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Knoxville Raceway

Lanigan edges Richards for $40,000 at Knoxville

September 29, 2013, 4:00 am
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor
Darrell Lanigan pounds his car's roof in victory lane. (thesportswire.net)
Darrell Lanigan pounds his car's roof in victory lane. (thesportswire.net)

KNOXVILLE, Iowa (Sept. 28) — After leading 64 of the first 94 laps Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway, and after watching friendly rival Josh Richards steal away with a pair of preliminary victories Thursday and Friday at Knoxville Raceway, Darrell Lanigan had no intentions on settling for second in the 10th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals. | Complete Knoxville coverage

So after the fireworks from two rollover accidents subsided, Lanigan lined up behind Richards and knew the lap-94 restart was his best shot.

Pulling to the inside of Richards entering turn one, Lanigan’s car stuck in the middle groove through the corners to continue his side-by-side challenge of the leader. The 43-year-old Union, Ky., driver edged ahead out of turn four to complete the pass, leading the final six laps for a $40,000 victory, his first on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

“I think I just abused my tires so bad there ... we just put a pace down that was unbelievable and just got the tires hot,” Lanigan said. “It seemed like after them cautions, my car was really good. So I knew I could maneuver in that middle a little bit, so I just dropped to the bottom there and the car definitely had some traction off the corner.”

The traction carried him to his richest victory of the season and denied Richards a three-race sweep of Late Model action at the historic half-mile oval that’s in the shadow of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum.

The third-starting Lanigan didn’t quite put a Friday scrape with Richards out of mind, but he was glad to outrun his traveling mate in a back-and-forth duel over 100 laps.

“Any time you come to one of these big races, you definitely get pumped up. We just had a little bit of drama last night — which I don’t like — but just the way everything played out tonight, it worked perfect,” Lanigan said.

Richards, trying to duplicate Billy Moyer’s three-race sweep in 2010, was just a few lengths short at the finish, was clearly dejected after taking the lead from Lanigan on lap 84 but allowing him to regain it.

“I’m just very competitive ... Any time you feel like you should’ve done something different to win the race, that’s just part of it,” said Richards, who started outside the front row and led 29 laps. “We’ve just gotta try again.”

Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., benefitted from a scramble on a lap-94 restart that knocked three drivers out ahead of him — Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., Don O’Neal of Bloomington, Ill., and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga. — to grab the third spot while Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., came from his 22nd starting spot to fourth. Moyer, of Batesville, Ark., restarted third with six laps remaining but slipped back to fifth with a deflating right-rear tire.

“I wasn’t very good, but at the pay window tonight, it’s going to look real good, because I think we were about a seventh- or eighth-place car,” said McCreadie, who earned $10,000.

Power steering and engine problems knocked Lanigan out of his best previous chance to win Knoxville’s finale in 2008, and “it definitely makes up for any time you can win this Knoxville Nationals,” Lanigan said Saturday in victory lane. Like everybody says, it’s up there at the top with these crown jewels. Unbelievable. The car was phenomenal.”

Even when Lanigan jumped the turn-two cushion and lost ground to Richards with just 11 laps remaining, he was able to quickly regain the lost ground, then make the winning move on the race’s final restart.

“We could close back in real quick” after any miscues, Lanigan said. “You just had to make a good corner. Like I said, our tires got real hot, and we kept pushing in the corners, and once they got cooled off, they was gripping better.”

Richards, who led 18 of the first 19 laps before Lanigan took over, fell as far as a straightaway behind on lap 65, but he tracked down Lanigan by lap 84, diving under him to regain the lead in the race’s late stages.

“I guess the biggest thing was early, I feel like we had a good car all night long, I just tried to slow the pace down a little bit there in lapped traffic, and that’s when Darrell was able to get by,” Richards said. “I maintained there for a little while, and then the longer the race got, I got just a little bit tight steering. But then toward the end of the race, I moved around a little bit, and if anything, I think it was better, because I had him to gauge off of. I was able to move around and figure out where the sweet spots were in the track.”

A weekend sweep was within the grasp of Richards before Don O’Neal collided with the lapped car of Eddie Carrier Jr. in turn three, sending Carrier’s machine on a rollover accident before the car came to a rest between turns three and four on his car’s wheels. He wasn’t injured, but the red-flag cleanup was lengthy.

Barely before the red flag had been withdrawn, it was out again on the ensuing restart when the fifth-running O'Neal dove under the fourth-running Feger in turn one, knocking Feger’s No. 25 into the fence — and briefly upside down, as well — before O’Neal’s car skittered toward the infield, collecting McDowell and eight-running Scott Bloomquist in his wake. No one was injured.

Another lengthy cleanup was required — during which Feger walked the length of the pits to pay O’Neal a visit that was halted by a crowd of folks who kept them separated — Lanigan was plotting his move on Richards, who regretted his tactics of sticking with the higher racing groove.

“That red flag, I should’ve known better ... anytime there’s a red flag and it’s cold out, the middle bleeds,” Richards said. “Coming for the white flag, I pulled down to the middle in (turns) one and two and the car was locked to the ground. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but we’ve run second here three times ... we’ll get one eventually.

“I feel like we were both pretty equal there, and then there was a stretch for a little while I was just trying to move around a little bit, and he pulled away. Toward the end of that stretch, we gained back on him. We were able to get a run and I knew I had to take it at that time and do what we could. But it’s just part of it ... we still had a phenomenal weekend and our guys did a great job. That’s all I can ask for.”

Besides the rollover accidents, four other yellows appeared between laps 32-47 for Jared Landers (blew tire on lap 32 and stopped on lap 47), Jimmy Owens (stopped in turn four on lap 39) and on lap 41 when Brandon Sheppard jumped the cushion and hit the turn-three fence.

Notes: Lanigan’s Cornett-powered Rocket Chassis is sponsored by Keyser Mfg., Xtreme Graphics, PRC, GottaRace.com and Club 29. ... Three World of Outlaws Late Model Series regulars swept the top three spots in the event on the rival Lucas Oil Series. ... The first two nights of action were non-points races on the series, but fourth-finishing Steve Francis gained ground on series points leader Jimmy Owens, who was ninth. ... Eight drivers finished on the lead lap and 13 were running at the finish. ... Although he never ran in the top 10, B-main transferring Ryan Unzicker had the fastest lap of the race with a 17.595-second lap on the 20th circuit. ... The race lasted about an hour and 10 minutes.

10th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals

Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., Rocket, $40,000
2. Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., Rocket, $20,000
3. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Warrior, $10,000
4. Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., Barry Wright, $8,750
5. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., Victory Circle, $7,500
6. John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., Rocket, $7,000
7. Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., Bloomquist, $6,500
8. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., Bloomquist, $6,000
9. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Bloomquist, $5,500
10. Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, MasterSbilt, $5,000
11. Jason Utter (31), Columbus Junction, Iowa, MasterSbilt, $4,500
12. Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., Mastersbilt, $4,000
13. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., Bloomquist, $3,500
14. Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., Pierce, $3,400
15. Don O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., MasterSbilt, $3,300
16. Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., Warrior, $3,200
17. Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., Rocket, $3,100
18. Ryan Gustin (19), Marshalltown, Iowa, Rocket, $3,000
19. Frank Heckenast Jr., Frankfort, Ill., MasterSbilt, $2,900
20. Denny Eckrich (50), Tiffin, Iowa, Barry Wright, $2,800
21. Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., Victory Circle, $2,700
22. Jared Landers (5), Batesville, Ark., Barry Wright, $2,600
23. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., MB Customs, $2,500
24. Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., Longhorn, $2,500
25. Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., Rocket, $2,500
26. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., Victory Circle, $2,500
27. A.J. Diemel (58), Elk Mound, Wis., MB Customs, $2,500
28. Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, Rocket, $2,500
29. Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, MB Customs, $2,500
30. Bub McCool (57j), Vicksburg, Miss., Barry Wright, $2,500
31. Justin Kay (15k), Wheatland, Iowa, Barry Wright, $2,500
32. Tony Jackson Jr. (56), Lebanon, Mo., Rocket, $2,500
D-main winner: Steve Lance Jr. C-main winner: Brian Birkhofer: B-main winner: Bagley. Thursday’s preliminary feature winner: Richards. Friday’s preliminary feature winner: Richards. Provisional starters: Erb, Moyer Jr.

Lucas Oil points

(Through Sept. 28)
1. Jimmy Owens - 6,365
2. Steve Francis - 6,240
3. John Blankenship - 6,040
4. Earl Pearson Jr. - 5,685
5. Dennis Erb Jr. - 5,600
6. Don O’Neal - 5,490
7. Eddie Carrier Jr. - 5,290
8. Jared Landers - 5,185
9. Billy Moyer Jr. - 4,780
10. Scott Bloomquist - 53,86
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