ZANESVILLE, OH – July 24, 2008 – Steve Francis let out a giant sigh of relief after capturing the Alltel Ohio Speedweek opener on Thursday night at Muskingum County Speedway.
The ‘Pepsi 40’ victory, after all, snapped a 19-race winless streak for the defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion.
“We needed this like nobody knows,” said Francis, whose only previous WoO LMS triumph this season came on April 19 in the Circle K Colossal 100 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. “We’ve just been off for awhile – making dumb decisions, missing stupid things. We finally were able to put it all together tonight.”
Francis, 40, of Ashland, Ky., was the class of the field in the first-ever WoO LMS event at Ronnie Moran’s three-eighths-mile oval. He steered his Dale Beitler-owned Reliable Painting/Valvoline Rocket car forward from the fifth starting spot to take the lead from Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., on lap 14 and was never threatened thereafter.
A caution flag for a multi-car tangle on lap 35 gave Francis some pause since it put the hard-charging, 18th-starting Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., on his rear bumper, but he easily glided away on the restart to defeat the 2007 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year by nearly a half-straightaway margin.
“The car was real good tonight from the start, like it was on a rail,” said Francis, who earned $7,150 for his first touring-series victory at Muskingum County since a UDTRA/Xtreme DirtCar Series score in 2003. “I was just able to drive into the corner and stick to the bottom like we were on glue.
“Tires could’ve been an advantage for us tonight – they definitely performed flawless, there’s no doubt about that,” he added, singling out his American Racer rubber. “But more than anything, we really got our car good again. It was kind of a combination of the two – when the two come together, it’s a good night.”
Pearson settled for a third-place finish after leading laps 12-13 in NASCAR Sprint Cup star Bobby Labonte’s LifeLong Locks MasterSbilt car. He went with a “safer” Hoosier Tire choice than Francis and Fuller and couldn’t quite match their speed.
WoO LMS points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., advanced from the seventh starting spot to take fourth in the GottaRace.com Rocket – his 17th top-five finish in the last 18 tour events – and polesitter Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va., placed fifth in the Cosgrove Racing Rocket. Lanigan overtook Shaver for fourth with just four laps remaining and extended his points lead to 120 points over 13th-place finisher Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started fourth but faded dramatically as a result of an incorrect tire-compound choice.
Shaver collected the $500 ‘Bonus Bucks’ cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a WoO LMS A-Main and isn’t ranked among the top 12 in the tour points standings.
The top-five finishers became the first drivers eligible for the ‘Alltel Ohio Speedweek All-Star’ honor. A $10,000 top prize will go to the driver who receives the most votes in on-line polling that begins at AlltelAllStar.com after the final Alltel Ohio Speedweek event on July 27 at Eriez Speedway in Hammett, Pa.
Fuller, 40, appeared to be the only driver capable of stopping Francis from reaching Victory Lane, but his stirring drive through the pack in the Gypsum Express Rocket following a B-Main victory stalled at second place.
A two-time winner on the recent WoO LMS ‘Wild West Tour,’ Fuller reached the runner-up spot on lap 32 without the benefit of a caution flag after one for an opening-lap spin between turns three and four by Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga. His full straightaway deficit to Francis was wiped out by a lap-35 caution flag, but he was unable to take advantage of the break on the restart.
“If that caution period had lasted a couple less laps, then maybe I would have had a shot at Francis,” said Fuller, who made his first-ever start at Muskingum County. “But he was just real good. That car of his was hooked. I know, because I had a front-row seat to see it.
“We just picked the right tire tonight – that’s it in a nutshell,” added Fuller, who went with a harder tire (a Hoosier UMP 40-compound) on his car’s right-rear corner. “I had nothing to lose starting so far back, so we gambled with our tire choice and it worked.”
Fuller’s tire selection was on Francis’s mind during the race’s final caution period, which was triggered by an incident between turns three and four that involved Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., Vic Coffey of Leicester, N.Y., Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and Matt Miller of Waterville, Ohio.
“I knew what tire Fuller had on and I knew he was second,” said Francis. “That did worry me because I knew he had gone harder than everybody else. I thought he might be able to come at me right there at the end.”
A challenge from Fuller never materialized, however, and Francis cruised to his 16th career WoO LMS victory. He’s now tied with Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., for the status of the tour’s winningest driver since 2004.
“Hopefully we can get on a little bit of a roll now,” said Francis. “This is about the time last year that I started on my roll, so we’ll try to build on this to do it again.
“I think Lanigan might be too far ahead this year (in the points standings) for us to win the championship again, but there’s still second place (on the WoO LMS) and there’s still a lot of money to win in big races. We’re concentrating on getting our cars to where we want them for Lernerville (Speedway’s $40,000-to-win Firecracker 100 on July 29) and other big races coming up.”
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, whose father owns and operates Muskingum County Speedway; Bart Hartman of Zanesville, Ohio, who drove over the track’s berm to avoid the lap-35 accident; Robbie Blair of Titusville, Pa., who faded after leading laps 1-12; Marlar; and Shane McLoughlin of Nashport, Ohio.
Among the early retirees was Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who was working his way forward from the 19th starting spot when a broken panhard bar mount eliminated him on lap 35. He fell to fourth in the WoO LMS points standings behind Francis thanks to the DNF.
Forty-nine cars were entered in the program.
Blair was quickest in time trials, turning a lap of 16.955 seconds. He earned a $100 prize from promoter Ronnie Moran for his third career WoO LMS fast-time honor.
Heat winners were Blair, Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., and Lanigan. Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., and Fuller captured the B-Mains.
Doug Dodd of Cambridge, Ohio, suffered a heartbreaking fate on the last lap of the first heat race when he slipped off the track in turn one while leading. But he later received a pick-me-up from the crowd, which put him into the A-Main starting field as an Alltel/Track provisional by giving him the loudest cheer of five local non-qualifiers who were brought to the homestretch following the B-Mains.
Alltel Ohio Speedweek continues on Friday night (July 25) at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, with the ‘Subway 50’ paying $10,000 to win. NASCAR Sprint Cup star and Eldora owner Tony Stewart will drive his Old Spice/Bass Pro Shops Rocket No. 20 in the event.
The swing also includes stops on Saturday night (July 26) at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio, and Sunday night (July 27) at Eriez Speedway in Hammett, Pa.
The Outlaws’ busy month of July will conclude on Tues., July 29, with the rescheduled $40,000-to-win Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Pepsi 40’ (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (5) Steve Francis/40 $7,150
2. (18) Tim Fuller/40 $3,600
3. (3) Earl Pearson Jr./40 $2,000
4. (7) Darrell Lanigan/40 $1,700
5. (1) Steve Shaver/40 $2,000
6. (6) Donnie Moran/40 $1,300
7. (14) Bart Hartman/40 $1,200
8. (2) Robbie Blair/40 $1,300
9. (11) Mike Marlar/40 $1,000
10. (22) Shane McLoughlin/40 $900
11. (10) Shannon Babb/40 $850
12. (23) John Blankenship/39 $800
13. (4) Josh Richards/39 $750
14. (16) Lance Elson/39 $740
15. (12) Shane Clanton/39 $710
16. (25) Doug Dodd/39 $680
17. (15) Rick Eckert/39 $650
18. (17) Clint Smith/39 $630
19. (21) Rick Aukland/39 $620
20. (20) Vic Coffey/39 $860
21. (24) Joe Isabell/38 $600
22. (8) Eddie Carrier Jr./35 $600
23. (19) Chub Frank/35 $600
24. (11) Mike Marlar/34 $600
25. (9) Corey Conley18 $600
Yellow Flags: 2 (Opening Lap, Lap 35)
Lap Leaders: Blair (1-11); Pearson (12-13); Francis (14-50)
Provisional Starters: Blankenship, Joe Isabell (WoO); Dodd (Alltel/Track)
Rookie of the Race: Coffey ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Shaver ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race ($50): Kevin Miller (Francis)
Chick Hawk Racing Hot Lap Award (half-off tire warmers): Blair
Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’: Blair ($100)
Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. won11-Robbie Blair/Titusville, PA 16.955
2. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 17.124
3. 28c-Eddie Carrier Jr./Salt Rock, WV 17.187
4. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 17.241
5. 99-Donnie Moran/Dresden, OH 17.277
6. 30-Steve Shaver/Vienna, WV 17.287
7. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 17.316
8. 17E-Lance Elson/Wellsburg, WV 17.323
9. 7-Matt Miller/Waterville, OH 17.333
10. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 17.351
11. 17M-Mike Marlar/Winfield, TN 17.384
12. 32c-Vic Coffey/Leicester, NY 17.422
13. 12-Doug Dodd/Cambridge, OH 17.481
14. 75-Bart Hartman/Zanesville, OH 17.506
15. 22s-Gregg Satterlee/Rochester Mills, PA 17.529
16. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 17.580
17. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 17.581
18. H1-Jared Miley/South Park, PA 17.592
19. 44p-Earl Pearson Jr./Jacksonville, FL 17.595
20. 19-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 17.620
21. 14-Corey Conley/Wellsburg, WV 17.622
22. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 17.628
23. 63-Cortney Clewell/Westerville, OH 17.663
24. 2s-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, WI 17.672
25. E1-Mike Balzano/Parkersburg, WV 17.673
26. 12A-Rick Aukland/Zanesville, OH 17.708
27. 9-Shane McLoughlin/Nashport, OH 17.711
28. 19T-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 17.726
29. 23-John Blankenship/Williamson, WV 17.757
30. 5M-Ryan Markham/Ashland, OH 17.782
31. 1N-Casey Noonan/Sylvania, OH 17.837
32. 27J-Danny Johnson/Phelps, NY 17.839
33. 42-Cody Parker/Zanesville, OH 17.855
34. 6J-Joe Isabell/Pennellville, NY 17.860
35. KC44-K.C. Burdette/Parkersburg, WV 17.925
36. z28-Johnny Boyd/Newark, OH 17.926
37. 59-Tracy Fritter/Zanesville, OH 17.935
38. 18H-Dustin Hapka/Grand Forks, ND 17.951
39. 2R-Joe Ramey/Ironton, OH 17.957
40. 21d-Dan Stone/Thompson, PA 18.112
41. T8-Mark Banal/St. Clairsville, OH 18.212
42. 11-Kyle Bates/Kimbolton, OH 18.221
43. 12H-Wes Hutchison/New Concord, OH 18.247
44. 96-Paul Devoll/Zanesville, OH 18.302
45. 22b-Paul Beaschler/Zanesville, OH 18.390
46. 0-Ryan Scott/Garland, PA 18.680
47. 18s-Sean Beardsley/Central Square, NY 18.946
48. 12d-Doug Drown/Wooster, OH N/T
49. 7JR-Jeff Isabell Jr./Pennellville, NY N/T
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Blair, Moran, Conley, M. Miller, Frank, Blankenship, Balzano, Parker, Fritter, Banal, Jeff Isabell Jr., Beaschler, Dodd
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Richards, Shaver, Babb, Hartman, C. Smith, Aukland, Miley, Markham, Bates, Scott, Hapka (DNS) Joe Isabell
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Carrier, Pearson, Marlar, Eckert, Satterlee, McLoughlin, Noonan, Burdette, Hutchison, Clewell, Ramey, Beardsley
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Lanigan, Francis, Clanton, Elson, Coffey, Fuller, D. Johnson, B. Smith, Stone, Devoll, Boyd (DNS) Drown
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): C. Smith, Frank, Aukland, Blankenship, Dodd, Balzano, Fritter, Miley, Parker, Joe Isabell, Markham, Beaschler, Bates, Scott, Banal, Hapka (DNS) Jeff Isabell Jr.
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Fuller, Coffey, McLoughlin, D. Johnson, Stone, Noonon, Burdette, Clewell, Boyd, Hutchison, Ramey, Beardsley, Satterlee, B. Smith (DNS) Drown
2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of July 24 – 27 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Darrell Lanigan 2-18-25-$76,450-3731 (-0)
2. Josh Richards 4-12-19-$88,060-3611 (-120)
3. Steve Francis 2-12-21-$107,950-3593 (-138)
4. Chub Frank 1-9-19-$56,930-3563 (-168)
5. Shannon Babb 2-12-19-$78,500-3551 (-180)
6. Shane Clanton 1-12-19-$62,090-3545 (-186)
7. Rick Eckert 1-9-19-$58,830-3529 (-202)
8. Clint Smith 1-9-16-$49,990-3521 (-210)
9. Tim Fuller 2-6-12-$51,620-3413 (-318)
10. John Blankenship 0-0-6-$29,520-3277 (-454)
11. Vic Coffey 0-0-6-$23,760-2764 (-967)
12. Joe Isabell 0-0-0-$14,090-2445 (-1286)
13. Danny Johnson 0-0-1-$13,260-2037 (-1694)
14. Sean Beardsley 0-0-0-$8,700-1943 (-1788)
15. Tim McCreadie 1-6-9-$38,200-1463 (-2268)
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 several sponsors and partners, including Advance Auto Parts – the official auto parts store of the WoO LMS – and contingency sponsors Wrisco Industries, Chicken Hawk Racing, Crane Cams, Ohlins Shocks, Quarter-Master, Eibach Springs, Integra Shocks, Jake’s Custom Golf Carts, Qwikliner and SuperClean.