Clanton Overtakes Birkhofer In Final Laps For Dramatic ‘Illini 100’ Victory At Farmer City Raceway

By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director

FARMER CITY, IL – April 4, 2009 – Shane Clanton kept trying and trying to overtake Brian Birkhofer for the lead in Saturday night’s second annual ‘Illini 100’ at Farmer City Raceway. 

Finally, on lap 94, Clanton’s persistence paid off – to the tune of a $20,600 paycheck for winning the blockbuster World of Outlaws Late Model Series event in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

In an incident-free race that ran caution-free from lap 43 to the finish, Clanton pressured Birkhofer relentlessly until sliding underneath the race-long pacesetter through turns three and four to assume command with six circuits remaining.

“I said, ‘If I ever get to his quarter-panel and I can turn left and be by him through (turns) three and four, I got him,’” described Clanton, who registered his first WoO LMS victory of the 2009 season. “He finally made a bobble off turn two and pushed, and I turned under and went by him.”

Clanton, 33, of Locust Grove, Ga., made the right moves in lapped traffic over the final circuits to steer his Custom-powered RSD Enterprises Rocket across the finish line less than a car length ahead of Muscatine, Iowa’s Birkhofer, who drove an MB Custom machine.

WoO LMS points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., finished third in the Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket, about a half-straightaway behind the leaders. He started fourth and climbed as high as second on a lap-37 restart.

Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., placed fourth in the Deppe Enterprises MB Custom mount, earning the $500 WoO LMS Bonus Bucks cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a tour event and isn’t ranked among the top 12 in the points standings.

Farmer City favorite Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., completed the top five in the Sheltra Motorsports Rocket. He grabbed the spot with less than 10 laps remaining when Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., fell off the pace with suspension problems.

Clanton started from the pole position, but he was outgunned for the lead at the initial green flag by front-row mate Birkhofer. The Peach State star lost second momentarily to Richards on a lap-37 restart before regaining the position from the 21-year-old following the race’s second and final caution flag six laps later.

While Clanton stepped up his attack on Birkhofer at the event’s three-quarter mark, he thought his hopes might have been dashed when Birkhofer burst past three slower cars racing down the backstretch on lap 85. Clearing the lapped machines gave Birkhofer a sudden half-straightaway edge on Clanton.

“I thought, ‘I gotta go now if I’m gonna have any chance,’ so I just ran as hard as I could to try to run him down,” said Clanton. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to catch him, but in five laps I was right back on him so I knew I had a fast car. I just didn’t know if he was just riding in the lead, not taking a chance.”

Birkhofer, 37, never considered himself home-free after his slick move in lapped traffic.

“I knew Clanton or Josh (Richards) was sitting there behind me,” said Birkhofer, who led laps 10-50 of last year’s Illini 100 before dropping out with mechanical trouble after catching a rut in turn four. “I kept telling myself, ‘I can’t make any mistakes.’

“Well, I got bottled up there trying to get by a lapped guy (on lap 94). I figured I was gonna be a sitting duck, and then, all of a sudden, there (Clanton) was.”

Birkhofer tipped his hat to Clanton for pulling off an inside pass for the lead on the high-banked, quarter-mile oval, which developed a preferred line around the cushion at the top of the track.

“He just drove ‘er hard when he needed to,” Birkhofer said of Clanton. “He drove in there and backed into the cushion. He passed me and won the race, so congratulations to him.

“I’m gonna take second place (worth $10,050) and go home.”

Clanton was a very excited winner when he reached Victory Lane. And with good reason – the triumph was his first top-five finish in six WoO LMS A-Mains this season, and it added another major-event score to his expanding resume that includes a 2008 World 100 win at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

“Anytime you can win a race it’s good for your career,” said Clanton, who recorded his 11th career WoO LMS victory. “I just want to keep winning as many races as I can. I know that if we can get on a roll like we did (late) last year, it’s gonna be tough to beat me this year.”

The race’s only caution flags came on lap 37 for Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who stopped on the inside of turn two, and on lap 43 for Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., who spun in turn four with a left-front flat tire that resulted from contact the previous lap with Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.

Finishing in positions 6-10 was Richie Hedrick of Urbana, Ill., who registered a career-best run in WoO LMS competition; defending WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky.; Feger, who advanced from the 14th starting spot; 18th-starter Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa.; and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who slipped backward from the fifth starting spot.

The evening’s action began with two B-Mains won by Eric Smith of Bloomingon, Ill., and Erb.

Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., captured the ‘Farmer City 30’ for non-qualifiers, leading from flag-to-flag to pocket the $1,000 top prize.

The WoO LMS will have a short break before action resumes with a Southern doubleheader on April 17 at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway and April 18 at Virginia Motor Speedway.

For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.

Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Illini 100’ (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):

1. (1) Shane Clanton/100 $20,600
2. (2) Brian Birkhofer/100 $10,050
3. (4) Josh Richards/100 $6,500
4. (3) Jimmy Mars/100 $5,500
5. (7) Shannon Babb/100 $4,550
6. (6) Richie Hedrick/100 $3,000
7. (10) Darrell Lanigan/100 $3,350
8. (14) Jason Feger/100 $2,500
9. (18) Chub Frank/100 $2,800
10. (5) Rick Eckert/100 $2,700
11. (17) Tim Fuller/100 $2,400
12. (13) Clint Smith/100 $2,300
13. (11) Matt Lux/99 $1,700
14. (12) Brady Smith/99 $2,150
15. (8) Steve Francis/99 $2,200
16. (25) Vic Coffey/97 $80
17. (9) Joe Harlan/96 $1,560
18. (19) Eric Smith/96 $1,540
19. (23) Jordan Bland/96 $2,270
20. (24) Russell King/96 $1,750
21. (20) Dennis Erb Jr./65 $1,500
22. (16) Will Vaught/36 $1,500
23. (15) Zach Johnson/17 $1,500
24. (21) Scott Bull/12 $1,500
25. (22) Ryan Unzicker/10 $1,500

* Earnings include WoO LMS Winner’s Circle program bonuses and cash contingency awards

Yellow Flags: 2 (Laps 37, 43)
Lap Leaders: Birkhofer (1-93); Clanton (94-100)
Provisional Starters: Bland, King, Coffey
Rookie of the Race: Jordan Bland ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Jimmy Mars ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Mark Lloyd (Clanton)

B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Eric Smith, 2. Scott Bull, 3. Daren Friedman, 4. Jimmy Dehm, 5. Brent Robinson, 6. Jordan Bland, 7. Chas Shellenberger, 8. Derek Chandler, 9. Gary Cook Jr., 10. Steve Sheppard Jr., 11. Jill George, 12. Adam Mefford, 13. Jeremy Conaway, 14. Kerry Mathew

B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Dennis Erb Jr., 2. Ryan Unzicker, 3. Kevin Weaver, 4. Donny Walden, 5. Ted Loomis, 6. Russell King, 7. Eric Vaughan, 8. Dustin Hapka, 9. Mike Mataragas, 10. Roben Huffman, 11. Brandon Sheppard, 12. Vic Coffey, 13. Tyler Reddick, 14. Brian Shirley

Drivers Not Starting B-Mains (did not return on Saturday): Paul Zehr, Rich Bell, Russ Adams, Cory Daugherty, Jon Rogers

Non-Qualifiers Race Finish (30 laps): 1. Kevin Weaver($1,000); 2. Daren Friedman ($700); 3. Ted Loomis ($500); 4. Derek Chandler ($400); 5. Mike Mataragas ($325); 6. Donny Walden ($275); 7. Jimmy Dehm ($250); 8. Tyler Reddick ($225); 9. Jeremy Conaway ($200); 10. Chas Shellenberger ($175); 11. Jill George ($150); 12. Eric Vaughan ($150); 13. Roben Huffman ($150); 14. Steve Sheppard Jr. ($150); 15. Kerry Mathew ($150); 16. Gary Cook Jr. ($150); 17. Brent Robinson ($150); DNS – Adam Mefford, Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard, Dustin Hapka

World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners:

* Arizona Sport Shirts ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in B-Mains): Brent Robinson, Ted Loomis
* Armor All (case of product to highest-finishing non-WoO team in A-Main w/decal): Brian Birkhofer
* Champ Pans ($50 product certificate to ‘Bonus Bucks’ winner w/decal): Jimmy Mars
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to A-Main winner w/decal): Shane Clanton
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to 10th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Rick Eckert
* Crane Cams ($100 product certificate to Heat 3 winner w/decal): Jimmy Mars
* Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner w/decal): Eric Smith, Dennis Erb Jr.
* Fusion Energy ($50 cash award to Heat 2 winner w/decal): Brian Birkhofer
* Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash award to fast qualifier w/decal): Shannon Babb
* Quarter-Master ($100 product certificate to A-Main winner w/decal): Shane Clanton
* Quarter-Master ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Shannon Babb
* Quarter-Master ($25 product certificate to 15th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Steve Francis
* Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’ (one case of product): Brian Birkhofer
* VP Racing Fuels ‘Outside Looking In’ Award (free 54-gallon drum of VP-113 or Late Model Plus racing fuel to fastest qualifier who does not make the A-Main if decal is displayed): Jimmy Dehm
* Wrisco Aluminum (three sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner w/decal): Shane Clanton

2009 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of April 4 – 6 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):

1. Josh Richards 1-5-6 -$36,050-787 (-0)
2. Darrell Lanigan 0-3-6-$42,700-771 (-16)
3. Shane Clanton 1-1-5-$31,010-769 (-18)
4. Steve Francis 2-4-4-$32,300-741 (-46)
5. Shannon Babb 1-3-4-$32,380-735 (-52)
6. (tie) Tim Fuller 0-0-2-$11,240-719 (-68)
6. (tie) Chub Frank 0-1-4-$13,650-719 (-68)
8. Rick Eckert 0-1-3-$12,895-717 (-70)
9. Brady Smith 0-2-3-$13,225-690 (-97)
10. Clint Smith 0-0-2-$10,270-685 (-102)
11. Jordan Bland 0-0-0-$5,860-608 (-179)
12. Vic Coffey 0-0-0-$5,330-578 (-209)
13. Russell King 0-0-0-$6,570-575 (-212)
14. Dustin Hapka 0-0-0-$3,760-540 (-247)
15. Brent Robinson 0-0-0-$1,330-481 (-306)
16. Tyler Reddick 0-0-0-$2,005-477 (-310)
17. Chas Shellenberger 0-0-0-$925-450 (-337)
18. (tie) Dan Schlieper 0-1-1-$5,670-445 (-342)
18. (tie) Scott Bloomquist 0-0-2-$7,130-445 (-342)
20. (tie) Billy Moyer 0-1-2-$8,000-434 (-353)
20. (tie) Brian Birkhofer 0-3-3-$18,100-434 (-353)

LISTEN ONLINE: If fans can’t get to a track to see the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, they can experience the excitement of the nation’s premier tour live on DIRTvision.com through the DIRT Radio Network.

To listen to the free audio broadcasts, log on to www.dirtvision.com and click on the DIRT Radio Network logo.

Listeners will need Windows Media Player 9 or higher to listen to the DIRT Radio Network. For technical support or questions, e-mail [email protected]

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), Crane Cams (Official Valvetrain), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), Fusion Energy Boost (Official Energy Boost), SuperClean (Official Cleaner-Degreaser) and VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel); in addition to contingency sponsors Champ Pans, Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tires, Integra Shocks, Jake’s Custom Golf Carts, Ohlins Shocks, Racing Electronics, Quarter Master and Wrisco Aluminum; Crane Cams Engine Builder’s Challenge participants Cornett Racing Engines, Custom Race Engines and Pro Power Racing Engines; and Chassis Builder Challenge participants Rocket Chassis and Team Zero by Bloomquist.