Delaware International Speedway
Lathroum survives, gets WoO victory at Delaware
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
DELMAR, Del. (May 28) — Jamie Lathroum's eyes got real wide when Steve Francis pulled up lame with a flat tire on lap 44 of Thursday night's First State 50 at Delaware International Speedway. Six circuits later, the red-hot driver from Mechanicsville, Md., wore a wide smile in victory after capturing his first career World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory.
Lathroum, 30, assumed command when Ashland, Ky.'s Francis stopped in turn two with a cut right-rear tire to bring out the ninth and final caution flag of the marathon, rough-and-tumble event. He pulled away from WoO regular Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., on the ensuing restart to become the second consecutive first-time winner on the national tour, following Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., who won on May 24 at Charter Raceway Park in Beaver Dam, Wis.
“It feels great to beat the professionals at something that's your hobby,” said Lathroum, a third-year dirt Late Model racer who makes his living as a plumber for a contractor in the Washington, D.C., area. “When I'm thinking about doing my job at work they're thinking about making their race cars go faster, so it's real satisfying to win against them.”
Lathroum's triumph — worth a career-high $10,650, including the $500 WoO Bonus Bucks as the highest-finishing driver who hadn't previously won a tour event and isn't ranked among the top-12 in the points — was his fourth special-show victory this season in the Mid-Atlantic region. He also won last November's Delaware State Dirt Track Championship event at Delaware International.
The breakthrough checkered flag came in the ninth career WoO start for Lathroum.
Smith, who turns 32 on May 31, settled for a second-place finish in his first-ever appearance at DIS. It was the third top-five run in a row for Smith, who started from the outside pole and led laps 1-6 in his Bloomquist Race Car.
Francis made a frantic rally after pitting for a new tire to finish third in Dale Beitler's Rocket. He led laps 7-44 in his bid for a series-best fourth win of 2009. Completing the top five was Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who pitted on lap six to change a broken left-rear shock, and Lathroum's brother-in-law, Darryl Hills of Great Mills, Md., who recorded a career-best WoO finish.
Hills actually helped pave the way for Lathroum's march to the promised land. After Lathroum's car had a broken driveshaft during hot laps, it was Hills who loaned him a replacement to get through the night.
Without any practice laps, Lathroum went on to time second-fastest behind Francis in time trials and win the second heat. He then drew the pole position for the feature, but he fell to fourth after being passed by Smith and Francis at the initial green flag and Hills on a lap-six restart.
With the race's first 12 laps slowed by seven caution flags and one red flag, Lathroum found little rhythm. But when the event finally settled down his machine picked up speed, helping him overtake Hills for third on lap 21 and Smith for second on lap 28.
“It was pretty tight to start with,” Lathroum said of his car. “It just wouldn't steer, but then we found something that started working and it came back to us.”
Lathroum was just over one second behind Francis on lap 44 when the race fell into his lap.
“I was just trying to concentrate on making my car as fast as it could be and hit my marks,” recalled Lathroum. “Next thing I know, I seen (Francis) go up the track. I said, ‘I don't think he'd do that,' so I knew something must have broke or he got a flat.”
Indeed, it was a punctured right-rear tire that did in Francis, who started fourth and appeared to have the race well in hand.
“I guess I ran over something during that caution (on lap 42) and put a hole in the tire,” said Francis. “When the car rolled over on the right-rear on the front straightaway on the restart, I knew there was a problem.
“I guess I won one last week (at Missouri's U.S. 36 Raceway) because of a tire (Brady Smith's last-lap flat), and now I lost one because of a tire.”
Francis, 41, did make a big gain in the WoO points standings, moving to second place, just two points behind Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va. Richards was involved in a first-lap accident that damaged his car's nose, but a multicar pileup on a lap-two restart that caused a lengthy red flag allowed his crew to get him back on the track just one lap down and he salvaged an 11th-place finish with a damaged machine.
Smith, meanwhile, had nothing for Lathroum following the race's final restart.
“I was tight (handling), so I wasn't in position to even think about making any moves,” Smith said. “I left the car a little freer than I should have. If I would've done a few things different, I think we could've won the race.”
The feature took over one hour to complete, largely due to a series of wild accidents in the opening laps.
Nearly half the field was involved in the biggest crash, which came on the lap-two restart. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who started fifth, was pushed high rounding turn four and came together with Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., triggering a homestretch melee that saw Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa., Ricky Elliott of Seaford, Del., defending WoO champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., all make contact with Eckert's sliding mount.
Several other cars were involved in the wreck, including Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., and Kerry King of Delmar, Del. But there were no injuries, and Eckert, Lanigan, Clanton and Robinson all returned after pitting — albeit with battle-scarred cars.
Robinson, a 21-year-old Rookie of the Year contender, climbed highest, reaching sixth place before retiring on lap 12 when his car's bumper bar got into its tire. Clanton ran several laps at reduced speed with a car that was missing its hood and nosepiece, while Eckert and Lanigan salvaged top-10 finishes with hastily-repaired cars.
Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., avoided all the mayhem to finish sixth. Lanigan and Eckert were seventh and eight, respectively, while DIS regular Ray Davis Jr. of Millsboro, Del., placed ninth and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who pitted after being involved in a turn-four tangle on a lap-six restart, was 10th.
Notes: Lathroum's Harold Eatmon-powered No. 6 MasterSbilt Race Car is sponsored by Three Mules Welding Supplies, Abell Auto Glass, Superior Tank and Double J Grafix. ... Lathroum's previous richest victory came at DIS last November in the Delaware State Championships with a $6,025 victory. ... Among special-event victories in 2009 for Lathroum are a $5,000 O'Reilly All Star victory at Winchester (Va.) Speedway on May 9, and a Three State Flyers victory at Winchester worth $3,000 on May 22. ... Just 11 cars were running at the finish, with seven on the lead lap. ... Thirty-two cars were signed in for the event, which was threatened by rain. A light shower hit the track around 5 p.m. and radar showed the likelihood of heavier rain coming, but the precipitation dissipated as it crossed the Chesapeake Bay and never reached the track. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature lineup: Dustin Hapka, David Pettyjohn, Kenny Pettyjohn, David Hill Jr., Tyler Reddick and Staci Warrington. ... After taking Friday off, the series runs a $10,000-to-win event Saturday at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway and a $7,000-to-win event Sunday at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va.
First State 50: (1) Jamie Lathroum, (2) Brady Smith, (3) Steve Francis, (4) Tim Fuller, (5) Darryl Hills, (6) Clint Smith, (7) Darrell Lanigan, (8) Rick Eckert, (9) Ray Davis Jr., (10) Chub Frank, (11) Josh Richards, (12) Richard Jarvis Jr., (13) Donald Lingo Jr., (14) Hal Browning, (15) Shane Clanton, (16) Brent Robinson, (17) Austin Hubbard, (18) Russ King, (19) Ricky Elliott, (20) Jeremy Miller, (21) Vic Coffey, (22) Kerry King, (23) Ross Robinson, (24) Jordan Bland. Fast qualifier (among 32 cars): Francis, 18.892 seconds. Heat race winners: Francis, Lathroum, B. Smith. Consolation winner: Bland. Provisional starters: Lanigan, King.