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Notebook: Carnival-type atmosphere awaits WoO

June 19, 2008, 2:00 pm
From series, track and staff reports

There was a very obvious reason why Steve Francis got a huge thrill out of his victory in last year’s historic World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at Quebec’s Autodrome Drummond. And it wasn’t merely because the triumph ended a frustrating winless streak of over a year for the driver who would go on to become the 2007 WoO champion.

It had a lot to do with the huge crowd and electric aura of the first-ever WoO LMS race held in Canada — an adrenalin-pumping combination that will great Francis and Co. again when the nomadic tour returns to Drummond on June 21 for the second annual Quebec 50 paying $10,000 to win.

“The whole atmosphere up there was just so different,” said Francis, thinking back on his history-making victory in front of a raucous standing-room-only crowd. “The stands were packed, the fans were into it, they had rock music playing in the grandstands — it was just such a unique situation. We had a whole lot of fun up there last year, and I’m looking forward to going back.”

Francis, 40, of Ashland, Ky., was the star of last year’s blockbuster WoO LMS show at Drummond – and make no mistake, it was a true show. Drummond co-promoter Yyan Bussiere, a 358-modified driver who competed in last year’s WoO LMS event behind the wheel of Bear Lake, Pa., standout Chub Frank’s backup car, orchestrated an event that entertained the influx of fans in memorable fashion.

From the house D.J. spinning pulse-pounding music in his personal tower room to the highjinks of the Autodrome Drummond mascot to the Bud Girls peppering the stands with giveaway items to the elaborate pre-race driver introductions that included a spotlight, cannon shots, sirens, fireworks and mood-setting music, the inaugural Quebec 50 was far more than a race.

“I tell everybody that racing up there (at Drummond) is like going to a carnival or a circus — there’s just so much going on to get the fans into it,” said Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who is currently tied for the WoO points lead with Francis. “They put on a better show than anywhere I’ve ever been.”

“Some of the promoters in the states can take some lessons from a track like (Drummond),” added Francis. “Promoters have to make their show a little more entertaining for the fans if they want to survive, and (Drummond) is an example of the way to do it right.” — Kevin Kovac

FRANKLIN PENALIZED FOR ILLEGAL TIRE: Two-time O'Reilly Southern All Star East champion Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., was stripped of money and points from the June 10 series event at Laurens County (S.C.) Speedway and put on probation for the remainder of the season after officials discovered he used an illegal tire. The tire's markings were altered to represent a different compound, officials discovered after comparing the factory date code with records from the Hoosiers Racing plant in Lakeville, Ind. Car owner Barry Wright said the team bought the tire and didn't know it was illegally marked. "We want to send a message to all of our teams that we mean business about our rules and that we plan to be very strict in their enforcement," said series owner Lennie Buff. — Kelley Carlton

GRASSY SMITH MEMORIAL AT CHEROKEE: The 10th annual Grassy Smith Memorial will be run under the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series banner June 20 at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. The race honors the late Clarence "Grassy" Smith, who built race engines for NASCAR pioneer Holman Moody and is the father of Hall of Fame driver Freddy Smith. Smith is a four-time winner of the event and is proud that it honors his father. "Grassy never met a stranger and would always offer his advice and a helping hand," he said. "He was a great man." — From series reports

FANS LURING FRYE TO CEDAR LAKE: Fans in the upper Midwest are pooling money in hopes of drawing Bill Frye of Greenbrier, Ark., to race Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., for the Aug. 1-2 USA Nationals, a $50,000-to-win event. Rich Olson of Farmington, Minn., is spearheading the effort to gather donations and has contacted the five-time MARS DIRTcar Series champion, who is considering the trip if it works out with his family schedule. Frye has never won the USA Nationals, but he was leading in the late stages in 1996 when a tangle with the lapped car of Jack Boggs damaged his car, costing him the lead. Olson hopes to raise $2,500 for Frye; fans making donations will be eligible for prizes including T-shirts, door panels and a ride in a two-seat Dirt Late Model driven by Frye, an offer made by Cedar Lake officials. For information on making a donation, check out the 20/20 Racing message board. Deadline for donations is July 11. — From staff reports

HOLD ON TIGHT: Hometown driver Mark Fowler had a handful of steering wheel early in the June 14 Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series event at USA Race Park in Tucson, Ariz. The problem? The steering wheel wasn't connected to the car. "At the time I thought, 'That’s not good,' " Fowler said later. Fortunately, Fowler's machine drifted to the infield without incident. "I was able to get the wheel back on without hitting anything," he said, "but by then I was almost a lap down." Fowler was running among the top five when the near-disaster struck. — M.J. Anderson

ROBERTS LEADS IMCA POINTS: Hershel Roberts of East Moline, Ill., leads the IMCA weekly Late Model standings with 517 points over Keith Pratt (483) and Mike Garland (462). Roberts, who is battling cancer, has been soldiering on despite the progressing disease that forced doctors to bump up his chemotherapy treatments. — From staff reports

TOP TRACKS BONUS OFFERED: The June 28-29 Carl Black Top Tracks Challenge Series events at Talladega (Ala.) Short Track and Rome (Ga.) Speedway will carry a $500 bonus for the weekend's top performing driver. The Talladega event pays $2,000 to the winner while Rome pays $1,500. — From series reports

ODDS AND ENDS: The Carolina Clash moved its July 12 event to Friendship Speedway in Elkin, N.C., from Toccoa (Ga.) Speedway. ... Citing health and economic issues, promoter James Brown announced the mid-season closing of Clinton County Speedway in Alpha, Ky. ... I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Mo., closed recently during a track resurfacing, plans to open July 21 with $5 admission night. UMP Late Models will be among divisions in action. ... Potomac (Md.) Speedway promoter Rick Jones announced the Limited Late Model purse is being raised to $1,200-to-win for 24-car fields. ... In a move to help economically-strapped drivers, the Mississippi State Championship Challenge announced that drivers failing to make the feature at the June 21 race at Whynot Motorsports Park near Meridian, Miss., will be returned their $100 entry fee. ... The O'Reilly Southern All Star Series and three Georgia tracks decided to scrap the July 3-5 action at Swainsboro Raceway, Oglethorpe Speedway Park and Screven Motor Speedway, citing high fuel prices.

 
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