Mark McFarland prefers to avoid the 50-lap races, generally disliking an event he feels often does not reward the fastest car because of the little time available to maneuver through the field.
But McFarland admits that he sure had fun in the Winston Racing Series Late Model twin 50-lap races at Old Dominion Speedway on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old Winchester resident finished third in the first race and first in the nightcap. But it was the fender riding and battling for position with such drivers as points leader Mike Colabucci and Old Dominion veteran Danny Fair that left McFarland smiling.
"It's a blast when you get three or four cars out there that are pretty equal," said McFarland, who moved up to second place in the overall standings and now trails Colabucci by 10 points. "It was a fun race. It was the most fun I've had. Mike and I were racing pretty close. And the same with Danny. Even though we didn't win [the first race], it was still a blast."
In the first race, Dustin Storm jumped out to a quick lead, followed by Colabucci and McFarland. As Storm pulled away from the pack, Colabucci and McFarland jockeyed for second, with McFarland making several unsuccessful passes on Colabucci and often tapping his bumper. Though the battle for second was intense, with Colabucci refusing to yield the inside, both said it was fun for themselves and the fans.
"We battled so hard that Dustin got away from us," Colabucci said. "It was . . . exciting, and I think the fans got a kick out of it."
In the second race, Fair proved less successful than Colabucci in holding off McFarland, who took the lead for good several laps in. Fair held on for second place, followed by Storm. Colabucci, Dale DeLozier and Dion Ciccarelli got tangled up in an accident that knocked Colabucci to fifth place.
Despite the strong showing, McFarland said he was slowed by a bad set of tires he said limited his control of the car, particularly in the opening race.
"We had a little problem in the first race," McFarland said of his faulty tires. "We got it fixed up for the second race, but it still wasn't like we want it to be."
DeLozier, who was second in the points race entering Saturday, dropped to third place, behind McFarland. DeLozier, who won the points title last season without a race victory, is still waiting for a first-place finish this season.
Fair continues his second-half push up the leader board. The Manassas resident is fifth overall, trailing Colabucci by 46 points. After suffering through a first half filled with mechanical problems, Fair has placed in the top five in the past six races.
The victory was McFarland's 10th this season, surpassing his career-high nine victories in 1997, when he finished second to Wes Troup. Winning the points championship, McFarland said, is next on his list of goals.
"We were sort of happy to finish second [in '97]," McFarland said. "Now we want to win the whole thing. There are no other positions.". . .
Chris Donnelly led pole-to-pole in the 50-lap Grand Stock race to pick up his second victory of the season. Points leader Tom Dyson finished fifth and still holds a 34-point lead over Mike Darne. In Mini-Stock, Mike Bryant snapped Doug Freeman's winning streak at four and earned his seventh victory of the season. Meanwhile, Ray Miller won his first Speedway Sportsman race, edging out points leader Jim Todd Jr.
Late Model (race one): 1, Dustin Storm, Prince Frederick, Md.; 2, Mike Colabucci, Waldorf, Md.; 3, Mark McFarland, Winchester; 4, Danny Fair, Manassas; 5, Dale DeLozier, Alexandria. Late Model (race two): 1, McFarland; 2, Fair; 3, Storm; 4, Brandon Butler, Richmond; 5, Colabucci. Grand Stock: 1, Chris Donnelly, Stafford; 2, Jeff Callihan, Fredericksburg; 3, Mike Darne, Manassas; 4, Mark Winstead, Stafford; 5, Tom Dyson, Manassas. Mini-Stock: 1, Mike Bryant, Midland; 2, Doug Freeman, Fredericksburg; 3, Jason Lineweaver, Stephens City; 4, Steve Loughman, Woodbridge; 5, Garry Klaus, Alexandria. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Ray Miller, Manassas; 2, Jim Todd Jr., Casanova; 3, Ted Queen, Manassas; 4, Roy Eckert, Linden; 5, Jeff Sisak, Linden.
Late Model: 1, Colabucci, 638; 2, McFarland, 628; 3, DeLozier, 624. Grand Stock: 1, Dyson, 680; 2, Darne, 646; 3, Stan Owens, Haymarket, 642. Mini-Stock: 1, Lineweaver, 548; 2, Freeman, 542; 3, Bryant, 532. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Todd Jr, 622; 2, Scott Lunceford, Burke, 578; 3, Sisak, 556.