Lanigan’s Record-Setting 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Campaign Sets The Mark For National Touring Success
Kentucky Veteran Racks Up 17 WoO LMS A-Main Victories En Route To Third Series Championship
By Joshua Joiner, WoO LMS P.R.
CONCORD, N.C. – Dec. 17, 2014 – No driver has ever dominated a national tour quite like Darrell Lanigan dominated the World of Outlaws Late Model Series in 2014. Lanigan, the 44-year-old veteran racer from Union, Ky., was nearly unstoppable in scoring a record 17 WoO LMS A-Main victories on his way to claiming his third series championship.
In what was supposed to be an adjusting year as he debuted his new self-designed Club 29 Race Car, Lanigan was better than ever. He broke his WoO LMS single-season wins record of 15 victories set in 2012 and totaled a whopping $390,050 in WoO LMS earnings. In 37 WoO LMS events, Lanigan finished among the top five an astounding 33 times with 26 heat race wins and 11 fast-time awards. His dominance showed in the WoO LMS points chase with Lanigan topping Rick Eckert of York, Pa., by a modern-era record 328 points.
Few words can describe just how impressive Lanigan was on his record-breaking title run, but the driver himself summed up the season pretty well when he accepted the champion’s trophy and $100,000 points-fund check at the annual World of Outlaws banquet in November.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Lanigan, whose notable 2014 victories included his first Firecracker 100 victory at Lernerville Speedway, his third straight Down & Dirty weekend victory at Berlin Raceway and a title-clinching victory during the opening night of The Dirt Track at Charlotte’s Bad Boy Buggies WoO World Finals. “It’s been a phenomenal year. We topped our record. I didn’t think we’d break 15, and we got 17. I wish everybody could have this kind of year because it makes it easy to keep going and go to the next race winning like we did.”
While his 2014 season will be remembered predominantly for his dominating performance on the track, for Lanigan the outstanding campaign is just as meaningful based on the success of his first-year chassis brand. After many years of fielding Rocket Chassis and working closely with Rocket cofounder Mark Richards, making the leap to chassis builder was a major step for Lanigan, who partnered with renowned setup guru Ronnie Stuckey to design his new car.
With Lanigan’s own race team serving as the fledgling chassis brand’s house car program, Club 29 debuted to resounding success. Along with Lanigan’s stellar season, drivers such as Jimmy Owens and Frank Heckenast Jr. also found success after switching to the cars mid-season. Owens of Newport, Tenn., drove his Club 29 car to major victories at Cedar Lake Speedway and Batesville Motor Speedway while a Club 29 car carried Heckenast of Frankfort, Ill., to the WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Award.
“It definitely was a phenomenal year. Nobody really thought it would’ve turned out like it did, but it did,” Lanigan said of his success as both driver and chassis builder. “It’s definitely fulfilling. We did something that we thought we needed to do. Nothing against Mark Richards and Rocket Chassis; they build great chassis and Mark I consider a great friend of mine. I was just something we needed to do.”
The decision to leave the Rocket Chassis stable wasn’t easy for Lanigan. After many years of working with Richards and the Rocket staff, Lanigan was reluctant to break ties with his friend and mentor. But as he found himself often competing Richards’ son Josh Richards and other Rocket house car pilots for WoO LMS victories and championships, Lanigan felt going his own direction was for the best.
“It was just something I needed to do,” said Lanigan, who finished second to Josh Richards in both the 2010 and 2013 WoO LMS championship chases. “I always said it’s hard for both of us running the same chassis to run for the same thing. It’s really hard to do. Them coming to look at my car or me coming to look at their car, it’s hard for the same chassis brand to run for the same championship. It was time for us to separate just to see what we could do.”
With the success of 2014 behind him, Lanigan heads for a 2015 season that will require yet more adjusting for the veteran racer. Along with continuing to grow and improve his chassis business, Lanigan will also have to adjust to his Lanigan Autosports team operating as a two-car program with the addition of Jason Jameson as the team’s second driver.
Jameson, 29, of Lawrenceburg, Ind., has severed as Lanigan’s crew chief over the past two years. After showing potential as a regional racer in recent years, Jameson took advantage of the few opportunities he had to race this season to score a pair of special event victories at Florence Speedway.
Jameson’s flashes of talent behind the wheel and his setup knowledge help convince Lanigan that his young protégé is deserving of an opportunity to compete at the sport’s highest level. It may also provide Lanigan with an exit strategy from full-time racing in the future.
“My father gave me the opportunity that I got and like I said, I see special things in young people that I want to try to give them the opportunity,” Lanigan said. “I see things in Jason that he definitely has the talent to do it. I just want to give him the chance to do it and see what happens there.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and kinda want to slow down a little bit. If everything works out, maybe he can do the deal and carry it on and maybe I can stay at home and build the cars. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
While Lanigan’s long-term plan may be to slow down his own racing and focus on building race cars, don’t expect to see that go into full effect any time soon. Just as his 2014 success proved, Lanigan believes he’s still in the prime of his driving career with many more victories and championships ahead of him.
“I feel like wine right now; the older I get the better I am,” Lanigan said. “Time just keeps on flying so fast, you really don’t realize how long you’ve been doing it. But right now, I feel like I’m in my prime and we can go anywhere and win.
“I feel like I’m as good as I’ve ever been. I feel like I can go to any race and win the race. There’s no doubt in my mind when I pull into that gate that I feel like I can win that race.”
It’s that confidence that has Lanigan already looking forward to the 2015 season with his eyes on another run at the WoO LMS championship and perhaps even more victories than his record-setting performance in 2014.
“It’s definitely hard to top a season with 17 wins,” Lanigan said. “But hell, maybe we can go to 20 next year. It’s not gonna be from lack of trying because we’re definitely gonna try.”
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com. Fans can also follow the WoO LMS on Twitter at Twitter.com/WoOLateModels and Facebook at Facebook.com/WorldofOutlawsLateModelSeries
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.