Quick Time: Pre-teens lead youth movement
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
Take a quick lap around the proverbial dirt track with managing editor Todd Turner for a roundup of Dirt Late Model racing through the latest weekend of action along with some other quirks of racing (and the occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time, presented by PFC Brakes, appears throughout the regular season every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:
Frontstretch: Drivers of the Week
National: Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., scored his first victory of the season June 15 at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss., overtaking Don O’Neal in the final 10 laps of the $20,000-to-win Clash at the Mag on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Regional: Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., doubled his victory total for the season in two fell swoops June 14-15, scoring Southern All Star Racing Series victories at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., and Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn.
Weekly: Daren Friedman of Forrest, Ill., scored an Illinois sweep with victories at Farmer City Raceway and Fairbury American Legion Speedway, where he collected $2,000 in the Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial.
Crate: In a surprise start June 14 at Magnolia Motor Speedway, reigning NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly champion Chase Washington of Houlka, Miss., won his first race since undergoing chemotherapy treatments to fight non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Turn 1: Youth movement
There was something about the mid-June racing weekend that brought out the best in young drivers as a couple of pre-teens scored their first Late Model victories.
At Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa., 12-year-old Michael Lake of Uniontown, Pa., won a RUSH-sanctioned Crate Late Model feature, driving his No. 27 Warrior Race Car to a flag-to-flag victory over an 11-car field that included two track champions.
The grandson of long-time Late Model car owner Bobby Lake had everyone buzzing in victory lane about his big moment.
“I’m pretty much speechless; words can’t really describe this,” Michael's father Kevin Lake said. “He just turned 11 when we first put him in the car. To win a main event a year later is unbelievable. He doesn’t even know what he has accomplished; I’m sure it will sink in soon.”
While Lake is certainly among the youngest to win a Late Model event, he actually wasn’t even the youngest driver to win one during the weekend. That went to Tyler Clem of Tierra Verde, Fla., who at 10 years old won a Limited Late Model feature at the track co-owned by his father, famed shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
The young Clem spun early while trying to grab the lead, then came back through the pack to take the point on lap 13. He led the rest of the way.
Turn 2: Profiling a dirt fan
My favorite television show is “The Wire,” the layered HBO drama about police, drug dealers, politicians, schoolchildren, and really everyone, in Baltimore. And one of my favorite scenes is in the last of five seasons when a key detective, McNulty, is dispatched to the FBI in Quantico, Va., so the feds can profile a serial killer he’s chasing.
The kicker is the serial killer doesn’t exist: McNulty fabricated him to spur budget-strapped City Hall to increase police overtime and man-hours for another case. So it’s no real surprise that McNulty squirms in his seat as FBI agents provide the characteristics of the would-be serial killer as a white male who is a “high-functioning alcoholic,” someone who “feels superior to those with advanced education,” and has a “deep-seated resentment to those whom he feels have impeded his progress professionally.” Of course, they’ve unknowingly profiled McNulty.
It reminds me of my days working in newspapers when co-workers, reading stories about a serial killer on the loose, joked that my long highway miles and loner-like travels — all part of being a Dirt Late Model fan — made me a suspect.
So what is the profile of a Dirt Late Model fan? I’m no FBI agent, but I’ll give it a shot:
• Loyal to a fault, vocally supportive of heroes and unafraid to develop relationships with them.
• Relentless in traveling and known to take lengthy trips, often on two-lane roads, with no apparent meaningful destination.
• Severely distrustful of meteorologists, often refusing to admit it’s raining — even when raindrops are actually falling.
• Unencumbered by fashion trends and typically the owner of a vast array of colorful, tattered T-shirts, some dating to the first Reagan administration.
• Quick to accept conspiracy theories that support long-held beliefs.
• Driver of vehicles frequently covered by a dusty sheen, and the use of windshield wipers — when it’s not raining — is common when heading home.
• Skillful and clever in wringing out every single hour of vacation each summer.
Backstretch: Stopping too soon
Justin McNeill of Houghton Lake, Mich., dominated June 15’s feature at Merritt (Mich.) Speedway — until the final corner. That’s when he let off the gas, and pole-starting David Hilliker of Midland, Mich., slipped by in turn four for the victory.
McNeill had mistaken the white flag for the checkers, and thought the race was over. He recovered to hold on for second, but afterwards talked about the disappointment of his first victory of the season slipping away. Hilliker took the victory over McNeill, Scott Phillips, Josh Knoll and Book Brasington.
Turn 3: Kicking it
There’s always plenty of off-track entertainment during Lernerville Speedway’s lively Firecracker 100 weekend, and the June 27-29 World of Outlaws Late Model Series event in Sarver, Pa., has added a charity kickball game for 2013.
Two teams made up of series, regional and local drivers will compete to raise awareness and money for programs and research devoted to childhood cancer, according to WoO publicist Kevin Kovac. The Kick-It Cup follows the lead of the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation-inspired kickball games and will mark the first time Dirt Late Model drivers have participated.
“World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series fans and teams have really embraced the Kick-It concept and we believe the World of Outlaws Late Model Series followers will do the same,” said World Racing Group production coordinator Katie Boyer. “It’s a neat way for the fans and drivers to unwind and have some fun before hitting the track and support a great cause in the process.”
The game is scheduled for 1 p.m., Friday, June 28 on the football field in Lernerville’s camping area. Among drivers expected to participate:
Darrell Lanigan, Shane Clanton, Rick Eckert, Tim McCreadie, Tim Fuller, Chub Frank, Clint Smith, Bub McCool, Eric Wells, Morgan Bagley, Davey Johnson, Gregg Satterlee, Austin Hubbard, Dave Hess Jr., Mason Zeigler, Jared Miley and Garrett Krummert.
Fans can make donations at www.kick-it.org/events/firecracker-100-kick-it-cup, designating their favorite drivers. Those attending the game can purchase raffle tickets to win racing-related apparel and other prizes.
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
June 21, 1986: Reigning USAC Late Model champion Charlie Sentman of Waveland, Ind., won at Wilmot (Wis.) Speedway for his first victory of the series season.
June 22, 1996: Riding a hot streak, polesitter Danny Peoples of Margaret, Ala., held off a late charge from Dale Ledlow for a $5,000 victory in the sixth annual Bama 100 at Moulton (Ala.) Speedway. Peoples, who swept triple features at Talladega Short Track the previous weekend, hung on despite a slowly deflating right rear tire late in the 100-lapper.
June 22, 2002: Fighting off two series challengers, Rick Eckert of York Pa., captured the fourth annual Masters 75 at Cedar Lake Speedway for his second UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series victory in three events. He earned $15,000 in outrunning Dale McDowell, Freddy Smith, Jimmy Mars and 22nd-starting Donnie Moran. Polesitter Brady Smith finished 16th.
June 20, 2008: Fighting off a late challenge from 11th-starting Jimmy Owens, Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wis., led all 40 laps at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C., for his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory in the last three events. Schlieper earned $7,000 in front of a standing-room only crowd for the 10th annual Grassy Smith Memorial.
June 22, 2011: The Southern All Stars strip Klint Byars of Carrollton, Miss., of a victory at Whynot Motorsports Park after his tire sample failed a lab test. He was reinstated as the winner nearly two months later after additional lab tests showd the tires legal.
Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions
• The UMP DIRTcar Summernationals will go without a repeat winner at least through June 23’s stop at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich.
• World of Outlaws Late Model Series winners at upcoming New York and Canadian events will come from the top five in series points.
• Home-state drivers will grab two of the top five spots in June 20’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway.
• Three previous winners will finish among the top five in June 22’s ALMS-sanctioned Barney Oldfield Race at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio.
• WoO sprint car star Donny Schatz will score a top-three finish in June 21 Northern LateModel Racing Association action at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.