MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Brent Marks won the richest sprint car race in the history of Williams Grove Speedway Saturday night, banking $65,000 during the 57th annual Champion Racing Oil National Open.
A former regular at the track before going on the road with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series a few years ago, Marks scored the Outlaw victory after turning back challenges by both Brian Brown and Daryn Pittman in the 40-lap affair.
Marks led the first two circuits of the race over polesitter Brown before the first caution flag of the race appeared.
On the restart, Missouri’s Brown beat Marks out of the fourth corner to take control of the race, while Pittman and eighth-starting Donny Schatz trailed.
With one-quarter of the race in the books, the front trio of Brown, Marks and Pittman were running under a blanket on the cushion, as Brad Sweet began challenging Schatz for fourth.
Sweet made a bold slice across the third and fourth turns to motor by Schatz for position on the 12th circuit, but he couldn’t hold his momentum and instead ended up losing the spot back to Schatz, in addition to another position to Aaron Reutzel.
Seconds later, Marks got close enough to Brown to pull a slide job in the first corner and come up with the lead. At the same time, Pittman used the fracas to pass Brown as well.
A second caution period developed on lap 14 for a slowing Danny Dietrich, who secured the Williams Grove track title on Saturday night despite the mid-race issues.
The new green saw Pittman beat Marks out of the fourth corner to take control, while Reutzel went through the middle groove in the second turn to drive by Schatz with a power move.
However a third-turn tangle moments later between Lance Dewease and Ian Madsen forced the yellow flag to reappear before the lap could be completed, negating both moves by Pittman and Reutzel.
The yellow flag then turned red for refueling, so that the field could go the distance of the 20-mile event.
Marks held serveon the restart, with Reutzel again powering by Schatz in the third and fourth turns on lap 16 only to see Schatz go back into the spot on the ensuing circuit.
Meanwhile, Marks hit the rear of the field with 17 laps to go, allowing both Pittman and Schatz to close as he struggled to put cars a lap down.
During the final 10 laps of the race, Marks continued to struggle with traffic, but finally made a hole with five laps to go when he routed both Cory Eliason and Danny Dietrich off the inside of the fourth corner to pull out to a 1.177-second lead at the white flag.
But just as his win seemed assured with less than a lap to go, the yellow flag again appeared for a blown tire on the machine of Paul McMahan.
The blown tire forced a green-white-checkered finish to the race and gave Pittman a clear shot at stealing the win away.
Pittman blew his car in on the top in turn one as the field took the new green, but bobbled on the cushion as he set the car into the corner, taking the edge off of the finish as Marks got away to the win by 1.402 seconds.
“This is amazing – I’ve been wanting to win this very race for a long time. I grew up here in the infield. This is where I fell in love with sprint car racing,” Marks said with his daughter by his side after taking her atop the wing after climbing from the car.
“I tried to play it smart all night. I can’t believe we just won the National Open!”
Pittman ended up settling for a fifth runner-up finish in the prestigious race.
“I’d trade every single one of ‘em for one win,” Pittman said of all his second-place finishes.
“I would trade every one of my wins here for one of these,” he continued. “When you get that close to winning one of these crown jewels, you want to get the job done, and we just keep coming up short.”
Five-time National Open champion Schatz ended the race in third, followed by Reutzel and Friday night winner David Gravel.
Sixth through 10th went to Freddie Rahmer, Brown, Brian Montieth, Sweet and Sheldon Haudenschild.
Reutzel won the $3,000 National Open rookie award – finishing fourth – and Montieth earned KSE Hard Charger honors with a stellar charge from 26th to eighth.
To see full results, turn to the next page.