Resurgent Lanigan nabs his first WoO 100-lapper
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
COLUMBUS, Miss. (March 19) — Darrell Lanigan broke through two levels of frustration on Saturday night at Columbus Speedway. Simultaneously ending his long pursuit of an extra-distance victory on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and beginning a comeback from his disappointing start to the 2011 season, Lanigan drove forward from the 19th starting spot to capture the inaugural Cash Cow 100 before a packed house. | Prelims | Video | Slideshow
Lanigan, 40, of Union, Ky., earned $20,675 for his first-ever win in a 100-lap WoO victory after coming tantalizingly close to a checkered flag in several century grinds over three seasons. The 2008 tour champion did it the hard way, charging through the field on a demanding high-banked, third-mile oval to grab the lead for good on lap 64 with a pass of Crane, Mo.’s Will Vaught.
“The car was just awesome in the feature tonight,” said Lanigan, who gained entry to the weekend’s headliner by steering his GottaRace.com Rocket car to victory in the first consolation race Saturday night. “We struggled a little bit last night in the heat races when we were trying a few things, but we made some changes today and man, it came on in the feature. To run the consy and come back and win is just unbelievable.”
Vaught, 24, finished second in his Warrior Race Car after starting fourth and leading laps 15-31 and 62-63. It was a career-best placing on the WoO for the young talent, who overtook Hall of Famer Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., for the runner-up spot coming to the white flag.
Moyer, who started third in his own Victory Circle Chassis, settled for a third-place finish while his 23-year-old son, Billy Moyer Jr., advanced from the 13th starting spot to register a career-high WoO placing of fourth. Polesitter Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., completed the top five in Dale Beitler’s Rocket Chassis after surviving a near-disastrous homestretch scrape with Vaught and Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., on lap 11 as the trio battled for the lead.
Richards, 23, led more laps than any other driver, pacing the field for 44 circuits after starting from the outside pole. He led laps 1-14 before being overtaken by Vaught and then rallying to regain the top spot on lap 32, but his bid for a second consecutive 100-lap win on the WoO effectively ended on lap 61 when he spun in turn two as a result of contact while attempting to lap Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga.
Richards restarted at the rear of the field, but the two-time defending WoO champion could only climb to ninth at the finish.
Lanigan, who had just begun to challenge Vaught for second when Richards lost control of his Rocket, scored his 20th career series victory. It gave him a major boost in his uphill climb in the tour points race after he was forced to miss the season opener on Feb. 17 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., because of medical problems associated with a cyst on the base of his tailbone. He vaulted from 30th to 14th in the points standings, 96 points behind Moyer’s leading total after three events.
“We’re down a little bit in the points, but if we keep winning ‘em it’s gonna come back,” said Lanigan, who reported that his lower back was sore following the physical race.
Vaught, who earned a $500 bonus for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a WoO event, completed a memorable weekend with his bridesmaid finish. He finished second in a heat race on Friday night after being forced to start ninth because of a flat left-rear tire during time trials and was a contender throughout the Cash Cow 100.
“At the start of the race we had a real good car and got out to the lead, but we put a little too soft of a tire on,” said Vaught. “I knew it was giving up when I got to lapped traffic and couldn’t pass them. Then I was just trying to make it last 100 laps.
“We ended up having a real good race with Billy Moyer — and to pass him for second right at the end was incredible.”
Moyer, 53, didn’t seem disappointed after losing second to Vaught with just one lap remaining. He wanted to talk less about his run and more about his son’s impressive performance.
“I’m real proud of Junior,” said Moyer, the winner of the last WoO event at Columbus, in March 2007. “When he come trucking by me there (for fourth on lap 56) I think he had a better hot rod than I did. But as the track changed I don’t think he chased the track just right. He still ended up fourth — and with this crowd here, that’s a heck of a job for him.”
The race’s three caution flags all came within a three-lap span after Richards’s spin created the first slowdown on the 61st lap.
“We were running for the win and finally I had to get by (Smith), so I let off, went to slow down to get in the corner and he ran into our left rear,” said Richards, who earned his first-ever win in a 100-lap event in the last long-distance WoO race, on Sept. 1, 2010, at Mohawk International Raceway in Akwesasne, N.Y. “I love Clint to death and I’m sure he probably didn’t mean it, but that’s what happened.
“It’s frustrating because we had a real awesome car. I don’t know if we could’ve held on for the win or not, but I felt like we could’ve been in contention.”
The two other yellows came when Friday night’s fast-timer, Chris Wall of Holden, La., stopped on the homestretch on lap 64, and on the ensuing restart Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., saw his bid to enter the top five end abruptly when his car’s right-rear wheel broke off between turns three and four.
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., who ran in the top five during the race’s first half; 21st-starting Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.; 22nd-starting Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga.; Richards; and Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky.
The WoO returns to action next weekend with a Southeastern tripleheader, visiting Ocala (Fla.) Speedway on March 25; Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., on March 26; and Needmore Speedway in Norman Park, Ga., on March 27.
Cash Cow 100: (1) Darrell Lanigan, (2) Will Vaught, (3) Billy Moyer, (4) Billy Moyer Jr., (5) Austin Hubbard, (6) Mike Marlar, (7) Earl Pearson Jr., (8) Dale McDowell, (9) Josh Richards, (10) Steve Francis, (11) Rick Eckert, (12) Tim McCreadie, (13) Scott Bloomquist, (14) Clint Smith, (15) Shane Clanton, (16) Chris Wall, (17) Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, (18) Tim Fuller, (19) Jason Feger, (20) Chub Frank, (21) Vic Coffey, (22) Bub McCool, (23) Rick Rickman, (24) Klint Byars. Fast qualifier (among 49 cars): Wall, 13.581 seconds. Heat race winners: Richards, Hubbard, Marlar, Moyer. Consolation winners: Lanigan, McCreadie. Provisional starters: Fuller, C. Smith.