SARVER, Pa. (June 22) — Tim McCreadie was running out of time.
But then, with five laps to go in Saturday night’s 13th annual Firecracker 100, the race’s first caution flag finally flew — for the driver who had appeared to be headed to victory, in fact — and McCreadie seized upon the new life he was provided to pull off a dramatic triumph in the marquee World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series event at Lernerville Speedway.
McCreadie, 45, of Watertown, N.Y., overtook Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., for the lead on lap 97 and then turned back repeated challenges from the WoO regular over the remaining circuits to grab the Firecracker 100’s $30,000 top prize for the first time in his career.
In a feature that saw WoO rookie Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, experience crushing heartbreak when a flat right-rear tire caused him to slow on lap 95 after looking so strong while leading laps 62-94, McCreadie beat Lanigan to the finish line by 0.377 of a second for his second victory of 2019 driving the iconic K&L Rumley Longhorn No. 6 and his first on the WoO tour.
McCreadie could only count his lucky stars after improbably vaulting from a distant third-place runner to an overjoyed winner in the A-main’s final moments.
“I didn’t know if we could win because Weiss looked real good early,” said McCreadie, who finally reached third place from his 11th starting spot on the 91st lap. “He was always two cars ahead of me and he got there (to the front) so much faster.
“Without the yellow (for Weiss), we probably wouldn’t have won, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. We’ve all had that happen. I don’t want anybody to have bad luck, but I’m glad that I had luck for a change.”
Lanigan, the 2014 Firecracker 100 winner, settled for the $15,000 runner-up check — the record fifth time he’s been the race’s bridesmaid — after leading laps 95-96 in his self-owned Club 29 Race Car. He remained winless in 2019 WoO competition, though he moved to second in the circuit’s points standings after a pair of top-five finishes in the weekend’s action.
WoO points leader Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., started from the pole position and led laps 1-61 but slipped to a third-place finish in the Rocket Chassis house car. Sixth-starter Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., ran a steady race in Lance Landers’s Longhorn machine to place fourth and outside polesitter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., the 2013 Firecracker winner, completed the top five in the Clint Bowyer Racing XR1 Rocket.
McCreadie spent most of the race methodically working his way forward, cracking the top five with a lap-69 pass of Davenport, taking fourth from Richards on lap 87 and slipping past Sheppard for third on lap 91. But once in third he found himself a full straightaway behind second-place Lanigan, leaving him seemingly resigned to a podium finish.
But the race’s entire complexion changed on lap 95. Moments after Weiss scraped the homestretch wall just past the flagstand as lap 94 was scored and then ceded the lead to Lanigan, the 30-year-old Canadian fell off the pace, his bid for an upset victory in his first-ever visit to Lernerville — and his career-first WoO triumph — undone by flat right-rear tire on his Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car that he thought was punctured from running over something on the track.
Suddenly, McCreadie was back in the game, his deficit to Lanigan erased by the end of the 95-lap run of green-flag action to open the race. And he had a strategy for the ensuing five-lap sprint to the finish.
“I just knew that where Darrell had been running, I couldn’t run the same line,” McCreadie said. “He was so good in the middle; he’d roll in, clip the bottom in (turns) one and two, and then he’d arc a little wide into (turn) three and go through the hole. That’s how I was getting into three most laps, kind of of arcing out wide. There’s rubber down the backstretch, but in three and four there was traction in the hole and just past it, and if you could get through it and not push, you’d get a good launch. I was doing that the whole time. That was kind of how I passed some of them guys.”
McCreadie knew the key to overtaking Lanigan would be going where he wasn’t through turns one and two.
“You’re sitting there and you’ve passed a bunch of cars and you’re riding around in second and there’s not many laps left,” McCreadie related. “I would hate myself if I didn’t try to pass him, and the only way I thought I could pass him, personally, was to roll that little brown up there by the cushion and get a run and then maybe do something down at the other end.”
Following the restart, McCreadie ran the top side through turns one and two, stuck with Lanigan and crossed over to the inside of the leader as they flashed past lap 96. McCreadie was underneath Lanigan in turns one and two and appeared about to surge ahead when the race’s second caution flag flew on lap 96, this time for Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., slowing.
While the caution stopped McCreadie’s bid, he learned more about what he would have to do to wrestle the lead from Lanigan. Then, on the second restart, he got another good run around the outside of turns one and two, shot to the inside of Lanigan down the backstretch and lurched ahead off turn four to emerge as the leader at lap 97 was scored.
McCreadie just had to stay ahead of Lanigan for the few circuits left — a task easier said than done.
“I thought, All right, just stick to the game plan,” McCreadie said. “I really thought (Lanigan) was gonna move up, but there again, how can you expect him to move when he got to the lead and was that good?
“The first time I passed him when the yellow come out, I went in there and I thought I had him cleared into one when the yellow was coming out. I heard him throttle up and stay right beside and I thought, Damn, he’s still here. So then the next time, once I finally cleared him, I’m like, ‘Here’s the deal — if I go in soft one time into a corner, he’s gonna pass me or slide me or do something because he just drives hard, that’s the way he is. I just know Darrell. I knew I just couldn’t roll the top like I was. I thought I’d get beat doing that, so I just went in as hard as I could through the middle. I don’t think it helped us because our exit was really bad, but at that point I had to do it.”
After McCreadie lost momentum a bit off turn four heading to the white flag and led the lap by mere inches over Lanigan, he ran the final circuit much better.
“The last lap I didn’t know where (Lanigan) was at, but I saw the pictures (flashes) going off so I figured he must have been right there,” McCreadie said. “I made it through one and two better the last lap, and when I went into three I got it bent better and clipped the traction. I missed the traction the lap before and got in a full push (allowing Lanigan to get a run), and then the next lap I clipped the traction and it just launched me.”
McCreadie succinctly summed up the difference in the race that propelled him to victory lane: “The luck was the restart, just (Lanigan) not knowing you could do what we did. I think everybody kind of got married to the bottom and didn’t realize there was anything else out there. Sometimes it’s way better to not be the leader. If he was in second and I was leading, he would’ve did it to me.
“I hate it for Darrell,” he continued. “He’s as tough as they come, but we needed a win bad.”
Lanigan could only shake his head in exasperation after falling short once again in the Firecracker 100. He previous finished second in 2008, ’09, ’10 and ’12.
“I didn’t need that caution,” Lanigan said of the slowdown for Weiss just after he had overtaken the star-crossed Canadian for the lead. “It seemed like after my tires cooled off I couldn’t go as good. I knew once McCreadie got beside me on that first restart I was in trouble. I was like … man, I just couldn’t go. There’s only so much you can do to warm ‘em up under caution.
“It’s kind of hard to lead. They can kind of move around back there and find a better groove, but it is what it is. We jut got beat. That’s racing. They had a caution with five to go we didn’t need, and he was good at the end.
“We got a good piece,” he added. “We just came up a little short. We’re very disappointed, but we’ll take second. Timmy did a good job.”
McCreadie was riding high after his late-race dramatics in a race in which he’s enjoyed quite of bit of success over the years. Saturday marked his 10th career Firecracker 100 feature start and he’s finished outside the top 10 just once, in 2014 when he was a still-respectable 12th.
“I’ve always loved this place,” said McCreadie, whose previous best Firecracker 100 finish was second, in 2013. “This crowd’s always electric. There’s a lot of people here. They try to pump you up even when you’re having a bad night.
“I’m not the easiest guy to keep pumped up when things are going bad, but I’ll tell you what, we’re not scared to try things. What we rolled out tonight was different from last night and different from the night before. We’ve been struggling with this car just trying to get it to turn. It still wouldn’t turn very good, but it got the job done.”
McCreadie was especially happy to provide a first-ever Lernerville victory to veteran car owner Lee Roy Rumley and his son Kevin, the well-known father-and-son team whom McCreadie joined forces with in April to run select events.
The Rumleys were smiling, too.
“This is one track we’ve never won at,” Kevin Rumley said. “Chalk up another crown jewel for my dad. This is unbelievable.”
Sheppard, 26, led more than half the race but wasn’t quite speedy enough to stay directly in the hunt for the win.
“The car was good again tonight,” said Sheppard, who previous Firecracker 100 finishes were eighth in 2017 and sixth in ’18. “I did what I really didn’t want to do — I got out there and led a bunch of laps, and then just started kind of messing up there in lapped traffic trying to get around them guys too hard. Once Darrell got by me (for second on lap 83) I kind of seen how he was running three and four and I got a little bit better, but we got a little bit free toward the end so we’ll write that down in the notes for next year.
“All in all, though, I’m not gonna hang my head over third place, that’s for sure.”
Weiss, meanwhile, tried to keep his spirits up after coming oh-so-close to a monumental triumph.
“Our car was really good,” said Weiss, who marched from the seventh starting spot to second place in 57 laps. “(The top groove) wasn’t really where we wanted to run on the track at the end, but it was the fastest way around. We were just kind of maintaining and, with five laps to go, we just ran something over.”
13th annual Firecracker 100 finish
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Tim McCreadie (6), Watertown, N.Y., Longhorn, $30,000
2. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., Club 29, $15,000
3. Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., Rocket, $7,000
4. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., Longhorn, $6,000
5. Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., Rocket, $5,000
6. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., Capital, $4,000
7. Michael Norris (02), Sarver, Pa., Rocket, $3,000
8. Chris Ferguson (22), Mt. Holly, N.C., Sweet-Bloomquist, $2,500
9. Brandon Overton (2c), Evans, Ga., Rocket, $2,250
10. Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., Rocket, $2,000
11. Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., Sweet-Bloomquist, $1,900
12. Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., Rocket, $1,800
13. Jacob Hawkins (8), Fairmont, W.Va., Sweet-Bloomquist, $1,600
14. Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, Rocket, $1,500
15. Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., Rocket, $1,500
16. Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, Sweet-Bloomquist, $1,400
17. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., Rocket, $1,300
18. Jared Miley (10), Pittsburgh, Pa., Rocket, $1,200
19. Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., Club 29, $1,100
20. Dan Stone (2), Thompson, Pa., Longhorn, $1,000
21. Brent Larson (b1), Lake Elmo, Minn., Longhorn, $1,000
22. Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., MB Customs
23. Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., Club 29, $1,000
24. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., Rocket, $1,000
25. Mike Pegher Jr. (1c), Wexford, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
26. Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., Longhorn
27. Ken Schaltenbrand (29), Sarver, Pa., Rocket, $1,000
28. David Scott (4), Garland, Pa., Rayburn, $1,000
Lap leaders: Sheppard (1-61); Weiss (62-94); Lanigan (95-96); McCreadie (97-100)
Non-qualifiers’ race winner: Max Blair (111), Centerville, Pa.
Preliminary feature winner: Norris
Heat race winners (among 43 cars): Lanigan, Overton, Sheppard, Richards
Consolation race winners: Moran, Stone
Provisional starters: Junghans, Briggs, Schaltenbrand, Miley, Dillard, Spencer
Lap 100: After McCreadie slid ahead of Lanigan to lead lap 97, the New Yorker holds off Lanigan's repeated challenges to regain command and wins his first Firecracker 100 by 0.377 of a second. Sheppard, Davenport and Richards complete top five.
Lap 96: Caution comes out again as Briggs slows ... just as McCreadie had criss-crossed to inside of Lanigan past start-finish line and was underneath leader in turns one and two.
Lap 95: Lanigan slides underneath Weiss in turns one and two to grab lead; Weiss then slows dramatically and brings out the race's first caution due to a flat tire. Lanigan leads McCreadie, Sheppard, Davenport and Richards to restart ...
Lap 90: Weiss leads Lanigan, Sheppard, McCreadie and Richards.
Lap 87: Weiss finally clears Frank in turns three and four ...
Lap 83: Lanigan slides inside Sheppard on homestretch for second.
Lap 81: Weis still following Chub Frank, has several car-length lead on Sheppard/Lanigan ...
Lap 70: McCreadie grabs fifth from Davenport.
Lap 65: Weiss leads over Sheppard, Lanigan, Richards and Davenport.
Lap 62: Weiss shoots inside Sheppard entering turn one to take the lead.
Lap 57: Weiss slides under Lanigan into turn one to grab second.
Lap 40: Sheppard, Lanigan and Weiss close ... Richards and Davenport follow farther back.
Lap 34: Weiss into third behind leader Sheppard, second-place Lanigan ...
Lap 29: Lanigan clears Richards for second; Davenport fourth, followed by Weiss, Norris, McCreadie, McDowell, Clanton and Overton.
Lap 23: Davenport shoots past Overton and Norris to reach fourth; Sheppard still leading in heavy traffic.
Lap 10: Sheppard reaches lapped traffic with 1-second lead over Richards and Lanigan.
Lap 1: Sheppard leads over Richards and Lanigan.
10:07 p.m.: Green flag flies
9:50 p.m.: With the 28-car starting field for the 13th annual Firecracker 100 parked on the homestretch, driver introductions began.
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Josh Richards
Row 2: Darrell Lanigan, Brandon Overton
Row 3: Michael Norris, Jonathan Davenport
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Dale McDowell
Row 5: Dennis Erb Jr., Jacob Hawkins
Row 6: Tim McCreadie, Shane Clanton
Row 7: Mike Pegher Jr., Chris Ferguson
Row 8: Mason Zeigler, Mike Marlar
Row 9: Devin Moran, Dan Stone
Row 10: Gregg Satterlee, Chub Frank
Row 11: Brent Larson, David Scott
Row 12: Chase Junghans, Boom Briggs
Row 13: Ken Schaltenbrand, Jared Miley
Row 14: Cade Dillard, Blake Spencer
Uncle Sam 30 results
Soothing the pain of missing the Firecracker 100 starting field, Max Blair fought off a stiff early challenge from Tyler Erb to score a runaway victory in the Uncle Sam 30 for non-qualifiers.
Erb, who failed to qualify for the A-main after a broken torque arm knocked him from a transfer spot on the final lap of his heat race, slipped ahead of Blair to lead lap six. Blair regained command the following circuit, however, and after four more laps that saw Blair nip Erb at the start-finish line he drove away over the remaining distance.
Blair took the checkered flag a commanding 5.732 seconds in front of Erb, who beat Russ King by inches for the runner-up spot. Tyler Dietz and Doug Eck completed the top five.
“My dad (Robbie) won one of these Uncle Sam races in ’09,” said Blair, whose only previous attempt at the Firecracker 100 was in 2014 (he did not qualify that year as well). “It’ll be pretty cool to hang one of these next to him.”
The $3,000 first-place prize Blair collected was equal to finishing seventh in the Firecracker 100, which pays $1,000 to start.
Finish: 1. Max Blair, 2. Tyler Erb, 3. Russ King, 4. Tyler Dietz, 5. Doug Eck, 6. Breyton Santee, 7. Colton Flinner, 8. Ross Robinson, 9. Michael Wonderling, 10. Bump Hedman, 11. Dustin Mitchell, 12. Joey Moriarty, 13. Dan Angelicchio (DNS) Alex Ferree.
Uncle Sam 30 lineup
Row 1: Russ King, Dustin Mitchell
Row 2: Max Blair, Alex Ferree
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Bump Hedman
Row 4: Tyler Dietz, Breyton Santee
Row 5: Ross Robinson, Joey Moriarty
Row 6: Doug Eck, Dan Angelicchio
Row 7: Michael Wonderling, Colton Flinner
First consolation finish (12 laps; top 3 transfer): Devin Moran, Gregg Satterlee, Brent Larson, Russ King, Max Blair, Jaredy Miley, Tyler Erb, Tyler Dietz, Ross Robinson, Doug Eck, Dan Angelicchio, Michael Wonderling, Cade Dillard, Colton Flinner.
Second consolation finish (12 laps; top 3 transfer): Dan Stone, Chub Frank, David Scott, Boom Briggs, Chase Junghans, Dustin Mitchell, Alex Ferree, Bump Hedman, Breyton Santee, Blake Spencer, Joey Moriarty (DNS) Ken Schaltenbrand.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Brent Larson, Devin Moran
Row 2: Colton Flinner, Max Blair
Row 3: Gregg Satterlee, Jared Miley
Row 4: Russ King, Dan Angelicchio
Row 5: Ross Robinson, Cade Dillard
Row 6: Doug Eck, Michael Wonderling
Row 7: Tyler Erb, Tyler Dietz
Row 1: David Scott, Ken Schaltenbrand
Row 2: Chub Frank, Dan Stone
Row 3: Chase Junghans, Dustin Mitchell
Row 4: Alex Ferree, Bump Hedman
Row 5: Joey Moriarty, Blake Spencer
Row 6: Breyton Santee, Boom Briggs
Heat race results
First heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Michael Norris, Dennis Erb Jr., Mike Pegher Jr., Brent Larson, Colton Flinner, Gregg Satterlee, Russ King, Ross Robinson, Doug Eck, Tyler Erb.
Second heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Brandon Overton, Dale McDowell, Tim McCreadie, Mason Zeigler, Devin Moran, Max Blair, Jared Miley, Dan Angelicchio, Cade Dillard, Michael Wonderling, Tyler Dietz.
Third heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Jonathan Davenport, Jacob Hawkins, Chris Ferguson, David Scott, Chub Frank, Chase Junghans, Alex Ferree, Joey Moriarty, Breyton Santee, Boom Briggs.
Fourth heat finish (12 laps; top 4 transfer): Josh Richards, Ricky Weiss, Shane Clanton, Mike Marlar, Ken Schaltenbrand, Dan Stone, Dustin Mitchell, Bump Hedman, Blake Spencer (DNS) Kelvin Kohan.
Weather conditions for Saturday’s Firecracker 100 finale couldn’t be any better: sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the 70s. … Heat-race lineups for Saturday’s program were determined using drivers’ results in Friday’s preliminary show. The four heat polesitters were the top-four finishers in Friday’s 30-lap feature. … Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., escaped his rollover during Friday’s A-main with relatively light damage to his XR1 Rocket car. His crew chief, Robby Allen, said the right side bodywork of the machine and assorted suspension parts had to be replaced but no problems with the frame were found. … Bear Lake, Pa., cousins Chub Frank and Boom Briggs had their shared crews scurrying after Friday’s feature. Frank’s car needed virtually all of its rear suspensions replaced after he hit the sideways Rick Eckert of York, Pa., hard on a lap-11 restart; Briggs, meanwhile, bent many suspension components after bouncing hard in a hole on the second lap of the feature, causing him to plummet from the outside pole to the back of the pack in rapid fashion. “It was like a parts store over in Chub and Boom’s pit,” said shock guru Matt Logan. … Eckert’s sustained significant front-end damage when Frank hit him, forcing him to head home last night. He will need a new front clip put on his XR1 Rocket mount. … Former Firecracker 100 winner Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., ran as high as second in Friday’s feature before slipping to a fifth-place finish. He was pleased with the performance of his Club 29 Race Car — a machine that received a new rear clip after it sustained damage in a June 8 Dream crash at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio — but lost some speed after bending a lower control arm halfway through the A-main. … Dan Schlieper of Oak Creek, Wis., has stepped out of the seat of the Suppa Racing Rayburn machine after failing to qualify on Friday; back behind the wheel is the team’s regular driver David Scott of Garland, Pa., who has returned from working out of town.
(12 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Michael Norris, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Dennis Erb Jr., Tyler Erb
Row 3: Brent Larson, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Russ King, Mike Pegher Jr.
Row 5: Colton Flinner, Ross Robinson
Row 6: Doug Eck
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Dale McDowell
Row 3: Cade Dillard, Max Blair
Row 4: Devin Moran, Tyler Dietz
Row 5: Jared Miley, Dan Angelicchio
Row 6: Michael Wonderling
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Chris Ferguson
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Chub Frank
Row 4: Jacob Hawkins, Alex Ferree
Row 5: Joey Moriarty, Breyton Santee
Row 6: David Scott
Row 1: Josh Richards, Ricky Weiss
Row 2: Ken Schaltenbrand, Shane Clanton
Row 3: Mike Marlar, Blake Spencer
Row 4: Dustin Mitchell, Dan Stone
Row 5: Bump Hedman, Kelvin Kohan