Francis Wins Inaugural World of Outlaws Late Model Series Event At U.S. 36 Raceway After Tire Dooms Brady Smith On Final Lap

By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director

OSBORN, MO – May 22, 2009 – In one dramatic minute on Friday night at U.S. 36 Raceway, Steve Francis went from cursing himself for making a crucial mistake to celebrating his third World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory of the season. 

Francis, 41, of Ashland, Ky., thought he had let the first-ever WoO LMS event at the high-banked oval slip through his fingers when Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., charged under him for the lead on lap 44 of the 50-lap A-Main. But moments later the race fell back into his lap when Smith slowed off turn two on the final lap with a flat left rear tire, handing the checkered flag to Francis.

“I’d rather be lucky than good any day,” said Francis, the only driver with multiple wins on the 2009 WoO LMS. “We’ll take ‘em any way we can get ‘em. We feel like we’ve given a couple away this year, so maybe we got one back by accident tonight.”

Francis pocketed $10,700 for his 23rd career WoO LMS victory – the most of any driver on the national tour since 2004. It came in his initial start at the blazing-fast three-eighths-mile oval and made him eligible for the $10,000 Tri-State Late Model Challenge bonus if he can win Saturday night (May 23) at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa, or Sunday night (May 24) at Charter Raceway Park in Beaver Dam, Wis.

Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started from the pole position but fell to fifth in three laps due to an “extremely tight” Rocket car, emerged as the runner-up for the second consecutive WoO LMS event. He finished 1.023 seconds behind Francis and took over the tour’s points lead from defending champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who finished 21st after retiring with engine problems while running fourth on lap 20.

Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., battled forward from the 11th starting spot to place third in his Sheltra Motorsports/Petroff Towing Rocket. Smith managed to complete the last half-lap of the race on a flat tire to salvage a fourth-place finish in his Bloomquist ‘Team Zero’ car, and Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., registered his first top-five finish of the season by outdueling Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., for fifth in his Gypsum Express Rocket.

The memorable finish was set up after Francis, who took the lead for the first time on lap 21 when he passed race-long pacesetter Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., made a misstep in lapped traffic. When Francis kept his Dale Beitler-owned Rocket car in the high groove rounding turns three and four as he approached the slower machine driven by Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., Smith stuck to the bottom of the track and snatched the top spot.

“I just got a little too cautious with a couple lapped cars and screwed myself up,” said Francis, who started third. “I got to easing in there instead of just blasting in there like (Smith) was and it cost me. In that type of situation, it’s much better to be running second than leading.”

Smith, who turns 32 on May 31, appeared on his way to a slump-busting victory. He took the white flag with an edge of several car lengths on Francis, but that disappeared in a flash in turn two.

“I hit a hole the wrong way and the left-rear tire just came off the rim,” mourned Smith, who started sixth. “It was just a bad break.

“I guess we were fortunate to still get fourth. Considering that we’ve been a 10th-place car for the last few races, that’s not too bad. But it’s a major disappointment to lose the lead on the last lap when it looks like you’re going to win the race.”

And Smith definitely felt that his first win as a WoO LMS regular (he won twice in limited tour appearances last year) was in his grasp.

“I hate to say it, but I thought we were going to win,” said Smith, who scored his first top-five finish since he was fourth on March 13 at Deep South Speedway in Loxley, Ala. “Everybody knows, though, that it’s not over till it’s over. They don’t write out the check on the white-flag lap.”

Three caution flags slowed the race, all after the halfway point. Jordan Bland of Campbellsville, Ky., triggered the first slowdown, on lap 32, when he stopped his car on the inside of turn three. One circuit later Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., saw his strong third-place run end when terminal engine woes caused him to stop on the track, and on lap 39 Coffey blew a right-rear tire off turn four.

Sheppard, meanwhile, made a strong bid for his first career WoO LMS win, leading laps 1-20 off the outside pole and challenging Francis after the lap-33 restart. But he relinquished second place during the lap-39 caution period due to a motor malfunction.

Finishing in positions 6-10 was Frank, who swapped fifth several times with Fuller; Rick Eckert of York, Pa.; Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., who started fourth but lost a half-dozen spots when he slipped over the cushion between turns one and two on the first lap; Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who changed motors after qualifying through a heat; and Russell King of Bristolville, Ohio, who topped Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., in a close battle to grab the $250 Rookie of the Race bonus.

King, who became the first WoO LMS rookie to record a top-10 finish this season, also earned the tour’s $500 Bonus Bucks cash because he was the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a WoO LMS A-Main and wasn’t ranked among the top 12 in the series points standings.

A field of 30 cars was signed in for the event, which served as the 2009 season opener at U.S. 36 Raceway.

Erb Jr. earned a $50 bonus for setting a new dirt Late Model track record in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, blistering the oval in 12.463 seconds. It was his first career WoO LMS fast-time honor.

Heat winners were Francis, Brady Smith and Steve Sheppard Jr. The B-Main was captured by Mark Burgtorf of Quincy, Ill.

The WoO LMS ‘Tri-State Late Model Challenge’ continues on Saturday night (May 23) at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa, and Sunday night (May 24) at Charter Raceway Park in Beaver Dam, Wis.

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

Results of WoO Late Model Series at U.S. 36 Raceway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):

1. (3) Steve Francis/50 $10,700
2. (1) Josh Richards/50 $5,500
3. (11) Shannon Babb/50 $3,500
4. (6) Brady Smith/50 $3,050
5. (9) Tim Fuller/50 $2,500
6. (15) Chub Frank/50 $2,200
7. (8) Rick Eckert/50 $1,900
8. (4) Shane Clanton/50 $1,800
9. (12) Clint Smith/50 $1,700
10. (16) Russell King/50 $1,950
11. (13) Brent Robinson/50 $1,050
12. (18) Vic Coffey/49 $1,500
13. (19) Mark Burgtorf/49 $950
14. (10) Kenny Schrader/49 $900
15. (23) Jordan Bland/49 $1,350
16. (22) Dustin Hapka/48 $800
17. (24) Tyler Reddick/48 $770
18. (17) Al Purkey/42 $750
19. (2) Steve Sheppard Jr./39 $830
20. (5) Dennis Erb Jr./33 $750
21. (7) Darrell Lanigan/20 $1,300
22. (21) Denny Woodworth/10 $700
23. (20) Zach Johnson/7 $700
24. (14) Jason Feger/6 $700

NOTE: Jason Feger fell to the rear of the field for the start of the A-Main because he parked his car (engine trouble) and took the green flag driving Jason Frankel’s No. 33

* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses

Time of Race: 19 Mins., 32.178 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 1.023 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 3 (Laps 32, 33, 39)
Lap Leaders: Sheppard (1-20); Francis (21-43); B. Smith (44-49); Francis (50)
Provisional Starters: Bland, Reddick
Rookie of the Race: Russell King ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Russell King ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Chris Burton (Francis)

Ohlins Shocks Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):

1. 28-Dennis Erb Jr./Carpentersville, IL 12.463 (NTR)
2. 2-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, WI 12.524
3. 5s-Steve Sheppard Jr./New Berlin, IL 12.566
4. 19-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 12.578
5. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 12.579
6. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 12.602
7. 9-Kenny Schrader/Concord, NC 12.696
8. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 12.752
9. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 12.758
10. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 12.787
11. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 12.806
12. 19T-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 12.830
13. 3-Brent Robinson/Smithfield, VA 12.859
14. 11-Tyler Reddick/Corning, CA 12.884
15. 32c-Vic Coffey/Caledonia, NY 12.892
16. 73-Zach Johnson/Kensington, MN 12.911
17. 25s-Chris Smyser/Lancaster, MO 12.913
18. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 12.922
19. 18H-Dustin Hapka/Grand Forks, ND 12.928
20. 33P-Al Purkey/Coffeyville, KS 12.971
21. 45DW-Denny Woodworth/Mendon, IL 13.035
22. 56-Russell King/Bristolville, OH 13.072
23. 25F-Jason Feger/Bloomington, IL 13.093
24. B5-Brandon Sheppard/New Berlin, IL 13.104
25. 12-Jordan Bland/Campbellsville, KY 13.358
26. 33F-Ricky Frankel/Quincy, IL 13.577
27. 29K-Bill Koons/Omaha, NE 15.929
28. 62-Kim Horn/Gillette, WY N/T
29. 7-Mark Burgtorf/Quincy, IL N/T
30. 22-Allen Vaughn/ N/T

Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 6 Transfer): Francis, Erb, Lanigan, Schrader, Robinson, King, Z. Johnson, Hapka, Bland (DNS) Horn

Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 6 Transfer): B. Smith, Richards, Eckert, Babb, Feger, Purkey, Burgtorf, Smyser, Frankel, Reddick

Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 6 Transfer): S. Sheppard, Clanton, Fuller, C. Smith, Frank, Coffey, Woodworth, B. Sheppard, Vaughn, Koons

B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Burgtorf, Z. Johnson, Woodworth, Hapka, Smyser, Bland, Frankel, Vaughn, Koons, Reddick, B. Sheppard (DNS) Horn

World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners:

* Arizona Sport Shirts ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in B-Mains): Chris Smyser
* Armor All (case of product to highest-finishing non-WoO team in A-Main w/decal): Russell King
* Champ Pans ($50 product certificate to ‘Bonus Bucks’ winner w/decal): Russell King
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to A-Main winner w/decal): Steve Francis
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to 10th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Russell King
* Crane Cams ($100 product certificate to Heat 3 winner w/decal): Steve Sheppard Jr.
* Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner w/decal): Mark Burgtorf
* Fusion Energy ($50 cash award to Heat 2 winner w/decal): Brady Smith
* Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash award to fast qualifier w/decal): Dennis Erb Jr.
* Quarter-Master ($100 product certificate to A-Main winner w/decal): Steve Francis
* Quarter-Master ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Tim Fuller
* Quarter-Master ($25 product certificate to 15th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Jordan Bland
* Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’ (one case of product): Steve Sheppard Jr.
* VP Racing Fuels ‘Nice Jugs Award’ (two free VP five-gallon containers to fastest qualifier who does not make the A-Main if decal is displayed): Chris Smyser
* Wrisco Aluminum (three sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner w/decal): Steve Francis

2009 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of May 22 – 10 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):

1. Josh Richards 1-7-8-$47,700-1307 (-0)
2. Shane Clanton 1-1-8-$37,550-1291 (-16)
3. Steve Francis 3-6-7-$51,780-1285 (-22)
4. Darrell Lanigan 0-4-8-$50,850-1281 (-26)
5. (tie) Rick Eckert 1-3-6-$26,395-1269 (-38)
5. (tie) Shannon Babb 1-4-7-$41,030-1269 (-38)
7. Chub Frank 0-2-7-$21,350-1249 (-58)
8. Tim Fuller 0-1-3-$17,530-1215 (-92)
9. Brady Smith 0-3-4-$20,425-1192 (-115)
10. Clint Smith 0-0-4-$16,050-1175 (-132)
11. Vic Coffey 0-0-0-$10,440-1040 (-267)
12. Jordan Bland 0-0-0-$9,040-953 (-354)
13. Russell King 0-0-1-$8,850-930 (-377)
14. Brent Robinson 0-0-0-$4,150-887 (-420)
15. Dustin Hapka 0-0-0-$4,890-883 (-424)
16. Tyler Reddick 0-0-0-$3,105-818 (-489)
17. Dale McDowell 0-2-3-$12,400-717 (-590)
18. Chris Madden 1-3-3-$20,000-615 (-692)
19. Chas Shellenberger 0-0-0-$1,145-600 (-707)
20. Dennis Erb Jr. 0-0-1-$4,410-553 (-754)

FOLLOW THE ACTION ON TWITTER: Fans can now keep up-to-date with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series online and through text messages on cell phones via the Twitter, the internet’s fast-growing social-networking and micro-blogging website. Updates are provided to Twitter ‘followers’ of the WoO LMS throughout each race night, and fans also receive breaking news and interesting notes from the tour.

To sign-up as a WoO LMS ‘follower’ on Twitter to receive updates anywhere at anytime, visit http://twitter.com/WoOLateModels.

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.