Notes: Moran has work to do before East Bay
Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, came within inches of his first East Bay Raceway Park victory last season, falling to Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., in the final corner of the 2018 Winternationals opener at the Gibsonton, Fla., oval. | Complete Speedweeks coverage
Preparing to make his debut with Dunn Benson Motorsports, the 24-year-old Moran will be seeking redemption as he heads to Georgia-Florida Speedweeks this year. But first on his agenda: Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Ga.
“I definitely just want to get that first East Bay win,” Moran said. “Before I worry about East Bay, we’ve got to get through Golden Isles. I want a couple of really good nights down there. I didn’t get to race down there in 2018, so I’m excited to go back and hopefully we can have a really good run down there. I definitely want to get a couple of top-10s, top-fives. That’s my main goal moving forward. Once we get through there, then I’m definitely ready to get back to East Bay, for sure.”
With Moran and younger brother Wylie recently making the move to North Carolina, the two have been working to get the Dunn Benson team Speedweeks-ready. While it’s certainly been an adjustment for the 2017 World of Outlaws Mortan Buildings Rookie of the Year, he said the transition has been going well so far.
“We did a little testing with the rest of the Rocket group, just trying to get up and running,” Moran said. “It’s a new team for me and Wylie and it’s a little bit different operation. We had to get our rig and stuff ready, pit cart ready. It’s definitely been a project to start, but not a bad project. We’re just trying to get everything figured out. Testing went good. We had decent speed and we were consistent the whole time, so everything so far is going good.”
Moran will tackle the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series this season, starting with the RhinoAg Super Bowl of Racing Feb. 1-2 doubleheader at Golden Isles. After a few months of down time, testing has him ready to take on the Speedweeks grind.
“It’s one of them deals that just kind of gets me acclimated behind the wheel,” Moran said. “We haven’t raced since Charlotte in November. It’s not that you forget, it’s just when you’re not doing it week after week, you lose a little bit of that edge out there. It just kind of helps you get back in the groove and get some seat time to get ready to go. I’m not saying it helps too much, but it does help to get back behind the wheel and know what’s going on.” — Alli Collis
Curl eases WoO transition
Matt Curl remembers 2018’s baptism by fire on the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series in serving as series director at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
Among other first-race situations, Curl faced making the call to shorten the series-opening feature because of fog, then had to deal with the aftermath of a postrace altercation in the pits between two drivers that involved law enforcement.
“My first 24 hours as series director, I was like, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ ” Curl recalled about last year’s Speedweeks.
While Curl has moved on — in November he announced he was returning to Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway to serve as majority owner and promoter — he’s going to do his best to help incoming tour director Casey Shuman have a smoother start.
Curl’s departure from his World Racing Group is more of a graceful exit as he assists with Shuman’s transition. Curl largely set the 2019 tour schedule, represented the series at December’s Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis, Ind., and spent a few days at Arizona’s Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout providing Shuman a “crash course” in the Late Model world.
Even with his focus on Fairbury, Curl says he plans to “continue helping them long term, and Casey, I think he’s a really good person for that job.”
Shuman, a veteran open-wheel racer who owns and formerly promoted the POWRi Lucas Oil Wingless Auto Racing Sprints, directs his first events Feb. 8-9 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga.
“I'm excited; it'll be fun,” Shuman said earlier this month in Arizona. “It’s definitely going to be a new challenge, but it'll be exciting when you get to see some new people and new racetracks, and it'll be fun.”
Curl hopes to ease Shuman’s transition as he’s “heavily invested with Casey and the team and (WRG president) Tom (Deery),” he said, to continue helping “to make the World of Outlaws great.” — Todd Turner
Lanigan’s WoO return
Darrell Lanigan is back in black. After spending past three years with Clint Bowyer Racing, the Union, Ky., driver will be back behind the wheel of his familiar No. 29 machine in 2019 for a run at a fourth World of Outlaws Mortan Buildings Late Model Series crown. Backed by Gotta Race, Cornett Racing Engines, Mobil 1 and Integra Racing Shocks, Lanigan plans to race all 47 events on this year’s WoO schedule.
Lanigan’s impact on Dirt Late Model racing and accomplishments with the Outlaws tour are well-known. He’s the 2003 Dream winner, 2012 USA Nationals winner, 2014 Firecracker 100 winner, and he sits second on the series all-time win list with 72 career World of Outlaws victories. After mostly lackluster results with CBR, Lanigan is hoping to rekindle some of that magic this year.
“Hopefully, when we get back, we can have some more success and win some races,” Lanigan said. “And, hopefully capitalize on the win total and try and get back up on top. I honestly enjoy running with the World of Outlaws, enjoy the people there, just glad to be back.”
Lanigan gained plenty of knowledge while driving for Bowyer, but he’s excited to be back working with his own equipment.
“They definitely have a nice place, it’s definitely professionally run,” Lanigan said. “We had a little bit of success, but nothing like I was used to in my own equipment. I’m just glad to get my hands back on my own stuff. Just put my head down, work at it and see what we can come up with.”
Since Lanigan was last with the Outlaws, series regulars have come and gone. The rise of Rocket Chassis house car pilot Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., came in 2017, when a dominant Sheppard surpassed Lanigan’s single-season win record in his first full-time year on the tour. The 2019 season will see the likes of five-time WISSOTA Late Models champion Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, and recent Wild West Shootout winner Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., competing for the Rookie of the Year title. Lanigan agreed they will all make things a little tougher. But he’s always up to the challenge.
“They’ve definitely got some new talent coming up and they’re definitely well-funded,” Lanigan said. “They’re going to make it a little harder, but we’re going to give them a run for their money.” — Jordan DeLucia
Lucas Oil training ground
The long stretch of Speedweeks racing for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series requires all hands on deck, series director Rick Schwallie knows. And while that means the series employs its usual army of inspectors, pit stewards and officials, the tour routinely gets assistance at Golden Isles Speedway and East Bay Raceway Park from part-time series workers, many connected to tracks that host the tour's regular-season events.
This season, Josh King and D.J. Smallwood of Kentucky’s Florence Speedway are helping out along with Danny Lorton of Missouri’s Lucas Oil Speedway. Ernie Leftwich, director of the tour’s sister Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association, is also on hand again along with a first-timer, Ohio’s Tristan Moran, who works with his father Donnie at Muskingum County Speedway.
Lending a hand during the tour’s busy stretch can help those who work at tracks sharpen their skills and programs, borrowing ideas and seeing how things are done at the national touring level, Schwallie said.
“There’s no school to someone to train a race official,” Schwallie said. “I’m not saying we’re the university for that by any means, but we put a lot of work into” coordinating staffers to execute efficient race programs.
While the warmer weather is nice, it’s no vacation for the part-timers. Schwallie expects them to truly be part of the team from a day’s pre-race meeting through the final teardowns. They’ll have access to the 45-page printout details staff duties, assignments, travel plans, lodging, transportation and more that keeps the staff humming along.
That’s the kind of thing beneficial for someone like Moran, the brother of series race Devin Moran who expressed interest in a Speedweeks gig last season with Schwallie as he takes a bigger role in his family’s track. (To be clear, Schwallie pointed out, Tristan Moran won’t play any role in making a ruling or call that will involve his brother).
A stint at Speedweeks will “let (Tristan) see some ways of how we operate our series that he can take back and help him at the speedway,” Schwallie said. — Todd Turner
Another shot for Briggs
After a spending the 2017 season with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the second half of his 2018 campaign racing near his Bear Lake, Pa., home, Boom Briggs will return to the World of Outlaws Mortan Building Late Model Series this season, starting with the Feb. 8-9 Winter Freeze IX at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga.
Briggs has raced with the Outlaws several times in his career, gathering five top-fives and 13 top-10s, with his best finish coming at Screven in February 2016 — a runner-up effort for his No. 99b machine.
But life happened, forcing Briggs to step away from the WoO tour for the last couple of seasons. His dad, Rick, who got him into the sport, passed just over a year and a half ago, which left Briggs wanting to scale back his racing program. Funding and help out on the road became an issue. And of course, there was his big crash in turn three during qualifying at the 2016 Illini 100 at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway.
“I get to race because of my family. We got into racing because of my dad,” Briggs said. “We always tried the tour thing and it seemed like every year, either my business was too busy, I broke my arm at Farmer City (in 2016), I was running the Lucas deal and my dad got sick and passed away. We just want one good, fair shot at a solid, competitive year out on the tour.
“There was always something. Back when (cousin) Chub (Frank) was running it, we didn’t have enough help for two teams and we both tired running it, so he had help. I just want one fair shot at it. I’m going to be 48 next July, I just want one fair shot at a national tour. I think just going home last year and just slowing down a little bit, realizing what we did have and what my capabilities were — it’s probably the year to try it again.”
For Briggs, it’s all about being realistic. He said he knows he’s not going to head out on the road and win 10-12 races in a year. But a solid finish in points and that elusive first Outlaw win would surely satisfy his appetite. Now that driver and former WoO regular Chub Frank is semi-retired from being behind the wheel, he’ll be around to help Briggs in the shop and on the road.
“Going into this year, Chub isn’t racing full time, he’s in the shop every day,” Briggs said. “He’s the reason that I won eight or nine races last year around home. I actually passed him to win a couple of them.”
Briggs will also have the assistance of Union, Ky., chassis builder Darrell Lanigan, who is set to return to the Outlaws roster this year as well.
“I’ve got Darrell’s cars, and he’s more focused now being back on his own than he ever has been,” Briggs said. “In my sense, when I’ve got Chub Frank and Darrell Lanigan in my corner, we’ve just got to keep up with the maintenance and I’ve got to do a better job driving.” — Jordan DeLucia
Odds and ends
Reigning World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series champion Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., is expected to make his debut in the K&L Rumley Enterprises No. 6 on Feb. 8-9 in WoO action at Screven Motor Speedway. …. Tyler Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va., is set to tackle East Bay piloting the No. 27 Rocket Chassis of Longbrake Racing normally driven by Lauren Longbrake. … Dunn Benson, which landed primary sponsorship from Big River Steel, announced this week the addition of associate sponsor GetsCo, an agricultural chemical and sitework material supplier in the Carolinas. ... Reece Monument is back as a sponsor for three-time Lucas Oil champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., on his Ramirez Motorsports Rocket for the first time since 2014; Mike Reece was the car owner for Owens during his title-winning seasons.
Editor's note: Adds information about Jimmy Owens in final segment.