BARBERVILLE , FL – Feb. 16, 2007 – Darrell Lanigan might have been destined to win Friday night’s 40-lap UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model feature at Volusia Speedway Park .
After all, he picked his car number, 29, in the draw for time-trial positioning.
“It was a good luck charm, I guess,” smiled Lanigan after pocketing $10,000 for capturing the UMP Late Model finale of the 36th annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speedshop.
Lanigan, 36, of Union , Ky. , slipped by fellow 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series regular Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., to take the lead on lap 18 and never looked back en route to winning a caution-free event.
Richards settled for second place, about five car lengths behind Lanigan. Outside-polesitter Shane Clanton of Locust Grove , Ga. , was close behind Richards in third, producing a sweep of the top-three spots by drivers who will run the 360 OTC WoO LMS fulltime in 2007.
Completing the top five was Greg Johnson of Bedford , Ind. , and eighth-starter Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., another 360 OTC WoO LMS regular.
Richards, 18, surged off the pole position to assume command at the start of the race in his Mark Richards Racing/Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket No. 1. When the inside groove of the half-mile, D-shaped oval began to be the choice lane just after the main’s one-quarter mark, the rising young star appeared to be in the catbird’s seat.
But Richards made one fatal mistake coming down to score lap 18. He slipped high off turn four as he approached lapped traffic, allowing Lanigan to guide his gottarace.com/Accu-Tex Rocket into the top spot for good.
Lanigan controlled the remainder of the distance, keeping Richards at bay by running a calm, patient line around the inside of the track. The ‘Bluegrass Bandit’ smartly refused the temptation to stray from the prime groove, as evidenced by his following Rick Eckert of York , Pa. , for the final 13 laps rather than lapping him.
“The track never locked down (took rubber), but there was a fast groove right around the bottom,” said Lanigan, who started third. “About 15 laps in, I found the bottom when I started searching around the track a little bit. I don’t think Josh had really found the bottom yet, so he was running more in the middle and that left the door open for me to slip by him.
“I hate it for Josh, but I need a win too.”
The victory was Lanigan’s first ever at Volusia Speedway Park , where he had finished as high as second in the past. It also gave him plenty of momentum entering Saturday night’s season opener for the 360 OTC WoO LMS.
“We’re ready,” he said of the 2007 WoO schedule. “This is a great way to get ourselves going.”
Richards, meanwhile, mourned a missed opportunity.
“I was in perfect position to win,” said Richards. “It was a lack of experience, I guess, that did me in.
“The track never really took rubber; it just kinda got clean (on the inside) from everyone running there, so you couldn’t run anywhere else. But I kinda thought I should try to go around the lapped cars when I got to them, and that was a mistake.
“I moved up a little bit (in turn four coming to lap 18), and I started sliding. I knew that when I felt myself lose the front end, it was over.”
Richards got underneath Lanigan racing down the backstretch on lap 18, but he couldn’t pull ahead by turn three and thus had to back off. He stayed close but never offered Lanigan another serious challenge.
The runner-up finish was still Richards’s best ever at Volusia.
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Steve Shaver of Vienna , W.Va. ; Darren Miller of Milledgeville , Ill. ; Steve Francis of Ashland , Ky ; Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg , Tenn. , who started 17th after winning a B-Main; and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., who registered the fastest overall lap (16.679 seconds) of the night’s ‘group’ time-trial session.
The evening’s field numbered 90.
Heat winners were Richards, Clanton, Lanigan, Garrett Durrett of Simsboro , La. , Johnson, Miller, Justin Ratliff of Campbellsville , Ky. , and Frank. The B-Mains went to Bloomquist, Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville , Ga. , Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. , and Wendell Wallace of Batesville , Ark.
The four highest-ranked drivers in the week’s Florida DIRTcar Nationals UMP Late Model point standings who didn’t qualify were added to the feature field as provisionals. Those spots went to Patrick Sheltra of Indianatown , Fla. , Eckert, Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville , Ill. , and Tim McCreadie of Watertown , N.Y.
The UMP Late Model champion of the 2007 Florida DIRTcar Nationals will be determined with the results of Saturday night’s 50-lap 360 OTC WoO LMS event, which will be contested using UMP’s Hoosier 20/40 tire rule.
For more information on the Florida DIRTcar Nationals, visit www.volusiaspeedwaypark.com.
UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model Feature Finish (40 laps):
1. Darrell Lanigan
2. Josh Richards
3. Shane Clanton
4. Greg Johnson
5. Chub Frank
6. Steve Shaver
7. Darren Miller
8. Steve Francis
9. Scott Bloomquist
10. Earl Pearson Jr.
11. Billy Moyer
12. Don O’Neal
13. Shannon Babb
14. Garrett Durrett
15. Matt Miller
16. Tim McCreadie
17. Rick Eckert
18. Dennis Erb Jr.
19. Justin Ratliff
20. Patrick Sheltra
21. Jonathan Davenport
22. Christian Rayburn
23. Wendell Wallace
24. Jimmy Mars
DNQ: Adam Hensel, Tim Fuller, Scott James, John Blankenship, Ricky Arms, Jeff Alsip, J.O. Nobles, Frank Ingram, Don Mihelich, Damon Eller, Mike Balzano, Chris Wall, Eric Jacobsen, Clint Smith, Peyton Taylor, Jordan Bland, Jamie Eichholz, Ronnie DeHaven Jr., Eddie Carrier Jr., Stacy Boles, Dan Stone, Greggie Oliver, Dave Hess Jr., Rodney Kiker, Joe Ramey, Ricky Elliott, Jimmy Owens, Jeep VanWormer, Terry Casey, C.J. Rayburn, John Tindall, Jason McBride, Jerry Rice, Chris Madden, Ray Cook, Bub McCool, Chris Hackett, Ed Bauman, Jackie Boggs, Austin Dillon, Donnie Moran, Wayne Chinn, Jake Redetzke, Kenny Pettyjohn, Vic Coffey, Jeff Smith, Mark Anderson, Chuck Julien, Mike Hammerle, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Dan Schlieper, Ivedent Lloyd, Duke Whiseant, Michael England, Sherry Heckenast, Mike Amell, Homer Leonard, Billy Decker, Brian Birkhofer, Steve Sheppard Jr., Jason Smith, Mike Mataragas, Brandon Kinzer, Kenny Adams, Roy Mitchell