MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Brent Marks’ victory with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series on Saturday night at Williams Grove Speedway wasn’t just another win.
It wasn’t even just a season-changing victory for the Myerstown, Pa., native and former Williams Grove track regular.
Saturday’s 57th annual Champion Racing Oil National Open was a potentially life-altering moment for the journeyman sprint car driver who’s struggled to find his footing on the road with the Outlaws.
It provided a crown jewel on Marks’ resume, established him as a driver who can go toe-to-toe with the best on the most-prestigious of stages and paid handsome financial dividends to his low-budget, but heart-driven operation.
In short, Saturday night turned the entire script upside down for a driver who failed to make four Outlaw features this season, sat 10th in points entering the weekend and had just four top-five finishes to his credit all year long.
This particular night was different, though it started out with a similar refrain of adversity.
Marks fought through a rough qualifying effort and barely transferred through his heat race before coming to life in his DIRTvision Fast Pass Dash, winning that to secure an outside front row starting spot for the 40-lap, $65,000-to-win main event.
That positioning paid dividends initially, as Marks paced the first two circuits before giving way to Midwestern invader Brian Brown for the next 10 laps, but once he used a deep turn-one slider to take command on the 13th revolution Marks never looked back – despite a mid-race red flag for refueling and a torrid charge through lap traffic in the second third of the feature.
Even a caution after the white flag for a flat tire on Paul McMahan’s machine and subsequent restart with Daryn Pittman on his tail tank couldn’t keep Marks out of victory lane in the end.
He pulled away on the final green flag of the night and ultimately pulled into victory lane for the biggest payday and, arguably, most meaningful moment of his racing career.
“I have no idea what to even feel right now,” Marks said with a smile in victory lane. “This is amazing. I’ve been wanting to win this race for a very long time. I grew up here (at Williams Grove) in the infield. This is where I fell in love with sprint car racing. This is awesome.
“Winning the National Open is so huge for me, because there is so much history associated with the event,” Marks added. “To have my name alongside the greatest sprint car drivers to ever compete is amazing and I can’t thank everyone enough who is a part of this team.”
In a season that’s been no shortage of “frustrating” for Marks, the Posse-turned-Outlaw driver focused on being patient and not trying to get more than was in front of him for the entirety of the main event.
As he dueled with slower cars and tried to lap them in the second half, Marks kept hoping that things wouldn’t go the way of June’s event at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, where he led for much of that night before being overhauled by Shane Stewart in the closing stages of the summer spectacular.
Luckily for Marks on this fall evening, that sort of collapse never happened.
“I tried to play that whole race as smart as I could,” Marks noted. “I tried to drive like a veteran and not get over my head. Just be super patient. Because I lost that race earlier in the year at Nashville. It was kind of the same situation, you know, with running the bottom there with lap cars … and I felt like I needed to get by them, made a mistake and lost the lead. I made sure I didn’t do that tonight.”
Marks’ National Open score was his first of the World of Outlaws season and ended a drought of more than a year for his bare-bones, self-owned sprint car operation.
But it wasn’t completely unexpected – at least not to Marks.
“We’ve actually been pretty good in some of the bigger races this year; we just haven’t been able to seal the deal,” said Marks, who finished in the top 10 in the Gold Cup Race of Champions and, prior to that, was a top-10 starter in the Knoxville Nationals and ran third in Eldora Speedway’s Kings Royal.
“We’ve worked hard to get things going in the right direction, and things finally all fell our way. But we knew we could run well on a big stage like this one.”
That big stage came with a big check, too. It’s a payday that will completely alter Marks’ run through the upcoming offseason.
“That (kind of money) means everything,” Marks said. “That sure as hell gets us through the winter.”
But Saturday night was all about celebration, emotion, family and friends: all things Marks held close.
“This is pure joy right here,” he smiled. “When you fight and fight and can’t break that threshold (into victory lane), the frustration builds up and it gets tough at times. But all of that, tonight, was lifted off our shoulders with this victory.
“It’s the National Open. It’s home. It doesn’t get much better than that.”