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Belleville High Banks

Boen breaks through for WoO win at Belleville

July 21, 2008, 7:51 am
By Kevin Kovac
World of Outlaws Late Model Series
Boen races toward $10,000. (Justin Sly)
Boen races toward $10,000. (Justin Sly)

BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 20) — After Kelly Boen drove to his first career World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory on Sunday night at the Belleville High Banks, there was no doubt that he’s the favorite adopted son of the tiny Kansas town. Boen, 44, of Henderson, Colo., simply lit up the famed half-mile oval’s fans with a performance for the ages. | Slideshow

“These race fans here have always been so good to me over the years,” said Boen, who has been the most prolific dirt Late Model winner at Belleville for the past decade despite living nearly 450 miles from the historic track. “A lot of these people have been waiting a long time for a night like this from me. I’ve under-produced here the last couple years when the big races come, so I finally got to pay back all these people who have been watching me for so long. This was just a fabulous night, one I’m sure we’ll remember forever.”

An excited crowd of Belleville faithful swallowed up Boen following the 35-lap feature, which Boen captured by 0.538 of a second over WoO star Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. He inherited the lead on lap 13 when Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., slowed with mechanical trouble and controlled the remainder of the distance on the blazing-fast speedway.

WoO points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished third, followed by Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.

“This has been a long time coming,” said an emotional Boen while receiving congratulatory handshakes and hugs as he stood on the homestretch of the High Banks following the Victory Lane ceremonies. “It’s kind of like a lifelong dream fulfilled to win a World of Outlaws race. This is the biggest race I’ve ever won, and it means a lot more to me to win it at Belleville. I just love this place.”

There’s no racetrack that gets Boen’s juices flowing more than the historic High Banks.

“This is my favorite racetrack,” said Boen, who received the loudest cheers of the night whenever he was introduced. “You can’t really race here every weekend because the car takes so much abuse and you’d wear out too much stuff, but when you get a lot of people together on a special night like this, then this is the only place to be.”

Boen, coming off a pair of O'Reilly NCRA victories over the weekend at Mid-Nebraska Speedway in Doniphan, started fourth in his Jay Dickens-powered Rocket car. He reached second behind Richards on lap five when he slid ahead of Frank in turn two and then cooled his jets to save his equipment for a later assault.

“I might’ve been just a little quicker than Josh,” analyzed Boen. “But we were really about the same speed, so I figured I’d settle in for about 15 or 20 laps and let it shake out because there’s no sense in trying to go crazy and run the right-rear (tire) off early.”

Boen never had to test himself against Richards, who slowed on lap 13 when his Rocket car’s rear end broke to bring out the race’s second and final caution flag. He was never seriously challenged during the 22-lap green-flag run that closed the race, although Frank did draw within several car lengths on the last lap thanks to some lapped traffic that slowed Boen’s pace.

“After Josh broke, I was really focused on trying not to make any mistakes the rest of the race,” said Boen, whose head mechanic, Doug Hoffman, received the $50 Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race Award. “The car got tight and that kinda made it interesting a few times – sometimes the right-front would stay under me, and sometimes it would drift up and I’d have to brake to get it back. But my crew gave me a good car and I just had to hang on to it.”

Boen’s triumph – worth $10,650, including the $500 Bonus Bucks cash for being the highest-finishing non-series regular who had never previously won a WoO feature – came after he spent much of the past week racing with the Outlaws on the Wild West Tour. He asserted that his stint on the WoO road, which included a then career-best finish of fourth on July 11 at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., played a big role in his breakthrough at Belleville.

“These Outlaw guys raced me hard all week and taught me a lot,” said Boen. “I couldn’t have won this race without the help that so many of these guys gave me. The guys from Rocket are so good to me. Brian (Daugherty) from Integra Shocks has helped me so much. (Tim) Fuller helped me. Clint Smith is such a good guy and helps me all the time. Rick Eckert even helped me out right before the feature tonight — I don’t think I would’ve won this race if Rick didn’t get me to change my right-front tire and go with a hard one at the last minute. I can’t thank everybody enough."

Frank, 46, started from the pole position, but Richards was faster off the outside at the initial green flag and grabbed the lead. Boen snared second place several circuits later with a slide job that Frank said “about wrecked us both," and then the Keystone State veteran decided to get conservative. “I tried to take it easy when I was running second,” said Frank, who drove his Lester Buildings Rocket car. “I got off the gas a little bit to let (the engine) breathe. Right there at the end Kelly got hung up behind a lapped car, though, so I started pushing it pretty hard. I knew that was my only shot, but it probably would’ve been ugly if we got close and ran side-by-side so I’m happy with a second.”

Lanigan, meanwhile, was in a good mood after surviving the treacherous High Banks in his GottaRace.com Rocket. He slipped by Pearson for the position on lap 15 and ran alone for the much of the remaining distance. I’m real happy to get out of here with a third,” said the fifth-starting Lanigan, who rolled up his 16th top-five finish in the last 17 events. “Whenever you run wide-open for 35 laps, you just hope nothing breaks.”

Pearson tied Billy Moyer's dirt Late Model track record with a lap of 16.187 seconds (111.200 mph) in time trials and won a heat race, but drawing the sixth starting spot doomed him. He climbed as high as third but struggled when running his LifeLong Locks/Bobby Labonte Racing MasterSbilt car in close quarters. “When you get behind someone on a high-speed track like this the air gets up under your car and the front end gets real light, like a jack is underneath it,” said Pearson. “That’s not a feeling you like to have going in the corner.”

Babb made some high-side moves on the race’s two restarts to hustle forward from the eighth starting spot for a fifth-place finish in his Bowyer Dirt Motorsports Rocket. The run came after he scored his second WoO win of the season on Friday night at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen, S.D. “We were a little off on gear early in the night so we kept putting more to it,” said Babb, who spent the closing laps in a tight battle with Pearson and sixth-place finisher Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga. “The track slicked off a little in the feature, though, and that made the motor turned a few too many RPMs and got a little too tight. I’m happy that we came out of here with a good finish. Last year we had to change a motor here and were way off in the feature.”

Finishing in positions 7-10 were Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., who charged from the rear after pitting on lap one to change a left-rear tire that was cut from contact with another car in turn two; Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who wasn’t a factor after winning last year’s WoO event at Belleville; Rick Eckert of York, Pa.., who faded from the third starting spot with a loose car; and top-finishing rookie Vic Coffey of Leicester, N.Y.

The 20-year-old Richards finished 15th after running around the track at reduced speed for the final 22 laps because of his mechanical woes. He was seven laps down at the checkered flag — the first time this season that he did not complete every feature lap.

“We put a brand-new rear in the car just for tonight and it broke,” said Richards, who remained second in the WoO points standings but fell to 86 points behind Lanigan. “I don’t know if we would have won it, but when I was out front I wasn’t even running hard. It was just so easy to drive.”

World of Outlaws @ Belleville: (1) Kelly Boen, (2) Chub Frank, (3) Darrell Lanigan, (4) Earl Pearson Jr., (5) Shannon Babb, (6) Shane Clanton, (7) Steve Francis, (8) Clint Smith, (9) Rick Eckert, (10) Vic Coffey, (11) John Blankenship, (12) Joe Isabell, (13) Danny Johnson, (14) John Kuchar, (15) Josh Richards, (16) John Anderson, (17) Dave Conkwright, (18) Tim Fuller, (19) Earl Kinderknecht, (20) Dean Moore, (21) Sean Beardsley, (22) Mike Wiarda, (23) Dustin Hapka, (24) Al Purkey. Fast qualifier (among 29 cars): Pearson, 16.187 seconds. Heat race winners: Pearson, Boen, Eckert. Consolation winner: Moore. Provisional starters: Hapka, Wiarda.

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