World of Outlaws Notebook
Notes: Madden's ears ring while wallet bulges
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
JAMAICA, Va. — Chris Madden thoroughly enjoyed the unique postrace reception he received from a group of costumed Civil War re-enactors after his April 17 triumph in the inaugural Commonwealth 100 at Virginia Motor Speedway. The standout from Gary Court, S.C., didn't even mind the soldiers' celebratory burst of revolver fire that left his ears ringing. | Tire strategy critical at Commonwealth 100
"This is the second year in a row I've been to victory lane here and I can't hear again," joked Madden, who also won last year's WoO show at VMS that featured the debut appearance of the re-enactors dressed in Confederates grays and Union blues.
Madden, 34, once again donned a Civil War general's hat and was surrounded by the re-enactors for the postrace photos. This time, however, he also was handed a revolver to fire off a few shots of his own — and, of course, his $25,000 paycheck was a lot bigger.
"For my season, it means a lot," Madden said of his Commonwealth 100 earnings, the second-highest of his career after the $30,000 he picked up for winning the 2007 National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway. "It keeps us going and racing through the year. I kinda pay my way — my racing pays for my racing. I can make $25,000 go a long way."
The checkered ranks high on Madden's list of career accomplishments, largely because the expectations surrounding him last weekend were so high. He had scored victories in his only two previous starts at VMS, so he was clearly a favorite entering the Commonwealth 100.
"This is one of my top ones," said Madden. "To come to this place — there was more pressure coming here than there was racing, just being we won the last two. That's a lot of pressure, to come back and win another one because everybody's expecting you to do it, but we did it."
Madden has never been a WoO LMS regular for a full season — he followed the tour through early June in 2007 before dropping off due to the premature birth of his son (now a healthy toddler approaching the age of three) and other team issues — but he now owns an impressive six career victories on the series. The only driver with more WoO victories than Madden despite never being a tour regular is Brian Birkhofer, with seven.
Other notes from the Commonwealth 100:
FRANK'S CHARGE HALTED: For the first third of the main event, Chub Frank looked like he might be the race's biggest charger as he sliced from the 24th starting spot to the verge of the top 10. But his advance stalled when the track surface took rubber and his car became very loose. After he pitted to change a flat right-rear tire during a lap-91 caution period, he could only manage a 15th-place finish.
SMITH FORCED TO BACKUP CAR: Brady Smith was scheduled to start 18th, but his night was turned upside down when a lifter failed on his car's engine as he was warming it up in the pit area to head out on the track. His team then went into "fire drill" mode to pull out a backup car and hastily ready it for action. He barely made it onto the speedway in time for the start and fell in at the rear of the field. Unfortunately, in the wild scramble to get the backup machine fired up, no one had time to torque the lug nuts. As a result, the left-rear wheel came loose and broke on lap 29. Since his crew couldn't get to the infield with their pit cart in time for the start, Smith had no spares at his disposal and glumly retired to the outside pit area, finishing 27th.
FULLER SALVAGES NIGHT: After getting swept up in an opening-lap tangle in the first consolation race, Tim Fuller appeared to be on his way to absorbing a big hit in the WoO championship chase. Instead, he moved from fifth to fourth in the points standings and sliced his points deficit to the leader from 84 to 70 points — all thanks to an improbable run from the 25th starting spot (he used a provisional) to a quiet-but-satisfactory eighth-place finish driving his backup car.
FRUSTRATION FOR ECKERT: Rick Eckert's solid qualifying performance on Friday — sixth-fastest time and a heat victory — morphed into a frustrating outing in the 100. He started fifth but was never a factor; he slid backwards immediately, brought out a caution flag on lap 16 and finished two laps down in 22nd after making multiple pit stops.
LOOSE-HANDLING CAR PLAGUES ROBINSON: Brent Robinson was riding high after qualifying through a heat race on Friday night, giving the Virginia resident and former VMS regular the 17th starting spot in the 100. But a setup miscalculation — his car ended up way too free because he didn't expect the track to be so much different from Friday night — prompted him to pull out of the race on lap 45, leaving him 25th in the final rundown.
KING'S STRUGGLES CONTINUE: Russ King's sophomore WoO season continued to just get worse at VMS. He was involved in a multi-car tangle during a Friday heat that left his brand-new Rocket car with significant damage and had to use an emergency provisional to start 27th in the 100, thereby forfeiting the start money for the event. He went on to finish one lap down in 20th place driving his backup car.
VMS PLEASED WITH EVENT: Track owner Bill Sawyer, general manager Clarke Sawyer and staff members were pleased with the inaugural Commonwealth 100 weekend. Campers were plentiful, the 56-car field was a record for a WoO event at VMS and a great crowd turned out on Saturday night despite steady winds that created chilly conditions. Sawyer and Co. are already talking about making the event bigger and better.