Mark McFarland entered Saturday night's Late Model race at Old Dominion Speedway free of the pressure he had been feeling the past couple of months. So with nothing to lose, McFarland won, edging Danny Fair for his track-best 12th victory of the season.
The Winchester resident already had lost out on a potential national championship and felt his shot at the Old Dominion Speedway points title was remote at best.
"We're just trying to go out there to win," said McFarland, who this weekend will compete at Old Dominion Speedway and in a 300-mile Late Model race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. "That's all we're thinking about now."
The victory--coupled with disastrous finishes for nearly everyone ahead of him in the standings--moves McFarland back into the hunt for the track title. He trails points leader Dale DeLozier by 24 points with two weeks remaining.
DeLozier, second-place Mike Colabucci and third-place Dion Ciccarelli were involved in an accident that sent the trio to the back of the pack late in the race. Ciccarelli managed to work his way back for a fourth-place finish, while DeLozier finished 10th and Colabucci 14th.
With two weeks remaining, DeLozier is trying to hold on to the Late Model lead for his second consecutive track championship.
"I'm driving defensively now," DeLozier said. "You don't necessarily need to win [at this point]; you just need to finish well. But I didn't finish that good. So it's back to the drawing board. I haven't found anything wrong with the car yet, so I guess it must be the driver."
Fair took the lead after the final restart only to be passed by McFarland in the waning laps. The two battled for the lead, with McFarland holding off the veteran at the finish line.
McFarland entered the previous race Aug. 28 needing to pass DeLozier in the standings to qualify for the national title. Mechanical problems in both twin-50 races doomed his shot at the national title.
Winning Saturday night, McFarland said, was not only a relief but a confidence boost for the upcoming West Virginia race.
McFarland plans to leave Martinsville, W. Va., after qualifying Saturday afternoon and return to Old Dominion in time for the Late Model race. He will jump into his second car, drive the 200-lap race, then almost immediately get back on the road to Martinsville, W. Va., for Sunday's race.
The incentive behind the hectic schedule: a very sizable purse. The winner of the Martinsville race, which usually fields about 150 drivers, earns $25,000.
"It feels good to get back to winning, especially with how close that race was," McFarland said. "It was a tight race. There were about four cars that could have won, and to come out on top gives you a bit of a boost."
Late Model: 1, Mark McFarland, Winchester; 2, Danny Fair, Manassas; 3, Jeff Sipe, Middletown, Pa.; 4, Dion Ciccarelli, Severn, Md.; 5, Mike Southard, Manassas. Grand Stock: 1, Mike Darne, Manassas; 2, Tom Dyson, Manassas; 3, Dennis Werner, Warrenton; 4, Stan Owens, Haymarket; 5, Willard Lawrence, Haymarket. Mini-Stock: 1, Mike Cadle, Sterling; 2, Durrell Youmans, Gaithersburg; 3, Steve Coleman, Fredericksburg; 4, Junior Amburgey, Manassas; 5, Robert Schlottman, Falls Church. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Jeff Sisak, Linden; 2, Ray Miller, Manassas; 3, Walt Keel, Clifton; 4, Jim Todd Jr., Casanova; 5, Scott Lunceford, Burke.
Late Model: 1, Dale DeLozier, Alexandria, 816; 2, Mike Colabucci, Waldorf, Md., 796; 2, Ciccarelli, 796. Grand Stock: 1, Dyson, 850; 2, Owens, 822; 3, Darne, 786. Mini-Stock: 1, Doug Freeman, Fredericksburg, 710; 2, Jason Lineweaver, Stephens City, 698; 3, Rick Bowman, Catlett, 666. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Todd, 794; 2, Lunceford, 738; 3, Sisak, 724.