Screven Motor Speedway
New car propels Clanton to prelim win at Screven
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
SYLVANIA, Ga. (Feb. 10) – Shane Clanton debuted a new car in sparkling fashion on Friday night, driving to a convincing heat race victory during the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Winter Freeze preliminary program at Screven Motor Speedway.
A strong field of 56 was signed in for the national tour’s season-opening weekend, which will conclude Saturday night with a 60-lap A-Main paying $20,000 to win. | Live updates | Complete Speedweeks coverage
Clanton, 36, Fayetteville, Ga., established himself as a favorite to collect the big money in the Winter Freeze finale with his performance Friday night. He dominated the second of five 15-lap heat races, turning the fastest lap of the preliminary events en route to beating Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., to the finish line by over a straightaway margin.
Joining Clanton as heat-race victors were 2008 WoO champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who outran two-time tour titlist Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., in the first prelim; Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., who hopes to chase the WoO title for the first time in 2012; Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C.; and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.
Clanton’s triumph came in his first start since destroying a car in a grinding crash while leading the Jan. 18 feature during the unsanctioned Wild West Shootout at USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz. The accident forced him and Kennedy Motorsports teammate John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., to head home early from the six-race series and hastily assemble a new Capital Race Car for the start of the WoO campaign.
Friday’s heat race triumph made a grueling stretch of hard work well worth the effort.
“We stayed up a couple days to get enough cars and enough equipment built up to run for two-and-a-half weeks here,” said Clanton, who won just two heats all season en route to a disappointing seventh-place finish in the 2011 points standings. “We worked probably the hardest in the pit area the last two-and-a-half weeks.”
Clanton won’t be satisfied with his visit to Screven, however, unless he’s in the mix for victory in Saturday’s Winter Freeze headliner. He has a good idea about what it will take to collect the big money in his home state.
“Tire management is gonna be key,” said Clanton, who will redraw for the top-five starting spots in the main event with Friday night’s other heat race winners. “We hurt tires tonight in 15 laps, so the car’s gonna have to be good but we’re gonna have to save some equipment for the end of the race also.”
Lanigan, 40, was fastest in Friday night’s Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, posting a lap of 14.305 seconds around promoter Redd Griffin’s 3/8-mile red-clay oval. It was his 21st career fast-time honor on the WoO tour.
Defending series champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., transferred to the main event with a third-place finish in the second heat. He will start 12th in the Winter Freeze.
Also making the cut through Friday night’s heats was three of the eight drivers who were recently approved as 2012 WoO Rookie of the Year contenders. Greg Johnson of Bedford, Pa., Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., and Jared Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va., each scored a third-place finish to crack the feature lineup.
Saturday night’s racing program features consolation races and the lucrative Winter Freeze finale for the World of Outlaws as well as a $5,000-to-win UNOH All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car show and a $2,500-to-win Crate Late Model headliner.
Screven’s gates are scheduled to open at 10 a.m. Hot laps are set to start at 5 p.m. with on-track competition to immediately follow.
Admission (including pits) is $35 for adults, $15 for children 7-12 and free for kids 6-and-under. Each ticket also provides access Gee Chee Creek Mudd Drags and Gamecock Speedway go-kart races that will take place on Saturday afternoon elsewhere on the speedway property.
More information on the Winter Freeze is available by logging on to www.screvenmotorspeedway.com or calling 912-228-5886. Screven Motor Speedway is located between Mile Markers 6 and 7 on GA Route 21 in Screven County, Ga., about 45 minutes Northwest of Savannah.