FRANKLIN, PA – Aug. 30, 2008 – Steve Francis was simply unbeatable on Saturday night at Tri-City Speedway.
The defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion romped to his second consecutive victory on the national tour, dominating the 50-lap opener of the Oil Region Labor Day Classic Weekend presented by Armstrong Cable.
“This car was just unbelievable tonight,” said Francis, who earned $10,250 for his series-leading sixth triumph of the 2008 season. “This is the car that I got to the point I didn’t like a little while ago, and now all of a sudden it’s become unbelievable.”
Francis, 40, of Ashland, Ky., surged off the outside-pole starting spot to lead the A-Main’s entire distance. He was never seriously challenged in a race that was taped for broadcast by the SPEED cable network on Sept. 21 from 6-7 p.m. ET.
With the final 41 laps running without a caution flag, Francis drove his Dale Beitler-owned Reliable Painting/Valvoline Rocket No. 19 to a resounding 8.276-second victory over Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga.
Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., finished third, followed by Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and WoO LMS points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who maintained a healthy 130-point edge over Francis with just seven events remaining on the 2008 schedule.
“We just had one of those nights that you can’t wait to have,” said Francis, who captured the opening half of Tri-City Speedway’s Oil Region Labor Day Classic for the second consecutive year. “I just had an unbelievably comfortable race car. You could do anything in the world you wanted to do with it.
“As a race car driver, you look for nights like this because they don’t happen too often.”
Francis and Co. hit on a perfect combination for the half-mile oval, meshing a well-handling car with a powerful Cornett engine and American Racer tires.
“We’re not doing too much drastically different from when we were so bad a couple months ago,” said Francis, who has won five of the last 11 WoO LMS events. “We’ve just fine-tuned and gotten comfortable with everything, and we’re just going out and trying to win every race because we’ve fallen so far behind Darrell in the points.
“We’re not being conservative at any point with anything. Like tonight, we had different tires on from anybody else here on American Racers – a completely different tire. It’s the same (compound) tire we won on at Zanesville (Ohio’s Muskingum County Speedway) last month and Robby (Allen, a well-known mechanic who helps Beitler’s team) was pretty sure about it for this place, but I kept trying to question him. He finally put it on the ground and said, ‘This is what you got.’”
The rubber helped propel Francis to one of the most convincing triumphs of the ’08 WoO LMS campaign. McCreadie and Clanton drew within a few car lengths of Francis when lapped traffic came into play around lap 30, but Francis proceeded to find a higher lane and used it to effortless glide away late in the distance.
“I gotta give Kevin (Miller, who received the Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race Award) and Robby (Allen) a lot of credit,” said Francis, whose 20th career WoO LMS victory increased his lead atop the tour’s win list since 2004. “I drove us over here last night (after a Friday-night win at Pennsylvania’s Bedford Speedway) and then I slept in a little this morning while they got up and changed the motor. They worked hard to get this car ready.”
Clanton, 32, made a steady advance forward from the ninth starting spot in his RSD Enterprises Rocket car, finally reaching second place on lap 36 when he used the outside lane off turn four to overtake McCreadie. But he never threatened Francis.
“I would’ve liked to have had a caution with about five (laps) to go to cool the tires off and make a run at (Francis) one more time,” said Clanton. “I don’t know if we could’ve got him or not, but I would’ve liked to see if I could’ve run with him.”
A WoO LMS winner at Tri-City in 2006, Clanton acknowledged that Francis likely had a tire advantage.
“The American Racers are good in this area and his car is good,” said Clanton, who used Hoosier tires. “If his tires are a tenth of a second better than everybody else’s and he also has a good car, it makes him look like a hero like he’s been the last two nights.
“The bottom line is that he works his butt off and we work our butt off – and he’s just a little better right now, so we gotta work a little harder.”
The 43-year-old Smith, meanwhile, was very satisfied with a third-place finish after starting sixth in his J.P. Drilling/Cliburn Tank Lines GRT car. He passed McCreadie for third on lap 37 and spent the remainder of the distance trying to find a way past Clanton.
“I slipped back to seventh but got back up to third, so I’m tickled to death,” said Smith. “We passed some good cars – (Tim) Fuller, Josh (Richards), Lanigan and McCreadie. I found that bottom (lane) lower than everybody else was running in (turns) one and two and when they slipped down there, I did all my passing.”
McCreadie, 34, slid from the fourth starting spot to second at the initial start of the race and chased Francis for more than 30 laps. He watched Clanton and Smith drive by him in the span of a lap, however, and felt fortunate to hold off Lanigan for a fourth-place finish.
“I just got tight once the track wasn’t icy-slick anymore,” McCreadie said of his Sweeteners Plus Rocket car. “When it started taking some spotty rubber I just couldn’t steer anymore.”
Lanigan, 38, settled for his series-best 24th top-five finish of the season, continuing his march to a first career WoO LMS title. He started and finished fifth, but his hard tires came on too late for him to make a serious bid for his third victory of 2008.
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who struggled with a car that was “too free” entering the corners; Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y.; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who made little headway from the 10th starting spot; Matt Lux of Franklin, Pa., who earned the $500 ‘Bonus Bucks’ cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a WoO LMS A-Main since 2004 and isn’t ranked among the top 12 in the current points standings; and Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., who returned to the site of his emotional upset victory in last year’s Oil Region Labor Day Classic finale.
Two caution flags slowed the event. The first came on the opening lap when Robbie Blair of Titusville, Pa., spun between turns three and four while battling for third place, and on lap nine Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who used a provisional to start the A-Main after cutting a tire while leading the first B-Main, stopped in turn two with what he thought was a deflating tire.
Forty-three cars were signed in for the first night of the Oil Region Labor Day Classic Weekend.
Dutch Davies of Warren, Pa., was fastest in time trials with a lap of 19.365 seconds. It was his second career WoO LMS fast time honor.
Heat winners were Richards, Fuller, McCreadie and Lanigan. The B-Mains were captured by Davies and Russell King of Bristolville, Ohio.
The WoO LMS will remain at Tri-City Speedway to complete the fourth annual Oil Region Labor Day Classic on Sunday night (Aug. 31). Another 50-lap A-Main paying $10,000 to win will headline the program.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Oil Region Labor Day Classic’ Night 1 (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (2) Steve Francis/50 $10,250
2. (9) Shane Clanton/50 $5,100
3. (6) Clint Smith/50 $3,000
4. (4) Tim McCreadie/50 $2,500
5. (5) Darrell Lanigan/50 $2,000
6. (1) Josh Richards/50 $1,700
7. (7) Tim Fuller/50 $1,400
8. (10) Chub Frank/50 $1,300
9. (12) Matt Lux/50 $1,700
10. (11) Dan Stone/50 $1,100
11. (16) Rick Eckert/50 $1,050
12. (8) Doug Dodd/50 $1,000
13. (15) Dave Hess Jr./49 $950
14. (22) Jason Covert/49 $900
15. (20) Mike Knight/49 $850
16. (21) Dick Barton/49 $800
17. (24) Vic Coffey/49 $1,020
18. (23) Shannon Babb/49 $750
19. (18) Russell King/32 $730
20. (13) Doug Drown/22 $700
21. (17) Dutch Davies/17 $700
22. (25) Max Blair/16 $700
23. (3) Robbie Blair/12 $700
24. (19) Todd Andrews/9 $700
25. (14) Rick Briggs/3 $700
Time of Race: 20 Mins., 02.909 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 8.276 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 2 (Laps 0, 9)
Lap Leaders: Francis (1-50)
Provisional Starters: Babb, Coffey (WoO); Max Blair (track)
Rookie of the Race: Coffey ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Lux ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race ($50): Kevin Miller (Francis)
Chick Hawk Racing Hot Lap Award: Francis (half-off tire warmers)
Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’: Francis ($100)
Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. 40-Dutch Davies/Warren, PA 19.365
2. 19T-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 19.522
3. 43A-Jason Covert/York Haven, PA 19.540
4. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 19.608
5. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 19.638
6. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 19.661
7. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 19.663
8. 12-Doug Dodd/Cambridge, OH 19.713
9. won11-Robbie Blair/Titusville, PA 19.739
10. 19-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 19.743
11. 21d-Dan Stone/Thompson, PA 19.765
12. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 19.783
13. 79-Doug Drown/Wooster, OH 19.971
14. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 19.972
15. 18J-Sean Beardsley/Central Square, NY 20.034
16. M1-Mickey Wright/Albion, PA 20.036
17. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 20.110
18. 42-Todd Andrews/Eldred, PA 20.121
19. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 20.192
20. 21L-Matt Lux/Franklin, PA 20.215
21. 28b-Dick Barton/Ashville, NY 20.246
22. 99B-Rick Briggs/Bear Lake, PA 20.325
23. 44H-Dave Hess Jr./Waterford, PA 20.359
24. 32c-Vic Coffey/Leicester, NY 20.360
25. 8H-Sheetz McGarvey/Colport, PA 20.605
26. 04-Bob Close/Eldred, PA 20.624
27. 5B-Kirk Bradley/Great Valley, NY 20.649
28. 56-Russell King/Bristolville, OH 20.662
29. 111-Max Blair/Titusville, PA 20.698
30. 10-Gary Lyle/Hyde Park, PA 20.780
31. 9K-Mike Knight/Ripley, NY 20.809
32. 00H-Chuck Harper/Beverly, WV 20.900
33. 6x-Jeff Isabell Jr./Pennellville, NY 20.930
34. 21*-Billy Henry/Conneautville, PA 20.933
35. 90-Wally Fox/Cooperstown, PA 20.942
36. 17L-Dennis Lunger/Cherry Hill, PA 21.014
37. 53-Chris Farrell/Clearfield, PA 21.017
38. 07R-Brent Rhebergen/Clymer, NY 21.043
39. 02-Tony Lombardi/Warren, OH 21.743
40. 6J-Joe Isabell/Pennellville, NY 21.848
41. 37MD-Jeremiah Shingledecker/Polk, PA N/T
42. 32R-Jim Rasey/Southington, OH N/T
43. 6x-Jeff Isabell Sr./Pennellville, NY N/T
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Richards, R. Blair, Clanton, Drown, Davies, Barton, M. Blair, Jeff Isabell Jr., McGarvey, Farrell (DNS) Shingledecker
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Fuller, Francis, Frank, Briggs, Babb, Andrews, Close, Rhebergen, Henry, Lyle (DNS) Rasey
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): McCreadie, C. Smith, Stone, Hess, Knight, Covert, Beardsley, Bradley, Fox, Lombardi (DNS) Jeff Isabell Sr.
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Lanigan, Dodd, Lux, Eckert, King, Harper, Coffey, Joe Isabell, Wright, Lunger
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Davies, Andrews, Barton, Close, M. Blair, Lyle, McGarvey, Rhebergen, Henry, Babb, Jeff Isabell Jr., Farrell (DNS) Shingledecker, Rasey
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): King, Knight, Covert, Coffey, Harper, Wright, Joe Isabell, Bradley, Lunger, Beardsley, Fox, Lombardi (DNS) Jeff Isabell Sr.
2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Aug. 30 – 37 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Darrell Lanigan 2-24-34-$117,717-5131 (-0)
2. Steve Francis 6-19-30-$165,600-5001 (-130)
3. Josh Richards 4-16-25-$106,560-4943 (-188)
4. Shane Clanton 2-18-28-$96,640-4925 (-206)
5. Chub Frank 1-10-24-$71,980-4865 (-266)
6. Shannon Babb 2-15-24-$97,900-4817 (-314)
7. Rick Eckert 1-11-22-$73,280-4799 (-332)
8. Clint Smith 1-11-21-$64,020-4785 (-346)
9. Tim Fuller 2-7-17-$65,650-4632 (-499)
10. John Blankenship 0-0-6-$34,680-4013 (-1118)
11. Vic Coffey 0-1-8-$36,070-3933 (-1198)
12. Joe Isabell 0-0-0-$16,410-3273 (-1858)
13. Sean Beardsley 0-0-0-$11,120-2779 (-2352)
14. Tim McCreadie 1-9-15-$56,300-2505 (-2626)
15. Danny Johnson 0-0-1-$13,620-2187 (-2944)
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 Super Clean.