The biggest night in the young career of Mark McFarland turned out to be his worst.
With a national championship potentially on the line, McFarland suffered a flat tire in both ends of the Late Model twin-50 event at Old Dominion Speedway on Saturday night. Within striking distance of then-points leader Mike Colabucci at the start of the night, McFarland all but dropped out of contention by night's end.
With one race remaining before the national championship is determined, McFarland trails new leader Dale DeLozier by 42 points.
"We had a good year. We aren't complaining about it," McFarland said. "[The title] was ours to lose, and we did it. It's nothing to be mad at. That's just how racing goes, and we got the raw end."
McFarland, whose flat tires resulted from debris left over from several accidents, finished 17th in both races.
Colabucci had some bad luck of his own. In the first race, he was sent to the back of the pack after getting tangled up in an opening lap accident; he managed to work his way to an eighth-place finish. Colabucci finished 20th in the second race after experiencing mechanical problems.
Danny Fair and Jeff Sipe each earned their first Late Model victories of the season. DeLozier finished fourth and third, respectively, in the two races to turn a 30-point deficit at the beginning of the night into a 12-point lead over Colabucci.
McFarland, a 20-year-old Winchester resident, has had an all-or-nothing season at Old Dominion. It seems he has either finished first or well back in the pack. His 11 Late Model victories are tops both at Old Dominion and in the nation. However, to qualify for the national championship, McFarland needs to lead the Old Dominion points race by Sept. 12, now nearly impossible.
In the eight races McFarland did not win this season, he finished in the top 10 only twice. Twice he finished in the back, and once he finished in 19th place. In all but two of his nonvictory races, McFarland had mechanical problems.
Despite his misfortunes, McFarland is proud of his achievements this season.
"When we could finish, we did pretty well," McFarland said. "It wasn't as if they didn't know we were there."
The same cannot be said of DeLozier, who again has managed to work his way to the top of the Late Model points standings with hardly anyone noticing. Last season the Alexandria resident won the track championship without winning a single race but by consistently finishing near the top of the pack. This year he has finished in the top five 14 times.
"Everybody always wants to shoot for the win," DeLozier said. "But to get there they are running hard and bumping and banging their cars. These cars are so equal that it is hard to pass without tapping someone. But once you start tapping, then fenders get knocked off and accidents happen.
"It's the same as it is every week: Go out there and finish the race. If you can win it, then win it. If you can't, bring your car home in one piece in the top five."
McFarland said next week's race may be his last this season at Old Dominion. Rather than compete for the track championship, McFarland plans to compete in a number of Late Model races with big prize money purses at tracks along the East Coast.
Late Model (race 1): 1, Danny Fair, Manassas; 2, Dion Ciccarelli, Severn, Md.; 3, Ricky Exline, Lake Ridge; 4, Dale DeLozier, Alexandria; 5, David Boyd, Ashburn. Late Model (race 2): 1, Jeff Sipe, Middletown, Pa.; 2, Ciccarelli; 3, DeLozier; 4, Dustin Storm, Prince Frederick, Md.; 5, Exline. Grand Stock: 1, Tom Dyson, Manassas; 2, Mark Winstead, Stafford; 3, Chris Donnelly, Stafford; 4, Jeff Callihan, Fredericksburg; 5, Stan Owens, Haymarket. Mini-Stock: 1, Doug Freeman, Fredericksburg; 2, Ed Zbignewich, New Windsor, Md.; 3, Rick Bowman, Catlett; 4, Steve Coleman, Fredericksburg; 5, Steve Loughman, Woodbridge. Speedway Sportsman: 1, David Monteaux, Dale City; 2, Jim Todd Jr., Casanova; 3, Ted Queen, Manassas; 4, John Knight, Falls Church; 5, Ken Lewis, Manassas.
Late Model: 1, DeLozier, 784; 2, Mike Colabucci, Waldorf, Md., 772; 3, Ciccarelli, 752.
Grand Stock: 1, Dyson, 802; 2, Owens, 778; 3, Callihan, 752.
Mini-Stock: 1, Freeman, 686; 2, Jason Lineweaver, Stephens City, 670; 3, Mike Bryant, Midland, 656.
Speedway Sportsman: 1, Todd Jr., 750; 2, Scott Lunceford, Burke, 696; 3, Jeff Sisak, Linden, 674.