A Final Look Back: Facts, Figures & Statistical Notes From The 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series
By Joshua Joiner, WoO LMS PR
CONCORD, NC – Dec. 31, 2014 – As the calendar turns to a new year it’s time to take one final look back at facts, figures and statistical notes from the 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series…
COMPLETE CONTROL: The 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series season featured many highlights and dramatic moments, but the national tour’s 11th season under the World Racing Group banner will be remembered primarily for one thing: Darrell Lanigan’s stellar performance.
Lanigan, the 44-year-old veteran racer from Union, Ky., was nearly unstoppable on his way to becoming just the second driver to win three WoO LMS championships since the series was restarted in 2004. With 17 A-Main victories, Lanigan surpassed his own single-season wins record of 15 victories in 2012 and set a new WoO LMS record for the largest points margin in the championship chase with a final lead of 328 points over runner-up Rick Eckert of York, Pa. Lanigan’s assault on the WoO LMS record book didn’t stop there. He set new single-season records for most fast time awards (11), most heat race victories (26) and most top-five finishes (34).
Lanigan began his march to his third WoO LMS title with a solid trip to Florida for the tour’s annual February action. He notched four top fives and one top 10 in five WoO LMS A-Mains between Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala and Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, including a victory at Ocala. His runner-up in the Florida finale at Volusia propelled him to the top of the championship points chase.
Lanigan never looked back from there. He finished no worse than fourth in four races between March and April before hitting his stride with three victories and two more top-three finishes in five races during May. From Memorial Day until the end of the season, Lanigan’s longest stretch without winning a race was four races. Besides that short dry spell in mid-August, Lanigan never went more than one race between victories.
Just like his two previous championship seasons in 2008 and 2012, Lanigan wrapped up the 2014 WoO LMS title without any points drama during tour’s season-ending weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte’s World of Outlaws World Finals in November. In fact, all he needed to do to clinch the title was enter the weekend’s two events, but he added an exclamation point to the season with a thrilling last-lap pass to win Charlotte’s opening night feature.
For as dominant as Lanigan was in 2014, his season was nearly as remarkable for its consistency. He completed every lap of every WoO LMS A-Main contested. His 34 top-five finishes broke his own record of 33 top-fives set in 2012 when the series contested three more races. Lanigan notched nine runner-up finishes for a total of 26 finishes of second or better and was among the top 10 finishers in 35 A-Mains. His only finishes outside the top 10 were both 11th-place, one coming in a preliminary night feature at the Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., and the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.
Lanigan’s record-breaking season added to an already impressive career on the WoO LMS. A series regular since the WoO LMS was restarted in 2004, Lanigan now has 70 career WoO LMS A-Main victories to lead the tour’s all-time wins list by 21 victories over fellow three-time series champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.
THE SEASON: The 2014 WoO LMS was comprised of 37 A-Mains at 28 tracks in 18 states.
Pennsylvania hosted the most tour events with seven races among three tracks. There were five events in Florida; three in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin; two in Illinois, Minnesota and Tennessee; and one in Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia.
Six tracks hosted multiple WoO LMS A-Mains. Lernerville Speedway led the way with four A-Mains including three races during the Firecracker 100 weekend. Bubba Raceway Park hosted three events, while Cedar Lake, Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway, The Dirt Track at Charlotte and Volusia Speedway Park all hosted two events apiece.
Weather and other unexpected factors caused the cancelation of at least seven scheduled events in 2014, shrinking the total number of WoO LMS A-Mains run to the lowest number since the 32-race 2011 season. Four events – Feb. 21 at Volusia, March 28 at Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, Texas, May 17 at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., and Sept. 12 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich., – were stopped by weather conditions and could not be rescheduled. Events scheduled at three other tracks were canceled by either track or series management: Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway, Red-River Co-op Speedway in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and La Salle (Ill.) Speedway.
Four races – at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway, Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn., Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., and Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn. – were postponed by rain and reset for another date.
CHECKERED FLAGS: Lanigan’s record number of wins marked the third consecutive season in which he led the tour in victories. Besides his 17 victories in 2014, Lanigan led the series with 15 wins in 2012 and 12 in 2013. Lanigan’s three years as the tour’s winningest driver is one year shy of Josh Richards’ record of four seasons (2008-2011) with the most wins.
A total of 16 drivers reached Victory Lane on the WoO LMS in 2014, matching the same number as the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Of those 16 drivers, only four managed to claim multiple victories on the tour, equaling the 2011 and 2006 seasons for the least number of multiple-race winners in a WoO LMS season.
Multiple victories were claimed by Lanigan (17), Tim McCreadie (3), Jimmy Owens (3) and Jimmy Mars (2). Single scores were garnered by Brady Smith, Brandon Sheppard, Casey Roberts, Kyle Bronson, Billy Moyer, Mike Marlar, Shannon Babb, Davey Johnson, Tim Fuller, Gregg Satterlee, Austin Hubbard and Curtis Roberts.
For the third year in a row, four drivers registered career-first WoO LMS victories (in order of victories): Casey Roberts, Bronson, Marlar and Curtis Roberts.
THE OUTLAWS: Eleven drivers had perfect attendance on the 2014 tour: Lanigan, Eckert, McCreadie, Morgan Bagley, Chub Frank, Eric Wells, Shane Clanton, Frank Heckenast Jr., Clint Smith, Chase Junghans and Boom Briggs.
Longtime series regular Tim Fuller missed 11 races early in the season before a change of plans brought him back to the series mid-season. He entered every race after rejoining the series during Lernerville Speedway’s Firecracker 100 in June.
The top six drivers in the final points standings – Lanigan, Eckert, McCreadie, Bagley, Frank and Wells – started all 37 A-Mains. Clanton, Heckenast and Clint Smith all appeared in 35 A-Mains, while Junghans made 33 starts and Briggs made 31.
SHOULD’VE PICKED HIM: Lanigan’s run to the 2014 championship was no surprise to the media members who participated in the seventh annual WoO LMS Pre-Season Media Poll; however, the performance of the rest of the WoO LMS regulars wasn’t quite so predictable.
Lanigan was picked to win the championship by 27 of the 36 media types who submitted predictions in January for the annual poll, which awarded points to drivers named on each top-five ballot using a 5-4-3-2-1 system. The media were less successful with the rest of the top five, however, with just 12 participants correctly picking Eckert as the championship runner-up and only seven selecting McCreadie to finish third. No participants selected Bagley to claim the fourth spot and just two picked Frank to finish fifth.
Six participants correctly predicted the top three points finishers in the correct order: DirtonDirt.com’s Andy Savary and Derek Kessinger, writer Lee Ackerman, Bill Holder, Area Auto Racing News’ Don Davies and photographer Tom Macht. Dan Plan of theracingconnection.com correctly picked Lanigan and Eckert to finish first and second and correctly picked Chub Frank as the fifth-place finisher to make seven participants with three correct picks.
Along with his landslide pick as the tour’s preseason championship favorite, Lanigan was also selected by 28 poll participants as the driver most likely to win the most WoO LMS A-Mains in 2014. None of the 28 correctly predicted Lanigan’s 17-win season, but WoO announcer Ben Shelton came closest with his prediction of 16 victories.
The poll also asked the media to predict the winners of the tour’s three biggest races: the $30,000-to-win Firecracker 100 at Lernerville, the $26,000-to-win Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury and the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake. Twelve participants correctly predicted Lanigan to win the Firecracker 100; however none picked McCreadie as the PDC winner or Jimmy Owens as the USA Nationals winner.
COUNTING THE CARS: The average field for a WoO LMS event in 2014 was 38.97 cars.
The season-high turnout of 75 cars was for the Nov. 6-8 World Finals doubleheader at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. In all, eight events drew 50 or more cars and 31 attracted over 30 entrants.
A total of 449 drivers representing 32 states and two Canadian provinces entered at least one WoO LMS event in 2014, and 227 drivers started an A-Main.
Pennsylvania led the way by a healthy margin as the state from which the most WoO LMS entrants hailed, with 71 Key Stone State drivers entering at least one event. Illinois was second with 45 competitors followed by Michigan (37), Minnesota (29) and Tennessee (25).
THE ROOKIES: Heckenast won the 2014 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year battle, topping Junghans by 156 points and Briggs by 290 points in standings determined using drivers’ best 25 finishes.
Heckenast, 26, beat the 22-year-old Junghans in top-10s (13-5) and top-fives (2-1). Briggs, 43, posted three top-10 finishes. None of the three rookies reached victory lane, but Heckenast posted a best finish of second on July 24 at Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway. Junghans recorded his best performance on May 16 at 201 Speedway in Sitka, Ky., where he led 25 laps before slipping to fourth at the finish. Briggs’ best finish was sixth at Lavonia (Ga.) Speedway on May 3.
CASH: Over $2.1 million was paid out to drivers during the 2014 WoO LMS season, including just over $400,000 in points-fund and post-season bonus cash.
Lanigan led the money-won list with a whopping $390,050 in event winnings and points-fund earnings. McCreadie ranked second at $192,050 with Eckert ($164,685), Bagley ($111,060), and Frank ($106,340) also reaching six-figures. Totals for the other WoO regulars: Clanton ($97,680), Heckenast ($97,680), Wells ($91,550), Smith (74,680), Junghans ($71,110), Briggs ($41,840).
Owens was the top non-WoO regular on the money-won list, coming in ninth with $86,610 in earnings for nine A-Main starts in 10 WoO LMS appearances.
HOGGING THE WINS: With Lanigan claiming nearly half of the wins in 2014, a record number of full-time WoO LMS regulars went winless on the season. Nine of the 11 drivers who entered every series race failed to visit victory lane, surpassing the previous mark of seven winless full-time drivers set in 2009 and 2011.
Rick Eckert led the non-winners in the final championship standings. Eckert, the 2011 WoO LMS champion, secured the runner-up position in the final points tally, setting a new record for the highest points finish without winning a series race. Previously, the highest a winless driver placed in the final standings was fifth, which Eckert accomplished in 2007 and Frank equaled in both 2011 and 2012.
Bagley (fourth) and Frank (fifth) joined Eckert in the top five of 2014’s final points standings, marking the first time in the tour’s modern era that more than one driver finished among the top five without winning a race.
MANUFACTURERS BATTLE: Six dirt Late Model chassis companies claimed victories in WoO LMS A-Mains during the 2014 season.
With 20 victories, Club 29 Race Cars led the way thanks predominately to 17 wins by Lanigan, who designed the Club 29 chassis with chassis and setup guru Ronnie Stuckey and launched the chassis brand during the offseason. Jimmy Owens added three more wins for the first-year chassis brand. Club 29’s extraordinary debut season produced the most victories for a chassis brand since Rocket Chassis visited victory lane 32 times in 2010.
Rocket, which saw its decade-long reign as the tour’s top chassis brand derailed by Club 29, was second on the 2014 wins list with 12 triumphs, divided among McCreadie, Brady Smith, Brandon Sheppard, Kyle Bronson, Mike Marlar, Shannon Babb, Davey Johnson, Tim Fuller, Gregg Satterlee, and Curtis Roberts.
MB Custom was the only other chassis brand to claim multiple wins with two victories both earned by Jimmy Mars. Capital Race Cars (Casey Roberts), Longhorn Chassis (Billy Moyer) and MasterSbilt (Austin Hubbard) each claimed one checkered flag.
A total of seven engine builders scored a WoO LMS A-Main triumph in 2014. Cornett Racing Engines led the way with 22 victories, split among Lanigan, Marlar, Owens and Hubbard.
ProPower was second on the list with seven victories posted between McCreadie, Mars, Bronson and Curtis Roberts. Other engine builders with multiple victories were Clements (three) and Durham (two), while single wins went to Custom, Vic Hill and Craiger.
PLAYING THE AVERAGES: A fantastic win rate combined with outstanding consistency produced a nearly unbelievable average A-Main finish of 2.70 for Lanigan’s 2014 campaign. That was well ahead of Eckert’s 7.00 average. McCreadie was just behind Eckert with 7.11 average finish, followed by Bagley (11.30), Clanton (10.94), Frank (11.43), Wells (12.19), Heckenast (13.06), Smith (14.97), Junghans (16.03) and Briggs (17.48). Fuller maintained an average finish of 9.92 in the 26 races he entered.
One of Lanigan’s keys to success was earning A-Main starting spots near the front of the field. He led the series in average starting position at 5.27. Eckert’s average starting spot was 8.59 followed by McCreadie (8.89), Clanton (10.97), Heckenast (13.11), Bagley (13.97), Wells and Frank (tied at 14.35), Junghans (14.88), Smith (16.51) and Briggs (16.97).
Wells was the hardest charger on the series, averaging 4.08 positions improved per race. Bagley was second at 3.70, followed by McCreadie (3.51), Frank (3.46), Smith (3.23), Eckert (3.03), Lanigan (2.95), Junghans (2.79), Briggs (2.58), Clanton (2.57) and Heckenast (2.54).
TRACKING LEADERS AND WINNERS: The deepest in the starting field from which a driver advanced to win a WoO LMS A-Main in 2014 was 17th when McCreadie stormed through the pack at Fairbury on July 26 to claim a thrilling Prairie Dirt Classic victory.
Seventeen A-Mains were won by drivers starting from the pole position and four were captured off the outside pole. The average starting spot for a WoO LMS A-Main winner in 2014 was 2.92.
There were a total of 61 official lead changes among the 37 WoO LMS A-Mains contest in 2014 for an average of 1.65 lead changes per race. Seven races were won by a driver leading every lap, while there were also seven races that featured three or more lead changes. Fairbury’s Prairie Dirt Classic featured the most lead changes with eight passes for the top spot, while Cedar Lake’s USA Nationals was second with six changes.
The 2014 WoO LMS season saw 34 drivers lead at least one A-Main lap. Lanigan (547) led the most by a substantial margin over McCreadie (135), Owens (118) and Babb (99). Clanton (88) was fifth on the laps led list, making him the driver who led the most laps without winning a race. Other WoO LMS regulars who led laps were Eckert (45), Junghans (25), Frank (24), Bagley (19) and Smith (4).
MISSING MAN: While Lanigan was clearly the class of the field on the WoO LMS tour in 2014, it’s easy to wonder if his season’s numbers would have been less lofty if three-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards had been around to spoil some of the fun. After claiming his third WoO LMS title in 2013, Richards was just as much a favorite to win the 2014 title as Lanigan until medical issues sidelined him for all of 2014 except for the World Finals at Charlotte. Richards, who has averaged 8.2 wins per season in each of his last five full-time seasons on the tour, is expected to return to full-time WoO LMS action in 2015.
YEAR AFTER YEAR: With Clanton failing to win a WoO LMS A-Main for the first time in his career, Lanigan is left as the only driver to win at least one series feature event in each WoO LMS season since the tour was restarted in 2004.
STELLAR SOPHOMORE: By placing fourth in 2014’s final points standings, Bagley became just the second driver to finish among the top five of the championship chase in the season following his rookie campaign. That feat was only previously accomplished by McCreadie, who followed his 2004 Rookie of the Year title with a third-place finish in the final 2005 standings.
Wells, who edged Bagley in the 2013 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year points, also had a solid sophomore campaign. He tied Frank for fifth in the final standings, but Frank won the tie-breaking based on having more runner-up finishes than Wells since neither driver won a race.
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The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: American Racing Custom Wheels (Official Custom Wheel), Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), Lincoln Welder (Official Welder), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award) and McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award); in addition to contingency sponsors: Butlerbuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Mobil 1, MSD, Ohlins Shocks, QuarterMaster, Penske Shocks, Roush Yates Performance Parts, Superflow Dynos and Wrisco Aluminum; along with manufacturer sponsors Capital Race Cars, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, Jake’s Carts, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis, and TNT Rescue.