A Final Look Back: Facts, Figures & Statistical Notes From The 2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
CONCORD, NC – Dec. 31, 2011 – As the new year arrives, here’s a final look back at facts, figures and statistical notes from the 2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series….
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Rick Eckert’s seven-year pursuit of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series title finally ended in 2011 – with a thoroughly dramatic finish, no less.
The only thing surprising about the York, Pa., star’s accomplishment, of course, was that it took him so long to etch his name on the national tour’s championship trophy.
When the WoO LMS was reborn in 2004 under the World Racing Group banner, Eckert was one of the marquee drivers among the ‘Dirty Dozen’ group that was contracted to run the circuit. Just two years removed from winning back-to-back touring crowns on the UDTRA/Xtreme DirtCar Series, he appeared primed for more championship glory.
But while Eckert quickly established himself as a prolific WoO LMS winner, realizing his championship expectations proved to be more difficult. After coming close in 2004 – he remained in title contention through the season finale before settling for third in the standings, 60 points behind champion Scott Bloomquist – he was unable to maintain title hopes for an entire campaign again until ’11. He finished fourth in the ’05 standings (-76 points); seventh in ’06 (154 points behind despite leading the series with eight victories); fifth in ’07 (-232 points); seventh in ’08 (-334 points); fifth in ’09 (-200 points); and fifth in ’10 (-332 points).
Everything changed in 2011 for Eckert, who, at age 45 and in his second year fielding his own equipment following the November 2009 passing of his longtime car owner Raye Vest, put together the solid start-to-finish season that had eluded him in World of Outlaws competition. He grabbed the points lead after winning his first A-Main of the season on May 7 at Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway – it was, believe it or not, the first time he found himself atop the WoO LMS standings since mid-June 2006 – and refused to give it up for the remainder of the schedule.
An edge that grew as large as 60 points in early August shrank to just two points over two-time defending champ Josh Richards entering the season-ending Lowes Foods World Finals A-Main on Nov. 5 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C., putting the pressure on Eckert. But Richards’s dreams were dashed by a flat tire on the last circuit of the 50-lap feature, allowing Eckert, who was four spots behind Richards at the time, to slide by and clinch the $100,000 title with the most spectacular 12th-place finish of his career.
By no means did Eckert dominate the 2011 season, but championships are earned with a combination of consistent speed, true grit and good fortune, and the driver known as ‘Scrub’ had no peers in those categories. His hard stats show three wins, 16 top-five finishes (third-most behind Richards’s 22 and Darrell Lanigan’s 17) and 25 top-10s (second to Richards’s 26); look closer at his season and you see the deciding factors in the championship battle. He was incredibly steady – he had to run a B-Main just four times in 32 events; he didn’t use a single provisional starting spot all season; he strung together a series-best streak of 19 consecutive top-10 finishes; and he was the only driver to complete all 1,587 laps of the season’s 30 full-points A-Mains.
Eckert’s lone DNF of 2011 – a 21st-place finish on Aug. 6 in the 100-lap USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. – showed he had Lady Luck on his side as well. The race was one of two on the WoO LMS schedule that offered only show-up points because it did not follow the tour’s normal format, so Eckert didn’t take a hit in the standings.
The worst finish Eckert tallied in a full-points A-Main was 16th, on Aug. 20 at Merritt Raceway in Lake City, Mich. Richards, meanwhile, suffered four finishes of 16th or worse in full-points shows, including his only DNF (21st place on July 15 at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.)
THE SEASON: The 2011 WoO LMS was comprised of 32 A-Mains at 27 tracks in 18 states.
Pennsylvania once again was the site of the most tour events, hosting six races at four tracks. There were three events held in Florida, Michigan and North Carolina; two in Georgia, Virginia and Wisconsin; and one each in Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Just three tracks presented multiple WoO LMS events: Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. (three), The Dirt Track at Charlotte (three) and Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. (two).
Weather and other unexpected factors caused the cancelation of at least 10 scheduled events in ’11, shrinking the total number of WoO LMS A-Mains run to the lowest number since the 30-race 2006 season. Three events – April 1-2 at LaSalle (Ill.) Speedway, Sept. 4 at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa., and Sept. 16 at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill. – were stopped by weather conditions and could not be rescheduled. Events scheduled at five other venues, meanwhile, were canceled by track management: Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. (rain out on March 26 and promoter’s decision on Nov. 2); West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells (track reconstruction not completed); Amsoil Speedway in Superior, Wis. (date conflict with fair); Beckley (W.Va.) Motor Speedway (track closure); and Tri-City Speedway in Franklin, Pa. (track closure).
Four races – at Needmore Speedway in Norman Park, Ga., Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica, Winchester (Va.) Speedway and Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway – were postponed by rain and reset for another date.
The 2011 schedule also included events at Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, Pa., McKean County Raceway in East Smethport, Pa., and Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va., that were added by officials during the course of the season.
CHECKERED FLAGS: Richards maintained his stranglehold on WoO LMS top-winner status in 2011, leading the tour in victories for the fourth season in a row. His nine triumphs gave him the honor outright for the third consecutive year; he finished the 2008 campaign tied with Steve Francis, with six triumphs.
Richards’s nine wins – all of which came over the final 22 races of ’11 – left him tied for the tour’s single-season victory record with Bloomquist (2004). He had two opportunities during the Lowes Food World Finals to overtake Bloomquist for sole possession of the standard but fell short.
A total of 14 drivers reached Victory Lane on the WoO LMS in 2011. Four drivers won multiple events – Richards, Lanigan (seven), Eckert (three) and Bloomquist (three) – and only Jared Hawkins was a first-time winner on the tour.
ANOTHER NAILBITER: Eckert’s 14-point championship margin over Richards was tied for the fourth-closest in WoO LMS history, matching the difference between champion Richards and runner-up Steve Francis in 2009.
Four drivers spent time at the top of the points standings. Eckert led the way after 25 events, followed by Richards (three), Bloomquist (two) and Billy Moyer (two).
The largest points lead a driver was able to muster was Eckert’s 60-point edge following the 22nd and 23rd A-Mains of the season, on Aug. 3 at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway and Aug. 6 at Cedar Lake.
Eckert’s lowest position in the standings was 13th (after the season opener on Feb. 17 at Volusia Speedway Park) and his largest deficit was 36 points, when he was seventh in the standings following Race No. 2 on Feb. 19 at Volusia.
DEFYING THE EXPERTS: Eckert’s championship campaign came as a surprise to members of the dirt Late Model press, who showed him little love in the fourth annual WoO LMS Pre-Season Media Poll.
Eckert was predicted to finish in the top five of the ’11 points standings by just seven of the 40 media members who participated in the poll, which awarded points to drivers named on the ballots using a 5-4-3-2-1 system. He received two third-place, one fourth-place and four fifth-place votes, good for 12 points to tie him with Tim Fuller for seventh in the final tabulation that installed Richards (161 points) as the favorite to win the title.
Midwest-based photographers Rich Edwards and Jason Durst gave Eckert his highest predicted points finishes. Both men picked Eckert to finish third.
Columnist Don Davies of Area Auto Racing News and veteran free-lance photographer Ron Skinner were the only media members to correctly predict three of the top-five points finishers. Both hit on Richards as the runner-up, Lanigan as the third-place finisher and Tim McCreadie as the fourth-place finisher.
The poll also asked the media to predict the season’s winningest driver (including number of victories) and the winners of three marquee events – the Commonwealth 100 at Virginia Motor Speedway, the Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., and the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway.
Thirteen respondents predicted that Richards would lead the tour in A-Main triumphs (including Davies and Skinner), but only Michael Rigsby of DirtonDirt.com and photographer Lee Smith nailed his final total of nine triumphs.
In the special-event category, only Dennis Michelson of RaceTalkRadio.com and photographer Joe Secka correctly predicted Richards as the winner of the USA Nationals. Not a single media member successfully envisioned the victors of the Commonwealth 100 (Steve Shaver) or Firecracker 100 (Jimmy Mars).
DYNAMIC DUO: With Steve Francis failing to win a WoO LMS A-Main in 2011 (he was not a tour regular for the first time during its World Racing Group era), Lanigan and Shane Clanton now stand as the only drivers who have won at least one feature event in each World of Outlaws campaign since 2004.
TOP OF THE LIST: With his first win of 2011 on June 18 at Winchester (Va.) Speedway, Richards broke a tie with Francis for winningest-driver status on the WoO LMS since 2004. By the end of the season Richards had pushed his career win total to 37, opening a healthy advantage over Francis (28 wins) on the victory chart.
Lanigan now ranks third on the win list since 2004 with 26 triumphs, followed by Eckert (24) and Bloomquist (22).
Richards’s big ’11 season also pulled him into a tie with Billy Moyer as the alltime winningest driver on the WoO LMS, including the tour’s original seasons (1988-89) run under the auspices of late WoO Sprint Car Series founder Ted Johnson. Moyer’s 37 overall wins include 22 earned in 1988-89 and 15 more since ’04.
FULL PITS: The average field for a WoO LMS event in 2011 was 43.5 cars, up more than four from the previous season.
The season-high turnout of 87 cars was for the ‘Black Diamond 125’ on Sept. 3 at Tyler County Speedway. In all, nine events drew 50 or more cars and 16 attracted over 40 entrants. Just five races produced fields below 30 cars.
A total of 495 drivers representing 32 states and three Canadian provinces entered at least one WoO LMS event in 2011, and 200 drivers started an A-Main.
The state from which the most WoO LMS competitors hailed was Pennsylvania, with 65 drivers. Michigan was next with 52 entrants, followed by Georgia, Illinois, New York and Ohio (each with 24).
THE OUTLAWS: Thirteen drivers had perfect attendance on the 2011 tour: Eckert, Richards, Lanigan, McCreadie, Chub Frank, Austin Hubbard, Clanton, Clint Smith, Vic Coffey, Fuller, Pat Doar, Ron Davies and John Lobb.
Richards, McCreadie and Clanton were the only drivers to start all 32 A-Mains. Missing one A-Main, meanwhile, was Eckert (did not start the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ finale of the ‘Black Diamond 125’ at Tyler County); Lanigan (absent from the season opener due to health issues); Frank (DNQ for USA Nationals 100 at Cedar Lake); Hubbard (DNS Tyler County’s ‘Sweet Sixteen’ finale); and Fuller (DNQ for USA Nationals 100).
CASH: Over $2.3 million was paid out to drivers during the 2011 WoO LMS, including just over $400,000 in points-fund and post-season bonus cash.
Richards led the money-won list with $265,410 in event and points-fund earnings. He was followed by Eckert ($219,600), Lanigan ($193,280), McCreadie ($117,295), Clanton ($94,100), Frank ($93,185), Hubbard ($87,775), Smith ($84,785), Coffey ($74,105) and Fuller ($73,070). Bloomquist was the top non-WoO regular on the list, coming in 11th with $68,575 in earnings for just 10 starts.
ROOKS: Doar, a veteran racer from New Richmond, Wis., who has spent most of his two-decade-long career running spec-motor dirt Late Model events in the Upper Midwest, became the oldest winner of the WoO LMS Rookie of the Year award in 2011. He captured the honor at the age of 47, supplanting Fuller, who was 40 when he was the top rookie in 2007.
While Doar won the Rookie of the Year prize by a substantial 104-point margin over Ron Davies, 53, of Warren, Pa., and 314 points over John Lobb, 42, of Frewsburg, N.Y., and led the first-year travelers with seven top-10 finishes, it was Davies who had the best A-Main run of the trio. Davies registered a fifth-place finish on July 26 at Dog Hollow Speedway, besting Doar’s top outing of sixth.
Doar did, however, record a $10,000 victory in one of the 40-lap Qualifying Features during the ‘Black Diamond 125’ on Sept. 3 at Tyler County. The race did not count as a WoO LMS A-Main triumph.
MAKING THE CUT: Richards was the most consistent qualifier among the fulltime travelers, leading the way with an average time-trial placing of 8.36.
Eckert was second on the average time-trial list at 10.0, followed by Hubbard (12.19), Lanigan (13.43), McCreadie (16.26), Clanton (16.58), Smith (16.74), Fuller (17.32), Frank (18.13), Doar (19.45), Coffey (19.48), Davies (19.77) and Lobb (29.42).
Richards also was nearly perfect in heat-race action, failing to transfer through a heat just once in 32 events. Eckert was second-best with four B-Main appearances, followed by Lanigan (six); Hubbard (eight); McCreadie and Fuller (nine); Smith (11); Clanton, Coffey and Frank (12); Doar (15); Davies (16); and Lobb (27).
For the second straight season Richards and Eckert were the only regulars who did not use a single provisional spot to start an A-Main. Hubbard and Doar fell back on a provisional just one time each, while Lanigan used two; Coffey, Davies and Smith used three; Fuller used five; Clanton, Frank and McCreadie used six; and Lobb used nine. Jill George, who entered 23 races in 2011, also used nine provisionals.
Eckert failed to qualify for one A-Main in 2011: the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ finale of the ‘Black Diamond 125’ at Tyler County. He did not finish among the top eight in one of the twin 40-lap Qualifying Features to earn a transfer spot to the $20,000-to-win, 45-lap A-Main.
With no provisionals available for the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ headliner, Eckert sat out a WoO LMS A-Main for the first time in his career. Thus he ended the season having started 312 of the 313 A-Mains contested from 2004-2011.
ON THE CHARGE: The deepest in the starting field from which a driver advanced to win a WoO LMS A-Main in 2011 was 19th – Lanigan’s starting spot when he pulled off a stirring $20,000 victory on March 19 in the inaugural ‘Cash Cow 100’ at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway.
Eight A-Mains were won by drivers starting from the pole position, but only three of those victors led the event from flag-to-flag.
The average starting spot for a WoO LMS A-Main winner in 2011 was 3.59. The most common starting spot for a race winner was fourth, on nine occasions.
MUST BE ON THE FRONT ROW: WoO LMS regulars accounted for 17 pole position starts in A-Mains during the 2011 season, but they turned those prime spots into just six triumphs – a modest success rate of 35 percent.
Eckert enjoyed the most pole position starts (five), but he converted just one into a victory. He roared off the pole to win on May 7 at Swainsboro.
The best winning percentage for pole starts was shared by Richards and Lanigan, who both were two-for-two when taking the green flag from inside the front row. Clanton was victorious in one of his two pole starts, while drivers who failed to capitalize on pole starting positions were Hubbard (three), Coffey (two) and Fuller (one).
MANUFACTURER BATTLE: Six dirt Late Model chassis companies claimed victories in WoO LMS A-Mains during the 2011 season.
Rocket Chassis once again led the way with 19 wins, divided among Richards, Lanigan, Clint Smith, Steve Shaver and Jared Hawkins.
Team Zero by Bloomquist Chassis finished second on the win list with nine victories (Bloomquist, Eckert, Chris Madden, Brady Smith and Jimmy Smith). MB Customs (Jimmy Mars), Victory Circle (McCreadie), Capital Race Cars (Clanton) and Barry Wright Race Cars (Jonathan Davenport) each claimed one checkered flag.
A total of 10 engine builders, meanwhile, laid claim to a WoO LMS A-Main triumph in 2011. Cornett Racing Engines led the way with 13 victories, split among Richards, Lanigan, Madden and Owens. Roush-Yates was second on the list with eight triumphs divided among Richards, who began running the brand late in the season, and Bloomquist.
Other engine builders with multiple victories were Jay Dickens (three) and ProPower (two), while single wins went to Custom, Clements, Vic Hill, Malcuit, Lee Roy Rumley and RaceTek.
FAST RACES: There were three caution-free A-Mains in 2011 – April 30 at Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Ky.; July 26 at Dog Hollow Speedway; and Nov. 4 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Four more features were slowed by just a single caution flag.
An average of 3.44 caution flags flew per A-Main during the ’11 campaign. The most caution-plagued events were the Commonwealth 100 on April 17 at Virginia Motor Speedway (11 yellow flags) and the ‘Outlaw Sizzler 101’ on July 3 at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway (nine).
Two red flags were displayed for significant wrecks during A-Mains in 2011 – on Feb. 19 at Volusia (Jack Sullivan flip) and June 24 at Lernerville Speedway (Brady Smith rollover).
* Twenty drivers earned a WoO LMS fast-time honor in 2011. Eckert and Lanigan led the way with four apiece; Richards had three; Hubbard, Jason Feger, Jonathan Davenport and Mike Marlar each earned two; and 13 drivers had a single fast time.
* Eckert ended the season with 28 career fast-time awards – more than any other driver since 2004. Richards sits second on the list with 27.
* Richards and Francis are the only drivers who have registered at least one fast-time honor in every season since ’04.
* Forty-eight drivers won at least one heat race on the tour in ’11. Richards led the list with 19 prelim victories, with Lanigan (13) and Hubbard (10) the only others to crack double figures.
* Richards and Lanigan both recorded their 100th career heat-race victories in ’11. They closed the season with 102 and 100 triumphs, respectively, well behind Francis’s alltime-best total of 119.
* Twelve drivers have won at least one heat race in every season since ’04: Francis, Richards, Lanigan, Eckert, McCreadie, Clanton, Moyer, Frank, Clint Smith, Shannon Babb, Dale McDowell and Brian Birkhofer.
* There were 45 B-Main winners, with Clint Smith’s five checkered flags setting the pace. He owns the most B-Main victories since 2004, with 24.
* Twenty-four drivers led at least one A-Main lap in 2011. Richards led the most (405 laps), followed by Lanigan (276), Eckert (148), Shaver (102) and Madden (101). Rounding out the top 10 on the lap-leader list was Bloomquist (89), Jason Rauen (77), Davenport (75), Mars (74) and Coffey (55).
Other WoO LMS regulars who led laps were Clanton (42), Fuller (33), Clint Smith (30), McCreadie (20), Davies (16) and Frank (three).
* Three drivers won consecutive A-Mains, topped by Richards’s August streak of three in a row. Richards also had a two-race win streak earlier in the season, while Lanigan scored back-to-back victories three times and Bloomquist did it once.
* Richards completed the most A-Main laps on the 2011 tour: 1,692 of a possible 1,732. Eckert was second on the list (1,624 of a possible 1,687), followed by Lanigan (1,588/1,682), Hubbard (1,583/1,687), Frank (1,577/1,632), Clanton (1,575/1,732), McCreadie (1,567/1,732), Clint Smith (1,475/1,587), Fuller (1,455/1,632), Coffey (1,209/1,387), Davies (1,168/1,257), Doar (1,129/1,477) and Lobb (933/1,082).
* Eckert was tops on the list of most consecutive lead-lap finishes in 2011, rolling up 22 in a row. McCreadie was next with 16 straight, followed by Richards (15), Lanigan (12), Clanton (11), Frank (11), Hubbard (11), Smith (11), Fuller (nine), Coffey (seven), Doar (four), Davies (four) and Lobb (three).
* Eckert and Richards tied for the lead in the fewest DNFs category in 2011, suffering just one each. Frank failed to finish two A-Mains, followed by Lanigan and Hubbard (three); Clanton, Davies, Lobb and Smith (four); Coffey and McCreadie (five); Fuller (seven); and Doar (nine).
* Richards put up the longest streak of consecutive top-five finishes: eight races, stretching from the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake on Aug. 6 (his first-ever crown-jewel victory) through his last win of the season on Oct. 12 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Lanigan registered six top-fives in a row, followed by McCreadie (five); Eckert (four); Clanton, Coffey and Frank (two); and Davies, Fuller, Hubbard and Smith (one).
* Eckert’s 19 top-10 finishes were the most in the category. McCreadie had 14 straight, followed by Lanigan (11); Richards (nine); Coffey (seven); Clanton, Doar, Frank, Hubbard and Smith (three); Fuller (two); and Davies and Lobb (one).
* Richards had the best average A-Main finish in 2011, at 5.75. He was followed by Eckert (6.06), Lanigan (7.42), Frank (10.52), McCreadie (10.69), Hubbard (11.26), Clanton (11.53), Coffey (11.96), Smith (12.3), Fuller (14.26), Doar (15.62), Davies (15.88) and Lobb (17.73).
* Richards ended the 2011 season with a tour-best average A-Main starting position of 5.75 – exactly the same as his average finishing position. Eckert was next with an average starting position of 8.13, followed by Lanigan (9.19), Hubbard (10.07), Coffey (11.59), Smith (12.8), Fuller (12.84), McCreadie (13.34), Doar (14.52), Clanton (14.78), Frank (15.29), Davies (16.24) and Lobb (21.05).
* The WoO LMS career win lists now show 43 drivers have won an A-Main since 2004 and 53 drivers own tour victories when the 1988-89 seasons are included.
* Since 2004, there have been 313 WoO LMS A-Mains contested at 122 different tracks in 30 states and three Canadian provinces.
The 2012 WoO LMS season will begin with the $20,000-to-win ‘Winter Freeze’ on Feb. 10-11 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. A busy month of February for the tour also includes the inaugural ‘Bubba Army Late Model Winter Nationals’ on Feb. 16-18 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., and the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals on Feb. 23 and 25 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award), McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award), Chizmark Larson Insurance, Factory Value Parts and RacingJunk.com; in addition to contingency sponsors Comp Cams, Eibach Springs, JE Pistons, MSD Ignition, Ohlins Shocks, Pro Power Engines, Quartermaster, Rocket Chassis, R2C Performance, Superflow Dynos, Wix Filters and Wrisco Aluminum.