Lanigan Ends Year-Long Victory Drought With $20,700 Score In 30th Annual NAPA Gopher 50 At Deer Creek Speedway

By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director

SPRING VALLEY, MN – July 8, 2009 – One thought ran through Darrell Lanigan’s mind after Brian Birkhofer passed him for the lead in Wednesday night’s 30th annual NAPA Gopher 50 Charity Late Model Race at Deer Creek Speedway. 

“I wasn’t gonna run second,” asserted the defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion. “Not again.”

A runner-up five times already this season and riding a frustrating 46-race winless streak on the WoO LMS, Lanigan simply refused to lose. The 39-year-old from Union, Ky., roared back in fine fashion, grabbing the top spot from Muscatine, Iowa’s Birkhofer on lap 37 and holding on for a hard-earned victory in the opener of the four-race ‘Wild West Tour.’

Lanigan pocketed $20,700 for his first WoO LMS triumph of 2009, including an additional $10,000 check for capturing the ‘Past Champions Bonus’ that was posted to celebrate the 30th running of the event. He was also the 2005 winner of the Gopher 50, which benefits the Blooming Prairie (Minn.) Lions Club.

“We’ve needed this for awhile,” said Lanigan, wearing a broad smile while receiving congratulatory handshakes in the pit area. “We’ve been fast this year, but we haven’t had any luck. We finally had some things go our way tonight.

“Pulling this off with the $10,000 bonus on the line just makes it an even sweeter payoff.”

Lanigan steered his Fusion Energy Rocket car across the finish line 0.850 of a second ahead of Birkhofer, who settled for second place after leading laps 32-36 in his MB Customs machine. A two-time Gopher 50 winner, Birkhofer was also eligible for the 10-grand bonus.

Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., advanced from the eighth starting spot to finish third in another MB Customs car, which he and his brother Chris designed in a collaborative effort with Birkhofer. He reached third shortly after Birkhofer passed Lanigan for the lead, but he never drew close enough to seriously challenge the race’s top stars.

Outside-polesitter Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., led laps 1-16 but slipped to fourth at the finish in his Gypsum Express Rocket, and Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., completed the top five in the Beitler Motorsports Rocket after outdueling Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., in a tight battle over the race’s final 10 laps.

Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who entered the event leading the WoO LMS points standings, finished eighth after a blown right-rear tire on lap 21 forced him to rally from the rear of the field. He ended the night tied for the points lead with Francis, who installed a backup engine after his heat win, and just four points ahead of third-place Lanigan.

Points, of course, weren’t a concern for Lanigan following the Gopher 50. He was just relieved to win on the WoO LMS for the first time since June 25, 2008, at Big Diamond Raceway in Forestville, Pa.

But Lanigan certainly experienced some anxious moments on his way to Victory Lane. Though he quickly marched forward from the sixth starting spot to overtake race-long pacesetter Fuller for the lead on lap 17, he saw his hopes flash in front of his eyes when Birkhofer snuck by him in lapped traffic on lap 32.

“I knew we still had a car that was good enough to come back,” said Lanigan, who registered his 11th career WoO LMS win (and third at Deer Creek). “I just had to get up on the wheel and get it done.

“We were just a little bit better up on the (outside) cushion than (Birkhofer) was. I saw he was pushing up there when I got back to him, and then he pushed real bad one time (in turn four on lap 37) and I went by him.”

Birkhofer, 37, made several bids to regain command while tearing through heavy lapped traffic, but the night belonged to Lanigan.

“That was a helluva race,” summed up Birkhofer, the defending Gopher 50 race winner. “(Lanigan) got me back the same way I got by him for the lead – he got pinned behind a lapped car one lap, and then I got pinned behind a lapped car and pushed a few laps later.

“I feel like I was a little soft on the left-rear (tire choice) and that hurt me a little bit, but Darrell was good. He made the right moves in traffic and won the race.”

Four caution flags slowed the event, all during the race’s first 21 laps. There were no serious incidents.

Finishing in positions 6-10 was Clanton, who struggled late in the distance with a blistered right-rear tire; Al Purkey of Coffeyville, Kan., who earned the $500 WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a tour A-Main and wasn’t ranked among the top 12 in the points standings; Richards; Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who climbed as high as seventh from the 13th starting spot; and Will Vaught of Crane, Mo.

Former Gopher 50 winners in the field who chased the $10,000 bonus were Lanigan, Birkhofer, Rick Eckert (a quiet 11th-place finisher) and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. (ended up spun in turn two on lap 18 and finished 17th). Five other drivers – Mars, Francis, Clanton, Richards and Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., who started from the pole position but faded to a 14th-place finish after losing his car’s brakes on lap five – were also eligible for the bonus after being selected by former Gopher 50 winners who were on hand for the 30th annual event but are no longer active entrants in full-blown dirt Late Model events.

The group of former Gopher 50 winners who attended the event as spectators included Leon Plank (inaugural winner), Steve Kosiski, Joe Kosiski, Tom Steuding and Rick Egersdorf. Each of them stood to pocket a $1,000 check if the driver they picked had won the A-Main.

A field of 44 dirt Late Models was signed in for the Gopher 50, which was part of the WoO LMS for the fifth consecutive year.

Francis set a new track record during Ohlins Shocks Time Trials with a lap of 14.130 seconds. He topped the Brady Smith’s existing standard of 14.27 seconds, which had stood since July 28, 2006.

Heat winners were Francis, Birkhofer, Richards and Lanigan. The B-Mains were captured by Frank and Dustin Hapka of Grand Forks, N.D.

April Farmer of Livingston, Tenn., was involved in a tangle that knocked her out of the second B-Main, but she earned a points provisional to become the first-ever female driver to start a WoO LMS A-Main. She retired after 20 laps, finishing 24th.

The WoO LMS ‘Wild West Tour’ continues on Friday night (July 10) at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.; Tues., July 14, at Gillette (Wyo.) Thunder Speedway; and Thurs., July 16, at Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron, S.D.

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

Results of WoO Late Model Series NAPA ‘Gopher 50’ (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):

1. (6) Darrell Lanigan/50 $20,700
2. (3) Brian Birkhofer/50 $5,050
3. (8) Jimmy Mars/50 $3,000
4. (2) Tim Fuller/50 $3,000
5. (4) Steve Francis/50 $2,650
6. (7) Shane Clanton/50 $2,200
7. (10) Al Purkey/50 $1,900
8. (5) Josh Richards/50 $1,800
9. (13) Clint Smith/50 $1,700
10. (12) Will Vaught/50 $1,200
11. (9) Rick Eckert/50 $1,550
12. (15) Jordan Bland/50 $1,750
13. (14) Chad Simpson/49 $950
14. (1) Brady Smith/49 $1,400
15. (19) Brian Shirley/49 $850
16. (21) Russell King/49 $1,300
17. (17) Chub Frank/49 $1,270
18. (22) Brent Robinson/49 $1,250
19. (11) Tim Isenberg/48 $730
20. (20) Zach Johnson/48 $700
21. (18) Dustin Hapka/48 $700
22. (23) Tyler Reddick/45 $700
23. (16) Chris Simpson/27 $700
24. (24) April Farmer/20 $700
25. (25) Justin Sass/4 $700

* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses

Time of Race: 20 Mins., 37.494 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.850 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 4 (Laps 0, 18, 18, 21)
Lap Leaders: Fuller (1-16); Lanigan (17-31); Birkhofer (32-36); Lanigan (37-50)
Provisional Starters: Reddick, Farmer (WoO)l; Sass (track)
Rookie of the Race: Bland ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Purkey ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Randall Edwards (Lanigan)

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

1. 19-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 14.130 (NTR)
2. 25s-Chad Simpson/Mt. Vernon, IA 14.298
3. 28-Jimmy Mars/Menomonie, WI 14.355
4. 19T-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 14.379
5. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 14.381
6. 15b-Brian Birkhofer/Muscatine, IA 14.406
7. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 14.427
8. 10-Mike Balcaen/Winnipeg, MAN 14.437
9. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 14.459
10. 2-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, WI 14.461
11. 9T-Tim Isenberg/Marshfield, WI 14.469
12. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 14.477
13. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 14.501
14. 33-Al Purkey/Coffeyville, KS 14.523
15. 73-Zach Johnson/Kensington, MN 14.530
16. 18-Dustin Hapka/Grand Forks, ND 14.590
17. 55c-Chad Mahder/Marshfield, WI 14.613
18. 14-April Farmer/Livingston, TN 14.614
19. 11d-Pat Doar/New Richmond, WI 14.617
20. 68-Mike Prochnow/Menomonie, WI 14.634
21. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 14.662
22. 3s-Brian Shirley/Chatham, IL 14.688
23. 3-Brent Robinson/Smithfield, VA 14.727
24. 32-Chris Simpson/Oxford, IA 14.737
25. 56-Russell King/Bristolville, OH 14.782
26. 25H-Kerry Hansen/Spencer, IA 14.825
27. 12-Jordan Bland/Campbellsville, KY 14.891
28. 1V-Will Vaught/Crane, MO 14.904
29. 44H-Adam Hensel/Barron, WI 15.024
30. 71-Andrew McKay/Edina, MN 15.034
31. 55K-Kevin Kuehn/Winona, MN 15.104
32. 29K-Bill Koons/Omaha, NE 15.218
33. 24s-Justin Sass/Rochester, MN 15.245
34. 33L-Joe Ludemann/Grand Meadow, MN 15.439
35. 40-Nick Kramer/Pine Island, MN 15.516
36. 65-Lucas Peterson/Stockholm, WI 15.606
37. 00-Andy Altenburg/Truman, MN 15.670
38. 19R-Dustin Reeh/Rochester, MN 15.801
39. 35-Jerry Bloom/Grand Meadow, MN 15.931
40. 7H-Dennis Hillson/Blooming Prairie, MN 15.968
41. 22-Jill George/Cedar Falls, IA 16.430
42. 95-Keith Foss/Winona, MN 17.360
43. 6-Nick Herrick/Kenyon, MN N/T
44. 11-Tyler Reddick/Corning, CA N/T

Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Francis, Clanton, Eckert, C. Smith, Frank, King, Hensel, Mahder, George, Altenburg, Sass

Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Birkhofer, B. Smith, Purkey, Chad Simpson, Shirley, Hansen, Farmer, McKay, Ludemann, Reeh (DNS) Foss

Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Richards, Mars, Isenberg, Bland, Z. Johnson, Robinson, Kuehn, Kramer, Bloom, Herrick, Doar

Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Lanigan, Fuller, Vaught, Chris Simpson, Hapka, Balcaen, Koons, Prochnow, Reddick, Hillson, Peterson

B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Frank, Shirley, King, Hensel, George, Sass, Ludemann, Reeh, Altenburg, Farmer, Mahder, Hansen (DNS) McKay, Foss

B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Hapka, Johnson, Robinson, Koons, Prochnow, Reddick, Kuehn, Herrick, Kramer, Balcaen, Bloom, Hillson (DNS) Doar, Peterson

World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners:

* Arizona Sport Shirts ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in B-Mains): Jill George, Mike Prochnow
* 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): Al Purkey
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to A-Main winner w/decal): Darrell Lanigan
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to 10th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Will Vaught
* Crane Cams ($100 product certificate to Heat 3 winner w/decal): Josh Richards
* Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner w/decal): Chub Frank, Dustin Hapka
* Fusion Energy ($50 cash award to Heat 2 winner w/decal): Brian Birkhofer
* Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash award to fast qualifier w/decal): Steve Francis
* Quarter-Master ($100 product certificate to A-Main winner w/decal): Darrell Lanigan
* Quarter-Master ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Steve Francis
* Quarter-Master ($25 product certificate to 15th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Brian Shirley
* Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’ (one case of product): Tim Fuller
* 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): Chad Mahder
* Wrisco Aluminum (three sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner w/decal): Darrell Lanigan

2009 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of – A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):

1. (tie) Josh Richards 2953 (-0)
1. (tie) Steve Francis 2953 (-0)
3. Darrell Lanigan 2949 (-4)
4. Rick Eckert 2899 (-54)
5. Shane Clanton 2845 (-108)
6. Brady Smith 2820 (-133)
7. Tim Fuller 2813 (-140)
8. Chub Frank 2789 (-164)
9. Clint Smith 2681 (-272)
10. Russell King 2322 (-631)
11. Jordan Bland 2277 (-676)
12. Brent Robinson 2201 (-752)
13. Dustin Hapka 2022 (-931)
14. Vic Coffey 2007 (-946)
15. Tyler Reddick 1821 (-1132)
16. Austin Hubbard 1544 (-1409)
17. Shannon Babb 1470 (-1483)
18. Matt Lux 1140 (-1813)
19. Dan Stone 949 (-2004)
20. Dale McDowell 829 (-2124)

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.