World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series
Lanigan tops WoO's preseason media poll
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
Darrell Lanigan will be hard pressed to match the records he set during his 2012 World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship season, but one thing is certain: he’s the consensus favorite to win this year’s $100,000 title.
The 42-year-old star from Union, Ky., was voted the driver most likely to capture the national tour’s 2013 points crown in the sixth annual WoO Pre-Season Media Poll. He topped the voting for the first time, snapping Josh Richards’s four-year streak as the press contingent’s No. 1 pick.
Lanigan will begin his chase of a second straight and third career WoO championship Feb. 8-9 during the Winter Freeze doubleheader at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. The circuit’s season-opening swing also includes a pair of tripleheaders: the Bubba Army Late Model Winter Nationals on Feb. 15-17 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., and the 42nd DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment on Feb. 21-23 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
Nearly four dozen writers, photographers and broadcasters who cover the WoO participated in the poll, which asked the press members to predict the top-five finishers in the tour’s 2013 points standings. Points were distributed to each driver named on the ballots using a 5-4-3-2-1 system.
Lanigan dominated the voting, rolling up 195 points to easily outdistance Richards’s 127-point total. Lanigan earned a poll-best 27 first-place votes and he was the only driver whose name appeared on all 44 ballots, with 42 of those selections listing him for a top-three finish in the points standings.
The support Lanigan received was no surprise considering his spectacular ’12 season. He established numerous WoO records (15 wins, six consecutive victories, three 100-lap triumphs, 228-point championship margin, points leader from start-to-finish) and earned an amazing $426,700 en route to his first title since 2008.
A WoO regular every season since the tour was reincarnated in 2004 under the World Racing Group banner, Lanigan returns to the trail with his championship combination completely intact. He will campaign Cornett-powered Rocket Chassis machines wrenched for a second straight year by crew chief Jason Jameson and mechanic Adam Logan. Lanigan also enters the 2013 season as the all-time winningest WoO driver, with 41 career victories.
Richards, 24, of Shinnston, W.Va., finished a distant second in the poll, but that significant gap was largely the product of the uncertainty still shrouding his WoO championship candidacy. While he’s announced that he is returning as a regular after leaving the tour early last season to move south and pursue a career on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, he said he would depart again if a quality NASCAR ride presented itself.
With several poll respondents alluding to the possibility that Richards might be pulled from the WoO by a NASCAR opportunity, the two-time series champion was left off 13 of the 44 ballots. But his support was still extensive enough — nine first-place, 15 second-place and six third-place votes — that he emerged as the runner-up in the voting.
Shane Clanton, 38, of Fayetteville, Ga., was the only other driver to crack the 100-point plateau, finishing third with 108 points. A popular choice to contend for the title in his second year with Kennedy Motorsports, he appeared on 40 ballots, receiving three first-place, five second-place and 13 third-place votes.
Rick Eckert, 47, of York, Pa., finished fourth in the poll for the second consecutive season, accumulating 96 points. The 2011 WoO champion and runner-up in last year’s standings was listed on 40 media ballots, tallying a modest two first-place and five second-place votes.
Tim McCreadie, 38, of Watertown, N.Y., completed the top five in the poll with 81 points. The 2006 WoO titlist appeared on 33 ballots, picking up a single first-place and six second-place votes.
The expected resurgence of Watertown, N.Y.’s Tim Fuller, who appears reborn as he heads into his first full season driving for the high-profile Kennedy Motorsports team, was evidenced by the 45-year-old’s sixth-place finish in the poll. He was listed on 19 ballots and tallied 41 points, including two first-place votes.
Rounding out the drivers earning points in the poll were 2012 Rookie of the Year Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who tied for seventh with four points apiece (both received one fourth-place and two fifth-place votes); Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., whose three fifth-place nods earned him three points; and 21-year-old Dillon Wood of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., who was given a single fifth-place vote for one point to stand as the only 2013 Rookie of the Year contender appearing on a ballot.
Expected WoO regulars who did not receive a top-five vote included Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., and 2013 rookie candidates Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, and Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky.