World of Outlaws Notebook
Notes: Wells anxious for WoO's Tennessee trip
By Joshua JoinerWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
Editor's note: Friday's WoO stop at Duck River Raceway Park was cancelled because of wet conditions and rainy forecasts.
Eric Wells has good reason to be excited for this weekend's World of Outlaws Late Model Series doubleheader at Duck River Raceway Park and Tazewell Speedway.
Besides finally returning to WoO action after Mother Nature forced the national tour into a nearly two-month break following February's season-opening stretch of racing in Georgia and Florida, Wells is eager to race at two tracks where he's had plenty of past success.
Duck River, which welcomes the WoO for the third consecutive season for Friday's $10,000-to-win event, will always be a special place for Wells. The tight quarter-mile oval was the sight of the 26-year-old Hazard, Ky., driver's first WoO victory two years ago.
But Wells is also fond of Tazewell's high-banked third-mile oval. He enters Saturday's $10,000-to-win Ray Varner Ford 50 with three consecutive top-10 finishes in national touring events at the Gary Hall-owned track, including a fifth-place finish in last year's WoO event.
"I always look forward to both Duck River and Tazewell because they're both fun tracks to race and fairly close to home," said Wells, whose shop in eastern Kentucky is roughly a five-hour drive from Duck River and just two hours from Tazewell. "I'm definitely excited to get back out and get back racing after this break we've had. We'd love to get another win, but right now we just want to keep our consistency going."
Wells will never forget the first time the WoO visited Bob Harris-owned Duck River in 2013.
Just 12 races into his WoO rookie season, Wells was running fourth when a late pileup took out the top three drivers and put Wells in the lead. Wells capitalized on the opportunity and held off three-time WoO champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., to score his biggest career victory.
"We were in the right place at the right time," said Wells, who went on to claim the WoO Rookie of the Year Award that season. "People say they'd rather be lucky than good. A lot of luck played into it, but we had to be good too because I had Lanigan behind me on that restart. We held him off and made it a really special night."
Wells enters this week's Volunteer State doubleheader riding momentum from back-to-back top-10 finishes in the most recent WoO action during the final two nights of February's DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
The two solid runs capped an otherwise disappointing trip south for Wells. After switching from Rocket Chassis back to the Team Zero by Bloomquist Race Cars he ran in 2013, Wells and his Wells Motorsports team struggled to readjust to the older cars in the year's opening five races before finally getting the car dialed in late in the week at Volusia. Wells will look to use what he learned during those two runs to continue his climb out of the hole from his early-season struggles.
"The first of the year we tried some different stuff and it just didn't work out for us," said Wells, who is currently 10th in WoO standings, 190 points behind leader Shane Clanton. "We got back to standard stuff at the end of the week there at Volusia and the car was a lot better.
"I feel like we've hit on some things and we're gonna be pretty good in these cars. Now we're gonna take what we learned in Florida there at the end of the week and see if we can apply it to some of these other tracks."
Despite the slow start to the season, Wells has high hopes for his 2015 WoO campaign. In his third year on tour, Wells hopes to improve on his back-to-back sixth-place finishes in the series standings. He knows two more strong runs at Duck River and Tazewell will help him in doing that.
"I think we're definitely more confident in what we're doing," said Wells, who has yet to return to WoO victory lane since his breakthrough at Duck River two years ago. "This Outlaws deal is tough and the wins are hard to come by, but we're not ready to give up.
"I feel like we're getting better and we're gonna be where we can run with these guys night in and night out before long. Hopefully we can do that in these races coming up and keep our momentum going.”
WoO history lesson
Duck River lived up to its reputation of dramatic finishes in its first WoO event in 2013 with a late-race incident taking out the top three drivers and paving the way for Wells' breakthrough win.
After turning back early challenges from Dillon Wood of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., three-time WoO champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., controlled the race's middle portions before tangling with the lapped car of Mark Gant of Savannah, Tenn., on lap 47 of the 50-lapper.
The ensuing melee swept up second-running Scott James of Lawrenceburg, Ind., and third-place Rick Eckert of York, Pa., and handed the lead to 12th-starting Wells, who then held off Lanigan in a dash to the finish.
Lanigan improved his finishing position by the needed one spot to claim the victory when the WoO returned to Duck River in 2014, outdueling fellow series veteran Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. The win was Lanigan's fourth of what would end up being a record-setting 17-win season for the eventual 2014 WoO champion.
Tazewell first hosted the WoO in 2010 and has hosted the series every year since except for a rainout in 2013. Current WoO points leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., claimed the inaugural WoO event at Tazewell, leading every lap for a decisive victory in 2010.
Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., scored a $20,000 payday in the 2011 WoO event at Tazewell, topping Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., in the only running of the Outlaw Sizzler 101.
Tazewell's two most recent WoO events have both produced first-time WoO winners with Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., leading every lap of the 2012 event in a caution-free race that remains the quickest 50-lap WoO event ever completed at 10 minutes, 47.989 seconds. Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., took command of the 2014 race when McCreadie slowed with a flat tire on lap nine and lead the remaining 41 laps for his first WoO victory.
Tennessee track breakdown
Duck River Raceway Park has been in operation since 1973. Track owner Bob Harris of nearby Shelbyville, Tenn., purchased the track in 2012 and has worked to modernize the surrounding facility to meet the demands of larger crowds and bigger races. Recent improvements include the building new bathrooms, remodeling of the concession stands and the addition of new dirt to the track surface. David Seibers of Petersburg, Tenn., holds the track's Super Late Model track record with a lap of 11.96 seconds.
Tazewell Speedway was built in 1965 and has earned a reputation of producing action-packed racing on its famous high banks. Rick Rogers of Knoxville, Tenn., was the first driver to crack the 10-second barrier around the track in 2009. Jeff Wolfenbarger, also of Knoxville, established a new track record just a few weeks later with a lap of 10.947 seconds. That record stood until 2013 when Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., lowered the record to the current mark of 10.822 seconds.
Weekend race details
Friday's program at Duck River features a complete WoO card of time trials, heat races, consolations and the 50-lap, $10,000-to-win main event. Other divisions competing are Limited Late Models, street stocks and pure pony.
General admission prices are $25 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Pit passes are $40 for adults, $15 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are free for the pits and general admission. Pit gates open at noon Friday with grandstands opening at 4 p.m. The drivers' meeting is scheduled for 6:15 with racing set to get underway at 7. For more information on the event, visit Duck River's website at www.duckriverracewaypark.com.
Another complete program of WoO action will be contested at Tazewell's Ray Varner Ford 50 on Saturday with another $10,000 going to the winner. Support divisions for the night will be sportsman, classic cars, four cylinders and super stocks.
The pit gates will open at 3 p.m. Saturday and the grandstand gates will open at 4. The drivers' meeting is scheduled for 7 with racing to follow. Adult general admission is $25 while children 9-and-under admitted for free. Adult pit passes are $40 while children ages 12-and-under are $30 with a minor release. Visit the track's website at www.tazewellspeedway.net for more information.