Estevan Motor Speedway
Brady Smith cruises for back-to-back WoO wins
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
ESTEVAN, Saskatchewan (July 12) Brady Smith has suddenly become the hottest driver on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. Twenty-four hours after capturing his first-ever victory on the tour in a down-to-the-wire thriller, Smith made it two straight with an utterly dominant performance in the Energy City 50 at Estevan Motor Speedway.
Smith, 31, of Solon Springs, Wis., mastered the outside groove in the first-ever WoO event held in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. He drove forward from the 14th starting spot to take the lead from Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., on lap 27 and then sailed away from the field, beating Lanigan by commanding 5.792 seconds, one of the largest victory margins of this season’s WoO. Defending WoO champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., finished third, followed by 13th-starting Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., and Al Purkey of Coffeyville, Kan., who registered a career-best tour finish driving Smith’s backup car.
“To win two World of Outlaws features is an accomplishment,” said Smith, who scored his milestone career-first tour triumph Friday at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., by just 0.121 of a second over Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill. “But winning two in a row is just awesome. Doing this against the competition on this series, I couldn’t be more proud for our team.”
Smith sidestepped a multi-car tangle on the opening lap that eliminated such top contenders as Babb, Rick Eckert of York, Pa., and Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., and soon found himself sitting in fifth place. He proceeded to make mincemeat of the field following the race’s third and final caution flag, on lap 14, powering around the outside of the 3/8-mile oval in peerless fashion. Smith raced through the top five by disposing of Francis, Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., Purkey and, finally, Lanigan in a matter of 13 laps. He stayed perched high on the track once in command and built an edge of well over a straightaway.
“I shot up to fifth fairly early and then I kinda rode around for a while,” said Smith, who pocketed $10,150 while joining Richards and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., as a winner of back-to-back WoO events in 2008. “Then that caution came out (on lap 14) and I had to restart on the outside, so I thought, ‘This is a perfect time to try the top (groove).’ And man, our car just worked like gangbusters up there. It was just unbelievable.
"I think the track kind of opened up a little bit (as the race went on),” he analyzed. “There was traction up there, and a guy could bring some real good speed (into the corners) and carry it all the way through the middle with the gas pedal on the wood.”
Lanigan, 38, started third and grabbed the lead from polesitter John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., on the second lap, but the WoO points leader couldn’t stop Smith’s onslaught. Hampered slightly after hitting the track’s turn-four uke tire and bending the left-front spindle of his GottaRace.com Rocket car just before the lap-14 caution flag, Lanigan could only watch Smith drive away from him.
“It seemed like the handling changed a little bit after I hit that uke tire,” said Lanigan, who recorded his 13th consecutive top-five finish in WoO competition. “But I think (Smith) had a little different tire on than everybody else and that was the difference.”
Smith went a bit softer with his Hoosier tire selection, keying his triumphant run. “We’re not WoO series regulars so we’re not real up on exactly what tires to run,” said Smith, alluding to the tour’s open-tire rule. “But picking tires is a guessing game for everybody, and we’ve had the right tires on the last couple nights and we’ve pocketed the money.”
Francis, 40, crossed the finish line more than two seconds behind Lanigan after his bid to grab second late in the distance was dive-bombed by lapped traffic, but he was surprisingly upbeat in defeat. “I’m just happy that we were finally able to finish a race in the top five,” said Francis, who started eighth in Dale Beitler’s Reliable Painting Rocket. “I got too tight at the end, so we’ll take a third.”
The Clint Smith Racing GRT cars took the fourth and fifth spots, with team owner Smith leading Purkey across the finish line. Smith overtook Purkey for fourth on lap 42 and briefly challenged Francis for third, but slower cars hindered his efforts. “I had Francis beat until lapped traffic messed me up,” said Smith, 42. “My car was real good. I just started too far back and didn’t get to the front fast enough.”
Purkey, a veteran Midwest racer who is accompanying Smith on the Wild West Tour and driving Smith’s backup car in selected events, climbed as high as second from the seventh starting spot. He raced side-by-side for the lead with Lanigan for laps 14-18 before beginning to fade. Nevertheless, Purkey’s fifth-place finish earned him a $500 WoO bonus as highest non-series regular.
“I had on a different tire combination and I was slowly sliding back,” Purkey said. “I’m just glad to get to race for Clint and race up front. This is only the second night we’ve run the car, and I’m happy we got Clint a top five to help him out with some money for the trip.”
Purkey was able to continue after being involved in the event’s big opening-lap accident. Contact between Purkey and Eckert sent Eckert’s No. 24 into Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., setting off a wild scramble in which Eckert spun to the top of the track and was struck by Clanton, Babb and Kelly Boen of Henderson, Colo. Mars also spun, but was able to continue. The accident left the Eckert, Clanton and Babb cars with significant damage, costing each WoO regular dearly in the points standings.
Finishing in positions 6-10 was Richards, who fell back from his outside-pole starting spot; Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., who recovered from his involvement in the opening-lap tangle and a lap-14 pit stop to change a flat tire; Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y.; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa.; and Blankenship, who pitted during the lap-14 caution period.
Notes: Winner Brady Smith's Bloomquist Race Car is sponsored by Amsoil. ...Darrell Lanigan has 2,883 points to lead the title chase over Josh Richards (2,831), Rick Eckert (2,777) and Chub Frank (2,765). ... The Estevan track is located 10 miles north of the U.S. border. ... Mars posted his first-ever fast time in WoO competition. ... The Wild West Tour continues Sunday, July 13, at Williston Basin Speedway in North Dakota.
World of Outlaws @ Estevan: (1) Brady Smith, (2) Darrell Lanigan, (3) Steve Francis, (4) Clint Smith, (5) Al Purkey, (6) Josh Richards, (7) Jimmy Mars, (8) Tim Fuller, (9) Chub Frank, (10) John Blankenship, (11) Brad Seng, (12) Mike Balcaen, (13) Dustin Hapka, (14) Joe Isabell, (15) Ricky Weiss, (16) Sean Beardsley, (17) Ed Turnbull, (18) Troy Heupel, (19) Dave Smith, (20) Jeff Isabell Jr., (21) Gary Webb, (22) John Winge, (23) Rick Eckert, (24) Shannon Babb, (25) Kelly Boen, (26) Shane Clanton. Fast qualifier (among 26 cars): Mars, 15.733 seconds. Heat race winners: Mars, Lanigan, Richards.