BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 16) — Shane Clanton’s season of redemption rolled on Monday night at Volusia Speedway.
Turning on the speed late in the distance, Zebulon, Ga.’s Clanton surged past race-long pacesetter Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., for the lead on lap 26 and pulled away to score his first-ever victory at the half-mile oval in the 30-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned feature that kicked off the Late Model portion of the 44th annual DIRTcar Nationals.
Clanton, 39, earned $7,000 for his second triumph of 2015 Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. His first came in a World of Outlaws Late Model Series on Feb. 7 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and he backed up that slump-busting score with consecutive runner-up finishes on Saturday and Sunday at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., that vaulted him into the WoO points lead.
“Marshall Green and Capital Race Cars and my father-in-law (and car owner) Ron Davies give me everything I need to come out here and do this deal,” said Clanton, who has answered one of the most frustrating seasons of his career last year by starting 2015 without a finish worse than seventh in seven starts. "My crew chief Brock (Wise) has come back this year and made a world of difference. We're gelling good and everything's going good right now."
Starting fifth in his Capital Race Car, Clanton slid into third place at the initial green flag and inherited second place when polesitter Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., pulled off the track during a lap-two caution period. Clanton then chased the 44-year-old Lanigan, falling behind by roughly 10 car lengths at one point until beginning to close in after the halfway mark.
Clanton ducked underneath Lanigan down the backstretch on lap 23 but had his momentum dulled by the lapped Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., rounding turns three and four. A caution flag on lap 24, however, reset the field and Clanton proceeded to sail underneath Lanigan through turns one and two to assume command for good on lap 26.
"I got by him there (on lap 23), but the (slower car of Mason Zeigler) was in the bottom and blocked my line," Clanton said. "I knew I had a good race car early in the race and was just biding my time and just saving my tires as long as I could. When it was time to go, I went."
Clanton crossed the finish line 1.803 seconds ahead of Lanigan, who debuted a new Club 29 car. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., came from the 13th starting spot to finish third but had his car’s engine expire in a burst of flames of smoke after taking the checkered flag, and Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas, nipped Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., by inches at the checkered flag to place fourth.
"This feels real good," the 39-year-old Clanton said after lifting the first of six Gator trophies to be awarded to the winners of this week's six DIRTcar Nationals A-Mains at Volusia's half-mile oval. "One of those things has eluded me for a long time. We've run good down here, just haven't had Lady Luck on our side. Right now everything's clicking."
Lanigan, the three-time and defending WoO LMS champion who has struggled to match his dominant 2014 performance level so far this season, settled for his sixth top-five finish in 11 races this season but for the second straight night was denied a victory after starting the A-Main from the front row.
"Second sucks, but Shane did a great job," said Lanigan, who also started from the outside pole of Sunday's WoO LMS A-Main but was never a factor before damaging his car’s nose due to a bout with an inside marker tire. "We've got a new piece here that's a pretty good hot rod. We'll see what we can get together for tomorrow night and see if we can't win tomorrow night."
The first of the two breaks in Monday's A-Main action occurred when Rick Eckert of York, Pa., ran into the back of Kyle Brunson's slowing car. The contact sent Eckert's car airborne as it completed a single barrel roll before coming back to the ground. Eckert emerged without serious injury, but his new MasterSbilt by Huey machine suffered heavy damage.
Eckert, 49, had a simple explanation for his wild ride.
“There was somebody sitting there,” said Eckert, who noted that his arm “tingled” a little bit after the wreck but thought he would be OK, “and I hit ‘em.”
The race's other slowdown was a caution flag that appeared on lap 24 when Sanders tangled with Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., in turn four, sending Pearson spinning from the sixth position.
The DIRTcar Nationals continue Tuesday at Volusia with another $7,000-to-win UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned program. A $10,000-to-win DIRTcar event is slated for Wednesday with three straight $10,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series events rounding out the week.
Notes: Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., sat in third place when the caution flag flew on lap 24, but he slipped backward after the restart and finished sixth. … Kenny Pettyjohn of Millsboro, Del., who won a UMP DIRTcar feature last year at Volusia, moved forward from the 14th starting spot to finish seventh. … Coming off a WoO win 24 hours earlier at Ocala, Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was never a serious factor in the feature. He started 10th and inched forward to place eighth. … Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., saw his night end during hot laps due to terminal engine trouble.
First B-Main finish (top 3 transfer): Mason Zeigler, Brandon Boom Briggs, Dan Stone, Walker Arthur, Eric Wells, Chase Junghans, Donny Schatz, Chad Hollenbeck, Jeff Beyers, Michael Norris (DNS) Justin Rattliff, Jordan Yaggy, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Second B-Main finish (top 3 transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Rick Eckert, Chub Frank, Gregg Satterlee, Stacy Boles, Charles LaPlant, Mike Hammerle, Tony Knowles, Mark Dotson (DNS) Mike Altobelli Jr., Freddie Carpenter, Tyler Clem, Gregg Hill.
The red-hot Billy Moyer — he comes into the week having won three times in six starts at East Bay — cruised to the checkered flag in the final qualifier, beating Earl Pearson Jr. by 1.112 seconds. Terry English and Billy Ogle Jr. completed the heat-race transfers.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Billy Moyer, Earl Pearson Jr., Terry English, Billy Ogle Jr., Mike Altobelli Jr., Stacy Boles, Tony Knowles, Mark Dotson, Gregg Hill, Mike Hammerle.
Driving a new Club 29 car he decided to test out tonight, Darrell Lanigan ran away with the third prelim, beating Ricky Weiss by 2.208 seconds. Kyle Bronson and Tyler Bruening finished third and fourth, respectively, to also transfer to the feature.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Ricky Weiss, Kyle Bronson, Tyler Bruening, Rick Eckert, Dennis Erb Jr., Chub Frank, Gregg Satterlee, Freddie Carpenter, Charles LaPlant, Tyler Clem.
Scott Bloomquist rolled to victory in the second 8-lapper, beating Kent Robinson by 1.220 seconds. Josh Richards finished nearly three seconds behind the victor in third and Kenny Pettyjohn placed fourth.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Kent Robinson, Josh Richards, Kenny Pettyjohn, Mason Zeigler, Walker Arthur, Michael Norris, Chad Hollenbeck, Donny Schatz, Justin Rattliff (DNS) Frank Heckenast Jr.
Casey Roberts dominated the action, leading from flag-to-flag to beat Shane Clanton by 0.379 of a second. Rodney Sanders and Tim McCreadie were the race's other feature transfers.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Casey Roberts, Shane Clanton, Rodney Sanders, Tim McCreadie, Boom Briggs, Brandon Sheppard, Eric Wells, Dan Stone, Chase Junghans, Jeff Beyers, Jordan Yaggy.
Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., turned the fastest lap overall in the group qualifying session, circling the half-mile oval in 15.469 seconds during Group 1. He will start the first heat from the pole position.
Other group fast-timers and pole starters are Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.
The six-night DIRTcar Nationals begins with a 30-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned event paying $7,000 to win. Two more evenings of UMP action will follow before the World of Outlaws Late Model Series takes the spotlight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Monday night’s program includes group qualifying, four heat races, B-Mains and the 30-lap headliner. Group qualifying by heat races will be utilized, with the heats aligned straight up and the heat winners redrawing for feature starting spots in the first two rows.
Opening night of the DIRTcar Nationals will see the 43-car field of Late Models hot lap and then return to the track for group qualifying by heat race. The next two evenings of UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned action, however, will be streamlined with hot laps timed to also serve as group qualifying. … There are 53 cars actually on the grounds, but 10 teams have opted to sit out tonight’s action. The group includes Don O’Neal, Steve Francis, Dale McDowell, Dennis Franklin, Morgan Bagley, Stormy Scott, Jimmy Owens, Jonathan Davenport, Jared Landers and James O’Hara. … Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga., will enter tonight’s program behind the wheel of fellow Georgian Shane Clanton’s backup car. Knowles is in Florida visiting his mother and made a deal with Clanton to hit the track at least one night; he might run Tuesday and Wednesday as well. ... McDowell and his brother/crew chief, Shane, have been in Volusia pits throughout the past week assisting the UMP modified efforts of Austin and Ty Dillon. McDowell will hit the track with his Team Dillon Late Model on Wednesday night. ... With DIRTcar Nationals chief starter Dave Farney unavailable for work tonight, WoO Late Model pit steward Tyler Bachman is filling in on the flagstand. ... Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., has been competing at Volusia in a UMP modified for the past week, but he's struggled to find speed and has parked the open-wheel machine to focus on his Dirt Late Model for the remainder of the DIRTcar Nationals. ... There was a major commotion at the Mason Zeigler pit area earlier this afternoon. As his car was unloaded, the rubber stoppers under the tires flipped over and the machine began rolling toward the end of the lift gate a good 10 feet up in the air. One of Zeigler's crewman fell off the lift but fortunately escaped serious injury; the car, meanwhile, rolled backward slowly enough that about a half-dozen people were able to position themselves under it and hold the rearend up so it didn't fall off as the liftgate was lowered.
(8 laps; top 5 transfer — fields set by group qualifying results)
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 15.469
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.892
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.96
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 16.08
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.105
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.112
Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 16.169
Dan Stone (21d), Thompson, Pa., 16.328
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 16.946
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 17.254
Jeff Beyers (27), Pana, Ill., 17.526
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 15.751
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.973
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 16.041
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 16.077
Walker Arthur (87), Forrest, Va., 16.235
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.237
Chad Hollenbeck (4ds), Kingsley, Pa., 16.242
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 16.532
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.633
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 16.762
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Orland Park, Ill., 99.99
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 15.652
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingly, Manitoba, 15.755
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.882
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 15.913
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.981
Tyler Clem (14), St. Petersburg, Fla. 15.986
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.000
Rick Eckert (7V), York, Pa., 16.22
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 16.309
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Mo., 16.578
Freddie Carpenter (c4), Parkersburg, W.Va., 16.762
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.489
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.568
Terry English (96), Benton, Ky., 15.781
Billy Ogle Jr. (201), Knoxville, Tenn., 15.941
Mike Altobelli Jr. (79), Saxton, Pa., 16.038
Tony Knowles (25c), Tyrone, Ga., 16.06
Stacy Boles (11), Clinton, Tenn., 16.619
Mark Dotson (85d), Cameron, Mo., 16.624
Gregg Hill (8), Evelith, Minn., 17.033
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 17.512