Brandon Overton celebrates Saturday night in victory lane at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
September 25, 2017 9:57:18 AM
No one knows how the oddsmakers in Las Vegas determine their betting lines. There are countless variables that change by the day, and sometimes by the hour.
Mother Nature added a last-minute variable to the Cotton Pickin' 100 on Saturday at Magnolia Motor Speedway with a mid-afternoon rain shower that prompted nearly all of the drivers to go with soft tires.
Brandon Overton must be a gambling man because he stuck with hard tires.
Starting 16th in a field of 24, the 2015 Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year didn't have anything to lose. The move paid off, as Overton passed 2017 World 100 winner Jonathan Davenport on a lengthy, late-race restart once the track started to slick off and held off Davenport and Mike Marlar for his second $20,000 win of the season.
Marlar finished second and Davenport took third.
Overton said the decision to race a harder compound was made out of habit.
"We're better off on hard tires no matter where we go," Overton said. "In all of these 100-lap races, when everybody puts on hard tires, we're always right there. We were confident enough in our car to know we could ride and not get lapped and be OK."
Overton said his experiences and tire choice on a similar surface at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, where rained dashed two of the six features in late February, reinforced the decision to stick with hard tires.
Overton said his only concern about tires was losing patience and pressing as the race wore on, which would have worn down his tires.
"This dirt (at Magnolia) is kind of like it is in Volusia. When it's brown, it's got a lot of grip in it," Overton said. "When we ran 40s (compound) in Volusia in the mud, it hauled tail then, too. That's what was going through our heads. I knew when it got slick, we'd have our chance."
It didn't appear Overton's chance would come, at least not early on, as Davenport and Marlar dueled for the first 25-30 laps, exchanging the lead after each slide-pass at opposite ends of the track.
Davenport made the top-side work for a large portion of the race and extended his lead up to three seconds until a caution on lap 73, when Caleb Ashley broke a rear-end and leaked oil onto the track, right along Davenport's line off turn two. The caution lasted more than 10 minutes, as track officials worked to put dirt on the spill.
Two laps after the re-start, Overton slid past Davenport off turn two. Marlar passed Overton once, but Overton quickly regained the lead and never looked back.
"I knew I had to get him on that start," Overton said. "Everybody talks about all the air and all this stuff. I knew I was going to be good, but I wanted to make it for sure instead of taking my time and trying to pass him with a couple to go.
"We knew what everyone else had on (tires), and I could feel mine getting better and better. We were pretty confident."
Davenport couldn't make up any ground on the higher line once Overton and Marlar passed him. Overton and Davenport said they considered pitting to switch tires, but neither could risk their spots in the top three.
"I knew we were in trouble the first two laps," Davenport said. "I went through there and didn't have any grip right through the middle of the race track, so I had to go ahead and move to the top on the third lap. I considered coming in on the lap 28 caution, but we probably weren't prepared to change three tires.
"Later on, in three and four, (the line) was still off the wall, but it got rough right in the middle, rough enough that I couldn't turn off it early enough to make any speed down the straightaway. And sometimes I'd bottom out and set the nose over. I rode it as long as I could. When that long caution came out, I tried to pack it in above the rough, but it didn't work."
Kyle Bronson and Dane Dacus finished fourth and fifth. Lowndes County natives Rick and Brian Rickman finished seventh and eighth.
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