Bristol Motor Speedway
WoO gearing up for trip to southwest Missouri
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
One track has become a staple on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. The other, meanwhile, has never before played host to national touring series. It will be a mix of the familiar and the unknown for most of the WoO stars when the trail invades Missouri the first weekend in May to contest two nights of action at veteran promoter Randy Mooneyham’s Missouri ovals— I-44 Speedway in Lebanon on May 3 and Monett Speedway on May 4. | Terry Phillips hopes to defend home tracks
“It’s going to be one of the biggest weekends of the year for racing in southwestern Missouri,” Mooneyham said. “Two World of Outlaws shows back-to-back sets up a perfect weekend for the fans and racers.”
I-44 Speedway, a high-banked, 3/8-mile oval that was paved in the ‘90s before switching back to a clay surface, is on the WoO schedule for the fourth consecutive season. But there’s something different about this year’s 40-lap, $10,000-to-win event. It’s the first time that the Outlaws visit on the fast track’s regular night of operation.
The WoO has made its annual stop at I-44 on summer mid-week dates for the past three years: July 3, 2007 (winner: Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga.), July 25, 2006 (Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa) and July 26, 2005 (Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky.).
“We’re excited to have the Outlaws coming to Lebanon on a Saturday night,” said Mooneyham, who has operated the facility for six years. “Running on our regular night could make this our best World of Outlaws show ever.”
Following Lebanon’s checkered flag the WoO will shift its action 100 miles to the southwest on Sunday for a first-ever stop at Monett, a 38-year-old track known as the Grand Old Lady that Mooneyham has promoted for the last 28 years.
“Without a doubt this is the biggest race ever run at Monett,” Mooneyham said of the 40-lap WoO feature that offers a top prize of $7,000. “With the great names that are coming, it’s going to be a show like no one has ever seen at Monett.”
While Monett is similarly-sized to Lebanon I-44, drivers will face a different set of challenges at Mooneyham’s longer-running oval. “Monett is a little flatter and the turns are a little tighter than Lebanon," Mooneyham said. “It takes a little more of a slick-track style, but it’s good and wide. The drivers always love to race at Monett.”
Plenty of nationally-known all-stars will be invading Monett — many for the first time in their careers — as well as Lebanon. Former Lebanon I-44 WoO winners Smith and Francis will lead the charge to the sister tracks, hitting town as returning tour regulars. Francis is the defending WoO champion, while Smith is coming off a career-high third-place finish in the 2007 points standings. Birkhofer has also indicated that he plans to be in the field to chase another WoO win at Lebanon I-44 as well as a triumph at Monett.
And three-time WoO champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who won a WoO event at Lebanon I-44 in 1988 during the tour’s first incarnation (1988-89) under late WoO sprint car founder Ted Johnson, has plans to take a shot at extending his early-season hot streak on the WoO (four wins in seven events so far and the points lead) at two tracks where he’s enjoyed plenty of success of the years.
With both events co-sanctioned by the O’Reilly MARS DIRTcar Series, that tour’s top talents will join the battle at two tracks they have run at often in recent years. Reigning series champion Bill Frye of Greenbrier, Ark., heads the MARS contingent, which also includes former champ Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., Will Vaught of Seneca, Mo., and Jeremy Payne of Springfield, Mo.