Barberville,FL — Jan. 13, 2009 — A new era of Dirt Late Model racing dawned during the 2004 running of the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park.
With the cutting of a ceremonial ribbon on the half-mile oval’s homestretch and the waving of a green flag, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series roared back onto the dirt-track scene on Feb. 3, 2004. In only 21 days, the series with veteran stars like champions Darrell Lanigan and Steve Francis, World 100 champion Shane Clanton and rising star Josh Richards will return for the sixth consecutive year to begin the 2009 season.
Dormant since a brief two-year run under late World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series founder Ted Johnson ended following the 1989 season, the WoO LMS was brought back to life — bigger and better — for the 2004 campaign by the World Racing Group. A four-event meet as part of Volusia’s annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH was scheduled to kick off what would quickly become the nation’s premier Dirt Late Model tour.
Fifty-four cars were signed in for the historic inaugural WoO LMS program under the WRG banner — and the star of the show ended up being a driver who had finished second in the tour’s 1989 points standings as a fast-rising 22-year-old and was among the 12 star racers who signed up to follow the WoO LMS in ’04.
Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., made Feb. 3, 2004, a memorable moment in Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH history with a perfect performance. He swept the night, setting fast time, winning a heat race and leading the 30-lap A-Main from flag-to-flag to pocket the $5,000 top prize. The only pressure he received was provided by Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who offered a challenge before a cut right-front tire forced him pitside on lap 20.
It was a personally fulfilling and emotional victory for Francis, who emerged triumphant in his first start behind the wheel of his own familiar No. 15 machine since 2001. After spending the 2002 and 2003 seasons driving Mark Richards’s Rocket house car, Francis returned to his own equipment in ’04 — albeit without the help of his younger brother Chris, who had served as Francis’s crew chief until dying suddenly in August 2001.
Ironically, Francis crossed the finish line in the landmark WoO LMS A-Main ahead of Zanesville, Ohio’s Bart Hartman, who was driving the Rocket house car as Francis’s replacement. Shannon Babb, of Moweaqua, Ill., finished third, followed by Dale McDowell, of Chickamauga, Ga., and Wendell Wallace, of Batesville, Ark.
Three more WoO LMS events were contested during the 2004 Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, all with a different winner: Hartman, Babb and Scott Bloomquist, of Mooresburg, Tenn.
Francis — the tour’s 2007 champion and one of only two drivers (Eckert is the other) who has started all 197 WoO LMS A-Mains run from 2004-2008 — returned to Victory Lane in WoO LMS competition during the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH on Feb. 18, 2006. He stands as one of only three drivers (others: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., and Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.) with more than one triumph in the 11 all-time WoO LMS wars waged during Volusia’s traditional February extravaganza of speed.
There will be two WoO LMS programs during next month’s 38th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH — 50-lap, $10,000-to-win events on Thurs., Feb. 12, and Sat., Feb. 14.
To see who emerges as a star in the 38th running of the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH, make sure to reserve your favorite seats in advance. With infield trailer heights limited to 9 feet, 6 inches, there are no bad seats in the grandstands at Volusia Speedway Park, merely 15 miles inland from Ormond Beach on State Road 40. Take advantage of special “Super Ticket” deals that offer seats for all the events contested by each headline division, including the six-day Dirt Late Model races, the six-day Sprint Car events, eight nights of UMP DIRTcar Modified action, and four Advance Auto Parts DIRTcar Big-Block Modified races.