Farmer City Raceway
Drivers tune up at Farmer City's practice
By Joshua JoinerWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
FARMER CITY, Ill. (April 16) - A blockbuster race weekend kicked off Thursday night at Farmer City Raceway with practice night launching festivities at the seventh annual Douglas Dodge Ram Trucks Illini 100.
More than 30 Dirt Late Model drivers took part in Thursday's open practice session, gearing up for the weekend's two complete race programs for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. Racing action begins Friday night with a $6,000-to-win event ahead of Saturday's $15,000-to-win finale. Both nights will feature a complete slate of WoO time trials, heat races and Last Chance Showdowns to set the lineups for a 25-lap A-Main on Friday and a 75-lap A-Main on Saturday.
Among Thursday night's hot-lappers were former Illini 100 winners Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who leads the current WoO points standings with four victories in eight series races, and Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., who is seeing his first action since January’s Wild West Shootout in Tucson, Ariz.
The group of drivers aiming for Illini 100 breakthroughs this weekend include past WoO champions Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who all have at least four career top-10 finishes apiece at the prestigious Land of Lincoln event.
A number of other national touring stars joined in the practice action Thursday night, including Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, who both enter the weekend among the top five of the WoO points standings. They were joined by Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regulars Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. — all of whom pointed their haulers to Farmer City after the weekend’s conflicting Lucas Oil Series event at Batesville Motor Speedway in Locust Grove, Ark., was canceled due to wet conditions. The Batesville cancellation also prompted the Illini 100 participation of Dresden, Ohio’s Devin Moran, who had planned to make the haul to Arkansas.
A strong contingent of home-state drivers made laps Thursday evening. Those aiming to keep the winner's money in Illinois this year include 2014 WoO Rookie of the Year Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Jason Feger of Bloomington, Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Erb and Sheppard, among others.
Lanigan, the three-time and defending WoO champion and two-time Illini 100 runner-up, is perhaps as anxious for this weekend's action as any driver as he aims to finally taste Illini 100 glory and reach WoO LMS victory lane for the first time this season.
"We've ran good here and been a top-three car the past few times we've been here," said Lanigan, who finished second in the Illini 100 finale in 2012 and 2014. "It'd be nice to finally get a win here. We need to pick up some points and get some momentum back. I think we should be pretty good so hopefully we can do that with two good runs this weekend."
Owens, a three-time champion on the Lucas Oil Series, expressed excitement over his rare opportunity to race at Farmer City.
"It's always a big help when you get rained out somewhere and you have another option to go race for good money," said Owens, who enters the weekend with back-to-back runner-up finishes in the most recent WoO events April 11 at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway and Feb. 23 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. "This is the third time I've been here in my life, so I'm really curious to see how the track plays out. I think we've got a pretty good car and just need to get her dialed in a little bit."
The 22-year-old Sheppard, who is seeking to follow the full Lucas Oil Series schedule for the first time in his career this season, was thrilled to get an unexpected chance to compete at Farmer City due to the Batesville cancellation. The former DIRTcar UMP Summernationals Hell Tour champion cut his teeth at Farmer City as a young racer and has multiple special event victories at the track.
"This is one of my favorite tracks and one of the biggest races in our region, so we really didn't want to miss it," said Sheppard, who earned his first feature win of 2015 in last Friday night’s UMP DIRTcar season opener at Farmer City . "It worked out where we could be here, so I'm happy about that and looking to hopefully get a couple of good runs.
"I seem to always get around here pretty good. We're looking forward to it. Hopefully we can take what we learn here at practice and use it to run good the next two nights."
Following Friday's racing, there will be a "Party in the Pits" with a DJ. Fans are invited to attend the party and meet their favorite racers and their crew members.
Drivers at Farmer City Raceway for Thursday night's Illini 100 practice:
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa.
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va.
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill.
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind.,
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill.
Rick Eckert (7V),York, Pa.
Steve Thorsten (7t), Chebanse, Ill.
Morgan Bagley (14M), Longview, Texas
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky.
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan.
Eric Wells (18W), Hazard, Ky.
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn.
Chris Dick (22), Deland, Ill.
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga.
Jason Feger (25F), Bloomington, Ill.
Jimmy Mars (28M), Menomonie, Wis.
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill.
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky.
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill.
Bill Hough (33), Thomasboro, Ill.
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y.
McKay Wenger (42), Fairbury, Ill.
Kyle Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill.
Billy Drake (75), Bloomington, Ill.
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga.
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn.
Daren Friedman (89), Forest, Ill.
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill.
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa.
Devin Moran (99M), Dresden, Ohio
Torin Mettille (116), Cullom, Ill.
Joe Harlan (Z), El Paso, Ill.