MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Home state driver Jimmy Owens cashed in big Saturday night at Smoky Mountain Speedway.
Owens earned his first World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series victory since June 2 and the 13thof his career.
“It’s awesome,” said the Newport, Tenn., native. “When you come home and hear all your people cheering for you in your home state, it’s really humbling. It never gets old.”
Owens was almost flawless the entire night, laying down a solid qualifying lap, winning his Drydene Heat Race and redrawing the outside pole. The only man standing in his way in the Morton Buildings Feature was the driver gunning for a record-tying six wins in-a-row — Brandon Sheppard.
Owens took command from the start, hugging the low line and gradually pulling away from Darrell Lanigan and Sheppard. It was Lanigan’s six-race win streak Sheppard was trying to tie on Saturday night, and it was lap 17 when Sheppard made his move underneath Lanigan to steal second and start running down Owens. Sheppard closed the gap in under five laps and immediately showed Owens just how close he was, getting under the No. 20 several times before a number of yellow flags restacked the field.
While Sheppard was so strong on the low side, Owens was able to hold him off racing one groove higher. Owens consistently hit his marks to lead all 60 laps en route to a $12,000 prize in the sixth annual Tennessee Tip-off.
“It got a little bit more bottomed-out than what we like to see,” Owens said. “But in the end, it was just a pretty good run all night long.”
Sheppard tried all three lanes to make a pass, but his efforts went unrewarded. However, that doesn’t mean Owens didn’t feel the pressure.
“I could hear him under me and behind me,” Owens said. “I just knew it was going to take a real good car to get around us on the outside because it wasn’t really rubbered-up or anything like that, I was just riding around the bottom and that just seemed to be the better line to go.”
Despite Sheppard’s best efforts to keep the win streak alive, it just wasn’t in the cards for the Rocket1 Racing team.
“We had a really good race car,” Sheppard said. “We’re definitely really happy to be in second and fortunate to keep this thing up front. The team’s working hard and everything’s clicking right now, we’re definitely not disappointed with a second-place run.”
Rookie of the Year contender Ricky Weiss wrapped up his stellar weekend in Tennessee, finishing third on Saturday after a fourth-place effort in Friday’s show at Duck River Raceway Park. Once again, he increases his rookie points lead over Kyle Hardy.
Morton Buildings Feature (60 Laps) 1. 20-Jimmy Owens [$12,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$6,000]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss [$4,500]; 4. 29-Darrell Lanigan [$3,500]; 5. 44-Chris Madden [$3,000]; 6. 49-Jonathan Davenport [$2,500]; 7. 157-Mike Marlar [$2,000]; 8. 5-Don O’Neal [$1,700]; 9. 25-Shane Clanton [$1,500]; 10. 50-Shanon Buckingham [$1,350]; 11. 2-Brandon Overton [$1,250]; 12. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,200]; 13. B1-Brent Larson [$1,150]; 14. 1v-Vic Hill [$1,100]; 15. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,050]; 16. 36v-Kyle Hardy [$1,000]; 17. 99B-Boom Briggs [$950]; 18. 28-Dennis Erb [$900]; 19. 4T-Tommy Kerr [$850]; 20. 1m-Devin Moran [$800]; 21. 3s-Brian Shirley [$800]; 22. 14-Josh Richards [$800]; 23. 9-Cory Hedgecock [$800]; 24. 97c-Michael Chilton [$800]