After a recent string of bad luck that cost him the leadership of the Late Model points race, Mark McFarland was relieved the only thing that fell apart in Saturday's 200-lap race was his strategy.
An aggressive driver by nature, the 20-year-old Winchester resident had planned to save his tires and slowly work his way from the fifth starting position to the front of the pack. But with his car running so well, McFarland found himself passing opponents with ease and in first place by lap 11. He ran unchallenged the remaining 189 laps to pick up his track-high eighth win of the season at Old Dominion Speedway.
"We started off real strong, right off," said McFarland, who is third overall and trails leader Dale DeLozier by 22 points. "We didn't use up our tires and saved them until the end. . . . I was trying to stay out of trouble and get to the front. I was hoping to get the lead by after 50 or 60 laps, not just 11."
The win was McFarland's second in the last three races; he lost the second half of a twin-50 event two weeks ago after the muffler fell off his car in the waning laps.
McFarland learned his lesson from the last 200-lap race June 12, when a cut tire forced him to retire and finish in 19th place. Though he dominated the entire race Saturday, McFarland drove with more caution than he normally employs.
"It's not really my style," McFarland said. "I like to try and go as hard as I can all the time. But the car was working so well, it was pretty easy going."
Also playing in the back of his mind was a run of bad luck that McFarland hopes has come to end. Before Saturday's race, McFarland either experienced mechanical problems or crashed in four of the last six races.
"I was thinking about that every lap," McFarland said of his recent mishaps. "I was just crossing my fingers that nothing would happen."
Richmond resident Brandon Butler finished second in his first appearance at Old Dominion this season. Danny Fair placed third, earning his third consecutive top five finish. Placing fourth was Dion Ciccarelli, followed by Mike Colabucci--who is second in points--and points leader DeLozier.
What looked like a runaway Late Model points victory for McFarland after winning the first five races of the season has turned into a tight race, with Colabucci trailing DeLozier by just two points.
In fact, not a single driver has pulled away in any of the divisions. Tom Dyson stretched his Grand Stock lead to 20 points over Mike Darne after picking up his fifth win of the season. Darne placed sixth.
Doug Freeman earned his fourth Mini-Stock win of the season and is third overall. Points leader Mike Bryant's engine failed and finished in 14th place, allowing Jason Lineweaver to move within two points of the lead.
Scott Lunceford earned his fifth Speedway Sportsman victory of the season and trails leader Jim Todd Jr. by 30 points.
Late Model: 1, Mark McFarland, Winchester; 2, Brandon Butler, Richmond; 3, Danny Fair, Manassas; 4, Dion Ciccarelli, Severn, Md.; 5, Mike Colabucci, Waldorf, Md. Grand Stock: 1, Tom Dyson, Manassas; 2, Mark Winstead, Stafford; 3, Stan Owens, Haymarket; 4, Chris Donnelly, Stafford; 5, Jeff Callihan, Fredericksburg. Mini-Stock: 1, Doug Freeman, Fredericksburg; 2, Mike Cadle, Sterling; 3, Rick Bowman, Catlett; 4, Jason Lineweaver, Stephens City; 5, Dave Lucash, Haymarket. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Scott Lunceford, Burke; 2, Ted Queen, Manassas; 3, Walt Keel, Clifton; 4, Ray Miller, Manassas; 5, Jim Todd Jr., Casanova.
Late Model: 1, Dale DeLozier, Alexandria, 504; 2, Colabucci, 502; 3, McFarland, 482. Grand Stock: 1, Dyson, 588; 2, Mike Darne, Manassas, 568; 3, Owens, 558. Mini-Stock: 1, Mike Bryant, Midland, 460; 2, Lineweaver, 458; 3, Freeman, 444. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Todd Jr., 524; 2, Lunceford, 492; 3, Jeff Sisak, Linden, 472.