By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
DRUMMONDVILLE, QUE – June 21, 2008 – Rick Eckert doesn’t have to answer the questions anymore.
With his frustrating winless streak on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series approaching two full years, Eckert finally broke through with a flag-to-flag victory in Saturday night’s second annual ‘Quebec 50’ at Autodrome Drummond.
Oh, what a relief it was for the popular driver known as ‘Scrub.’
“It’s been a long time between wins and a lot of grief,” said Eckert, who had gone without a win in 71 straight races since his last WoO LMS triumph, on July 8, 2006, at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio. “I’m just glad it’s over now – and hopefully the next one won’t take nearly so long to come.”
Eckert, 42, of York, Pa., surged off the outside pole to grab the lead at the start of the A-Main and never looked back. He built an edge of as large as a full straightaway before turning back a final-lap challenge from Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who settled for runner-up money in an event that was contested in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the four-tenths-mile oval for the second consecutive year.
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., extended his WoO LMS points lead with a third-place finish, while Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., placed fourth and polesitter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was fifth.
Driving a Raye Vest-owned GRT car that he debuted in the WoO LMS ‘Great Northern Tour’ opener on June 17 at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, Eckert was flawless from start-to-finish. His only real scare came when he reached a pack of lapped traffic on the 48th circuit.
“The first half of the race the racetrack was nice and you could pass lapped cars without a problem, but then it sort of one-laned up – and that’s terrible for the leader,” said Eckert, who used a Custom engine in his familiar orange No. 24. “I was dreading the lapped cars, so when I caught them with two to go I was like, ‘This is not gonna happen.’”
McCreadie, who advanced from the sixth starting spot to second in 10 laps, quickly erased a half-straightaway deficit when Eckert found his momentum dulled behind young Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga. McCreadie closed up behind Eckert entering turn one on the final circuit, but Eckert played his cards right down the backstretch to maintain control.
“When ‘Waldo’ (a nickname for Knowles) slipped a little off of two (on the last lap), I knew if I could get inside him and he could see me, that would cover both lanes into three and I’d be O.K.,” said Eckert. “That’s exactly what happened. It worked out perfect.”
The 34-year-old McCreadie, who scored his first WoO LMS win since August 2006 the previous night at Ohsweken (Ont.) Speedway, had a front-row seat for Eckert’s race-saving move.
“With about 10 to go (Eckert) pulled out a bunch, and I was thinking, ‘Let’s just stay in the rubber (lane) and hold on to to second,’” said McCreadie, who drove his Sweeteners Plus Rocket car. “But when he got held up by that lapped traffic, I got behind him heading into turn one on the last lap.
“Going down the backstretch I thought that the lapped car (Knowles) was coming left when Rick was right up in there, so I thought I could go around them both on the outside. But they didn’t even touch and kept both lanes blocked, so I was hung up there trying to make a move. I just got back down there before somebody passed me.”
Eckert pocketed the race’s $10,150 top prize – the biggest race purse he’s collected since slipping into a two-year slump that had tested his mettle.
“It’s hard to keep your morale up when you go through a stretch like we did,” said Eckert, who finished in last year’s inaugural WoO LMS event at Drummond. “That’s the first thing everybody mentions as soon as they see you – when are you going to win a race? Man, that starts to eat at you, but I understand it.
“Maybe I can stop that for a little bit now. Maybe I can go ahead tomorrow night and start a winning streak.”
Eckert, who won eight of the first 17 WoO LMS A-Mains in 2006 before losing the key to Victory Lane, made some history with his checkered flag. It was his 16th career WoO LMS win, tying him with 2004 champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., for the most victories on the tour since 2004.
“Hopefully things will go a little smoother now,” said Eckert, while hailing car owner Raye Vest for “sticking with us” through the struggles of the past two years. “A win makes you a lot happier and makes you feel like you’re making progress.”
Lanigan, meanwhile, felt that his GottaRace.com Rocket No. 29 was “as good as Eckert’s car” early in the race, but he couldn’t maintain his speed as the track surface changed.
“As soon as it rubbered up, I was way too tight,” said the 38-year-old Lanigan, who registered his seventh consecutive top-five finish on the WoO LMS.
Clanton, 32, registered his second straight top-five finish on the tour’s three-race Canadian swing. He fell back as far as fifth after starting third, but kept firm control of fourth place once he drove his RSD Enterprises Rocket past the 20-year-old Richards’s Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket on the 13th circuit.
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who made a quiet rise from the 11th starting spot; Neil Baggett of Shannon, Miss., who drove Clint Smith’s backup car to the $500 WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ cash; 17th-starter Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa.; Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y.; and Ricky Elliott of Seaford, Del., who recorded his second straight top-10 finish in the Rocket No. 121 owned by New Yorker Joe Beyea and wrenched by noted DIRTcar big-block mechanic Randy Kisacky.
The event was slowed by five caution flags, including one for a multi-car tangle in turn one on the 13th lap. Among the drivers involved was Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., whose machine sustained significant body and suspension damage that forced him out of action shortly thereafter.
Defending WoO LMS champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., and top ’08 title contender Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., suffered similar fates in the A-Main – both drivers clipped the inside wall while bidding for top-five spots, breaking their cars’ left-front spindles.
Babb hit the barrier in turn two while running sixth on lap 10, forcing him to pit his Bowyer Dirt Motorsports No. 18 and finish a dismal 23rd. Francis, meanwhile, slowed to bring out a caution flag on lap 33 and retired from further action after damaging the left-front corner of his Beitler Motorsports mount when he caught the turn-four wall while holding fifth place.
Twenty-five cars were signed in for the ‘Quebec 50,’ which once again was a resoundingly successful program for the longtime DIRTcar-sanctioned track promoted by Yan Bussiere.
Bussiere, who races regularly in the DIRTcar 358-Modified division, drove Chub Frank’s backup dirt Late Model in his event for the second consecutive year but completed only 12 laps of the A-Main after being involved in two tangles.
Lanigan was fastest in time trials, turning a lap of 18.222 seconds for his first fast time honor of the season.
Heat winners were Lanigan, McCreadie and Clanton. No B-Main was run, but Lanigan earned $500 for winning a 5-lap dash that pitted the top-six drivers in the WoO LMS points standings.
The A-Main was rushed to the track by officials as lightning flashed from menacingly-dark clouds surrounding the facility. Autodrome Drummond’s dramatic pre-race driver introductions, which were to include a fireworks display, had to be scrapped in the interest of time, but the fireworks were set off during Eckert’s Victory Lane celebration.
The Canadian portion of the WoO LMS ‘Great Northern Tour’ concludes on Sunday night (June 22) at Cornwall (Ont.) Motor Speedway.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Quebec 50’ (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (2) Rick Eckert/50 $10,150
2. (6) Tim McCreadie/50 $5,100
3. (5) Darrell Lanigan/50 $3,500
4. (3) Shane Clanton/50 $2,500
5. (1) Josh Richards/50 $2,000
6. (11) Chub Frank/50 $1,700
7. (13) Neil Baggett/50 $1,900
8. (17) Jeremy Miller/50 $1,300
9. (10) Billy Decker/50 $1,200
10. (15) Ricky Elliott/50 $1,100
11. (12) Tim Fuller/50 $1,050
12. (8) John Blankenship/50 $1,000
13. (14) Dan Stone/50 $950
14. (18) Tony Knowles/49 $900
15. (20) Peter Mantha Jr./49 $850
16. (7) Steve Francis/33 $800
17. (23) Greg Oakes/30 $770
18. (19) Rick Briggs/29 $750
19. (16) Danny Johnson/27 $980
20. (9) Clint Smith/22 $700
21. (21) Adam Ferri/21 $700
22. (24) Joe Isabell/21 $700
23. (4) Shannon Babb/21 $700
24. (22) Yan Bussiere/12 $700
25. (25) Sean Beardsley/9 $700
Time of Race: 30 Mins., 20.506 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.554 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 5 (Laps 9, 10, 13, 23, 33)
Lap Leaders: Eckert (1-50)
Rookie of the Race: Danny Johnson ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Neil Baggett ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race ($50): Zach Frields (Eckert)
Chick Hawk Racing Hot Lap Award: Eckert (half-off tire warmers)
Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 18.222
2. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 18.227
3. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 18.312
4. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 18.408
5. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 18.480
6. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 18.495
7. 91-Billy Decker/Unadilla, NY 18.641
8. 23-John Blankenship/Williamson, WV 18.650
9. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 18.702
10. 19-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 18.753
11. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 18.803
12. 19T-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 18.812
13. 44N-Neil Baggett/Shannon, MS 18.879
14. 21d-Dan Stone/Thompson, PA 18.934
15. 121-Ricky Elliott/Seaford, DE 19.028
16. 99B-Rick Briggs/Bear Lake, PA 19.112
17. 24M-Jeremy Miller/Gettysburg, PA 19.184
18. 26-Tony Knowles/Tyrone, GA 19.266
19. 27J-Danny Johnson/Phelps, NY 19.270
20. 1M-Peter Mantha Jr./Gatineau, QUE 19.311
21. 1F-Adam Ferri/Port Colborne, ONT 19.514
22. 18s-Sean Beardsley/Central Square, NY 19.841
23. 22-Greg Oakes/Franklinville, NY 20.134
24. 6J-Joe Isabell/Pennellville, NY 20.302
25. 1x-Yan Bussiere/Drummondville, QUE 20.569
Heat No. 1 (10 laps): Lanigan, Eckert, Francis, Decker, Baggett, D. Johnson, Briggs, Bussiere, Beardsley
Heat No. 2 (10 laps): McCreadie, Babb, Blankenship, Frank, Stone, Miller, Mantha, Oakes
Heat No. 3 (10 laps): Clanton, Richards, C. Smith, Fuller, Elliott, Knowles, Ferri, Isabell
Dash (5 laps): Lanigan, Richards, Babb, Francis, Eckert, Frank
2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of June 21 – 15 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Darrell Lanigan 1-7-13-$38,800-2017 (-0)
2. Steve Francis 1-8-11-$83,150-1979 (-38)
3. (tie) Chub Frank 1-6-10-$37,080-1975 (-42)
3. (tie) Rick Eckert 1-6-11-$41,950-1975 (-42)
5. Josh Richards 2-7-11-$52,860-1971 (-46)
6. Shannon Babb 1-6-10-$48,750-1935 (-82)
7. Shane Clanton 0-6-9-$29,530-1913 (-104)
8. Clint Smith 1-4-6-$26,910-1885 (-132)
9. Tim Fuller 0-3-4-$18,170-1835 (-182)
10. John Blankenship 0-0-3-$17,860-1771 (-246)
11. Vic Coffey 0-0-2-$12,510-1453 (-564)
12. Danny Johnson 0-0-1-$7,400-1240 (-777)
13. Billy Moyer 4-6-6-$70,420-1181 (-836)
14. Tim McCreadie 1-4-7-$31,100-1173 (-844)
15. Brian Shirley 0-0-2-$9,680-1127 (-890)
16. Joe Isabell 0-0-0-$4,580-1059 (-958)
17. Ricky Elliott 0-1-4-$8,310-786 (-1231)
18. Jeremy Miller 1-1-2-$16,460-786 (-1231)
19. Sean Beardsley 0-0-0-$2,300-731 (-1286)
20. Jeep VanWormer 0-0-2-$8,070-729 (-1288)
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 and Qwikliner.