Deer Creek Speedway
New father McCreadie hangs on at Gopher 50
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
SPRING VALLEY, Minn. (July 7) — Tim McCreadie celebrated the arrival of his first child the best way possible — with a thrilling victory.
Just two days after McCreadie’s girlfriend Karen gave birth to his son Gavin Chase, the 36-year-old star from Watertown, N.Y., flew halfway across the country and held off a furious late-race challenge from Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., to win Wednesday’s 31st annual NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 at Deer Creek Speedway. | Slideshow
The triumph – worth $11,875, including a $1,000 bonus from NAPA – was McCreadie’s fourth of the 2010 World of Outlaws Late Model Series and third in the last five tour events.
“It couldn’t have been a better week,” pronounced a beaming McCreadie, whose 7-pound, 7-ounce baby boy was born at 2:39 a.m. on July 5. “I came home (from WoO events in Tennessee) in time to make it for my son’s delivery. That was an experience in itself, but to top it off with a win in my first race since he was born — man, it’s too cool.”
McCreadie roared off the outside pole to lead every lap in his Sweeteners Plus Rocket car, but he barely beat Lanigan to the finish line in a showdown of former series champions. Lanigan erased McCreadie’s full straightaway advantage during the 30-lap stretch of green-flag racing that closed the event but couldn’t complete a pass in the final frenetic circuits, falling short by a scant 0.047 of a second behind the wheel of his GottaRace.comRocket.
Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., who started 11th, steered his MB Customs mount into third place on lap 34 and stayed there to the finish, running just a few car lengths behind Lanigan down the stretch. Polesitter Rick Eckert of York, Pa., settled for fourth place with a Team Zero by Bloomquist car that he said became “too tight,” and fourth-starter Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., completed the top five in the RSD Enterprises Rocket after climbing as high as second early in the event.
In a race that was slowed by seven cautions — all coming during the first 20 laps — McCreadie appeared headed toward a convincing victory. He held a commanding lead shortly after the halfway point was passed.
But Lanigan, who started third but fell to fifth during the race’s early stages, fought back to reach second place with a pass of Eckert on lap 32. He chased down McCreadie without the benefit of a caution flag and spent the last three circuits bidding for the lead all around the 3/8-mile oval.
Lanigan clearly had the faster car at the end of the event. McCreadie, however, was savvy enough to turn back the challenge.
“I know we pulled away a little over the mid-stretch, but from like lap 30 on I didn’t feel that good,” said McCreadie. “I don’t know if we overheated the right-rear tire, but I just felt like I was hanging in the center of the corners and fading.
“I saw (Lanigan) get under me with a few laps to go, but I couldn’t get down there right to run as low as he was. At that point I’d run 45 some odd laps up on the cushion, so what do you do? You can’t just try to do something different.”
McCreadie did direct his car to the inside groove rounding turns three and four on the final lap — a strategy that likely paid off.
“I just figured that on the last lap I better go to where he is (on the bottom) because if I stayed way wide getting into three I probably would’ve gotten slid,” said McCreadie, who registered his 16th career series victory. “It was the last lap, you know, and it’s 10-grand on the line, so I knew that if I went (into three) where I had been the last three laps, (Lanigan) would’ve done what he had to do and cleared me. He almost had me cleared with one (lap) to go, but he gave me just enough room to get by.”
McCreadie lauded Lanigan’s gentlemanly manner during the race-deciding battle: “He raced me good through three and four. He could’ve slid me twice, and he didn’t. That’s just a professional way to race. I caught him before he left (victory lane) and told him I appreciated the way he raced me and I’ll race him the same way in the future. I’ll try to give him every professional courtesy I can.”
Lanigan, a two-time Gopher 50 winner, wasn’t interested in talking about the respect he demonstrated toward McCreadie. He actually wasn’t much interested in talking about the race at all.
Sitting dejectedly in the window of his car just beyond McCreadie’s celebration, Lanigan was asked to describe the final laps. He said only that they were “close,” and when asked whether he would have done anything different if he could rerun the race, he tersely responded, “Nope.”
“We just can’t get a win,” said Lanigan, who has fallen short several times since his lone WoO victory March 19 at Ocala (Fla.) Speedway. “We were coming, but (McCreadie) moved to the bottom to block me. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re leading the race. I’d would’ve done the same thing.”
Finishing in positions 6-10 was 17th-starter Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa; Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., who ran in the top five for the race’s first 17 laps; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa.; rookie Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., who pitted on lap seven after being collected when Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., spun into the inside berm in turn four; and defending WoO champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started fifth but struggled throughout the race.
Notes: Josh Richards saw his points lead shrink to 16 points over McCreadie, who shaved 20 points off the deficit he faced entering the opening event of the four-race Wild West Tour. ... Chad Simpson of Mount Vernon, Iowa, finished 12th, earning a $500 bonus for being the highest-finishing driver who has never won a WoO event and wasn’t ranked among the top 12 in the points standings. ... Series regular Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., entered the evening’s action just two days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, but he was too sore to race competitively. He received a provisional starting spot for the main event but only circled the track during the pace laps to collect last-place points. ... Among drivers failing to make the main event: Darryn Waldo, Eric Mass, Dustin Hapka, Jill George and Nick Herrick. ... The Wild West Tour continues Thursday at Superior (Wis.) Speedway before heading to River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., on Friday and Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron, S.D., on Saturday.
NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50: (1) Tim McCreadie, (2) Darrell Lanigan, (3) Jimmy Mars, (4) Rick Eckert, (5) Shane Clanton, (6) Brian Birkhofer, (7) Steve Francis, (8) Chub Frank, (9) Austin Hubbard, (10) Josh Richards, (11) Russ King, (12) Chad Simpson, (13) Clint Smith, (14) Jason Hughes, (15) Andrew McKay, (16) Pat Doar, (17) Brent Robinson, (18) Tyler Bruening, (19) Zach Johnson, (20) Adam Hensel, (21) Joe Ludemann, (22) Keith Foss, (23) Brady Smith, (24) Jason Rauen, (25) Tim Fuller. Fast qualifier (among 38 cars): Francis, 14.949 seconds. Heat race winners: Francis, Richards, McCreadie, Eckert. Consolation winners: Birkhofer, McKay. Provisional starters: C. Smith, Fuller.