Ashton Winger and his new crew at Gambler Transport Motorsports set out on the Florida-Georgia Speedweeks trail this past month with a goal in mind of winning races. Their new team bond shined bright Wednesday night at Volusia Speedway Park, as they dominated the postponed DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals Feature from January to close out the opening night for the World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals.
Winger grabbed the lead on the opening lap and ran for the hills, opening a gap to the rest of the field behind him. A few quick caution flags slowed his momentum and forced him to play defense on restarts, which cost him the lead at one point.
Chris Madden, of Gray Court, SC, got a great jump on a Lap 6 restart and made a move for the lead to Winger’s inside down the backstretch, holding the advantage through Turns 3-4 and officially taking control at the stripe. But Winger was brilliant on the top, zooming right back by the 2018 Big Gator champion to regain the lead.
“I had to aim for them holes for traction,” Winger, of Hampton, GA, said. “When I tried to back my corner up, I’d push, and I’d have to use the brake pedal to turn and go hopping down here.”
The green stayed out until just after halfway, when a spinning Daulton Wilson brought out the caution and restacked the field, putting Madden and Dale McDowell right on Winger’s tail for the restart.
McDowell, the winner on Friday afternoon of the Sunshine Nationals in January, got a better run through Turns 1-2 on the restart and took second from Madden as they began the second half of the 40-lap event.
The veteran from Chickamauga, GA, held the spot all the way through the checkers, rebounding from a spin in the regularly scheduled DIRTcar Nationals Feature earlier in the program. He and Madden were battling for second when they came together in Turn 2, leaving McDowell in a loop right in front of the field. He retired the #17m immediately after, giving him a 21st-place finish, but regrouped over the break and bagged the runner-up.
“I got turned around there, and I wasn’t overly thrilled about that,” McDowell said of the incident in the previous Feature. “But for us to have a top-three in this event, it definitely helps.”
Madden held-off Devin Moran in the final laps to claim third. He’s said before that caution flags don’t usually help him, and losing the runner-up spot to McDowell on the restart showed he’s still got some work to do if he wants to contend for a Gator trophy later this week. Still, a solid podium finish showed he’s not far off.
“We’ve gotta get to the lead, that way we won’t have these situations we’re in with these cautions,” Madden said. “We just need to get the corner fixed. I know we can race on it a little better than what we’ve been doing.”
Back out front, Winger was on cruise control in traffic, driving across the line with a gap of just over two seconds on the field to claim the $10,000 Sunshine Nationals check and fourth World of Outlaws Feature win of his career.
“I felt that I got in a pretty good rhythm there with about 15 or so to go,” Winger said. “With about seven-to-go, I felt that I killed my tires, and I couldn’t get by them lapped cars like I wanted to.”
Late Model Week at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals continues with more World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series action on Thursday, Feb. 17, at Volusia Speedway Park. Buy a ticket online, at the gate, or stream all the Late Model action alongside the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds live on DIRTVision.
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 89-Ashton Winger; 2. 17M-Dale McDowell; 3. 44-Chris Madden; 4. 9-Devin Moran; 5. 71-Hudson O’Neal; 6. 7-Ross Robinson; 7. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 8. 1-Brandon Sheppard; 9. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 10. 1R-Josh Richards; 11. 81E-Tanner English; 12. 111V-Max Blair; 13. 16-Tyler Bruening; 14. 36-Logan Martin; 15. 45-Kyle Hammer; 16. 14M-Morgan Bagley; 17. B1-Brent Larson; 18. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 19. 99B-Boom Briggs; 20. 8-Kyle Strickler; 21. 18D-Daulton Wilson; 22. 97-Cade Dillard; 23. 29-Darrell Lanigan; 24. 3S-Brian Shirley; 25. 32-Chris Simpson; 26. 25-Shane Clanton; 27. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 28. (DNS) 6-Kyle Larson; 29. (DNS) 20-Jimmy Owens; FOX Factory Hard Charger – 81E-Tanner English (+15)