Lanigan eyes record in return to Berlin
By Joshua JoinerWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
Darrell Lanigan can make history this weekend at Berlin Raceway with the 7/16-mile oval once again covering its pavement surface with clay for the third annual Keyser Manufacturing Down & Dirty Weekend Presented by NAPA.
With 15 victories thus far on the 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series, the two-time series champion and current points leader enters the national tour's doubleheader weekend needing one more victory to break his own single-season WoO victories record.
If Lanigan's past performance at Berlin is any indication of how he will fare this weekend, there's a good chance that he will indeed break the record with a victory in one or even both of the two programs Berlin has set for Friday and Saturday. The 44-year-old Union, Ky., driver is perfect in two previous trips to Berlin, claiming both the 2012 and 2013 Down & Dirty features
"That would be pretty cool," Lanigan said of the idea of breaking the record he set in 2012 en route to his second WoO championship. "Anytime you can break a record, especially beating your own record, it's pretty neat. To get 15 wins on the season is definitely pretty awesome, but I'd always like to get more."
Lanigan will have two chances break the record this weekend with the event being ran as two complete programs for the first time. After being staged as a single two-day, $20,000-to-win race in its first two years, the event has been split into an $8,000-to-win program on Friday featuring a 35-lapper and a $12,000-to-win program on Saturday with a 65-lapper.
Whatever the format, Lanigan enjoys visiting Berlin Raceway. As shown in his previous results, the sprawling track fits his driving style and suits his Club 29 Race Car very well.
"The place races good. You can usually race all over it and it's a pretty neat place to go to," Lanigan said "Our program fits well with the big tracks like that. We definitely should run well up there this weekend."
One thing that could also work in Lanigan's favor is his substantial advantage in the series standings. At 284 points ahead, Lanigan needs only to start each of the four remaining races to clinch his third series title.
Knowing the championship is essentially locked up, Lanigan doesn't have to race conservatively in order to protect his points lead and can instead go out and drive as hard as he needs to try to win each race, which is exactly what he plans to do in the tour's final four races.
"All we have to worry about is going out to win every race," said Lanigan, who also owns the record for most career WoO wins at 68 victories. "I think that shows. We've won 15 races so far and hopefully we'll win four more. We just go out every week trying to win races.”
Bloomquist leads challengers
Lanigan will have to overcome some extra competition to remain perfect at Berlin, including the winner of the prestigious World 100 this past weekend at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Fresh off his last-to-first run at Eldora, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., will make his first appearance at the Down & Dirty Weekend. The 50-year-old National Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer and former WoO champion is looking for his first series victory since winning at Volusia Speedway Park during 2013's Florida Speedweeks action.
Other notable non-series regulars who have indicated intentions to compete at Berlin include Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., and Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind.
Mars, 42, has been one of the most successful non-series regulars in WoO action this season with two victories in 12 appearances. He claimed the open round of the Wild West Tour on July 10 at Hibbing (Minn.) Raceway and won the USA Nationals preliminary night feature at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., on July 31.
The 27-year-old Robinson competed full time on the tour in 2012 but has scaled back his traveling in recent seasons. He has made four WoO appearances this year with a best finish of eighth coming during June's Firecracker 100 weekend at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.
Casebolt, 36, has just two previous WoO appearances this season with finishes of 20th and 13th at 201 Speedway in Sitka, Ky., and Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn.
The most recent WoO trip to the Wolverine State produced one of the biggest upset victories ever on the series with Curtis Roberts of Coleman, Mich., claiming a popular home-state victory Aug. 22 at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa.
However, if another home-state driver is to break through at Berlin, he'll have to overcome the strong hold WoO regulars have had on the top spots in Berlin's previous two series events. The tour's travelers filled the top five in last year's Down & Dirty 100 and claimed four top-five spots in 2012.
Roberts, who will make his first Down & Dirty appearance this weekend, leads a strong list of home-state drivers looking to buck that trend. He'll be joined by Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, who claimed the most recent of his two career WoO LMS victories at Winston Speedway in Rothbury, Mich., in 2013.
Other notable Michigan drivers expected to compete include Rich Neiser of Fruitport, who finished 11th in last year's Down & Dirty A-Main, Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Eric Spangler of Lake City, Mich., and more.
Correction: Fixes lap counts to 35 on Friday and 65 on Saturday.