Yes Virginia, there is a definitive silly season in the world of Super Late Model racing. Late in every racing season, you start to see it. We all know what to look for when you get into the fourth quarter of the year. Drivers changing teams. Drivers changing chassis. Teams stepping away from the sport. All of these late-season changes are made to give drivers and teams a chance to get a jump on a brighter campaign for the following season.
While silly season is nothing new, this year’s rendition seems to be sillier than the norm. There’s been countless ride changes. Sadly, there’s also been some teams going by the wayside. With all of these changes, we thought it would make for good conversation to compile an article.
So, fasten your seat belt, sit back, and get ready to roll.
Not very often do you see a season’s champion take the path that Mike Marlar has pursued in the past month. For the first time in his career, the Tennessee racer elected to tackle a national tour on a full-time basis in 2018. He set his sights on the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Late Model Series Championship. The grueling tour found Marlar battling down to the final lap of the final event of the season. When the checkered flag dropped at the World Finals at Charlotte, he had achieved his goal.
With the WoO Championship in his back pocket, things got interested. He and team owner, Ronnie Delk, mutually agreed to part ways with Delk selling the entire operation. Rumors abounded that Marlar would move to Iowa’s Bruening Motorsports for 2019. However, that plan hit a snag and didn’t materialize – more on this later.
From this point, Marlar was rumored to be taking the 2019 season off altogether. However, this would not be the case either. A few days later, it was announced that Kevin and Leroy Rumley were relaunching their potent #6 Super Late Model for 2019 and Marlar would be the driver. Quite the silly season, and whirlwind, for the driver known as “The Winfield Warrior.”
South Carolina’s Chris Madden had a legitimate shot to win the 2018 WoO Craftsman Late Model Series crown heading into the World Finals. He was in contention for the win in the opener before an oil-line failure knocked him out of both the race and title contention. After a Third-place finish in the 2017 series standings, he ultimately finished a disappointing Third in the 2018 edition.
Just two weeks after the finale, Madden announced that he was vacating the seat of the Barry Wright Race Cars House Car. His new seat you might ask? Well, it turned out he accepted a driving opportunity for Bruening Motorsports. The Iowa-based team that was rumored to be hiring Mike Marlar, but alas, Madden landed in the ride.
He will return to the WoO tour in 2019, while also competing in events alongside teammate, Tyler Bruening. Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Madden in his pursuit of a WoO title.
The four-time WoO Champion and 2017 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) Champion ended his 2018 season with a bang. He picked up the $100,000 victory in the Dirt Track World Championship for the second-straight season. It put a wrap on his 2018 LOLMDS campaign, where he battled adversity to finish Second in the final standings.
Just a month after wrapping up the season, Richards announced that he was vacating Best Performance Motorsports. After a two-year stint with the team, he revealed that he would be making the move to Clint Bowyer Racing to fill the seat vacated by Darrell Lanigan. Richards will continue to compete with the LOLMDS and will now be a teammate to former LOLMDS Champion, Don O’Neal.
New Waverly, Texas-racer Tyler Erb, enjoyed a breakout season in 2018. The anything-but-shy driver started the year with an Australian Late Model Championship. He then backed it up with a season that included his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) and WoO wins.
Erb now looks ahead to an even bigger 2019 season, which finds him filling the Best Performance Motorsports driver’s seat, which was vacated by Josh Richards. The 21-year-old competitor will be competing in the LOLMDS on a full-time basis for the first time in his career. He’ll eye both the LOLMDS title and the rookie of the year honor.
Darrell Lanigan and Clint Bowyer Racing amicably agreed to split ways at the end of the 2018 campaign. While the partnership produced some solid runs, the past year was full of struggles for the Kentucky veteran.
The 48-year-old racer now will return to racing out of his home shop in Union, Kentucky. His plans for the 2019 season are still up in the air, but he’s indicated he has an interest in possibly returning as a full-time racer on the WoO tour, where he’s a four-time champ. He’ll also bring back his familiar No.29 for 2019 and beyond.
Devin Moran and Tye Twarog Racing enjoyed a great season on the road with the WoO series in 2018. Notable accomplishments included a $30,000 triumph in the annual Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway as well as a Fourth-place finish in the final series standings.
For 2019, he’ll be mostly in new digs though. Moran has announced that he’ll be taking over driving duties in the Dunn-Benson Motorsports #1. The seat was vacated by Bobby Pierce at the end of the 2018 season. Moran’s ride change will also bring about a tour change as he’ll make his maiden voyage on the LOLMDS circuit in 2019.
When not driving the Dunn-Benson Motorsports #1, Moran will moonlight in Tye Twarog’s #9 Late Model. The veteran Ohio car owner recently announced that the upcoming season will be his last year to field a race team.
With Devin Moran taking over the Dunn-Benson ride, the team’s 2018 pilot, Bobby Pierce, now returns to Illinois to pilot his family’s car for 2019. Pierce battled mechanical failures and bad luck throughout his single-season tenure with the team. However, he did rebound late in the year to win the Jackson 100 and Pittsburgher 100.
Pierce looks forward to returning to a schedule, which will see him picking and choosing big events. He’ll likely once again pursue the UMP DIRTcar National Championship as well as the Summernationals Championship. He’s a three-time champ with both series. He ended the 2018 season with a $30,000 triumph in the VP Racing Gateway Dirt Nationals in his family-owned #32.
One of the most likable drivers in Dirt Late Model racing makes another team change as the 2019 season approaches. Brandon Overton began 2018 as the driver for Chip Stone/Randy Weaver Racing. After a wildly successful 2017 campaign, the team had high hopes for this season. Unfortunately, mechanical failures, bad luck, and other struggles came early and often for the Georgia racer. The team ultimately split ways following the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway in early June.
Overton spent much of the rest of the year driving for Alabama’s Billy Franklin Racing. The team proved to be potent with multiple wins, including a $50,000 triumph in the annual Hillbilly 100 at Tyler County Speedway. Overton also recorded late-season victories in various other cars.
For 2019, he will now take over the driving duties at Rum Runner Racing for Joey Coulter. Coulter is relocating from North Carolina to Texas, where his wife has a new position with Simpson Race Products. As a result, he knew his racing for 2019 would be limited, so he reached out to Overton to see if he would be interested in piloting the team’s car on a full-time basis. Overton accepted, and now the next chapter of the talented, young driver’s career is set in motion.
The team will debut during the annual Wild West Shootout at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway in early January. From there, they will embark on Speedweeks. There’s a possibility of running a tour in 2019. However, that decision will weigh on where the team sits in the standings leaving Florida.
The changes outlined in this article are definitely not the extent of the silly season happenings in the Super Late Model world. However, it does give you a good feel for just how many driver and team switches there have already been for the upcoming racing season.
Stay tuned to OneDirt.com as more announcements are revealed.