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Mitchell captures first Outlaws victory at Volunteer

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 21, 2020 at 8:23 PM

BULLS GAP — Zack Mitchell was ecstatic after the confetti fell on the frontstretch at Volunteer Speedway on Saturday night.

Mitchell had led all 50 laps around the four-tenths-mile dirt oval in winning his first-ever World of Outlaws Late Model feature and earning the biggest payday of his career.

But the best part for the 23-year-old South Carolina racer was that he had beaten his racing heroes — Dale McDowell, Darrell Lanigan and Scott Bloomquist — to do so.

“I’ve looked up to every single one of these guys since I’ve been a little kid,” Mitchell said. “Watching them and now to win with all these guys is awesome.”

Lanigan challenged Mitchell the first part of the race, but his No. 29 car could never quite get past the door of Mitchell’s No. 57 ride. Mitchell had clear sailing out front later on, leaving McDowell and Lanigan to battle for second place.

“I had to figure out where I needed to be,” Mitchell said after holding up a $10,000 check for winning the race. “You race on this track from top to bottom and everywhere in between. I found my car rotated around the bottom and everything ran flawless. What a night. It was amazing.”

McDowell, a three-time national champion, kept the pressure on Lanigan before taking the runner-up spot. He closed some on Mitchell as they worked lapped traffic but couldn’t quite get to him.

“When we got in lapped traffic and I was balanced a little better than those guys down the racetrack,” McDowell said. “They were a little better than me up the racetrack rolling. I wish we were in traffic a little longer, but it wasn’t our night.”

Lanigan, a two-time WOO Late Model champion from Kentucky, praised the work track owner Landon Stallard did to give the speedway multiple grooves, noting there’s now passing all throughout the turns.

“The last time I was here the only place you could run was the bottom,” he said. “Now they’ve got it where you can run all over the racetrack.”

Bloomquist, the Mooresburg racing legend with over 600 feature wins, held off Friday night’s winner, Brandon Sheppard, to finish fourth.

“The car was solid, but it was tough to pass tonight,” Bloomquist said. “We’ve been doing a lot of testing on the car lately and we will keep working on it.”

Five-time Volunteer Speedway champion Vic Hill of Morristown finished 10th.

CRATE LATE MODEL

Knoxville driver Zach Sise swapped the lead with Johnson City’s Jensen Ford four times over the opening laps of the 30-lap Crate Late Model feature before Sise powered on to the victory.

The drivers nearly wrecked on lap 3 when their cars bounced off each other going into turn 3.

“It was hard racing. I got into him a little in three,” Ford said. “I didn’t really mean to, but it was all about the start. He knew it and I knew it. We bounced off each other. He got ahead and I was running him down but got tied up with the lapped cars, and it was over after that.”

Sise won for a second straight night after leading every lap at Crossville Speedway on Friday. The race at Volunteer and battle with Ford were more challenging and more fun.

“Jensen and I have always raced well together and it was fun to get to slide each other,” Sise said. “We raced really hard before I finally got the edge and took off. Friday night I just ran away with that race, but I really had to work hard for that one.”

FRIDAY FEATURE

Sheppard, two-time defending WOO Late Model Series champion, won his third straight feature Friday night after taking the lead on a lap 34 restart and pacing the field the rest of the way.

Bloomquist started on the pole, but Brandon Overton made a daring three-wide pass of him and Kyle Strickler to take the lead. Strickler then passed Overton on the outside, before the two, along with Dennis Erb Jr., battled for the lead.

Sheppard, an Illinois racer, passed Erb for the lead down the backstretch and rolled to a 59th career WOO Late Model victory. Erb finished second, ahead of Cade Dillard and rookie Ashton Winger.

Running second in the early going, Bloomquist fell to seventh when the throttle return spring came off his carburetor. It kept the car in the fuel when he lifted the throttle, forcing him to slam the brakes and pushing the car up the track. Despite losing spots on each restart, he battled back to finish fifth.

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