase Junghans, 16.834; 13. 7-Ricky Weiss, 16.849; 14. 25-Shane Clanton, 16.85; 15. 31-Tyler Millwood, 16.983; 16. 99B-Boom Briggs, 17.216; 17. 14M-Reid Millard, 17.273; 18. 89-G.R. Smith, 17.464; 19. OS-Ryan Scott, 17.516