The Road to Charlotte: Reviewing the 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Season Ahead of The Dirt Track at Charlotte’s World of Outlaws World Finals

By Joshua Joiner, WoO LMS P.R. Coordinator

CONCORD, N.C. – Oct. 31, 2014 – The World of Outlaws Late Model Series will conclude the 2014 season Nov. 6-8 with two big events spread over three nights during The Dirt Track at Charlotte’s World of Outlaws World Finals. If the World Finals weekend is anything like the rest of the national tour’s 2014 campaign, it’s sure to produce many thrills, twists and memorable moments before the final checkered flag waves and the 2014 champion is crowned.

The road to Charlotte has taken the stars of the WoO LMS on a winding road all over the country. With 35 A-Mains completed, series competitors have visited 27 different dirt tracks in 18 states with 16 different drivers visiting victory lane.

The season launched with a trip south for six scheduled events during Florida Speedweeks. The 2014 version of the annual early-season stretch of racing included action at the Late Model Winter Nationals at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., Feb. 14-16 and the 43rd annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. Feb. 20-21.

Parity reigned supreme during Speedweeks with the six nights of action producing five different winners and a rainout. Familiar faces visited victory lane at Bubba Raceway Park with former series regulars Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., splitting the opening two nights of competition. After scoring a pair of top-five finishes during the first two nights at Ocala, two-time series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., established himself as an early championship favorite with a victory in the Ocala finale.

A pair of WoO LMS events at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals produced a pair of upset winners with regional standout Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., and up-and-coming driver Kyle Bronson of Tampa, Fla., both claiming their first-ever WoO LMS A-Main victories. In claiming his first-ever Super Late Model win, Bronson became just the third Florida driver to win a WoO LMS A-Main, joining Earl Pearson Jr. and Patrick Sheltra.

“This is unbelievable,” Bronson said after his breakthrough performance. “I’ve never doubted myself, but I dang sure didn’t think I was gonna come here and win the race. If you would’ve asked me (about winning a WoO LMS event) a couple days ago, I would’ve told you that you were crazy.”

Following a post-Speedweeks break, the WoO LMS got into full swing with a planned Southern doubleheader weekend in late March. Inclement weather washed out the opening event March 28 at Lonestar Speedway in Kilgore, Texas, but fans were treated to a stellar show at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark., on March 29, when 2005 WoO LMS champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., outdueled Lanigan and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., for a resounding home-state victory.

Another Southern doubleheader was cut in half by Mother Nature when the April 11 event at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn., was postponed to May 18. However, the second leg of the Volunteer State weekend was a success with home-state driver Mike Marlar of Winfield, winning at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway to become the third first-time series winner in just seven WoO LMS A-Mains on the season.

The first major event of the season produced a popular winner with the fans at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway when home-track driver Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., finally broke through for his first victory in one of his home state’s most prestigious events. Thrilling his home-track crowd, Babb advanced from the seventh starting spot to top Lanigan and Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., for a $20,000 victory at the Illini 100.

“Man I’m pumped, 20 grand right here at Farmer City, shoot!” exclaimed a very excited Babb in victory lane in front of a packed hometown crowd. “This race means a lot, there’s no better crowd in the Midwest than right here, every year they keep supporting it, we’ve got a lot of good race fans and race teams around here, it’s great. Love to win it right here at home.”

Babb may have become the first home-state driver to win the Illini 100, but his victory continued an early-season trend of home-state drivers reaching victory lane in WoO LMS events. He joined Florida’s Kyle Bronson, Arkansas’s Billy Moyer and Tennessee’s Mike Marlar in becoming the fourth home-state winner in the season’s first eight WoO LMS events.

After the opening eight races failed to produce a repeat winner, Lanigan rose above the parity to win three out of the five WoO LMS races held in May. Lanigan swept the tour’s May 2-3 doubleheader at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway and Lavonia (Ga.) Speedway before later claiming Duck River’s makeup event on May 18.

Lanigan’s Duck River victory was part of a planned tripleheader for the tour that was cut to a two-race weekend when the May 17 event at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., was cancelled due to rain. The first leg of the Southern swing saw 2006 WoO LMS champion Tim McCreadie claim the first-ever WoO LMS event held at 201 Speedway in Sitka, Ky. McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., claimed his first series victory in nearly 10 months in reminding everyone that he was still a major series contender.

May’s action concluded over Memorial Day weekend with a trip to Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va., for the third annual Jackpot 100. Becoming the third first-time WoO LMS winner on the season, veteran racer Davey Johnson of Latrobe, Pa., held off series regulars Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Lanigan to earn $20,000 for his richest victory in more than a decade.

If his May dominance wasn’t enough, Lanigan’s near perfect record in June certainly solidified his status as the championship favorite. The veteran racer won three of the four A-Mains contested in June, including a $30,000 prize for his first-ever victory in the prestigious Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com on June 28 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.

“It’s just unbelievable to win this race here,” said Lanigan, who had finished second in four of the six previous Firecracker 100 A-Mains. “To be so close so many times and not get it — man, to finally get it, it’s just unbelievable.”

Lanigan’s crown jewel victory at Lernerville followed victories on June 24 in the first-ever WoO LMS event at Big Diamond Speedway in Forestville, Pa., and a triumph on June 26 during the first of two Firecracker 100 preliminary nights. Lanigan’s only non-victory in June came in the second Firecracker 100 prelim event on June 27 when he finished 11th in a race won by fellow Club 29 driver Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. The rare middling performance marked the first time all season that Lanigan finished outside the top 10 in a WoO LMS A-Main.

July featured eight events for the WoO LMS, all in the Midwest. Action kicked off with the annual Wild West Tour, which this season featured four events in upper Midwest states of Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

In the Wild West Tour opener on July 10, Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., put a temporary hold on Lanigan’s hot streak in claiming the first-ever WoO LMS event held at Hibbing (Minn.) Raceway. Mars outdueled Lanigan in a back-and-forth battle at the northeast Minnesota oval, earning his first WoO LMS victory since 2012 at a track roughly four hours from his home.

It didn’t take Lanigan very long to get back to his winning ways. He rebounded from the near-miss at Hibbing to claim the next two rounds of the Wild West Tour.

Neither of Lanigan’s two Wild West Tour victories came easy thanks in large part to breakout performances by second-year WoO LMS competitor Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas. Bagley led the opening 22 laps of the July 13 A-Main at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn., and even after allowing Lanigan to slip by in traffic, recovered to pressure Lanigan the remaining distance before settling for a career-best runner-up finish.

Bagley proved his Deer Creek performance was no fluke with another solid run in the July 15 event at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen, S.D. Charging from his seventh starting spot, Bagley closed in on Lanigan late in the race before once again coming up one spot short of his first WoO LMS A-Main triumph.

The Wild West Tour finale on July 18 was a night of returns for Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y. Less than a month after returning to the WoO LMS following a hiatus early in the year, Fuller returned to the site of his first-ever series victory in River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, S.D., and returned to victory lane on the tour for the first time in nearly a year.

“To be honest, I really don’t even think of this place as one of my better tracks,” Fuller said during his victory lane interview. “It’s not really my style of track, but for whatever reason we run good here. I guess there’s something about the track that clicks with me, but I really can’t tell you what it is.”

A July 24 visit to Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway gave Lanigan his 10th WoO LMS A-Main victory of the season and plenty of momentum heading into back-to-back big-race weekends. But it was one Lanigan’s championship rivals who claimed the first of the two extra-money races. Earning his second WoO LMS A-Main of the season, McCreadie rallied from the 17th starting spot to overcome Owens in a thrilling late battle and earn a $25,000 payday in Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway’s Prairie Dirt Classic.

“They said they do it right here and they’re right — they did it right tonight,” McCreadie said in praising a racy track surface that produced eight lead changes among four drivers in the 100-lap race. “This is an awesome racetrack, and that race was a lot of fun.”

A stop at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway on July 29 gave Lanigan his second mid-week victory in as many weeks as the WoO LMS made its way from Fairbury to Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., where Mars, riding the momentum of his Wild West Tour victory earlier in the month, kicked off the 27th annual USA Nationals weekend with a preliminary night victory on July 31.

One week after ending up on the losing end of a dramatic finish at Fairbury, Owens found himself on the winning side of stunning back-and-forth battle with teenage sensation Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., in Cedar Lake’s $50,000-to-win USA Nationals main event on Aug. 2. Adding yet another crown jewel victory to his lustrous résumé, Owens survived a paint-swapping battle with Pierce in the final 20 laps at Cedar Lake to claim his first USA Nationals eagle trophy.

“There was way too much excitement going on for me,” Owens said of his dramatic battle with Pierce. “To bring this race home in front of a crowd like this is pretty awesome, especially putting on a show like we did.”

A three-race Mid-Atlantic swing Aug. 14-16 produced a pair of home-region winners in Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., and Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del. Claiming his third career WoO LMS victory, Satterlee topped a mid-race battle with Lanigan to claim the Fulton Bank 50 at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., on Aug. 14 before Hubbard held off Lanigan at Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek, Md., on Aug. 15 to also earn his third career series win.

After coming up short the previous two nights, Lanigan returned to victory lane in the tripleheader finale at Winchester (Va.) Speedway on Aug. 16 with his 12th WoO LMS victory of the season.

Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., was poised to end his year-long WoO LMS winless streak on Aug. 22 at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., before a flat tire knocked him from contention late in the race and set up a pressure-packed run to the finish for unheralded home-state driver Curtis Roberts.

Roberts of Coleman, Mich., turned back multiple challenges from Lanigan in the final eight laps of I-96’s NAPA Lake Odessa 50 to claim the biggest victory of his career and in doing so become the fourth driver to earn his first WoO LMS victory in 2014.

“I’ve been racing a lot of years and this is definitely my biggest win,” Roberts told a large crowd of thrilled fans during his victory lane interview. “To come in here and beat these guys – the best drivers in the country – it’s a dream come true. This is really just unbelievable.”

Once again rebounding quickly from a near-miss, Lanigan returned to victory lane the following night in Merritt (Mich.) Speedway’s NAPA Merritt 50 after topping a back-and-forth battle with Brady Smith. Lanigan’s 13th WoO LMS A-Main victory of the season moved him to within two victories of the record for the most wins in a single season, a mark he set himself with 15 wins in 2012.

Inching even closer to the single-season wins record, Lanigan bagged his 14th victory of the season with another triumph at Lernerville Speedway on Aug. 29. Lanigan’s third victory in four WoO LMS A-Mains at Lernerville this season came in the inaugural Working Man 50 that kicked off a three-race Labor Day weekend in the Key Stone State.

From Lernerville, the series moved to Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway for back-to-back events at the central Pennsylvania oval Aug. 30-31. McCreadie claimed the Showdown on Sand Hill on Aug. 30 before Lanigan tied his single-season wins record with his 15th WoO LMS A-Main victory of the season in the National Late Model Open on Aug. 31.

There’s never a sure thing in racing, but after winning three of the four previous WoO LMS events and heading back to a track where he owned a perfect record, Lanigan was easily the odds-on favorite entering the third annual Keyser Manufacturing Down & Dirty Weekend Presented by NAPA at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich. Sept. 12-13.

Mother Nature beat Lanigan by washing out the first leg of the dirt-covered pavement oval’s doubleheader weekend, but nothing could deny Lanigan his record-breaking victory the following night. Lanigan survived an early back-and-forth battle with Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., and turned back mid-race pressure from McCreadie to earn his third victory in three visits to Berlin and his record-setting 16th WoO LMS victory of the season.

“We broke a record and that’s definitely something to be proud of,” Lanigan said. “And to be the only winner of this event is definitely special, too.”

Lanigan’s extraordinary season has put him in full control of the WoO LMS championship chase. With a 284-point lead over Rick Eckert of York, Pa., in the series standings, Lanigan needs only to enter the two World Finals events to clinch his third WoO LMS title.

The World Finals begin on Thurs., Nov. 6 with Qualifying Night featuring two rounds of WoO Late Model and Sprint Car time trials and two sets of Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified heat races. Each division’s first round of qualifying will apply to Friday’s program and the second round to Saturday’s racing card.

Action is scheduled to get the green flag at 6:00 p.m. on Thurs., Nov. 6, and 4:45 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 7, and Sat., Nov. 8.

Tickets for the World Finals Presented can be obtained by logging on to www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or calling 1-800-455-FANS. Three-day packages are available for the bargain price of $89 and $34 for children 13-and-under.

For fans unable to attend the World Finals in person, live video of every lap of all three divisions is available through an online Pay-Per-View production. Ordering information for the Pay-Per-View production is available by logging on to www.DirtonDirt.com or www.DIRTVision.com.

For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com. Fans can also follow the WoO LMS on Twitter at Twitter.com/WoOLateModels and Facebook at Facebook.com/WorldofOutlaws.

The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: American Racing Custom Wheels (Official Custom Wheel), Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), Lincoln Welder (Official Welder), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award) and McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award); in addition to contingency sponsors: Butlerbuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Mobil 1, MSD, Ohlins Shocks, QuarterMaster, Penske Shocks, Roush Yates Performance Parts, Superflow Dynos and Wrisco Aluminum; along with manufacturer sponsors Capital Race Cars, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, Jake’s Carts, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis, and TNT Rescue.