Rossburg,OH — Shane Clanton didn’t have to deal with any challengers on the final circuit of his triumphant run in Saturday night’s 38th annual UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
Nevertheless, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series standout from Locust Grove, Ga., had some trouble completing the most important half-mile of his racing career.
“On the last lap I had a guy down in turn three telling me I had a big lead, so I actually got a little teary-eyed,” said Clanton, who held nearly a full straightaway edge over defending World 100 champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. “The World 100 means so much – not only to me, but to my car owner.”
Clanton, 32, collected over $41,000 (including lap money) for his first-ever victory in dirt Late Model racing’s most prestigious event. It was also the first World 100 win for his car owner Ronnie Dobbins, who has fielded a machine in the race for nearly 30 years.
“He’s been racing a long time and been coming here a long time trying to win (the World 100),” Clanton said of Dobbins, who hired Clanton to drive his RSD Enterprises No. 25 in 2003. “My car owner, he said it was in his heart, the whole time I started driving, ‘We’re going to win the World 100 sometime.’ I can believe him now.”
The usually hard-charging Clanton used a smart, patient approach to steer his Custom-powered Rocket car to Victory Lane. After moving up to second place from the third starting spot at the initial green flag, he calmly chased the polesitting Owens for more than half the distance before grabbing the lead on lap 57.
Clanton controlled the remainder of the event, rolling to the finish line with a commanding advantage over Owens’s Reece Monuments Bloomquist car.
Owens, who led laps 1-56, fell short in his bid to become the fourth driver to win the World 100 in consecutive years. The last back-to-back victor was Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, in 1996-97.
Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich., finished alone in third in a MasterSbilt car after passing Matt Miller of Waterville, Ohio, with 10 laps remaining. VanWormer, who started third but ran fifth for most of the distance, struggled throughout the race with handling problems caused by sealed-over tires but matched his career-best World 100 finish, achieved in 2006.
Miller settled for fourth place in a MasterSbilt car after starting 10th – his best finish in eight career World 100 A-Mains starts. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., also scored a career-best finish in the event, placing fifth in the Sweeteners Plus Rocket after starting 19th because heat-race handling woes forced him to use a fast-time provisional to gain entry to the headline event.
Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., who started 13th in NASCAR star Bobby Labonte’s MasterSbilt car, charged all the way up to second by lap 72 and appeared primed to challenge Clanton, but a cut right-front tire on lap 82 ended his hopes for a second World 100 victory in three years. The 2006 race winner returned after a pit stop but finished ninth.
Clanton’s victory came in just his third career World 100 A-Main start – he finished 11th in both 2004 and 2005 – but wasn’t a surprise considering the speed he had shown at Tony Stewart’s high-banked, half-mile oval earlier this season. He set fast time and led early before finishing third in June’s $100,000 Dirt Late Model Dream 100, and he contended for victory before settling for another third-place finish in Eldora’s World of Outlaws Late Model Series ‘Subway’ 50 in July.
“We built this car for the Dream and it’s been good all three times we’ve run it here,” said Clanton. “We won the heat race driving off (on Saturday night), so we knew we had a good car. We just had to make the right choices on tires, make the right adjustments and make it last 100 laps.”
Clanton learned plenty about car- and tire-conservation at Eldora during the Dream by following eventual winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who was the first retiree from Saturday night’s World 100 due to mechanical trouble. He put those lessons into action on Saturday.
“Generally everybody says I’m balls-to-the-wall for the first 25 laps, so I just bided my time running behind Jimmy (Owens),” described Clanton. “I got to catching him a little bit and turning him under him, but I thought I was hurting my tires so I just moved back up and followed him for 40 or 50 laps.
“When we got to lapped traffic he couldn’t maneuver off turn two as good as I could, so I took advantage of it. I slid him there a couple times and he got back by me (Owens nipped Clanton at the start/finish line to lead laps 54-56), but I knew that if I could just bide my time I was better than him and I could drive off from him. That’s what we did.”
Clanton’s path to the finish line was slowed twice on lap 82, when the only caution flags of the race were displayed. The first was for Pearson’s flat tire, and on the restart a turn-two tangle involving Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Scott James of Greendale, Ind., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill. – who were running in positions 9-11 – continued caution conditions and ultimately caused a brief red flag so safety crews could untangle the cars.
The delay concerned Clanton, but he had no trouble pulling away when the race restarted for the final time.
“Every time I get a lead it seems like we get a caution and the tires seal up,” said Clanton. “But we made a good tire choice tonight, and we were good. We siped the tires a little bit different tonight and they lasted a hundred laps.”
Clanton was greeted in Victory Lane by a happy group that included his wife Jennifer, his mother and his crewmen Mark ‘Head’ Lloyd and Jonathan Owensby. Missing from the celebration was Dobbins, who remained home in Georgia.
“He called me this morning and said he wasn’t getting on the plane to come up here,” Clanton said of his car owner. “He said I can do it without him, so I guess I did.”
Clanton spoke by cell phone with Dobbins during the post-race celebration.
“He said he’s probably the proudest he’s ever been as a car owner,” said Clanton, who became the fourth Georgian to win the World 100, joining Charles Hughes (1976), Doug Kenimer (1977) and Dale McDowell (2005). “He’s as proud as he possibly could be.”
And Clanton? He was riding high as well.
“That check goes a long ways,” he said of the spoils that accompany a World 100 victory, “but that (globe) trophy will be there forever.”
Pearson was the fastest qualifier during Friday night’s 175-car time-trial session, turning a World 100-record lap of 15.350 seconds.
Saturday’s heat winners were VanWormer, James, Moyer, Clanton, Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Owens. Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., captured the B-Mains.
Friday night’s 15-lap Non-Qualifiers’ events were won by Dusty Moore of Swanton, Ohio, Tim Isenberg of Marshfield, Wis., and Justin Rattliff of Campbellsville, Ky.
For more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing, visit www.dirtcar.com.
Finish of 38th Annual World 100 at Eldora Speedway:
1. Shane Clanton $41,000
2. Jimmy Owens $14,000
3. Jeep VanWormer $10,000
4. Matt Miller $7,500
5. Tim McCreadie $6,000
6. Brian Shirley $5,000
7. Brian Birkhofer $4,000
8. Dale McDowell $3,500
9. Earl Pearson Jr. $3,000
10. Shannon Babb $2,500
11. Scott James $2,250
12. Darren Miller $2,000
13. Rick Eckert $1,900
14. Steve Francis $1,800
15. Donnie Moran $1,750
16. Kevin Weaver $1,725
17. Brad Neat $1,700
18. Jason Feger $1,675
19. Jordan Bland $1,650
20. Don O’Neal $1,645
21. Billy Moyer $1,640
22. John Gill $1,635
23. Ben Adkins $1,630
24. Ray Cook $1,625
25. Randy Korte $1,620
26. Jimmy Mars $1,615
27. Darrell Lanigan $1,610
28. Scott Bloomquist $1,605
Heat 1 Finish: Jeep Van Wormer, Brian BIrkhofer, Earl Pearson Jr., Shanon Buckingham, April Farmer, Eric Wells, Greg Johnson, Eric Smith, Scott Orr, Brady Smith, Rick DeLong, Shon Flanary, Jason Keltner, Josh McGuire, Derek Chandler, Jackie Boggs, Kevin Claycomb, Rusty Schlenk, Wayne Chinn
Heat 2 Finish: Scott James, Brian Shirley, Brad Neat, Jimmy Mars, Ben Adkins, Mike Marlar, Doug Drown, Brian Ruhlman, Tommy Kerr, Matt Lux, Steve Barnett, Casey Noonan, Ky Harper, Tim McCreadie, Dustin Neat, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jon Henry
Heat 3 Finish: Billy Moyer, Kevin Weaver, Donnie Moran, Shannon Babb, Scott Bloomquist, Jason Feger, Dan Schlieper, Chris Madden, John Blankenship, Rusty Seaver, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Steve Casebolt, Jay Johnson, John Mason, Andrew Reaume, Freddy Smith, Johnny Wheeler, Jerry Rice, Dusty Moore, Ryan Vanderveen, Ron Perrine Jr.
Heat 4 Finish: Shane Clanton, Matt Miller, Darrell Lanigan, Randy Korte, Josh Richards, Jordan Bland, Audie McWilliams, Aaron Scott, Curt Spalding, Jesse Lay, Chris Ross, Jared Hawkins, Jeff Watson, Mark Douglas, Michael Walker, Davey Johnson, Jeff Maupin (Scratched: Tim Lance – alternate is Michael Walker)
Heat 5 Finish: Don O’Neal, Ray Cook, Dale McDowell, Darren Miller, Vic Hill, Josh Williams, Terry Casey, Rick Eckert, Chad Ruhlman, Jerrry Bowersock, Wes Steidinger, Steve Smith, Tony Knowles, Ryan Dauber, Kris Patterson, Mike Collins.
Heat 6 Finish: Jimmy Owens, Steve Francis, John Gill, Dennis Erb Jr., R.J. Conley, Steve Sheppard Jr., Tim Dohm, Rodney Melvin, David Webb, Brandon Kinzer, Victor Lee, Jason Fitzgerald, Terrance Nowell, Brett Wyatt, Justin Paxton, Lee Devasier, Curtis Roberts, Clint Smith, Chub Frank, Shawn Toczek
B-Main 1 Finish: Jimmy Mars, Shannon Babb, Ben Adkins, Jason Feger, Chris Madden, Mike Marlar, Shanon Buckingham, Dan Schlieper, John Blankenship, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Eric Smith, Eric Wells, Doug Drown, Brian Ruhlman, Matt Lux, Tommy Kerr, Rick DeLong, John Mason, Steve Barnett, April Farmer, Greg Johnson, Scott Orr
B-Main 2 Finish: Randy Korte, Darren Miller, Rick Eckert, Jordan Bland, R.J. Conley, Vic Hill, Aaron Scott, Audie McWilliams, Steve Sheppard Jr., Jesse Lay, Wes Steidinger, Tim Dohm, Dennis Erb Jr., Rodney Melvin, Brandon Kinzer, Chad Ruhlman, Jerry Bowersock, Chris Ross, Curt Spalding, Terry Casey, Victor Lee