Lanigan primed for another Dream run
By Kevin KovacUMP DIRTcar
Darrell Lanigan is tired of ringing up close-but-no-cigar finishes in the Dream by Ferris Commercial Mowers since earning his lone triumph nearly a decade ago.
The Bluegrass Bandit dearly wants another $100,000 triumph at Eldora Speedway — and if current momentum and recent performance in crown-jewel events at the famed half-mile mean anything, his return to the Dream’s victory lane stage could very well come with the running of the UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned race’s 18th edition this weekend. | Complete Dream XVIII coverage
“This is definitely gonna be a good year to go up there and try to win the thing,” said Lanigan, a resident of Union, Ky., who celebrated his 42nd birthday June 3. “The car’s hot, everything’s clicking for us and we’ve been good (at Eldora) every time we’ve gone there the last few years.
“We’re gonna go up there and see what we can do. It’s been a long time now since we won (the Dream), so hopefully we’re due to get some of that luck you need to win there.”
Lanigan, of course, is tearing up the World of Outlaws Late Model Series this season, leading the points standings by a commanding 108-point margin on the strength of a tour-best five victories in 15 starts, including three of the last four. He won the Jackpot 100 and its $25,000 purse May 26 at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va., and has already broken the $100,000 mark in series earnings in 2012, more than double the second-place driver in the money-won rankings.
With his sterling first half of the WoO schedule, Lanigan has deservedly garnered recognition as one of the country’s five hottest Dirt Late Model drivers, joining Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. Every member of the star-studded group is a former Dream winner, and division observers are overwhelmingly forecasting that one of them will hoist the Dream’s big check Saturday night.
Lanigan would seem to be the driver most overdue for Dream glory. Of the Fabulous Five, he’s gone the longest since last winning the race, having captured the 100-lap event in 2003. He also owns one of the show’s most impressive performance records.
Since finishing third in the inaugural Dream in 1994, Lanigan has entered all 17 installments of the event and started the feature 13 times. He has eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, including runner-up placings in 1998 and 2005; third-place runs in ’94, ’09 and ’11; a fourth in ’07; and a fifth in ’96.
Lanigan was especially strong in last year’s Dream, bidding repeatedly to pass Moyer for the lead until a skip that developed in his car’s engine late in the race caused him to slip to third at the finish, behind first-time winner O’Neal and Moyer. He returned to Eldora last September and nearly won the prestigious World 100 for the first time in 18 career starts, engaging in a wild late-race battle for the lead with eventual winner Owens and O’Neal before settling for a fourth-place finish.
Not surprisingly, Lanigan has plenty of reasons to feel confident about his chances this weekend.
“I think we’re just gonna stay on our gameplan,” said the always-cool Lanigan, who ran his Cornett-powered Rocket mount through technical inspection at the speedway Thursday. “The car’s been really good this year, so we’re gonna stay on basic stuff and go up there and not try to outsmart ourself. We’re just gonna focus on trying to win the race.”
Lanigan knows what winning the Dream feels like and wants to relive the joy.
“Any time you can get a win up at Eldora, it’s something special,” said Lanigan, whose Big E resume also boasts four American Late Model Series feature wins (one each in ’95, ’96, ’98 and ’03) and a triumph in the 2006 DIRTcar UMP Nationals. “But when you win one of the big ones, it’s something you’re gonna remember the rest of your life.
“It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks,” he added. “I love going up there and running well. Hopefully we can get another (Dream) win this year.”
The Dream weekend kicks off Friday with the traditional time-trial runs and newly-created qualifying features to fill Saturday’s six heat races. In addition to the heats on Saturday evening (June 9), the Dream will be preceded by C- and B-mains and new scramble races.