Ross Bailes relished his hard-earned victory after an intense battle with Brandon Overton during the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, South Carolina. Bailes had many reasons to celebrate.
His wife, Constance, joined him in victory lane. It was her first race back after giving birth to their son, Jordan, two weeks earlier.
The win marked Bailes’s first since teaming up this year with the Big Frog Motorsports team, which includes car owner Augie Burttrum and crew chief Mike Rey.
He beat one of the hottest drivers in dirt late model racing — Brandon Overton — on the last lap as Overton fought a tire going down. Bailes had finished second to Overton three times this year — twice at Screven Motorsports Complex in Sylvania, Georgia, and once at Lancaster Motor Speedway in South Carolina.
“I got sick of running second to Brandon,” said Bailes, who had started from the pole. “We went back and forth for the lead throughout the race. The track became one groove at the end. Lapped traffic required some split-second decisions to be made. You couldn’t go high or low without losing speed, but you had to make a move.”
If Overton wasn’t enough, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series brought some of the sport’s toughest drivers to beat.
“A Lucas Oil win is hard to come by,” Bailes said. “When you start on the pole, it adds pressure because you want to make sure you don’t make a single mistake.”
Winning in front of a packed house at his home track made the win that much sweeter for Bailes.
“I grew up racing there … and probably have more laps around the place than most of the drivers there,” said Bailes, who’s from a little over a half hour away in Clover, South Carolina. “To see that big crowd cheering after racing in front of empty grandstands earlier this year was quite a feeling — one I won’t forget.”
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.