BEDFORD, PA – Aug. 29, 2008 – Steve Francis became the winningest driver on the 2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series with a triumph in Friday night’s 50-lap A-Main at Bedford Speedway.
But the defending tour champion from Ashland, Ky., gained little ground on points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who moved another step closer to a first career WoO LMS title with a second-place finish.
Francis, 40, still trails Lanigan by 140 points with just eight events remaining on the ’08 schedule – a hefty deficit that has him thinking more about checkered flags than defending his championship.
“Our goal is to win every race for the rest of the year,” said Francis, who has driven Dale Beitler’s Reliable Painting/Valvoline Rocket No. 19 to victory in four of the last 10 WoO LMS shows. “That’s the only thing we can do. We’re not gonna catch (Lanigan) if he finishes right behind us every night, so we’re focusing on going for wins and having fun.”
Francis, who earned $10,150 for his fifth WoO LMS win of the season, broke a tie atop the 2008 victory list with four-time winners Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. It was his 19th career WoO LMS win – the most of any driver on the tour since 2004.
It was a convincing win for Francis, who was never seriously challenged after passing Rick Eckert of York, Pa., for the lead on lap 17. He easily handled two restarts during the race’s second half, defeating Lanigan by a margin of nearly a full straightaway on the big half-mile fairgrounds oval.
Eckert settled for third place after leading laps 1-16. Polesitter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., took fourth and Rookie of the Year points leader Vic Coffey of Leicester, N.Y., registered a season’s-best finish of fifth.
A winner of a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Bedford one month ago, Francis attributed his success at the facility to the rubber on his Cornett-powered machine.
“I think we had a tire advantage here tonight,” said Francis, who uses American Racer tires in a field dominated by drivers from the Hoosier camp. “These tires seem to really like this place.”
Lanigan, 38, didn’t dispute Francis’s assessment. The ultra-steady competitor managed to race toe-to-toe with Francis inside the top five early in the event with Hoosier shoes on his Rocket No. 29, but after losing second to his prime championship rival on a lap-10 restart he couldn’t keep pace.
“Tires were the difference,” said Lanigan, who started fifth and held the runner-up spot from lap 17 to the finish. “I ran with (Francis) a little bit early, but when the track got crusty the American Racers were better.”
Lanigan fell short of victory in his first start carrying sponsorship from Fusion Energy Drink. He will sport the product’s logo and colors on his car for the remainder of the 2008 season and is in negotiations to extend the pact to 2009.
“It would’ve been nice to win one for Fusion the first time out,” said Lanigan, who changed his car’s familiar look as part of the Fusion deal.
Francis, meanwhile, had some worries even as he was pulling away from Lanigan during the race’s late stages.
“We had something going on with the motor there,” said Francis, who started fourth. “It was getting real, real flat, so I ran a little conservative for the last 10 or 15 laps.
“It wasn’t something serious, but Kevin (Miller), Robby (Allen) and Dale (Beitler) will change motors and we’ll go after ‘em again tomorrow (Saturday) at Tri-City (Speedway in Franklin, Pa.).”
Francis hailed Bedford Speedway, which hosted the WoO LMS for the second consecutive year.
“Obviously I like this place this year because we’ve won twice,” grinned Francis. “But in general, the surface is so much better than it was (over 600 truckloads of new clay were applied prior to the 2008 season thanks to a state grant). There’s not even a comparison to last year. You can race two- or three-wide all the way around it, and that’s all you can ask for from a track.”
Eckert, 42, had hoped to keep his Raye Vest-owned GRT car in front of the field from flag-to-flag at a track where he won four consecutive Super Late Model titles from 1989-1992, but he couldn’t hold off Francis and Lanigan. He was strong racing off the outside pole to assume command at the initial green flag, but he lost a step after a multi-car tangle in turn one that triggered red-flag conditions on lap 10.
“I didn’t need that red flag,” said Eckert, who had a new Jay Dickens-built engine under the hood of his car. “I knew that the (Hoosier) tires we had on would cool off during the red and then seal up, and that’s what happened. I struggled for a few laps after the restart and that’s when Francis and Lanigan got by me.”
Babb, 34, couldn’t take advantage of starting from the pole position for the second straight WoO LMS A-Main and third time in the last four races. He slipped backward immediately and could never quite recover, leaving him a distant fourth at the finish in his Traeger Grills Rocket mount owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Clint Bowyer.
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t finish better,” said Babb. “But this was our first time here and I know we got murdered on tires. I knew we were in trouble when I stepped on the gas for the original start and just spun my wheels all the way down the front straightaway.”
Coffey, 37, recorded a morale-boosting finish in the Sweeteners Plus Rocket. His first top-five finish of the WoO LMS campaign came after he slid by Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., for fifth on lap 40.
“I felt like my car just kept getting better and better,” said Coffey, who started 11th in his first-ever start at Bedford. “It seemed like nobody else wanted to run the bottom of (turns) three and four, so I stayed down there and made a lot of ground on everyone.”
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., who charged from the 22nd starting spot after qualifying through the B-Main because a malfunctioning ground wire caused his car to shut off during heat action; Smith, who ran fifth for much of the distance but was beaten in the final circuits by “two drivers (Coffey and Clanton) on harder tires”; Richards, who was hampered by a well-worn motor that was down on power; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., whose car sustained right-rear bodywork damage when he slapped the outside wall during the event; and Gary Stuhler of Greencastle, 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.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., started third in the Sweeteners Plus No. 39 and appeared to be a serious contender, but he slowed to bring out a caution flag on lap 10 while running second because his car’s rear wheels were filled with mud. He returned after a quick pit stop but was eliminated on the ensuing restart when he slid into a multi-car tangle in turn one that also forced out Scott Haus of Hamburg, Pa., Nick Dickson of Lewistown, Pa., and Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa.
In addition to the red flag on lap 10, four caution flags slowed the event. Two were for D.J. Myers of Greencastle, Pa., who spun in turn two on the third lap while running sixth and later stopped with driveline problems on lap 37.
Thirty-two cars were signed in for the evening’s action, which ran under clear skies after Friday dawned with drizzle falling.
Eckert set a new track record in qualifying, blazing around Bedford’s new-for-2008 surface in 19.632 seconds. He beat the existing one-lap standard of 19.779 seconds held by Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa.
The fast time was Eckert’s first on the WoO LMS since April 18, 2006, at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.
Heat winners were Eckert, Lanigan and Babb. Stone captured the B-Main.
The WoO LMS will remain in Pennsylvania for the remainder of the holiday weekend, contesting a pair of $10,000-to-win events as part of the fourth annual Oil Region Labor Day on Saturday (Aug. 30) and Sunday (31) at Tri-City Speedway in Franklin, Pa.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Labor Day 50’ at Bedford Speedway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (4) Steve Francis/50 $10,150
2. (5) Darrell Lanigan/50 $5,100
3. (2) Rick Eckert/50 $3,100
4. (1) Shannon Babb/50 $2,500
5. (11) Vic Coffey/50 $2,250
6. (22) Shane Clanton/50 $1,700
7. (7) Clint Smith/50 $1,400
8. (10) Josh Richards/50 $1,300
9. (8) Chub Frank/50 $1,200
10. (13) Gary Stuhler/50 $1,600
11. (15) Devin Friese/50 $1,050
12. (12) Jeff Rine/50 $1,000
13. (17) Tim Fuller/50 $950
14. (23) Sean Beardsley/50 $900
15. (9) Joe Isabell/50 $850
16. (6) D.J. Myers/36 $800
17. (21) Scott Rhodes/32 $770
18. (20) Randy Burkholder/27 $750
19. (25) Steve Everhart/26 $730
20. (24) Jeff Isabell Jr./20 $700
21. (18) Tyler Hershey/15 $700
22. (14) Scott Haus/10 $700
23. (16) Nick Dickson/10 $700
24. (19) Dan Stone/10 $700
25. (3) Tim McCreadie/10 $700
Yellow Flags: 4 (Laps 3, 10, 27, 37); 1 Red Flag (Lap 10)
Lap Leaders: Eckert (1-16); Francis (17-50)
Provisional Starters: Beardsley, Jeff Isabell Jr. (WoO); Everhart (track)
Rookie of the Race: Coffey ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Stuhler ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race ($50): Johnny Cocco (Coffey)
Chick Hawk Racing Hot Lap Award: Eckert (half-off tire warmers)
Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’: Eckert ($100)
Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 19.632 (NTR)
2. 19-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 19.650
3. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 19.783
4. 70J-D.J. Myers/Greencastle, PA 19.799
5. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 19.821
6. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 19.878
7. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 19.987
8. 32c-Vic Coffey/Leicester, NY 19.990
9. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 19.999
10. 15E-Steve Everhart/Williamsburg, PA 20.035
11. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 20.065
12. 6J-Joe Isabell/Pennellville, NY 20.122
13. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 20.129
14. 18J-Sean Beardsley/Central Square, NY 20.141
15. 74-Tyler Hershey/Mercersburg, PA 20.247
16. 90-Gary Stuhler/Greencastle, PA 20.259
17. 57-Jeff Miller/Huntington, PA 20.267
18. 92-Jeff Rine/Danville, PA 20.308
19. 17-Nick Dickson/Lewistown, PA 20.340
20. 33-Scott Haus/Hamburg, PA 20.348
21. 12-Devin Friese/St. Thomas, PA 20.403
22. 21d-Dan Stone/Thompson, PA 20.450
23. 17J-Wayne Johnson/Hancock, MD 20.571
24. 77-Randy Burkholder/Chambersburg, PA 20.641
25. M1-Andy Martz/Bedford, PA 20.671
26. 83R-Scott Rhodes/Somerset, PA 20.694
27. 15P-Matt Parks/Three Springs, PA 20.697
28. 20-Shawn Claar/Imler, PA 20.770
29. 7JR-Jeff Isabell Jr./Pennellville, NY 20.859
30. 6x-Jeff Isabell Sr./Pennellville, NY 20.887
31. 49-Eric Zembower/Bedford, PA 21.247
32. 19-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY N/T
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 6 Transfer): Eckert, Myers, C. Smith, Richards, Stuhler, Dickson, Stone, Everhart, Claar, Martz, Zembower
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 6 Transfer): Lanigan, Francis, Frank, Coffey, Haus, Fuller, W. Johnson, Rhodes, Beardsley, Jeff Isabell Jr., J. Miller
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 6 Transfer): Babb, McCreadie, Joe Isabell, Rine, Friese, Hershey, Burkholder, Jeff Isabell Sr., Parks, Clanton
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Stone, Burkholder, Rhodes, Clanton, W. Johnson, Everhart, Beardsley, Claar, Parks, Martz, Jeff Isabell Jr., J. Miller, Zembower (DNS) Jeff Isabell Sr.
2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Aug. 23 – 35 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Darrell Lanigan 2-23-33-$115,717-4991 (-0)
2. Steve Francis 5-18-29-$155,350-4851 (-140)
3. Josh Richards 4-16-24-$104,860-4805 (-186)
4. Shane Clanton 2-17-27-$91,540-4779 (-212)
5. Chub Frank 1-10-23-$70,680-4731 (-260)
6. Shannon Babb 2-15-24-$97,150-4703 (-288)
7. Rick Eckert 1-11-22-$72,230-4671 (-320)
8. Clint Smith 1-10-20-$61,020-4641 (-350)
9. Tim Fuller 2-7-16-$64,250-4496 (-495)
10. John Blankenship 0-0-6-$34,680-4013 (-978)
11. Vic Coffey 0-1-8-$35,050-3817 (-1174)
12. Joe Isabell 0-0-0-$16,300-3198 (-1793)
13. Sean Beardsley 0-0-0-$11,010-2704 (-2287)
14. Tim McCreadie 1-8-14-$53,800-2363 (-2628)
15. Danny Johnson 0-0-1-$13,620-2187 (-2804)
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.