Lucas Oil Speedway
Hotline to Lanigan gives driver edge at Show-Me
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
WHEATLAND, Mo. (May 23) — Tony Jackson Jr. hadn’t finished better than fourth in his Dirt Late Model all season, so a top-five finish Thursday when 74 drivers crowded the Lucas Oil Speedway pits seemed unlikely. But that’s exactly where the 31-year-old Lebanon, Mo., driver ended up on the opening night of the track’s biggest weekend. | Complete Show-Me 100 coverage
“We just come here ... hoping to get in the show and have a good run with them guys,” Jackson said after Thursday’s Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association preceding the 21st annual Lucas Oil Show-Me 100. “So to be able to qualify good and start that far back in the heat and come through there, and get a top five, that’s big momentum for us.”
The two-time winner on the MARS DIRTcar Series, who also dabbles in asphalt Late Model racing, was the only home-state driver to finish in the top 10 in a 40-lapper won by two-time Show-Me 100 winner Jimmy Owens that drew perhaps the strongest field of any standalone MLRA event in series history.
Jackson started eighth in the 28-car field field, overtook Hall of Famer Billy Moyer in the early-going and then slipped by Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark., for fourth with 12 laps remaining. Jackson credited Darrell Lanigan, the two-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion who put together his Rocket Chassis, for steering him straight during several phone calls throughout the evening.
The fourth-place finisher was “wearing Darrell Lanigan’s phone out,” Jackson joked. “Good thing he answers every time I call. He just told me what to do, and we put it on there and started eighth (in the heat race) and ended up running third there. It was real good in the heat race.”
Lanigan actually built the car in his Club 29 shop planning to run it himself, but when Jackson needed one quickly early this season, Lanigan pulled out his own powerplant and prepared the car for Jackson. The Missouri team went to Union, Ky., this week for more guidance from Lanigan.
“We was down there this week and he went over it for us and put a new body on it and all that stuff for this race,” Jackson said. “He’s definitely handy, so I can wear his phone out, and he’s a real good racer himself, so it’s definitely a big benefit for me to ask him questions.”
While Owens dominated the race, leading by more than a straightaway most of the distance, Jackson was up to fifth quickly and just behind Steve Shaver, Tyler Reddick and Sullivan in the early going.
“It as pretty racy right there at the start. Like you said, I was being patient there. I got past Moyer there and had a real good race with Jack Sullivan,” Jackson said. “Once I got past him it kind of seemed like it was being like one-laned dominant around the bottom. Like I said, it was just a lot of momentum for us — I didn’t want to tear nothing up there at the end of the race.”
But afterwards, Jackson wondered if he might’ve raced a little harder earlier in the race when the wider groove appeared to allow more passing.
“I was telling my guys here, I think if we’d have been more aggressive there — (I was) trying to save tires and all that stuff — but I think if I would’ve been more aggressive there at the beginning of the race, I don’t think we had nothing for Owens, but I definitely think I could’ve run second,” he said.
It’s a boost for Jackson heading for the highlight of the Show-Me 100 weekend, the $30,000-to-win event sanctioned by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, where Owens is the two-time and reigning champion.
“We just wanted to come here and get in the show and just have a decent run, so to have a lot better than a decent run, this is definitely above-average,” Jackson said. “A few different moves on the racetrack, and maybe (being) more aggressive we could’ve got second or third there. So it’s pretty big momentum for the rest of the weekend.”