English in hunt for PDC, WoO rookie title
By Mike WarrenWorld of Outlaws Case Late Model Series
It’s not often a rookie contender has a leg up on his competition. However, Tanner English has accomplished a feat that no other World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series driver has in 2022 — grab a checkered flag at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway.
As the national tour heads for Fairbury’s Prairie Dirt Classic for Friday’s $3,000-to-win semifeatures and Saturday’s whopping $50,000-to-win finale, the Benton, Ky., driver knows what it takes to get to victory lane at the quarter-mile oval famed for its tricky but high-speed cushion just inside its outer concrete wall.
“Not only just having a win, I have a lot of laps around (Fairbury),” said English, who grew up in western Kentucky but now lives with his young family in Benton, Ill. “I really like that place, and it’s close to home, and it sits on dirt that I’m familiar with, and I really know what it takes to get around that black dirt, and it just helps me be prepared and everything.”
English won at Fairbury on June 11 in the track’s Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial, securing a $5,000 payday. He was strong at Fairbury last season, too, earning a career-high $15,000 MARS Racing Series victory and posting runner-up finishes in DIRTcar Summer Nationals and Castrol FloRacing Night in America events.
Many drivers circle the Prairie Dirt Classic as one they want to add their name to the history books. It would certainly mark English’s biggest victory.
“Just having my name on that list, with a bunch of my idols and people that I grew up racing with and stuff, it’d be a big deal,” English said. “Just doing it in front of that crowd, they’re a really special crowd, and they know what’s up. They follow Dirt Late Model racing, and they know when you’ve really done something, and I feel like if you win there, you’ve accomplished something really big.”
His pursuit of a Fairbury victory is also part of a season-long goal — capturing WoO's Rookie of the Year title.
English is merely eight points behind Max Blair of Centerville, Pa., entering the Prairie Dirt Classic, thanks to his consistency in the last two months of competition. English has 11 top-10 finishes in his last 13 WoO appearances. He points to a couple of reasons for his steadiness.
“I’m really familiar with (DIRTcar-legal tires) and know what they’re going to do,” English said. “I felt like we’ve learned a lot this year, so maybe we’ll be all right when we go back out to (Blair’s) territory in a couple of weeks or so.
“That and I also feel like we’ve gotten better. We’ve gotten our qualifying program better, and that helps out a lot. At least now I ain’t got to pass 20 cars. We’ve been trying to stay consistent and just finish races.”
Consistency is well and good, but the Riggs Motorsports driver is still searching for his first career World of Outlaws victory. He feels it’s not too far away.
“Really, I felt like it was coming (July 15 at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.), and I felt like we just made a wrong tire choice and made a few bad adjustments on the car,” English said. “I had the car to win there. I just felt like I second-guessed myself and put ourselves behind the 8-ball.
“The last few races, we’ve started on the front row, so that’s a big confidence-booster, and hopefully, we keep that up and just keep finishing up front.”