Lanigan wins Bluegrass for WoO weekend sweep
By Kevin KovacLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
BARDSTOWN, Ky. (April 30) – The early-season beat rolled on for Union, Ky.’s Darrell Lanigan on Saturday night at Bluegrass Speedway.
Racing at a half-mile oval just two hours from his home, Lanigan completed a sweep of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series’s weekend doubleheader with a victory in the caution-free 50-lap My Old Kentucky Old Home Shootout. | Video
Lanigan, 40, led the entire distance of the ninth annual event after starting from the pole position in his GottaRace.com Rocket Chassis. He repelled challenges from two-time defending WoO champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Scott James of Greendale, Ind., to earn his tour-leading fourth victory in six starts this season.
“It’s good to come back here to Kentucky and win one,” said Lanigan, who captured the inaugural My Old Kentucky Home Shootout at Bluegrass in 2003. “We didn’t qualify very well (30th after timing late in the session), but we ran a good heat race (finishing second) and then drew the number one (for the feature). That definitely helped, but like I’ve said – the car’s been good all year, and we’re just doing everything we can to win every race and get back in the points.”
Lanigan, who missed the WoO season opener Feb. 17 at Volusia Speedway Park due to a medical issue and finished 15th in his first tour outing of 2011 two days later, hasn’t finished outside the top three since leaving the Florida track. He has climbed all the way back to fourth in the points standings and, with Saturday’s $10,775 score, has already topped $60,000 in earnings.
Coming off a spectacular charge to victory using the outside lane on Friday night at Hartford (Mich.) Motor Speedway, Lanigan utilized a more methodical approach at Bluegrass. He had to calmly hold his line and avoid catching lapped cars throughout a race that was completed without interruption in just over 14 minutes.
Lanigan crossed the finish line 0.479 of a second ahead of James, who slipped underneath Richards for the runner-up spot on lap 37 and marched on to a career-best WoO performance driving the Riggs Motorsports Rocket.
The 23-year-old Richards settled for a close third-place finish in the Rocket house car, veteran Mike Jewell of Scottsburg, Ind., was fourth in a self-owned MasterSbilt mount and 19-year-old sensation Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., placed fifth in Dale Beitler’s Rocket machine.
Lanigan, who competed all weekend virtually free of the lower-back pain that has plagued him throughout the season after receiving a cortisone shot for his fractured tailbone, recognized that the Bluegrass surface had become locked down and played the conditions to perfection.
“I was rubber racing,” said Lanigan, who sits third on the WoO win list since 2004 with 23 career victories. “I didn’t really want to go up there and pressure those lapped cars because when you get on a guy’s bumper it takes the air off your nose, so I just rolled out of it in the corners and closed back up on the straightaways.
“I knew that somebody was close, but I didn’t know who it was and I knew it would be hard to pass me if I didn’t make a mistake or get myself messed up with lapped cars.”
James, 39, never drew close enough to offer Lanigan a serious challenge. His hard-compound tire choice helped him come on as the race progressed but he couldn’t pull off his first-ever WoO triumph.
“I’m happy,” said James, whose previous best finish in WoO action was third, on both Feb. 17 and 19, 2005, at Volusia Speedway Park. “It would’ve been nice to get it tonight, but any time you can come out of here with a top three in this crowd your car’s pretty good.”
Richards, meanwhile, fell short in his bid to reach victory lane for the first time in WoO competition this season. He moved from the fourth starting spot to second by lap two and threatened Lanigan several times, but his hopes disintegrated after he slid high in turn four and ceded the bridesmaid position to James.
“I felt like we were way better than Darrell,” said Richards, who has a 32-point edge over Lanigan in the WoO standings. “I got up to him and I got clear up behind his quarter-panel (on lap 37), but I got a little bit of an aero-push so I just kind of tried to carry it to the outside of (turn) four. I thought the track was rubbered wider than it was, but it was really narrow and I was like, ‘Uh oh, that was bad.’ I didn’t realize Scott James was that close and he got by.
“We were going for the win,” he added. “I’m really hungry for a win right now, so I tried to make something happen. It didn’t work, but we still ended up third out of it – and knowing we were that close, or even better, than a guy who’s been dominating makes me feel a lot better.”
Jewell, who turns 53 in July, was the feel-good story of the night. He slipped backward one position to finish fourth after starting on the inside of the second row but was still beaming following the checkered flag.
“I took a gamble and ran a harder tire and those guys sort of got away at the start,” said Jewell, an accomplished Midwestern racer who registered a career-best WoO finish. “But then I moved up there to the top, got faster and got some momentum, and I started running those guys (Lanigan and Richards) down. I thought, Man, I’ve got something here. But Scott slid under me (for third) before I got down there in that rubber and then we were done.
“I had a good car all night, so I was real pleased. These guys are on top of their game – they’re professionals, and this is their living. We’re just kind of weekend warriors, so I’m just glad to get to run with them.”
Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., finished sixth — a career-best WoO run by the young graduate of the UMP modified ranks. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., remained second in the tour points standings with a seventh-place finish after starting 12th; 14th-starter Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., survived a first-lap scrape that crunched his car’s left-rear sheet metal to place eighth; Tim Rivers of Salem, Ind., was ninth for his first-ever top-10 finish in a WoO event; and Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., took 10th.
The race’s only noteworthy casualty was Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who relinquished fourth place on lap four due to a broken rearend in his BPG Inc.-sponsored car.
My Old Kentucky Old Home Shootout: (1) Darrell Lanigan, (2) Scott James, (3) Josh Ricards, (4) Mike Jewell, (5) Austin Hubbard, (6) Kent Robinson, (7) Rick Eckert, (8) Chub Frank, (9) Tim Rivers, (10) Brady Smith, (11) Clint Smith, (12) Jason Feger, (13) Victor Lee, (14) Tim McCreadie, (15) Shane Clanton, (16) Greg Johnson, (17) Vic Coffey, (18) Pat Doar, (19) Jonathan Davenport, (20) Terry English, (21) Dustin Neat, (22) Justin Rattliff, (23) Ron Davies, (24) Tim Tungate, (25) Tim Fuller, (26) Brent Robinson. Fast qualifier (among 42 cars): James, 15.593 seconds. Heat race winners: Richards, Jewell, K. Robinson, Hubbard. Consolation race winners: Davenport, Smith. Provisional starters: Clanton, B. Robinson, Davies, Tungate.