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Lanigan leads Class of 2021 into Hall of Fame

October 17, 2020, 5:09 pm
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor
Darrell Lanigan (Brian McLeod/Dirt Scenes)
Darrell Lanigan (Brian McLeod/Dirt Scenes)

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (Oct. 17) — A national championship-winning bandit from the Bluegrass State, a pair of speedsters from Atlanta, Ga.-area tracks, one Iowan with a tragedy-shortened career and another with prolific longevity are among those in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.

Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., a three-time World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series and the tour’s all-time second winningest driver, leads the five driver class that was announced Saturday during the 40th annual General Tire Dirt Track World Championship presented by Optima Batteries at Portsmouth Raceway Park.

Lanigan’s fellow WoO racer Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., and three-time Dixie-Rome champion Wade Knowles of Tyrone, Ga., the late Bob Shryock of Estherville, Iowa, and Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, who won on IMCA’s long-running Deery Brothers Summer Series from start to finish, are also among driver inductees.

Contributors to the sport joining the Hall of Fame are legendary Maryland team owner Bobby Allen, whose car won the first-ever WoO event, along with enterprising apparel mogul Gerald Newton of Arizona Sport Shirts and veteran chassis builder Audie Swartz.

Lanigan, Smith and Swartz each follow their fathers into the Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2021 is scheduled to be inducted next August at the Union, Ky., Hall of Fame during the Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100 weekend. That weekend will also include Class of 2020 ceremonies postponed by coronavirus restrictions.

A closer look at the Class of 2021 (listed alphabetically):

Drivers

Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls, Iowa: A prolific winner even as he races into his late 50s, the three-time Yankee Dirt Track Classic winner was a seven-time champion on the Deery Brothers Summer Series, literally winning from start to finish on the series that launched in in 1987 with a 25-year-old Aikey winning the first title. Fast forward to 2020 when Aikey won the final series event during yet another standout season. Aikey was also the 2003 All-Iowa champion, a two-time winner of the Hamilton Futurity in Webster City, Iowa, and a six-time Super Nationals winner at Boone (Iowa) Speedway. A four-time winner on NASCAR’s Busch All-Star tour, his 71 victories on the Deery Brothers circuit was a higher total than the next two winningest drivers combined.

Wade Knowles, Tyrone, Ga.: Competing from 1981-2001, was the Dixie-Rome Speedway Super Late Model champion in 1993 and won at every Georgia track he competed while winning twice on the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City and Waycross (Ga.) Speedway. Knowles was the 1986 Southern All Star Rookie of the Year as well as a top-five finisher in National 100, Dixie Shootout, Hillbilly 100. He was a two-time World 100 starter. The three-time Southern All Star winner also had major victories in Dixie’s Pepsi 200, North Georgia Speedway’s Grant Adcox Memorial, Lanier Speedway’s Winston 200 and a Florida Speedweeks victory in Lake City. Since his retirement, Knowles has assisted his son Jake, a champion racer in his own right.

Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.: A World of Outlaws champion in 2008, ’12 and ’14, Lanigan joins his late father, longtime team owner and Class of 2008 inductee Porter Lanigan, in the Hall of Fame. Two of the 50-year-old Lanigan’s biggest victories came in 2003 with a $100,000 Dream victory at Eldora Speedway and $60,000 payday in the Dirt Track World Championship in his home-state’s Bluegrass Speedway. Other major victories include the 2012 USA Nationals at Wisconsin’s Cedar Lake Speedway and 2013 Knoxville Nationals for the driver who developed and built Club 29 Race Cars for a number of years. He’s a 25-time World 100 starter with two runner-up finishes in Eldora’s biggest event. His 74 WoO victories are four behind Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and includes a record-setting stretch of six in a row in 2012.

Bob Shryock, Estherville, Iowa: The 15-time champion at tracks in Iowa and Minnesota enjoyed a standout 17-year career cut short when he was fatally injured in a work-related construction accident in 1985 at 41 years old. The inaugural champion of the four-time American Outlaw Association Late Model Series in 1983, he competed at more than 35 tracks stretching from Florida to Canada with major event victories in Des Moines, Iowa, Omaha, Neb., Hartford, S.D., and Ocala, Fla.’s 1977 Race of Champions. He was a four-time winner of the Black Hills Nationals in Rapid City, S.D., two-time winner of the Open Invitational at Viking Speedway in Alexandria, Minn., and 1977 Spring Invitational winner at Nebraska’s Sunset Speedway. Shryock is also a member of the Iowa Racing Hall of Fame.

Clint Smith, Senoia, Ga.: The inaugural Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series champion in 1993 and a four-time Southern All Star champion, Smith was a longtime WoO competitor with 12 career victories on the national tour and career-best third-place finish in 2007 points. Smith has four career Hav-A-Tampa tour victories and 13 career Southern All Star victories among more than 320 career feature victories overall. The “Cat Daddy” had stints as the GRT house car driver and for North Carolina-based Dunn Benson Motorsports. The Hillbilly 100 winner and four-time Alabama State Champion also had multiple track titles at Senoia Raceway and Seven Flags Speedway in Douglasville, Ga. Smith’s father Roscoe Smith was a 2001 inductee as a contributor and during his driving career used the famed checkerboard roof carried on by his son’s No. 44 cars.

Contributors

Bobby Allen: The Baltimore, Md., resident who died in 1995 was among the most successful Mid-Atlantic team owners for many years with Ronnie McBee, Gary Stuhler, Booper Bare and Larry Moore among standout drivers fielding his cars at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway and beyond. Stuhler, Hagerstown’s all-time winningest driver, drove Allen’s car to his first victory at the historic half-mile oval in 1983, and Les Hare drove Allen’s car to the checkers in the first-ever WoO event at Hagerstown in 1988. Allen’s son Robby has become a successful and championship-winning crew chief for drivers including Stuhler, Rick Eckert and Gregg Satterlee.

Gerald Newton: With more than 30 years in the industry, the executive vice president for operations of Arizona Sports Shirts and GottaRace.com was instrumental in the boom of racing apparel and merchandise. Newton got his start in the T-shirt business in his native Kentucky before joining Arizona Sports Shirts in Indianapolis 30 years ago, rising through the ranks and working with star drivers like Scott Bloomquist in producing T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, caps and various racing merchandise. Newton is also the president of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.

Audie Swartz: The 56-year-old son of legendary and inaugural Hall of Fame racer Charlie Swartz carved out a career as a chassis builder, successfully fielding cars for standout drivers including Jackie Boggs, Kyle Berck and Zack Dohm out of his Minford, Ohio, chassis and parts operation. The namesake of his grandfather, a pioneering racer who finished second in the inaugural Knoxville Nationals in 1961, Audie Swartz also still competes, racing regularly at Portsmouth, where he’s a former track champion.

 
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