MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Paul McMahan is not an Outlaw, nor is he Posse.
“I’m just a kid from California making a living,” he said.
McMahan did just that on a cool Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway, where he claimed the opening night of the 50th annual National Open. The victory was his second World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series win of the season and sends him into Saturdays $50,000-to-win event as a favorite.
“It’s just a phenomenal night for me,” he said. “To win at Williams Grove is the coolest thing ever.”
While McMahan was strong from the first lap, polesitter Kerry Madsen was the driver to beat. Madsen powered to the lead with McMahan working from fourth to second before the backstretch on lap two.
Stevie Smith passed McMahan for the runner-up position in turn four on lap seven before they entered traffic on lap 11. One lap later, McMahan returned the pass with a slide job for second place in turn four. Greg Hodnett maneuvered past Smith for third place on the ensuing lap.
With Madsen in control, McMahan and Hodnett appeared to touch as they exited turn two on lap 15 in a tight battle for second. McMahan maintained the position as Hodnett swerved toward the inside guardrail.
The only caution came on lap 17 as Doug Esh stopped in turn three, setting up a double-file restart with nine laps remaining. Madsen chose the inside lane and was soon engulfed by McMahan and Hodnett in a three-way battle for the lead.
As the trio exited turn two, the drivers were three-wide with McMahan’s momentum propelling him into the lead down the backstretch.
“I made a mistake,” Madsen said. “I was running a line in (turns) one and two and I should have adjusted the exit. I think if I would have adjusted the exit we might have had a chance.
“Paul was probably a better car there at the end anyway, but maybe if I’d done the right things we could have held on.”
Hodnett drove by Madsen for the runner-up position two laps later and set his sights on McMahan, who had built a sizeable advantage. Hodnett chipped away at the lead and McMahan encountered traffic in turns three and four on the final lap, which allowed Hodnett to close within a car length at the checkered flag.
“We just needed a little bit more or track position would have helped a great deal,” Hodnett said. “Lapped cars slowed him down so it made me look faster. It was nothing special. It might have looked good, but he got caught up in traffic is the only reason we caught him.”
Hodnett became the only driver to record a podium finish in each of the four World of Outlaws races at Williams Grove Speedway this season.
Tim Shaffer finished fourth and Lucas Wolfe ended fifth.