Pine tree trophy awaits WoO's Swainsboro winner
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
A $10,000 first-place prize will be the primary motivator for drivers competing in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series portion of the Pine Tree 100 on Saturday at Swainsboro Raceway.
But on May 5, at least, the racers will also have more than a passing interest in claiming the trophy that Swainsboro promoter Paul Purvis will present to the winner of the 50-lap feature.
For the third straight year, Purvis has commissioned the Masters of the Chainsaw — a group of the nation’s top professional chainsaw sculptors — to create a one-of-a-kind trophy for the WoO victor at his 3/8-mile oval. Playing off the 67th annual Pine Tree Festival that runs from April 28-May 5 in downtown Swainsboro, the keepsake is carved out of pine tree wood using only a chainsaw.
“Two years ago, when we brought the World of Outlaws to Swainsboro for the first time during the Pine Tree Festival, we thought that it would be pretty neat if we could come up with some sort of different trophy to give to the winner,” said the 50-year-old Purvis, a former racer who is in his 11th full season at the helm of Swainsboro. “When we saw the Masters of the Chainsaw group doing a show at the Festival, we asked them if they could make something and they said, ‘Sure.’
“Everybody seemed to like (the finished product), so we’ve made it an annual deal now. We even get smaller ones made up to give to the winners of our support classes.”
This year Purvis had to go to greater lengths to ensure the continuation of Swainsboro’s building wooden-trophy tradition. In each of the past two years a Masters of the Chainsaw sculptor actually carved the trophies during the Festival, but the group isn’t part of the affair’s entertainment schedule this year so Purvis had to arrange for the carvings to be done in advance and he picked them up in Atlanta.
The 2012 version of the WoO Pine Tree 100 trophy will have a slightly different look from past incarnations. It features a pointed top painted pine-tree green with a prominent sculpted “1st” and the words “World of Outlaws – Swainsboro Raceway” painted on its base.
In 2010, former WoO champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., won Swainsboro’s event and received a trophy that boasted a pine tree shape rising from a Dirt Late Model-appearing base. Last year’s event was captured by reigning WoO champ Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who went home with a larger wooden trophy that for the first time sported painted words.
Both McCreadie, 38, and Eckert, 46, have given their Pine Tree trophies a prominent place in their personal collections of racing hardware. With both drivers putting up prolific win totals during their careers, they don’t have the desire nor the space to display run-of-the-mill awards.
“I don’t keep a lot of trophies, but that’s one I’ve kept,” McCreadie said of his Swainsboro memento. “You never win as much money as you’d like, so it’s nice to have a cool trophy.”
McCreadie has his Swainsboro carving on display in his home’s finished basement alongside his most cherished trophies, including those he received for winning the WoO championship, the Knoxville Late Model Nationals, the Topless 100, the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals and milestone Super DIRTcar Series events (first 358 tour victory in ’96, first big-block series triumph in ’99).
Eckert, meanwhile, has his Swainsboro sculpture positioned in the office area of his team’s racing shop. He’s moved virtually all his racing paraphernalia from his home to the shop because when he’s at his residence he likes to “quit thinking about racing and get away from it for a little while.”
“I only keep a couple of cool trophies, ones that are unique or for real memorable wins,” Eckert said. “If it’s just a regular trophy, I’ll usually give it to a kid because it’ll mean a lot to them.
“I have the Swainsboro trophy in the shop with the bullhorns trophy from Texas (his WoO LMS victory at Battleground Speedway in 2010), my World of Outlaws and UDTRA championship trophies, my Dirt Track World Championship trophy, some cool eagles I got for winning a couple races at Virginia Motor (Speedway), and the gold man I got for the EMPA (Eastern Motorsport Press Association) Driver of the Year (in 2011).”
Eckert figures to be a favorite to collect another Swainsboro wood carving this Saturday night. He enters the events ranked second in the WoO points standings with one win already to his credit this season.
“Last year we came into Swainsboro second in the points and took the lead with the win,” recalled Eckert. “We led the points the rest of the season, so hopefully we can do the same thing again.”
McCreadie is hoping that Swainsboro will help turn around his struggling fortunes. He has yet to record a top-five finish on the tour this season and ranks eighth in the points, but Swainsboro has been good to him with a victory in ’10 and a fifth-place finish last season.
Other WoO regulars who ran strong at Swainsboro the past two years include current points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. (second in ’10, third in ’11); Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. (second in ’11); Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y. (fourth in ’11); Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga. (sixth in ’11); and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga. (seventh in ’11).
Locals expected to challenge the Outlaws include Swainsboro residents Jeremy Faircloth and Chesley Dixon, Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., and Henry Carter of Waycross, Ga.
Swainsboro Raceway’s WoO event on Saturday night will serve as the grand finale for three full days of activities that comprise the town’s annual Pine Tree Festival, which includes a Saturday-morning parade through the downtown streets. Several race cars as well as the track’s pace truck and Fan Tram – carrying the reigning Swainsboro champions – will be part of the parade.
The speedway's pit gates are scheduled to open at noon and the grandstands will be unlocked at 3 p.m. Practice is set to start at 6 p.m., followed by qualifying at 7 p.m. and racing at 8 p.m.
Racing for Swainsboro's crate Late Model and local divisions will also be part of the show. The program includes features-only for all divisions except the WoO and Crate Late Models. The facility’s Mud Bog will also be in operation on Saturday starting at 6 p.m.
General admission for the racing program (including the Mud Bog) is $25 and $15 for children 6-11. Pit passes are $35 and $20 for children 6-11.
For more info, visit swainsbororaceway.com or call (478) 252-1300.