SARVER, Pa. (June 25) — World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader Shane Clanton kept his hot streak rolling Thursday evening with a victory on the opening night of Lernerville Speedway’s ninth annual Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com.
Establishing himself as a heavy favorite to claim Saturday’s $30,000-to-win Firecracker 100 finale, Clanton, 39, of Zebulon, Ga., turned back an early challenge from Jared Miley of Pittsburgh, Pa., and was far enough ahead in the closing laps of the 30-lap feature to survive a valiant late charge by 12th-starting Rick Eckert of York, Pa.
The $6,500 victory — Clanton's WoO-leading seventh of the season and his third in the national tour's past four races — came on the first of two Firecracker 100 preliminary nights at Lernerville's 4/10-mile oval. The 2010 Firecracker 100 winner will look to keep his momentum going in another preliminary program on Friday and in Saturday's 100-lap finale.
"This car was just phenomenal again tonight," Clanton said of his Weldbank Energy Capital Race Cars house car. "If we can just keep qualifying and heat racing like we are and get a good starting spot, then we're pretty confident about our chances in 100 laps around here come Saturday. We've got the dominant car right now; hopefully we can keep it going."
Eckert settled for the runner-up finish after charging from fifth to second in the final 10 laps. The 2011 WoO champion made up considerable ground on Clanton in the closing laps but came up 1.361 seconds short at the finish.
After pressuring Clanton for most of the race's first half, Miley held on to third to record his career-best WoO result. Defending Firecracker 100 winner Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished fourth and in doing so overtook 17th-finishing Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., for second in the WoO LMS points chase. Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., finished fifth in Thursday's A-Main, which ran green to the finish after finally getting rolling on the third attempt to start the race.
Clanton's road to victory was made slightly less difficult when he was moved from his initial third starting spot to the pole after Miley, who drew the pole in a redraw among heat race winners and runners-up, was penalized a row for firing too early on the first attempt to start the race.
After a brief opening-lap battle, Clanton pulled ahead of second-starting Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., who was the beneficiary of original outside polesitter Davey Johnson’s jumped start on the second attempt to start the race.
Miley followed Clanton by Zeigler into the second spot and remained within striking distance until the leaders reached lapped traffic just before the halfway point. Clanton was able to negotiate the slower cars much quicker than Miley, allowing his No. 25 machine to pull away to a comfortable lead.
"I just took my opportunities to get by cars when I could," Clanton said of his run through traffic. "I was just riding my line at the top just trying to save tires and be easy on our car. But when I had to get by (lapped cars), I could drive just about anywhere to do it. I can't ask for much more than that out of our race car."
Eckert, 49, was able to keep his Viper Motorsports MasterSbilt machine glued to the track's bottom groove while others struggled. That allowed him to make his late charge and nearly catch Clanton.
"It surprised me that guys kept missing the bottom," said Eckert, who recorded his fourth top five of the 2015 WoO campaign. "That bottom was really nice and most of those guys just weren't patient enough to hit it and get the kind of run off of it like I was."
Miley appeared capable of challenging for an upset victory while keeping pace with Clanton early in the race, but he faded through the second half. Still, the 29-year-old former Lernerville track champion was encouraged by his solid performance in his Colussy Chevrolet Rocket Chassis.
"It feels real good to do this on the first night," Miley said. "Sometimes it's hard to get in and go with these guys because they're just so fast and on top of their game.
"I think we could run with Clanton in open track. But I guess I kind of lack the experience getting through traffic like that and just being comfortable running the front of a World of Outlaws race. But now we got some experience with that and it's definitely a confidence booster."
Johnson, of Latrobe, Pa., faded to sixth at the finish with 13th-starting Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., finishing seventh. Zeigler, the Chalk Hill, Pa., driver who set fast time during Thursday's qualifying, ended up eighth in the feature. Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., advanced from his 21st starting spot to finish ninth, while Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., rounded out the race's top 10 finishers.
Leading WoO rookie Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., missed Thursday’s event after his MasterSbilt Race Car suffered heavy damage in a wreck during the previous WoO race on Tuesday at Weedsport (N.Y.) and a new car couldn’t be prepared in time. Overton, who plans to compete at Lernerville on Friday, was awarded 60 hardship points for Thursday’s race.
The Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com continues on Friday with another preliminary night featuring a complete WoO program of time trials, heat races, Last-Chance Showdowns and a 30-lap, $6,000-to-win A-Main. Drivers’ best finishes in the preliminary events will determine their starting spots in heat races for Saturday's 100-lap, $30,000-to-win Firecracker 100 finale.
Preliminary notes and results:
With rain still threatening, the 10-minute horn to line up the feature was blown almost immediately after the B-Mains concluded. The 30-lapper should be on the track by 9:15 p.m. … Jared Miley will start from the pole position in the 30-lap feature after finishing second in the fourth heat. Miley battled hard for the lead with Darrell Lanigan but couldn’t overtake the defending Firecracker 100 champion. … Mason Zeigler and Chase Junghans actually turned the same lap times in qualifying — 15.336 seconds — but Zeigler was awarded fast-time honors because he logged his clocking first. … Junghans spent half of the second half battling for the lead with eventual winner Chub Frank, but on a restart with three circuits left the 22-year-old slid high in turn two and fell all the way to sixth place — a slip that cost him a transfer spot. He ultimately qualified through a B-Main. … Rain hit the track during the afternoon — varying in intensity for a couple hours — but ended around 4:30 p.m. The pit area quickly came to life and the Lernerville track surface was able to whip the racing surface into race-ready condition in plenty of time for hot laps to start virtually on schedule. … A less-than-desirable weather forecast for the weekend clearly contributed to the Firecracker 100’s opening-night car count falling below 50, to 44 entries. Among the long-distance travelers who decided to call off planned trips were Jonathan Davenport, Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Mars, Earl Pearson Jr., Dale McDowell, Mike Marlar, Kent Robinson and Dan Stone. … Two-time Firecracker 100 winner Scott Bloomquist made the trip but was behind schedule; he called officials shortly before the drivers’ meeting and said he was just reaching the Pittsburgh area and he didn’t arrive in time to make a qualifying run. ... WoO rookie contender Brandon Overton isn't on hand after the only car in his arsenal sustained heavy damage in a tangle during Tuesday night's feature at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway. He traveled to the MBH Race Cars shop in Martinsburg, W.Va., in hopes of getting a car together for Friday and Saturday night's action at Lernerville.
First B-Main (top 3 transfer): Alex Ferree, Morgan Bagley, Chase Junghans, Jordan Yaggy, Russ King, Kenny Pettyjohn, Bump Hedman, Derrick Casner, Colton Flinner, Jason Schmidt, Herman Bertolini, Chris Casner, Devin Lewis, Gary Lyle.
Second B-Main (top 3 transfer): Josh Richards, Tim McCreadie, Michael Norris, Mike Pegher Jr., Michael Lake, Todd Bachman, Scott Groves, Justin Kann, Trevor Herr, John Mollick, Dan Swartzlander, Derrick Stefanick, Tommy Beck.
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Morgan Bagley, Alex Ferree
Row 2: Jordan Yaggy, Chase Jungians
Row 3: Russ King, Derrick Casner
Row 4: Kenny Pettyjohn, Jason Schmidt
Row 5: Bump Hedman, Herman Bertolini
Row 6: Colton Flinner, Devin Lewis
Row 7: Gary Lyle, Chris Casner
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards
Row 2: Michael Lake, Michael Norris
Row 3: Scott Groves, Mike Pegher Jr.
Row 4: John Mollick, Justin Kann
Row 5: Tommy Beck, Derek Stefanick
Row 6: Todd Bachman, Dan Swartzlander
Row 7: Trevor Herr
First heat (top 4 transfer): Mason Zeigler, Frank Heckenast Jr., Eric Wells, Austin Hubbard, Morgan Bagley, Jordan Yaggy, Russ King, Kenny Pettyjohn, Bump Hedman, Colton Flinner, Gary Lyle.
Second heat (top 4 transfer): Chub Frank, Gregg Satterlee, Paul Wilmoth Jr., Dan Angelicchio, Alex Ferree, Chase Junghans, Derrick Casner, Jason Schmidt, Herman Bertolini, Devin Lewis, Chris Casner.
Third heat (top 4 transfer): Shane Clanton, Davey Johnson, Boom Briggs, Ross Robinson, Tim McCreadie, Michael Lake, Scott Groves, John Mollick, Tommy Beck, Todd Bachman, Trevor Herr.
Fourth heat (top 4 transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Jared Miley, Rick Eckert, Ken Schaltenbrand, Josh Richards, Michael Norris, Mike Pegher Jr., Justin Kann, Derek Stefanick, Dan Swartzlander.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 2: Frank Heckenast Jr., Eric Wells
Row 3: Jordan Yaggy, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Austin Hubbard, Russ King
Row 5: Bump Hedman, Colton Flinner
Row 6: Gary Lyle
Row 1: Chase Jungians, Chub Frank
Row 2: Alex Ferree, Gregg Satterlee
Row 3: Dan Angelicchio, Jason Schmidt
Row 4: Derrick Casner, Paul Wilmoth Jr.
Row 5: Devin Lewis, Chris Casner
Row 6: Herman Bertolini
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Boom Briggs
Row 2: Davey Johnson, Ross Robinson
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, John Mollick
Row 4: Tommy Beck, Michael Lake
Row 5: Scott Groves, Todd Bachman
Row 6: Trevor Herr
Row 1: Darrell Lanigan, Rick Eckert
Row 2: Michael Norris, Jared Miley
Row 3: Mike Pegher Jr., Dan Swartzlander
Row 4: Josh Richards, Ken Schaltenbrand Jr.
Row 5: Justin Kann, Derek Stefanick
Row 6: Scott Bloomquist
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.336
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 15.336
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 15.389
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.509
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Orland Park, Ill., 15.513
Alex Ferree (10), Saxonburg, Pa., 15.525
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 15.566
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.663
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 15.742
Dan Angelicchio (14), Greensburg, Pa., 15.754
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 15.771
Jason Schmidt (11), Lewistown, Pa., 15.817
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 15.895
Derrick Casner (41), Mifflintown, Pa., 15.905
Russ King (56), Bristolville, Ohio, 15.931
Paul Wilmoth Jr. (B1), Clarksburg, W.Va., 16.045
Bump Hedman (B22), Sugar Grove, Pa., 16.098
Devin Lewis (73), St. Mary's, Pa., 16.191
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 16.23
Chris Casner (c33), Mifflintown, Pa., 16.296
Gary Lyle (10L), Hyde Park, Pa., 16.807
Herman Bertolini (7x), Creighton, Pa., 16.996
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.496
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 15.528
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.627
Rick Eckert (7V), York, Pa., 15.708
Davey Johnson (1J), Latrobe, Pa., 15.714
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 15.737
Ross Robinson (7), Georgetown, Del., 15.794
Jared Miley (H1), South Park, Pa., 15.802
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.828
Mike Pegher Jr. (1c), Wexford, Pa., 15.839
John Mollick (4J), Toronto, Ohio, 15.894
Dan Swartzlander (3), Freeport, Pa., 15.929
Tommy Beck (91), Jeannette, Pa., 15.985
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.007
Michael Lake (27), Uniontown, Pa., 16.239
Ken Schaltenbrand (29s), Sarver, Pa., 16.24
Scott Groves (311), Canton, Ga., 16.257
Justin Kann (66K), Huntingdon, Pa., 16.305
Todd Bachman (66), Natrona Heights, Pa., 16.323
Derek Stefanick (44G), Oakdale, Pa., 16.728
Trevor Herr (32), Sarver, Pa., 18.465
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., N/T