BULLS GAP, TN – The Grinch stole Christmas. Chris Madden has now stolen the Grinch 40 two years in-a-row.
Volunteer Speedway was the site of defending Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series champion Chris Madden’s third career win with the tour Saturday afternoon in the second running of the Grinch 40. Coming from sixth on the starting grid, Madden, of Gray Court, SC, made efficient passes inside the first 10 laps of the 40-lap Feature to reach the head of the field, carrying his lead all the way back to the checkers to claim the $5,000 top prize over Donald McIntosh and Kyle Strickler.
“This place is one of my favorite racetracks in the country,” Madden told Xtreme Series Announcer Rick Eshelman in Victory Lane. “It’s an awesome place and every time we get a chance to race up here, we always come out and support them.”
At the drop of the green, Madden took to the high side and used up all 32 degrees of banking to make his first passes for position, three of which came on the very first lap. After a quick caution on Lap 2, Madden went right back at it up top, targeting the new track record holder and polesitter Daulton Wilson.
Another caution restacked the field and gave Madden a clear shot at fellow Team Drydene member Scott Bloomquist, this time on the bottom. Madden shot out of a cannon on the restart, and within five laps, Madden had pulled alongside Bloomquist and made the move out of Turn 4, sliding up in front of him to take the lead as they completed Lap 9.
“We were basically just moving around behind him, just running where he wasn’t. We had a great racecar, so it was just a matter of time,” Madden said of the pass on his former teammate.
Bloomquist, of Mooresburg, TN, fell victim to a reported radiator issue just one lap later, pulling into the infield and ending his day early. However, this opened the door to a new challenger – one Madden dealt with one year ago at the very same venue.
Mooresville, NC’s own Kyle Strickler led 22 laps in the inaugural running of Grinch at the Gap last year before giving up the lead, and the eventual win, to Madden. This time around, Strickler was chasing Madden, and closing in on him rapidly as the race neared the halfway point.
“I thought for a minute in lapped traffic, we were really good, I thought we were even better than Chris and I could give him a run,” Strickler said. “Then, all of a sudden, the car just got really tight.”
Another caution bunched up the field once more and highlighted the progress that Dawsonville, GA-driver Donald McIntosh had made in his quest for the front. Coming from ninth on the starting grid, McIntosh was now staring down the leaders as he prepared to make one final restart.
McIntosh put a big slide job on Strickler in Turns 1-2 before Strickler returned the favor in Turns 3-4. McIntosh countered with a strong crossover move out of Turn 4 to take the spot permanently on Lap 26 and drove off, eyes now set on leader Madden.
The Blount Motorsports #7M began to reel in Madden’s Drydene #44 in traffic, bringing the interval under a half-second in the closing laps. But Madden was better on the high side in traffic and maintained his gap over McIntosh to claim victory.
“I feel like when we got to those lapped cars, [Madden] kinda used them as pics,” McIntosh said of the battle. “But we had a great racecar. To come from ninth and finish second, I’m pretty proud, especially with the year we’ve had.”
Strickler brought his PPC Motorsports #8 across the line in third in just his second race behind the wheel of his brand-new Rocket Chassis, now the current Series points leader. The former UMP Modified pilot has now posted back-to-back third-place finishes in Xtreme Series action, but feels his bid for the lead on Saturday could have been better executed.
“I should’ve been on the top, and I think that by trying to force my way in there to try and get position, it actually hurt me,” Strickler said.
The Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series action continues next Saturday night, Dec. 12, with a visit to Lavonia Speedway in Lavonia, GA. Another $5,000 check awaits the winner of the 40-lap main event. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision!
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 44-Chris Madden [$5,000]; 2. 7M-Donald McIntosh [$2,500]; 3. 8-Kyle Strickler [$1,700]; 4. 88-Trent Ivey [$1,400]; 5. 55-Benji Hicks [$1,200]; 6. 18D-Daulton Wilson [$1,000]; 7. 329-Travis Fultz [$800]; 8. 5-Forrest Trent [$700]; 9. 421-Anthony Sanders [$600]; 10. 2-Matthew Nance [$550]; 11. 21B-Rich Bell [$500]; 12. 57-Adam Yarbrough [$500]; 13. P4-John Price [$500]; 14. 17V-Tim Vance [$500]; 15. J27-Jadon Frame [$500]; 16. 1-Shane Bailey [$500]; 17. 4B-Richard Edwards [$500]; 18. O-Scott Bloomquist [$500]; 19. 3-Steve Smith [$500]; 20. O3-David Yandle [$500]; 21. 27-Christian Hanger [$500]; 22. 6-Clay Coghlan [DNS] Hard Charger: 329-Travis Fultz[+11]