Notes: Francis, Clanton ready for WoO's return
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
Heading into this weekend's races in Ocala, Fla., and Sylvania, Ga., World of Outlaws Late Model Series regulars Steve Francis and Shane Clanton are anxious to climb back behind the wheel after experiencing eventful months — for different reasons, of course.
Francis, 42, had an enjoyable time away from competition, taking a break from the grind of preparing his own equipment to tie the knot with Amanda Ferrell. The couple was married on Feb. 27 in Bardstown, Ky., and spent the next week honeymooning in Jamaica.
The 34-year-old Clanton, meanwhile, used the time off to continue recovering from the serious infection that mangled his left thumb, entered his blood stream — and forced him to settle for start-and-park, last-place finishes in the season-opening WoO events last month at Volusia Speedway Park because he wasn't healthy enough to race full-tilt.
Clanton underwent another surgery on his thumb two weeks ago and plans to race for real this weekend at Ocala Speedway and Screven Motor Speedway in hopes of beginning a comeback in the points standings.
He was originally scheduled to undergo skin-graft operation the Monday after the Texas swing, but he reported that the thumb is healing well so that procedure is canceled for now.
An Outlaw once again?
Coming off a spectacular 28th-to-third-place charge in last month's WoO finale at Volusia that left him fourth in the points standings, Tim McCreadie is headed south for two weeks of action with the mindset that he'll be a tour regular for the first time since his championship season in 2006.
"That's the plan right now," said McCreadie, a resident of Watertown, N.Y., who turns 36 on April 12. "We're moving working as if we're going to do the whole Outlaw thing."
McCreadie will make his first-ever appearance at both Ocala and Screven this weekend.
Finally, another biggie at Ocala
Friday night's inaugural WoO event at Ocala Speedway will mark the first time a major national touring Dirt Late Model series has visited the track since Feb. 13, 1993, when a Hav-A-Tampa Racing Series visited.
Current WoO star Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., was in the field for that race, making him one of the few tour regulars with experience at the odd-shaped oval. Smith remembers finishing fourth in the feature, which was won by Hall of Famer Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn.
Ocala's Ivedent Lloyd Jr., who is expected to be the top local contender on Friday, also competed in that event 17 years ago. Then a 26-year-old driver on his way to a second consecutive points title at Ocala — a track that would be paved after the 1995 season and not return to a dirt surface until 2008 — Lloyd recalls finishing second in a heat race behind Hall of Famer Buck Simmons but breaking in the feature. Ironically, Lloyd was working at the time for winner Ronnie Johnson in Chattanooga and returned to his hometown to compete.
Tough locals at Screven
WoO stars have won each of the two previous tour visits at Screven Motor Speedway – Steve Francis in 2008 and Tim Fuller in 2009 – but the Georgia contingent has proven formidable.
Peach State racers have led laps in both of Screven's 50-lappers. In 2008, Screven favorites Chesley Dixon of Swainsboro, Ga., led laps 1-5 (though he finished 20th after spinning out of third place on lap 16) and Jeremy Faircloth, also of Swainsboro, paced laps 6-10 before settling for a solid fourth-place finish.
Last year Benji Cole of Canon, Ga., flexed some local muscle by leading laps 1-6, but a scrape flattened his tire and left him with a 24th-place finish.
An elder rookie
Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., plans to make the trip to the Southeast this weekend with Tracy Seymour's team — with the intention, in fact, to apply for Rookie of the Year status and continue following the 2010 WoO tour.
Though 49 years old, the former motocross racer has only been racing Dirt Late Models since 2000 and seldom on a national level. Dohm's finishes of eighth and 16th at Volusia have him 11th in the points standings entering this weekend's action.
Meanwhile, other Rookie of the Year candidates ready for the Ocala-Screven doubleheader include 18-year-old Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., who finished seventh in last year's WoO LMS A-Main at Screven; Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga., who has competed several times at Screven; and Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa, who has plans to test an ARCA car at Talladega SuperSpeedway next week.
Odds and ends
Tim Fuller will reunite with his hauler and race cars this weekend after parking them at fellow driver Clint Smith's Senoia, Ga., shop last month. Fuller drove his rig to Smith's place from Volusia and flew home to upstate New York in order to save nearly 2,000 miles on its odometer. He returned this week to go through his equipment and caravan to Ocala with Smith. ... Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., heads to Ocala as the series points leader following his Feb. 13 victory at Volusia. "We had a new frame sitting at home so we worked on putting it together over the last few weeks," said Smith, who campaigns a Bloomquist Race Car. "We got the new car finished and we're bringing it with us on this trip. I'm not sure when we'll pull it out, but I'm pretty sure we'll run it one of the next four races." ... Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who finished third last year at Screven, recently became a grandfather for the third time when daughter Margaret and son-in-law Norm welcomed a baby girl, Reagan, on March 4.