Clanton Anxious To Start Season Strong In 40th Annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH At Volusia Speedway Park
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Star Was Still Recovering From Serious Thumb Infection During Last Year’s DIRTCar Nationals
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
BARBERVILLE, FL – Feb. 10, 2011 – When Shane Clanton arrives at Volusia Speedway Park on Monday (Feb. 14) for the start of the dirt Late Model portion of the DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio, he’ll be thinking only about chasing checkered flags and the World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship.
Compared to his mindset heading into the 2010 edition of the mid-winter racing extravaganza, it’s a welcomed relief.
“Last year it was kind of scary for me about this time,” Clanton said last week while preparing for six straight nights of Florida full-fender action that features the season-opening WoO LMS events on Feb. 17 and 19. “I was in the hospital and I didn’t even know if I’d be able to get to Volusia.”
Clanton, 35, of Fayetteville, Ga., made it to the half-mile oval last year, but without his familiar RSD Enterprises No. 25. Unable to race competitively while still recovering from the major health issue that put him in an Atlanta-area hospital bed for eight days, he made the trip merely to start the week’s pair of WoO LMS A-Mains in teammate Tony Knowles’s car using emergency provisional spots, allowing him to salvage last-place points each night.
The lead-up to last year’s DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH was simply horrifying for Clanton, whose focus on the Sunshine State meet ceased abruptly after he suffered a minor cut on his left thumb while working in his shop on Jan. 26, 2010. His finger swelled at an alarming pace the next day so he visited a hospital emergency room; he was immediately admitted for treatment of what was diagnosed as a serious strep infection that had poisoned his blood and was literally eating away at the flesh of his thumb. Doctors told Clanton that if he hadn’t sought medical attention the night of Jan. 27 – the eve of his son Ryan’s seventh birthday – he likely “would’ve been dead in another 10 hours.”
When Clanton signed in for last year’s WoO LMS lidlifter at Volusia, he still had a PICC line in his left arm (so he could receive IV bags of powerful antibiotics every eight hours to combat the strep bacteria in his bloodstream) and gauze wrapped around his mangled left thumb (he had already undergone several surgeries to help eliminate the infection). His only appearance on the racetrack during the DIRTcar Nationals was for the pace laps of the tour’s 50-lap A-Mains; he pulled off as the races began and was credited with finishes of 29th and 30th, sending him home tied for 29th in the points standings.
Saddled with a 112-point deficit in the points race after just two events, Clanton’s championship hopes were effectively dashed before the season had barely begun. He opted to remain a WoO LMS regular, however, after doctors deemed his bloodstream clear of the strep bacteria (he had time to recover with the tour off following Volusia until mid-March) and he put together a respectable campaign, winning three times (including the Firecracker 100 at Pennsylvania’s Lernerville Speedway) and finishing sixth in the points standings.
“We considered not running the series last year after I got hurt because we fell so far behind, but I’m glad we did it,” said Clanton, whose left thumb was left disfigured by the ravages of the infection. “We had a pretty good season and we learned a lot of stuff during the year that should put us further ahead than we would’ve been right now with this new car.”
Yes, Clanton is diving into 2011 with brand-new equipment. He’s made a dramatic change in his racing program, parking the Rocket Chassis machines he’s run since becoming a WoO LMS regular in 2005 in favor of a collaborative chassis-building deal with fellow Georgian Marshall Green, a former Dirt Track World Championship winner who is retired as a driver.
Green, who owns a machine shop and assists his in-laws in the operation of Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Ga., suggested last summer that he and Clanton should work together on a car and Clanton was intrigued. Clanton has enjoyed plenty of success with his Ronnie Dobbins-owned Rocket cars, including a triumph in the 2008 World 100 at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, but his increasingly deep conversations with Green convinced him that a partnership might just be for the best.
“I’ve known Marshall for a while, but about a year-and-a-half ago we crossed paths when I went to Dixie a couple times and we started talking more,” said Clanton, who built his own cars when he ran Limited Late Models early in his career and also briefly drove GRT chassis before connecting with Rocket. “About halfway through last year he said, ‘Why don’t we build a race car?’
“The main thing is, I’ve never been able to do to my Rocket car what all of the so-called Rocket people are doing. I’ve always done something a little bit different, basically because of my driving style. Me and Marshall talked about that, and we saw that his setup book versus my setup book look real similar as far as things we’ve done for different track conditions, so things kind of evolved from there. We got to talking about how we do different things than most people in the country, so we figured, Why not get together and build a car ourselves?”
The construction of their first dirt Late Model – dubbed a Capital Race Cars Chassis – began in Green’s shop last July. Progress was slow but steady before picking up after Clanton’s racing schedule ended in November, and Clanton will head to Volusia with two of the cars in his team’s trailer.
“It’s been an ongoing process because with me racing I couldn’t go up there (to Green’s shop at Dixie Speedway) all the time,” said Clanton. “I’ve been involved every step of the way – everything from the first piece of tubing ordered to where it is today.
“You’re always out to better yourself, and that’s what I think I can do with this deal. We feel like we’ll be able to better ourselves by being able to change things on the jig. If we want to move something a half-inch or so, we got a jig right here now to do it versus having to cut a Rocket apart and change something here or change something there that we want to try.
“I’m real excited to get started,” concluded Clanton, who noted that while he’s on the road this year Green will be in the shop building more cars, bumpers and other necessary pieces. “I can’t wait for the first race at Volusia. We’ve worked hard to be in the position we are, so hopefully everything works out and we’ll contend for a (WoO LMS) championship.”
Clanton is optimistic about getting off to a strong start at Volusia, a track that has provided him an ample share of frustration over the years. He’ll have three nights of DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned Late Model action (30-lap A-Mains paying $7,000 to win on Feb. 14, 15 and 16) to use as tune-ups for the 50-lap, $10,000-to-win WoO LMS events on Thurs., Feb. 17, and Sat., Feb. 19, as well as a 40-lap, $10,000-to-win DIRTcar UMP show on Fri., Feb. 18.
“I’ve always liked Volusia,” said Clanton, whose career-best WoO LMS points finish is second, in 2006. “It’s one of my favorite tracks we go to all year, and I’ve been real fast there. It just seems like something always bites me. I’ve been top-five, top-three, and something happens.
“Hopefully this year we turn the page, have a little bit of luck on our side and we can win one of the Outlaw nights to start the year off in the right direction.”
In DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH competition at Volusia since 2005, Clanton has a top WoO LMS finish of third, in the first half of the ’05 doubleheader. He also owns solid finishes of fifth (second 2005 event), sixth (2009 finale) and seventh (2007 finale and 2009 opener). What’s more, in 2008 he was a serious contender in both WoO LMS A-Mains but headed home with nothing to show for his efforts – he finished 21st in the opening event after breaking a left-rear axle while leading on lap 30, then placed 24th in the finale because a broken left-rear wheel knocked him out after he had advanced from the 10th starting spot to fourth.
The DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH is a 12-night short-track blockbuster just a half-hour drive from Daytona Beach that kicked off on Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 19. Joining the Late Models on the meet’s remaining schedule are the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series (Feb. 11-13); the O’Reilly All-Star Sprint Car Series (Feb. 10); the Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds (Feb. 16-19); and the UMP Modifieds (Feb. 10-15).
Pit gates open at 1 p.m., grandstand gates are unlocked at 5 p.m. and racing is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. each day of the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, which boasts a ‘Free Pit Pass With Every Ticket’ offer that allows fans to sign into the pits for an up-close-and-personal view of the race teams each night.
Additional information on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH is available by logging on to www.DIRTcarNationals.com or calling 386-985-4402.
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), Chizmark Larson Insurance, Factory Value Parts and RacingJunk.com; in addition to contingency sponsors MSD Ignition, Pro Power Engines, Quartermaster, Rocket Chassis and Wrisco Aluminum.