Quick Time: World 100 success (and futility)
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
Take a quick lap around the proverbial dirt track with managing editor Todd Turner for a roundup of Dirt Late Model racing through the latest weekend of action along with some other quirks of racing (along with occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time, one of the newest features of our website, will appear every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:
Frontstretch: Drivers of the week
National: Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., put his provisional starting spot to good use Sept. 2 at I-77 Raceway Park in Ripley, W.Va., rallying from his 24th starting spot for a $25,000 victory in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Hillbilly 100.
Regional: Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., scored an impressive Labor Day weekend in his WISSOTA Late Model, winning three times in a five-day stretch in Minnesota at Ogilvie, Proctor and Hibbing. Smith collected $8,450 in weekend earnings along with his second straight Silver 1000 victory at Proctor
Weekly: David Scott of Garland, Pa., swept the season-ending Fun Fest at Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y., winning a pair of $3,000 Late Model features on Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
Crate: David Smith of Inman, S.C., was the weekend’s richest winner in the division with a $7,500 victory in the Fastrak Pro Late Model Nationals on Sept. 2 at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va. Honorable mention: Justin McRee of Cottondale, Miss., swept Sept. 1-2 action on the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series at Whynot (Miss.) Motorsports Park.
Turn 1: World 100 success? Or failure?
So what’s the standard for futility at Eldora Speedway’s World 100? Is it the driver who enters the event for many years but doesn’t ever make the starting lineup? Or is it the driver who makes the feature lineup 10 or more times but never grabs the globe trophy in Dirt Late Model racing’s most prestigious event?
Likely both drivers are disappointed in the outcomes of their World 100 weekends, but we tend to focus on the drivers that have taken 1,000 laps or more in the race — without leading the last one. Here’s a look at the 11 drivers with 10 or more World 100 starts without a victory:
Freddy Smith (19 starts): The Hall of Famer twice won the Dream, but he never picked up a World 100 checkered flag despite six top-five finishes. He holds the record for consecutive race starts of 17 from 1981 to ’97.
Darrell Lanigan (18 starts): The Union, Ky., driver is among this year’s favorites amid his record-setting World of Outlaws Late Model Series season of 14 victories. He has four top-five finishes.
Rodney Combs (15 starts): The Hall of Famer’s best run came in his last start in 1992 with a third-place finish. He started 14 of the first 16 races.
Pat Patrick (14 starts): The Hall of Famer from Saylor Park, Ohio, had two runner-up finishes while starting 14 of the first 17 World 100s.
Bob Pierce (13 starts): The Illinois Hall of Famer had three top-five finishes. In his best chance to win in 1999, a flapping body panel behind the left-front wheel cause aerodynamic issues that let winner Steve Francis overtake him on lap 55.
John Gill (13 starts): While Gill had a near-miss in Dream II at Eldora, his World 100 performances were almost all also-rans. Only once did he finished better than eighth; that was in ’95 with a third-place finish.
John Mason (13 starts): While the Millersburg, Ohio, Hall of Famer has still been a frequent entrant, he hasn’t made a World 100 start since 1997. He has three career top-five finishes including a runner-up performance to Randy Boggs in 1987.
Rick Eckert (12 starts): The York, Pa., driver owns a Dream victory, but he’s only once cracked the top five in the World 100 with a fourth-place finish in ’99, the same year of his Dream success.
Don O’Neal (11 starts): The 48-year-old Martinsville, Ind., was a relatively late bloomer at Eldora, not making the World 100 starting field until 1998. Since then he’s made all but three races and owns four top-five finishes, including third place last year.
Tommy Helfrich (11 starts): The famed Haubstadt Hustler saved his best for last, finishing with a runner-up finish in 1990 as he took the checkers sliding backwards behind Scott Bloomquist. He also had third-place finishes in ’76-’77.
Shannon Babb (10 starts): The Moweaqua, Ill., driver has actually taken the checkers first, but his 2005 disqualification robbed him of World 100 (and would’ve put inheriting winner Dale McDowell on this list. Besides his DQ, Babb has finished outside the top 10 just twice.
Turn 2: Once upon a time
Last season, six first-time starters cracked the World 100 field. How many of them will make the race this year? Or ever again?
From what we know now, it’s a decent bet that the six drivers — Mike Spatola, Dustin Neat, Brandon Sheppard, Jon Henry, Chris Ferguson and Kent Robinson — will again make a World 100 starting field. But history isn’t necessarily with them.
Of the 303 drivers on the all-time World 100 starters list, 133 have made just a single feature lineup. That’s a whopping 44 percent of the drivers. One of them, Joe Merryfield, was good enough to win in his only start, but most of them are simply become names on a list, including Baldy McLaren (10th in 1974), George Branscum (third in 1971, the first World 100) and Bo Smith (12th in 1982).
A few on the one-timer list are noteworthy, such as former NASCAR drivers Ernie Irvan (12th in ’84) and Joe Ruttman (second in ’71), while others are drivers whose chances to get a second start have faded, like 1999 starters Tony Izzo Jr. (22nd) and Jeff Taylor (24th).
Who will the first-timers of 2012 be, and how many races will they make?
Backstretch: Facebook status of the week
From the page of Louisiana driver Timothy Culp:
"I have one car with all used parts and never work on it just drive it and it’s a dream to drive ... then I have a car with the best of everything and countless hours and a lot of hard work put into, and it’s a nightmare to drive ... awesome.”
Turn 3: Racing forum post of the week
"Effective Aug. 31, 2012, the following rule changes are effective for Section 12: Weight Rules: #3 Complete IMCA Spec Motor rule including intake spacer has been reduced from 2350 lbs. to 23245 lbs.”
A correction to the required weight was quickly added, putting it at 2,325 pounds. Otherwise, that was going to be one heavy race car.
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
Sept. 7, 1981: En route to his National Dirt Racing Association champion, Buck Simmons of Baldwin, Ga., won at Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway.
Sept. 6, 1987: Jack Boggs of Webbville, Ky., captured the STARS-sanctioned Hillbilly 100 at Pennsboro (W.Va.) Speedway.
Sept. 13, 1997: Mike Head of Ellenwood, Ga., won at Central Mississippi Speedway in Winona to wrap up the first awarded championship on the Rick’s Furniture Super Late Model Series.
Sept. 8, 2001: Donnie Barnhart of North Little Rock, Ark., took the lead from Bill Frye on the sixth lap and rolled to a victory in the fifth annual Cow Patty 50 at Poinsett County Speedway in Harrisburg, Ark.
Sept. 9, 2005: Trent Follmer of Elk River, Minn., took the lead when Steve Laursen had a flat tire and captured the WISSOTA-sanctioned Harvest Bowl at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., to earn $4,500.
Checkered flag: Five fearless World 100 predictions
• In his 19th start, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., will finally capture his first World 100.
• The heat-race inversion will be ... six.
• The 100-lapper will have two or fewer caution flags.
• Kentucky will have at least as many drivers among 30 starters as any other state.
• A driver who wins a Friday qualifying race will also win one of Saturday's consolation scrambles.
(Last week: Four of five predictions correct)