Coming out of Winfield, Tennessee, dirt track late-model driver Mike Marlar has made a name for himself racing across the country. He is the reigning World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late-Model Champion having started 2018 with winning the Wild West Shootout in Arizona. He has won the infamous Knoxville Late-Model Nationals twice, in 2016 and 17. Early this year, he became the first three-time winner of the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Models Series Clash at the Mag at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Mississippi, a Crown Jewel Event.
“It was a little bit of a ‘bucket list’ thing,” reflected Mike Marlar on the 2018 World of Outlaws Championship. “I had only run a regional series my first year in late models in ’03. I had always just kind of traveled around, tried to go to whatever was the big money races. Done that for quite a while and I wanted to run for a championship while I had the opportunity. It worked out good and we ended up winning it.”
Then came another unique opportunity on dirt at a different level at the famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio now owned by NASCAR Hall of Fame selectee Tony Stewart. The annual Eldora Dirt Derby is part of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series schedule and sort of came about from an off-hand comment.
“I guess some buddies, Tom and Rocky Smith of Smithbilt homes, they sponsored my late-model on the World of Outlaws tour last year,” said Marlar of the Eldora race. “They really enjoy NASCAR, they enjoy a lot of forms of racing but they’ve got a little investment in NASCAR through an engine program. They bought some engines and are leasing to some teams. We were just shooting the bull one day and I was telling them that I would love the opportunity to get to go to a mile and a half or somewhere and drive. They said they thought they could make that happen. So them guys have been instrumental in making that happen, so they’re the ones that got the whole little NASCAR adventure here started. Really, Tom and Rocky are the main two guys who got me started.”
And so Marlar made his NASCAR Truck Series debut, driving the No. 33 Toyota Tundra for Reaume Brothers Racing. He finished fifth in the third qualifying race, giving him a 23rd-place starting spot for the main event. From there, the team strategized and he raced his way to a fourth-place finish.
But Marlar’s story continues. A month and a half later, his name was on the NASCAR Xfinity Series race entry list for Richmond Raceway, giving Marlar a new challenge as he’s never run on asphalt before.
“I got to drive an asphalt late model for Brennon Willard at I-44 Lebanon Speedway in Missouri,” said Marlar about racing on asphalt for the first time, a week before his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut. “The Richmond deal was a tough deal. We were just in kind of starter equipment…that was willing to run the whole race. We got there and qualified for the event, started the race but then on the first lap, I spun. I really didn’t feel like I’d done anything to spin myself but I didn’t feel like I got hit either. The spotter told me there was another car that was basically touching my back bumper and I guess I don’t know if it was the air or if he pushed me enough to get me turned around. But either way, that was definitely a heartbreaker.”
The No. 66 MBM Motorsports Toyota was credited with starting 31st and finishing 38th, but Marlar’s story will again continue.
“We didn’t get to run any laps in the race,” said Marlar about the deal with MBM Motorsports. “We got to do our qualifying, practice and I got to drive 60, 70 laps or something like that, that day. I think we’re going to get a couple more opportunities (with MBM Motorsports) to do some stuff with us. Looking forward to it.”
As the racing world waits to see what happens next, the ‘Winfield Warrior’ will take his opportunities to learn, improve his racing skills, and move on to the next battle. He certainly is keeping his name out there as last weekend he won again at Magnolia Motor Speedway, picking up the trophy at this year’s Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100.