Will use event to prepare for World Finals next week
by Brendan Capria
CONCORD, N.C. – Oct. 20, 2016 – Brandon Overton did not take the usual steps a driver would to rise up through the ranks in dirt racing. Rather, the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series regular took an unorthodox step, first wheeling a Super Late Model before stepping down into the Crate Late Model class with less horsepower.
Overton, who recorded his first series win in a preliminary feature for Lernerville Speedway’s prestigious Firecracker 100, was overcome with emotion in Victory Lane. He said he wished his dad was at the race to experience it because he gave “every damn dime” for him to be up there on the stage.
Overton will return to the Crate class in the OneDirt World Short Track Championship, October 20-22. He is using the weekend’s races as track-time before the Bad Boy Off Road World of Outlaws World Finals next week.
It was neither easy nor the predicted route for the Evans, Ga. driver. Before Crate classes were created, the 25-year-old began his racing career in Hobby Stocks, which aesthetically replicated a dirt Late Model, but had a leaf-spring suspension package in the rear.
After some-three years in the class, Overton jumped right into 800 horsepower Super Late Models when he was 12 years old.
Overton enjoyed success racing under his family, but the expenses grew “unfeasible.” Enduring the usual breaks and malfunctions any driver would with their car, Overton and his family were faced with sky-rocketing prices — mainly the $40,000 bill for each motor he blew.
With a lack of third-party support, Overton was forced to revert to the Crate class. The Crate Late Models were similar in spec, except the motors ranged from 400-500 horsepower and were cheaper. It was an opportunity he had to take, and he made very good use of his two years in Crates.
Overton laughed, remembering one race at Albany Motor Speedway, just down the road from his hometown. Overton was a Crate car in a mix of Supers. Drivers heckled Overton saying, “Man, there’s no way you’re going to keep up. We’re going to be way past you on the track.”
He finished top five in qualifying, which set him up to prove those drivers wrong. In the feature, Overton wrecked early and was sent to the caboose after he and his crew made the necessary repairs. Even so, Overton went on to win the program’s feature that night.
“It goes to show you that you have 400 horsepower less than a Super, but those things are still pretty fast,” Overton said. “People sometimes think Crate racing sucks, but I love them. I have been in the position where I didn’t have enough money to run Super, and all I could run was a Crate car. It’s still racing. You still have your guys to beat. There are a lot of guys who run Crate cars, and if they had the money they’d surprise you.”
One of the biggest misconceptions in dirt Late Model racing is that the Super class is supreme over Crates, Overton said. It’s still a four-bar Late Model with the same interior components, with just a smaller power plant. Like the drivers though, fans prefer the “Supers screaming by” instead of the quieter Crates, and jump to conclusions.
“I’ve been on both sides, but since then I’ve been fortunate enough to have enough people behind me to do the Super deal,” said Overton. “Now, I feel the more I go out there and make laps [with Crates], I can see how the track changes and what everything does. I’ll have a better idea on what I need to do when I get to racing World Finals, you know?”
For the OneDirt World Short Track Championship, Overton will be driving the No. 75 car owned by Wesley Page. Page, a longtime friend of Overton, agreed to give Overton the ride in return for his knowledge about Supers. Page had an asphalt background before turning to dirt racing, and purchased the Crate car to learn more about the industry.
“I didn’t have anyone driving my car up there,” said Page, he owner and operator of WP Racing Shocks in Rock Hill, S.C. “I was going to ask him, and it just fell into place. The Supers competition is top-notch, but these days Crates are pretty competitive as well. He’s one of the better up-and-coming drivers I’ve had the chance to work with. He just wants it really bad. He makes a lot of sacrifices I don’t think a lot of people realize to be able to race. I just want to help as much as I can.”
Overton did not plan on competing, but it happened organically. Overton’s brother and crew member urged him to run, knowing it would be a valuable precursor to World Finals.
“My public relations guy, my little brother, has a mouth from the South,” Overton said. “He went and asked, then came back and told me I was running the week before World Finals. So, I’m racing.”
If not for family, sponsors and friends lending a hand, Overton claims he would not have gotten this far in the sport. Page had been helping him with his Super Late Model, and he sees Overton running his car as a passageway into the Supers.”
“You may see us dabbling into the Super stuff next year,” Page said. “I would say there’s a good chance Brandon would drive it a time or two and help us evaluate it. Brandon, his brother and the rest of his crew work their butts off at the track. They have a great work ethic.”
In hindsight, however, Overton flipped the script on his topsy-turvy stardom. Though he started in Supers, he is returning to Crates this weekend. Like any driver taking the usual steps, he will use what he learns in Crates to his advantage come World Finals.
“We don’t get to race Charlotte but twice a year,” Overton said. “If you go over there with your car and you’re tight, and if the track is pretty much the same next week, you can pretty much bet [on similar adjustments],” Overton said. “There’s not a big difference between Crate cars and Super cars, and as far as driving them, it’s not that big of a deal.”