World of Outlaws Notebook
Notes: Marlar ready for fast, tight Tazewell
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
Mike Marlar will get his chance to go World of Outlaws Late Model Series racing in front of familiar faces Saturday night when the national tour visits Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway.
April 28’s Outlaw Sizzler 50 presented by Rusty Wallace Cadillac-GMC-Kia of Morristown provides a rare opportunity for Marlar to run a WoO event near his Winfield, Tenn., residence. A hopeful first-time series regular in 2012, Marlar figures to have plenty of support from family and friends when he chases the $10,000 top prize in Saturday’s feature.
Marlar, 34, remarked that “it’s fun to get to go back home” for a WoO show, especially when the unique Tazewell facility is the site of the action. While Marlar has never run weekly in the track’s dirt Late Model division, he’s a big fan of the high-banked, third-mile oval that sits just two hours east of Winfield.
“It’s a fun place to race,” said Marlar, who has reached victory lane at Tazewell in the past. “There’s always a huge crowd there, so it’s always an event. It just don’t feel like a normal race. When you get there, it’s just a little different atmosphere than most of your normal races.”
Marlar also understands the unique challenge that comes with racing at Tazewell, which produces speeds — and, in turn, a short-track spectacle — unlike any other bullring.
“When you get your stuff right, you can just get around that place just unbelievably fast,” said Marlar, who drives Rocket cars fielded by Bryson Motorsports. The speed “can get you in trouble quick. If there’s an accident, it’s really hard to stay out of them. You almost got to drive into the wreck as far as you can drive to give the guys behind you room to slow down for you. There’s not much room there, so you gotta use it all wisely.”
Marlar, who has two top-five finishes and is tied for 11th in the WoO points standings through seven events this season, is searching for his first-ever victory on the tour. He entered one of the previous two WoO events contested at Tazewell, finishing 17th in 2010.
The only WoO regular with victories at this weekend’s World of Outlaws tracks — North Alabama Speedway and Tazewell Speedway — is Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., who has been strong on the 2012 tour (four top-five finishes) but is still seeking his first victory.
Clanton, 36, was triumphant in WoO competition at Tazewell, claiming the track’s inaugural series race in 2010. He finished sixth in last year’s 101-lap WoO event at the Taz.
While Clanton placed sixth in the only previous WoO event at North Alabama in 2007 (he led laps 2-25 of the 40-lapper before fading), he was victorious in his last start there, a Southern All Star Series race on May 9, 2008.
The points leader
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., has been without peer so far this season on the WoO — the current points leader has two wins, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes — but he’ll have to turn around his fortunes at North Alabama and Tazewell to keep his momentum going.
The 41-year-old former series champion has a pedestrian WoO performance record at this weekend’s pair of tracks. He finished eighth in the 2007 event at North Alabama, while at Tazewell he placed eighth in ’10 and 14th in last year’s 101-lapper (though he was running fourth when he developed a flat tire on lap 83).
Lanigan, who scored a $2,000 weekly-show victory at his hometown’s Florence Speedway last Saturday night, enters the weekend ranked as the nation’s No. 1 Dirt Late Model driver in the DirtonDirt.com Top 25 poll.
Rookie to watch
No WoO follower has more experience at North Alabama than current Rookie of the Year points leader Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., who has one win (2008 Mississippi State Championship Challenge Series event), five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 15 starts since 2007. The only race he did not qualify for over that span was the WoO program.
McCool will be on an even experience level with his Rookie of the Year rivals at Tazewell, a track he’s visited just once (finished 15th in a 2011 Lucas Oil Late Model Series event). Rookie contenders Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark., and Greg Johnson of Bedford, Ind., have little to no experience at both North Alabama and Tazewell.
Sheppard, 19, and Robinson, 24, will carry some momentum into this weekend’s competition. Sheppard won a Northern All-Stars Late Model Series event last Saturday night at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway, while Robinson has produced a fourth-place finish (April 6 at Farmer City) and two runner-up placings (April 7 at Indiana’s Brownstown Speedway and April 21 at Florence Speedway) in recent weeks.
Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., who began the year as one of eight WoO Rookie of the Year hopefuls, announced on Monday that he has ended his chase of the first-year driver honor. He retains his rookie eligibility, however, and hopes to make another attempt at running the series in the future after gaining more experience.
Besides the WoO regulars, drivers expected to challenge the WoO regulars at North Alabama include Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., who finished second in the tour’s season opener on Feb. 11 at Georgia’s Screven Motor Speedway; Ray Moore of Shreveport, La., who plans to visit North Alabama for the first time in over four years; brothers Brian and Rick Rickman, both of Columbus, Miss.; Chad Winkles of Falkville, Ala., who finished second in last Friday night’s feature at North Alabama; Klint Byars of Calhoun City, Miss.; Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss.; Brian Reese of Sharpsburg, Ga.; Josh Putnam of Florence, Ala.; and Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga.
Competitors who have indicated plans to enter Saturday’s program at Tazewell include two-time World 100 winner Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn.; former WoO champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn.; Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who won last year’s WoO 101 at Tazewell; 2007 WoO champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky.; Eric Jacobsen of Sea Cliff Beach, Calif., who finished third in Tazewell’s 2011 WoO A-Main; Blount Motorsports teammates Tommy Kerr of Maryville, Tenn. (fourth in ’10 and seventh in ’11 WoO events at Tazewell) and Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville, Tenn.; Vic Hill of Morristown, Tenn., who was running second in Tazewell’s 2010 WoO A-Main when Rick Rogers’s car flipped onto his machine; Steve Smith of Powell, Tenn., who is 2-for-2 in Tazewell Late Model division action this season; and Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky.