VADO, N.M. – The first hot laps of the decade for the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series were turned in on Thursday night at Vado Speedway Park in preparation for the season opener, the inaugural Battle at the Border.
Forty-two cars took to the track for an extended practice session to shake-down the setups and get a first look at New Mexico’s newest place of race. Drivers were met with some chilly temperatures and a smooth, fast racing surface for the first night of the year in action.
Two-time and defending World of Outlaws champion Brandon Sheppard seemed to be picking up right where he left off, topping the chart with a lap of 13.794 seconds. For never having been to the facility before, like most other drivers in the field, Sheppard sounded quite satisfied with the way his Rocket1 Racing machine took to the new three-eighths-mile.
“It’s going to be an interesting week, for sure. We learned a little bit of stuff on the car for this race track, got better throughout the night and were really fast and consistent every time we went out on the track. That’s really all you can ask for at this point,” Sheppard said.
“The car was really good, just like it was all last year,” Sheppard continued. “We’re definitely happy to come right out of the box and have a fast piece.”
Scott Bloomquist Racing driver Chris Madden had a bit of an up-and-down practice session but was able to get everything ironed out by the final group. He initially took his Drydene Performance Products No. 0M on-track, but discovered an internal issue after only a single lap. Taking it back to the pits, he and the crew diagnosed it with an electrical issue but were able to make repairs to get the car back out for more practice.
Madden has been fighting illness over the past few days, but still is able to suit up for the weekend’s events. Thus, he kept it short and to the point in talking about how each of the No. 0 cars performed on the track in hot laps, as Madden jumped behind the wheel of both his and teammate Bloomquist’s car before the session was over.
“We finally got it figured out and made a pretty good run the last session in my car,” Madden said. “We didn’t have any trouble with Scott’s car, it was good right off the bat.”
While his new, white Drydene No. 0M was being repaired Madden took a round of hot laps in Bloomquist’s traditional black No. 0 and went straight to the top of the leaderboard, clocking in at 13.943 seconds – good enough for second-fastest overall.
The only Outlaw in the field with experience at Vado, Cade Dillard, enjoyed quite a bit of speed in his practice runs, turning in a fast time of 13.996 seconds to put him fourth overall. Having won two modified races at Vado last year, Dillard has the experience edge over the other nationally/regionally touring drivers.
“Some of the things I struggled with in the modified, I had issues with on [the late model], but I was kind of expecting that,” Dillard said. “All-in-all, we had some good times and I feel like we were right there with the majority of the top ones. We’ll just keep working at it and hopefully get a little bit better.”
Now aboard the new Barry Wright Race Cars ICON house car this year, Darrell Lanigan also had a nice showing in his practice outings, posting a fast time of 14.153 seconds to place him ninth overall. As of now, he and the Viper Motorsports crew are just focused on getting used to the new car and the new track.
“It wasn’t bad, we’re just trying to figure out the car and figure out the track,” Lanigan said. “We were definitely close, pretty good there at the end, just trying stuff to see what I like and what the car likes.”