By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
SARVER, PA – June 27, 2009 – Jimmy Mars was unstoppable in Saturday night’s third annual Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com at Lernerville Speedway.
After being angered by a scrape with another competitor that forced him to the pit area with a flat left-rear tire on lap 27, Mars stormed through the field to register a dramatic victory in the blockbuster $140,000 World of Outlaws Late Model Series event.
Mars, 37, of Menomonie, Wis., completed his stirring rally by passing defending WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., for the lead on lap 94. He had no trouble over the remaining distance, pulling away from Lanigan with ease after a final caution flag flew on lap 95.
“My emotions were running pretty wild (after sustaining the flat tire),” said Mars, who had advanced his M-B Custom Chassis car from the 18th starting spot to eighth by lap 27. “If I wouldn’t have been in a car, I probably would’ve strangled somebody as mad as I was.
“But I calmed myself back down and said, ‘I’m gonna make something happen here.’ I was gonna do my best to try to win it (after restarting at the rear of the field), and obviously it worked out.”
The triumph, worth $30,950 including lap money and other awards, was the first of Mars’s career on the WoO LMS. His best previous finish on the tour was second on two occasions, including his first-ever appearance at Lernerville on April 17, 2007.
Lanigan, 39, settled for a runner-up finish in the Firecracker 100 for the second year in a row, driving his Fusion Energy Rocket under the checkered flag 2.472 seconds behind Mars. In a near carbon-copy of his 2008 Firecracker run, the race’s polesitter fell short after leading the most laps – a total of 82 circuits this time.
Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., who started 20th, made a late charge to finish third in his Bobby Labonte Motorsports MasterSbilt car. WoO LMS regular Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., placed fourth in his Team Zero by Bloomquist mount, and Francis faded to fifth at the finish after starting from the outside pole and leading laps 1-9 and 11-12 in the Beitler Motorsports Rocket, which was hampered by a brake caliper that kept locking up.
For much of the distance it appeared that Lanigan would avenge his ’08 Firecracker defeat at the hands of Muscatine, Iowa’s Brian Birkhofer. He secured the lead from Francis on lap 13 and went on to build as much as a half-straightaway edge during periods of extended green-flag racing.
But Mars simply wasn’t to be denied. He methodically worked his way forward after pitting, reaching eighth on lap 62, cracking the top five with an inside pass of Pearson on lap 70 and sliding by Birkhofer for second on lap 81.
Lanigan put up a gallant fight once Mars caught him on lap 86, but he couldn’t repel the driver known as the ‘Ice Man.’
“I was doing everything I could to hold (Mars) off,” said Lanigan, who led laps 1-69 in last year’s Firecracker 100. “I just kept getting loose up off the corner at the end and his car was stuck to the ground. He got a run on me on the outside and that was all.”
Mars tried several different routes by Lanigan before finally making a move stick off turn two.
“He was making his car wide,” Mars said of Lanigan. “It was gonna be hard to get by him on the top, so I figured if I could stuff it around on the outside of him just enough to show him that I was there, that would allow the bottom to get a little bit wider and give me a chance to get by him.
“Basically I made a cross pass coming out of (turns) one and two. He kinda made his car wide coming out of there and I was able to turn down and grab the traction down the back straightaway.”
Mars praised the performance of his car, which he and his brother, Integra Shocks ‘Wrench of the Race’ winner Chris Mars, built in collaboration with Birkhofer.
“My car would just get into the corner so good,” said Mars, whose previous Firecracker 100 assaults resulted in a 15th-place finish in 2007 and a DNQ last year. “When we came back out (after the pit stop) and the track cleaned off and kept wider and wider, and I could run where I needed to. It was so much fun.”
Lanigan’s mood wasn’t quite so happy after the race despite the cool $18,156 (including lap money) that he earned for his night’s work before a massive crowd. The frustration of remaining without a win on the 2009 WoO LMS was evident in the sullen face of the veteran driver, who has a series-leading five runner-up finishes this season.
Just two nights earlier Lanigan had led the postponed ‘Showdown in Sarvertown’ A-Main at Lernerville until terminal engine problems short-circuited his bid.
“It’s aggravating, real aggravating,” said Lanigan, who ended the ‘Great Northern Tour’ ranked third in the points standings but also riding a 46-race winless streak on the series. “I have plenty of luck (this year), but it’s all bad. We just can’t catch a break.”
Pearson, meanwhile, appeared to be closing on Lanigan and Mars after he grabbed third from Birkhofer on lap 86, but he didn’t threaten either driver after the race’s 10th and final caution flag flew on lap 95.
“My car got extremely tight at the end,” said Pearson, who parked the Rocket car he has been running this year in favor of an older MasterSbilt car. “I don’t know if a tire gave up or what, but we just couldn’t stay at the bottom like I did early in the race.”
Birkhofer failed to defend his ’08 Firecracker title, finishing sixth in his M-B Custom machine. He started ninth and ran second from lap 67-80 but faded during the final circuits.
Eldora Dream winner Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished seventh after starting 15th. WoO LMS points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., placed eighth and ninth, respectively, after struggling with tire-compound choices that were a bit too hard, and Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., who used a provisional spot to start 25th in the 100, completed the top 10 after rallying from a lap-15 pit stop to fix a broken left-rear shock bolt.
The race was plagued by caution flags, especially during its early stages. Seven cautions flew in the first 27 laps, though none were for serious incidents.
Among the contenders who ran into trouble was Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who came together with Birkhofer on the homestretch while bidding for third place on lap 23. The contact blew the left-rear tire and broke the left-rear shock on Fuller’s car, costing him two laps while repairs were made.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who won the inaugural Firecracker 100, started fourth but was never a factor in the 100. He pitted for tire changes during caution periods on laps 13 and 20, but the work was for naught as he was lapped by Lanigan on lap 42 and retired several circuits later.
WoO LMS rookie Jordan Bland of Campbellsville, Ky., won Saturday night’s 10-lap C-Main, and the twin 20-lap B-Mains were captured by Mike Blose of New Bethlehem, Pa., and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.
Robbie Blair of Titusville, Pa., salvaged his weekend with a victory in the ‘Uncle Sam 30’ non-qualifiers’ race, holding off the race-long challenges of Caledonia, N.Y.’s Vic Coffey to pocket a $3,000 consolation prize.
Blair, who passed Coffey for the lead on lap two, survived a scare on lap 19 when contact with the lapped car driven by April Farmer of Livingston, Tenn., sent him sliding off the backstretch. Blair kept his car moving, however, as Farmer spun to draw a caution flag, allowing him to remain in the lead for the restart.
Blair’s victory came after a broken motor had knocked him from the lead in the fifth heat race on Friday night. He switched to his backup car for Saturday’s action and finished second in the C-Main and then fifth in the second B-Main, falling short of transferring to the Firecracker 100 by two spots.
Coffey settled for second in the Uncle Sam 30, followed by 17-year-old Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., 17th-starter Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., and Dave Murdick of Slippery Rock, Pa.
After contesting seven events in two states and two Canadian provinces over a 10-day period, the WoO LMS teams will have a welcomed break before heading out on the Wild West Tour. The five-race western swing kicks off on Wed., July 8, with the 30th annual ‘Gopher 50’ at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com’ (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (18) Jimmy Mars/100 $30,950
2. (1) Darrell Lanigan/100 $18,156
3. (20) Earl Pearson Jr./100 $8,000
4. (10) Brady Smith/100 $6,000
5. (2) Steve Francis/100 $5,325
6. (9) Brian Birkhofer/100 $4,500
7. (15) Jimmy Owens/100 $4,000
8. (6) Josh Richards/100 $3,500
9. (13) Rick Eckert/100 $3,000
10. (25) Shane Clanton/100 $3,000
11. (22) Steve Shaver/100 $2,800
12. (16) Chub Frank/100 $2,700
13. (21) Matt Lux/100 $2,700
14. (3) Jamie Lathroum/99 $2,500
15. (7) Tim Fuller/98 $2,400
16. (26) Russell King/92 $2,650
17. (8) Jared Miley/90 $2,200
18. (24) Clint Smith/73 $2,100
19. (12) Dale McDowell/66 $2,150
20. (14) Coleby Frye/64 $2,000
21. (17) Keith Barbara/51 $2,000
22. (19) Mike Blose/50 $2,000
23. (11) Rick Briggs/48 $2,000
24. (4) Scott Bloomquist/43 $2,000
25. (23) Dave Hess Jr./41 $2,000
26. (28) Alex Ferree/41 $2,000
27. (27) Gregg Satterlee/22 $2,000
28. (5) Doug Horton/19 $2,000
* Earnings include lap money and cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 1 Hour, 5 Mins., 25.180 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 2.472 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 10 (Laps 5, 13, 15, 20, 23, 24, 27, 65, 76, 95)
Lap Leaders: Francis (1-9); Lanigan (10); Francis (11-12); Lanigan (13-93); Mars (94-100)
Provisional Starters: Clanton, King (WoO); Satterlee, Ferree (track)
Rookie of the Race: King ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Mars ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Chris Mars (Mars)
Top Local Finisher (in memory of Joe Pitkavish): Matt Lux ($100)
Hard Luck Award (courtesy Mr. Motorsports 2009 Alyssa Sharman): Dale McDowell ($100)
Hard Charger Award (courtesy Mr. Motorsports 2009 Alyssa Sharman): Jimmy Mars ($100)
Fast Time Award (courtesy R2C Competition Filters): Darrell Lanigan ($500)
Lap Money Awards: Lanigan ($2,606); Francis ($275); Mars ($250)
Top Ohio Finisher in Firecracker 100 (courtesy JMS Pro Photo): Russell King ($100)
Fastest Ohio Qualifier (courtesy JMS Pro Photo): John Mason ($25)
Ohio Driver Hard Luck (courtesy JMS Pro Photo): John Mollick ($50)
C-Main (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer to B-Mains): 1. Jordan Bland, 2. Robbie Blair, 3. Vic Coffey, 4. Dave Murdick, 5. Michael Norris, 6. Nick Reges, 7. Peter Mantha Jr., 8. Jason Fosnaught, 9. Todd Bachman, 10. John Mollick, 11. Tim McCreadie, 12. Ken Schaltenbrand, 13. Dustin Hapka (DNS) Gregg Satterlee
B-Main No. 1 (20 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Mike Blose, 2. Matt Lux, 3. Dave Hess Jr., 4. Vic Coffey, 5. Brandon Kinzer, 6. Brent Robinson, 7. Ron Davies, 8. Bump Hedman, 9. Greg Oakes, 10. Jordan Bland, 11. Lynn Geisler, 12. Eddie Carrier Jr., 13. Russell King, 14. Herman Bertolini, 15. Dan Stone, 16. John Mason
B-Main No. 2 (20 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Earl Pearson Jr., 2. Steve Shaver, 3. Clint Smith, 4. Shane Clanton, 5. Robbie Blair, 6. Austin Hubbard, 7. Tyler Reddick, 8. Mike Knight, 9. Gary Lyle, 10. Dave Murdick, 11. Tony Burke, 12. April Farmer, 13. Jeremy Miller, 14. Tony Musolino, 15. John Garvin, 16. Alex Ferree
Uncle Sam 30 Non-Qualifiers’ Race Finish (30 laps): 1. Robbie Blair ($3,000); 2. Vic Coffey ($2,000); 3. Austin Hubbard ($1,500); 4. Dan Stone ($1,200); 5. Dave Murdick ($1,000); 6. Brandon Kinzer ($800); 7. Greg Oakes ($700); 8. Ron Davies ($600); 9. Bump Hedman ($500); 10. Lynn Geisler ($400); 11. Gary Lyle ($300); 12. Brent Robinson ($300); 13. Michael Norris ($300); 14. Tyler Reddick ($300); 15. Tony Burke ($300); 16. Herman Bertolini ($300); 17. Tony Musolino ($300); 18. Todd Bachman ($300); 19. Jason Fosnaught ($300); 20. Nick Reges ($300); 21. Mike Knight ($300); 22. April Farmer ($300)
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners:
* Arizona Sport Shirts ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in B-Mains): Michael Norris, Robbie Blair
* Armor All (case of product to highest-finishing non-WoO team in A-Main w/decal): Jimmy Mars
* Champ Pans ($50 product certificate to ‘Bonus Bucks’ winner w/decal): Jimmy Mars
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to A-Main winner w/decal): Jimmy Mars
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to 10th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Shane Clanton
* Crane Cams ($100 product certificate to Heat 3 winner w/decal): Scott Bloomquist
* Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner w/decal): Mike Blose, Earl Pearson Jr.
* Fusion Energy ($50 cash award to Heat 2 winner w/decal): Steve Francis
* Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash award to fast qualifier w/decal): Darrell Lanigan
* Quarter-Master ($100 product certificate to A-Main winner w/decal): Jimmy Mars
* 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): Tim Fuller
* Super Clean ‘Start of the Race’ (one case of product): Darrell Lanigan
* VP Racing Fuels ‘Outside Looking In’ Award (free 54-gallon drum of VP-113 or Late Model Plus racing fuel to fastest qualifier who does not make the A-Main if decal is displayed): Robbie Blair
* Wrisco Aluminum (three sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner w/decal): Jimmy Mars
2009 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of June 27 – 21 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Josh Richards 5-11-16-$99,820-2819 (-0)
2. Steve Francis 5-12-17-$94,985-2813 (-6)
3. Darrell Lanigan 0-10-17-$95,106-2799 (-20)
4. Rick Eckert 2-8-15-$56,175-2771 (-48)
5. Shane Clanton 1-3-14-$57,300-2707 (-112)
6. Brady Smith 0-9-12-$53,365-2698 (-121)
7. Chub Frank 0-3-13-$43,130-2673 (-146)
8. Tim Fuller 0-5-10-$39,980-2671 (-148)
9. Clint Smith 0-1-8-$33,820-2549 (-270)
10. Russell King 0-0-2-$21,490-2204 (-615)
11. Jordan Bland 0-0-1-$22,990-2151 (-668)
12. Brent Robinson 0-0-1-$12,730-2087 (-732)
13. Vic Coffey 0-2-4-$23,900-2007 (-812)
14. Dustin Hapka 0-0-0-$9,610-1914 (-905)
15. Tyler Reddick 0-0-0-$5,575-1715 (-1104)
16. Austin Hubbard 0-2-4-$16,545-1544 (-1275)
17. Shannon Babb 1-4-7-$42,830-1470 (-1349)
18. Matt Lux 0-0-0-$10,640-1140 (-1679)
19. Dan Stone 0-1-1-$7,220-949 (-1870)
20. Dale McDowell 0-2-3-$14,550-829 (-1990)
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]