FARMER CITY, Ill. (April 25) — Darrell Lanigan of Union, N.Y., topped 36 World of Outlaws Late Model Series entrants as the fastest driver in Ohlins Shocks Qualifying and added a victory in the first heat race during Friday’s opening night of the sixth annual Illini 100 at Farmer City Raceway.
Thanks to his win in the first of four 15-lap heats, Lanigan earned a place in Saturday night’s top-eight redraw for the prestigious 100-lap, $20,000-to-win event at the quarter-mile bullring in central Illinois.
“The car was pretty good,” said Lanigan, a two-time WoO champion who drove a self-designed Club 29 car that he triumphantly debuted on April 19 in the Spring 50 at his hometown’s Florence Speedwa. “It was a new car we had at Florence. It seems like a pretty good piece, so we’ll see what we got.”
Lanigan dominated the first prelim, which was run on a speedway that he felt wasn’t quite the same as a year ago.
“The track is a little bit different this year,” said Lanigan, who is looking for his first-ever Illini 100 victory. “It seems like they got the top cut down. You kind of have to get around the bottom.”
Morgan Bagley of Tyler, Texas, finished behind Lanigan in second to also move to the redraw. Former Illini 100 winner Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., completed the transfers to the A-Main.
After Lanigan’s score, it was time for the Illinois natives to shine in an effort to keep that $20,000 payday in the Land of Lincoln.
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., was victorious in the second heat, steering his Rocket Chassis mount to victory over Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., Scott Schmitt of Tonica, Ill., and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.
Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., the fastest Group B qualifier, won the third heat race in his Bob Pierce Race Car over Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill. Completing the top-four were Brian Diveley of Springfield, Ill., and Joe Harlan of El Paso, Ill.
The veteran Weaver won his heat race from the bottom of the track one week after capturing a weekly UMP Late Model show at Farmer City.
“There was just more traction on the bottom,” said Weaver, the 2000 DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion. “Farmer City is known to be on the bottom early and move to the top later, so last week we came here and ran the bottom of turns one and two and the top of three and four. We won the normal race, but I think we we’re better around the bottom.
Teenage sensation Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., ended the qualifying session with the drive of the night, racing from the tail of the fourth heat to the lead in only five laps en route to grabbing the checkered flag over Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who made his debut in the Rocket Chassis house car.
Third went to Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., who departed the seat of the Rocket house car last week to be closer to his newborn son, and fourth was claimed by WoO rookie aspirant Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa.
The 17-year-old Pierce’s memorable performance came after he failed to turn a lap in time trials. His car developed electrical problems as he was about to hit the racetrack, forcing him to start the fourth heat from the last spot.
“I can’t thank everybody enough,” said Pierce, who enters the Illini 100 having won five of his last six starts. “At one point there was about 10 people helping (fix the car)….it was a big scramble.
“I think we made the right tire choice (and) I think this track I have some of the most laps on compared to anywhere else — and experience goes a long way. I’m just glad we were able to pull it off. It was a big turnaround.”
Notes: Drivers who will have to run B-Mains on Saturday night include WoO regulars Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., and Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., as well as Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis. (making his first start since Florida Speedweeks, Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., Daren Friedman of Forrest, Ill., Scott Bull of Fairbury, Ill., Donny Walden of Towanda, Ill. … McKay Wenger of Fairbury, Ill., discovered mechanical trouble while warming up his car before hot laps and pulled out of competition for the weekend. … The Illini 100 wraps up on Saturday night with the consolation races and the $20,000-to-win feature. Pit gates open at noon and hot laps are slated for 5 p.m.