Dirt Track at Charlotte
Tight WoO points battle heading to Charlotte
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
The path to the 2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship now runs through the Dirt Track at Charlotte — and the two combatants for the $100,000 crown are ready to hit the immaculate 4/10-mile oval at full strength.
Rick Eckert of York, Pa., leads the WoO LMS standings by just 22 points over Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., entering the World of Outlaws Showdown on Wednesday in Concord, N.C., at the track set to host three of the tour’s last four events this season.
After a rescheduled program at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., is contested on Nov. 2, the WoO LMS will close out the 2011 schedule with the World Finals doubleheader on Nov. 3-5.
Eckert, 45, will arrive at Charlotte on Wednesday carrying plenty of momentum in his pursuit of a first-ever WoO title. He won the tour’s last race Oct. 6 at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, N.Y., to get back on track after a five-race stretch in which his edge on the streaking Richards shrunk from 60 to 16 points.
The 23-year-old Richards wasn’t far off Eckert’s pace at the Wheels, finishing third to continue a run of five consecutive top-five finishes (including three wins) in full-points shows. Those sizzling stats are what added so much importance to Eckert’s badly-needed victory.
“It’s great for us to win, but as far as the points deal, Josh ran third and he’s won the last five or six — I quit counting, he’s won so many,” Eckert said with a smile. “That’s a really great team (Richards’s Rocket Chassis house car operation) and we’re doing the best with what we got (a self-owned effort). We’re gonna race him here to the end. If we can win two or three of these last four, we’ll keep ourselves in it for sure.
“(Richards has) been winning every race, so he makes it easy on me — I know where I gotta finish. I gotta win, because that’s the only way he’ll be behind the way he’s running.”
Eckert’s triumph at Rolling Wheels came with a fresh Jay Dickens engine under the hood of his Bloomquist Race Car. He’ll use that bullet again on Wednesday night, buoying his hopes for a final push to the championship finish line.
“That motor we just got back from Jay Dickens — that thing runs good,” said Eckert, who followed his Wheels score with a $5,000 win in the unsanctioned National Open on Oct. 8 at Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway. “Going down to Charlotte, it takes motor, so I think we’ll be OK.”
Richards does have the advantage in past performance at Charlotte with three victories to his credit — one in each of the last three seasons, including last year’s World of Outlaws Showdown. Eckert has never won at Charlotte but has authored several very strong runs, including a third-place finish (from the 18th starting spot) in the opener of the 2009 World Finals and a runner-up finish in last year’s World Finals.
Eckert’s 22-point advantage in the standings roughly amounts to 11 finishing positions. The WoO points system awards 150 points to a feature winner, 146 to second place and then two points less for every remaining position.
Charlotte’s pit gates are scheduled to open at 1 p.m. and spectator gates will be unlocked at 5 p.m.. Early-arriving fans will be greeted by a WoO driver autograph session that is slated to begin at 5 p.m. on the speedway concourse.
Hot laps are set to get the green flag at 6 p.m., followed by time trials and a full program of heats, consolation races and the 50-lap, $10,000-to-win main event.