BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 21) — Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., completed his unprecedented domination of the 44th annual DIRTcar Nationals with one final flourish.
Charging forward from the sixth starting spot, Clanton wrestled the lead from race-long pacesetter Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., on lap 32 and glided away from the pack over the remaining distance to capture the 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main that closed the week-long meet at Volusia Speedway Park.
Clanton, 39, became the first driver in the storied history of the half-mile oval’s DIRTcar Nationals to win four Dirt Late Model features in a single year. He started the week with a victory in Monday night’s 30-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned A-Main before sweeping all three $10,000-to-win WoO events, propelling him to a convincing DIRTcar Nationals points championship.
“That was a Georgia ass-kickin’ right there,” said an overjoyed Clanton, whose only loss was a fifth-place run in Wednesday night’s 40-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned feature. “It should’ve been five if I wouldn’t have screwed up and made the wrong tire choice (for Wednesday‘s feature).”
Driving a Capital Race Car owned by his father-in-law Ron Davies, Clanton headed home to the Peach State with five Georgia-Florida Speedweeks wins on his ledger — including a Feb. 7 score at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., that snapped his 66-race WoO winless slump — and the national tour’s points lead. He finished in the top five in all seven WoO features during Speedweeks — matching his top-five total from all of 2014 — to build a huge 90-point edge over defending champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky.
“We were by far the class of the field,” said Clanton, who collected his first Big Gator trophy as the DIRTcar Nationals titlist to go along with his four smaller Gator trophies earned for his victory. “I don't give a damn what anybody says. We worked our ass off all winter long. This feels good."
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., swapped second place with Clanton several times midway through the race and followed Clanton past McCreadie on lap 32, but the three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champ was no match for the WoO regular over the final 19 circuits. The 43-year-old Owens settled for runner-up money, 2.234 seconds behind Clanton at the checkered flag.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., advanced from the 12th starting spot to finish third and 22nd-starting Lanigan placed fourth after overtaking Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., heading to the white flag. Francis completed the top five after starting 15th.
McCreadie slipped to sixth in the final rundown after starting from the pole position and leading laps 1-31. He appeared primed to break out of some early-season bad luck with the Sweeteners Plus team but fell from contention after sliding high in turns three and four on lap 32, allowing Clanton to vault past him into the top spot.
Clanton actually settled in behind McCreadie in the early going after reaching second place on a lap-17 restart. He was content to ride behind McCreadie until the race's waning laps, but a hard-charging Owens forced him to abandon those plans.
Owens briefly took the second spot from Clanton on a lap-24 restart, but Clanton quickly took the position back and went to work on McCreadie. After Clanton's lap-29 pass for the lead was nullified by a caution, he took advantage of McCreadie's lap-32 slip in turns three and four to race ahead for good.
Clanton turned back brief challenges from Owens and Bloomquist on the race's final two restarts and pulled away to the 24th WoO LMS victory of his career.
"I drove me heart out tonight just biding my time and making the right moves at the right time," said Clanton, who has already equaled his winningest WoO LMS seasons of 2008 and 2013. "The pace tonight was just unbelievably fast. I was afraid I was gonna hurt my right-rear tire, so I just paced myself the first 15 or 20 laps. Owens got up to second there and I knew I had to go then. I just took the right moves and got back by him and made the right move to get by McCreadie."
Owens appeared to be the class of the field when he charged by Clanton on lap 24, but his bid to claim his first career DIRTcar Nationals victory fell short to Clanton's domination.
"I didn't want to see them restarts," said Owens, who drove his Brian Rowland-owned Club 29 machine to his first top five in three starts at Volusia this week. "Shane's been in a different zip code all week, so I consider this a win instead of second."
Bloomquist was the only driver besides Clanton to win a Late Model feature at this year's DIRTcar Nationals with his UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned triumph on Wednesday night. But his bid to drive his Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car to a second victory was denied.
"Shane really just had everybody covered tonight and he was good all week," Bloomquist said. "We know when we get beat, and we got beat this weekend."
The race was slowed by six cautions, all for either flat tires or mechanical woes. The race's first yellow flag came on lap 17 when Kenny Pettyjohn of Millsboro, Del., slowed just after second-running Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., clipped the rear of Virginian Walker Arthur's slowing machine in turn two. The contact caused significant damage to the left-front of the 2014 WoO Rookie of the Year's car, eventually forcing him out of the race.
Other potential contenders to fall by the wayside included Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who slowed from the fourth position with terminal mechanical trouble during a caution period on lap 29. Mechanical issues also struck three-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., ending his run from 18th to seventh on lap 38 due to a broken rearend.
Other caution flags were caused by Mark Dotson of Cameron, Mo., (spun in turn four on lap 20); Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla. (lap 23; Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa. (lap 29); and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. (right-rear flat on lap 34).
Notes: Clanton is just the fourth driver in DIRTcar Nationals history to win three consecutive Dirt Late Model features. The feat was previously achieved by Haywood Plyler of Kannapolis, N.C. (1978), Morgan Shepherd of Conover, N.C. (’77) and Wayne Shugart of St. Augustine, Fla. (’76). … Clanton is the second driver to sweep a three-race WoO weekend at a single track, duplicating Josh Richards’s 2013 Firecracker 100 hat trick in at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. … The WoO returns to action March 20-21 with a doubleheader weekend at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway in Calvert City, Ky., and I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark.
First B-Main finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer): Chase Junghans, Dennis Erb Jr., Chad Hollenbeck, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Rick Eckert, Casey Roberts, Brandon Overton, Michael Norris, Mason Zeigler, Tyler Clem, Donny Schatz, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Hammerle (DNS) Morgan Bagley, Earl Pearson Jr.
Second B-Main finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer): Josh Richards, Kenny Pettyjohn, Darrell Lanigan, Jonathan Davenport, Jordan Yaggy, Stormy Scott, James Rice, Boom Briggs, Dan Stone, Austin Smith (DNS) Don O’Neal, Dale McDowell, Dennis Franklin, Gregg Satterlee.
Eric Wells led every lap of the prelim, but Tim McCreadie drew close on the final lap, finishing 0.312 of a second behind. Scott Bloomquist and Walker Arthur also transferred, while Josh Richards finished fifth and will run a B-Main. Top contender Dale McDowell saw his hopes end on the opening lap when he came together with front-row mate Wells on the backstretch; McDowell slowed and pulled off. Don O'Neal, meanwhile, spun into the inside wall between turns three and four on the first lap and could only rally to seventh by the checkered flag.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Eric Wells, Tim McCreadie, Scott Bloomquist, Walker Arthur, Josh Richards, Kenny Pettyjohn, Don O'Neal, Boom Briggs, Austin Smith, Dale McDowell (DNS) Gregg Satterlee.
Shane Clanton continued his week-long onslaught, absolutely dominating the third 10-lapper to beat Billy Moyer by 4.623 seconds. Chub Frank and Steve Francis finished third and fourth, respectively. Darrell Lanigan, who started sixth, got high on the first lap and slid to a stop in turn four, bringing out a caution flag; he restarted at the rear and finished seventh.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Shane Clanton, Billy Moyer, Chub Frank, Steve Francis, Jordan Yaggy, Jonathan Davenport, Darrell Lanigan, Stormy Scott, James Rice, Dan Stone (DNS) Dennis Franklin.
After moving up to the second starting spot because scheduled outside polesitter Mark Dotson was penalized two spots for firing too early on the original start, Kent Robinson stormed into the lead and paced the entire distance. K-Rob beat Frank Heckenast Jr. to the finish line by 1.391 seconds. Dotson and Jared Landers also moved on to the A-Main. Morgan Bagley was running fifth when he slowed on lap eight with smoke trailing from his car.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Kent Robinson, Frank Heckenast Jr., Mark Dotson, Jared Landers, Chase Junghans, Dennis Erb Jr., Chad Hollenbeck, Michael Norris, Donny Schatz, Morgan Bagley, Earl Pearson Jr.
Iowa's Tyler Bruening enjoyed his best run of the DIRTcar Nationals, leading all the way to beat Jimmy Owens by 0.356 of a second. Ricky Weiss and Kyle Bronson, who won last year's WoO finale at Volusia, also transferred to the feature.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Tyler Bruening, Jimmy Owens, Ricky Weiss, Kyle Bronson, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Rick Eckert, Mason Zeigler, Casey Roberts, Brandon Overton, Tyler Clem, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Hammerle.
Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., continued his assault on the DIRTcar Nationals recordbooks, tearing around the half-mile oval in 15.567 seconds during the second group of time trials to register the evening's overall fastest lap. The winner of two consecutive WoO features and three of the week's four events overall will start from the pole position in the third of four 10-lap heat races.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., was fastest in the first group, turning a lap of 15.623 seconds. He will start from the pole in the first heat.
Other heat polesitters are Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., and Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky.
Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., failed to register a qualifying lap after his right-rear tire came off as he entered turn three. His car bounced in the cushion and nearly flipped, but it stayed on its wheels. The machine was towed off the track.
The DIRTcar Nationals conclude Saturday night with the last of three consecutive nights of racing sanctioned by the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. A $10,000 top prize will be on the line in the 50-lap A-Main.
Saturday night’s program features the usual WoO format: split-group qualifying, heat races, B-Mains and a 50-lap headliner.
The final night of the DIRTcar Nationals has brought perhaps the best weather of the week. After two especially chilly evenings, temperatures are expected to climb into the 70s this afternoon with much more comfortable evenings conditions. ... The warm-up seems to have given the race teams some extra pep in their step for the finale of the long Georgia-Florida Speedweeks grind. The pit-area atmosphere is decidedly more active than usual for the last race of the week. … Drivers who won’t be in the 45-car field tonight include Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville, Tenn., Mark Whitener of Middleburg, Fla., and Mike Altobelli Jr. of Saxon, Pa. … Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., will seek to become just the second driver in WoO history to sweep a three-race weekend at a single track, duplicating Josh Richards’s feat in the 2013 Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. … Clanton will also bid to become the first driver to win four Dirt Late Model features during a single DIRTcar Nationals. Just four other drivers have won three times in a single DIRTcar Nationals over the past 35 years: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. (3-of-5 in 2008); Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. (3-of-6 in ’05); Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind. (3-of-6 in ’03); and Larry Moore of Dayton, Ohio (3-of-4 in 1981). … Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., is hoping he’s corrected the apparent electrical problems that hampered his effort on Friday night. “It wasn’t turning but 7700 RPM last night,” the driver known as Rambo said of his engine. “It’s been lazy all week, but last night it laid down in qualifying. We changed all the electrical system — distributor, MSD box, coil — and we hope we fixed it.”
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Tyler Bruening
Row 2: Ricky Weiss, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Rick Eckert
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Brandon Sheppard
Row 5: Mason Zeigler, Casey Roberts
Row 6: Tyler Clem, Mike Hammerle
Row 1: Frank Heckenast Jr., Mark Dotson
Row 2: Jared Landers, Kent Robinson
Row 3: Chad Hollenbeck, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Chase Junghans, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 5: Dennis Erb Jr., Michael Norris
Row 6: Donny Schatz
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Chub Frank, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Steve Francis, Darrell Lanigan
Row 4: Jordan Yaggy, James Rice
Row 5: Dan Stone, Stormy Scott
Row 6: Dennis Franklin
Row 1: Eric Wells, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Walker Arthur, Scott Bloomquist
Row 3: Don O’Neal, Tim McCreadie
Row 4: Boom Briggs, Austin Smith
Row 5: Josh Richards, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 6: Gregg Satterlee
Time trials order
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.623
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Orland Park, Ill., 15.738
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.775
Mark Dotson (85d), Cameron, Mo., 15.79
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingly, Manitoba, 15.845
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.86
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21), Ocala, Fla., 15.869
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 15.884
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 15.886
Chad Hollenbeck (4ds), Kingsley, Pa., 15.918
Rick Eckert (7V), York, Pa., 16.014
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 16.126
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 16.158
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 16.191
Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 16.202
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.203
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.24
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.242
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 16.376
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 16.648
Tyler Clem (14), St. Petersburg, Fla., 16.651
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 16.67
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 17.972
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.567
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 15.61
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.633
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.637
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.666
Walker Arthur (87), Forrest, Va., 15.719
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 15.795
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 15.801
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 15.827
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.827
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 15.857
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.906
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 15.962
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.997
James Rice (11), Verona, Ky., 16.013
Austin Smith (11), Cedartown, Ga., 16.081
Dan Stone (21d), Thompson, Pa., 16.126
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.211
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.221
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 16.422
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 17.142
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., N/T