BARBERVILLE, FL – Jan. 30, 2011 – With the calendar moving toward the dirt Late Model portion of the 40th DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park – a full-fender extravaganza featuring World of Outlaws Late Model Series events on Feb. 17 and 19 as well as DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned programs on Feb. 14, 15, 16 and 18 – here’s a primer on drivers to watch during the week…
* All eyes at the blazing-fast half-mile oval located 20 miles outside Daytona Beach will be focused on two-time defending WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who will bid to extend his unprecedented streak of season-opening victories on the national tour in the 50-lap A-Main scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 17. The 22-year-old sensation has captured the World of Outlaws lidlifter at Volusia in each of the last four years.
What’s more, if Richards can make it five straight opening-night wins, he would become the winningest driver on the WoO LMS since the World Racing Group restarted the tour in 2004. With 28 career series triumphs entering the 2011 season, he’s tied atop the win list with Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky.
* The 43-year-old Francis, who in 2004 won the historic first WoO LMS event of the WRG era at Volusia, will roll into the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH in unfamiliar fashion. With a Barry Wright Race Car being his machine of choice this year (he began running the Cowpens, S.C.-based brand late in 2010), he’s beginning a season without a Rocket Chassis under him for the first time in more than a decade. He owns three career WoO LMS victories at Volusia, having also registered checkered flags in 2006 and 2009.
* Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., fell just four points shy of Richards in the final 2010 WoO LMS points standings. One of the places he could have picked up those critical points? Volusia Speedway Park, where he struggled through arguably his worst back-to-back outings of the season.
Lanigan, 40, was never a factor in last year’s pair of WoO LMS A-Mains, settling for finishes of 11th and 12th. He had to fall back on a points provisional spot to start the second feature – one of just two provisionals he used in 44 events during the 2010 campaign.
Of course, Lanigan has enjoyed success at Volusia in recent DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH. He won the opening-night DIRTcar UMP feature last year and captured the $10,000-to-win UMP finale in 2007.
* Volusia has been very good to Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who finished third in last year’s WoO LMS points standings in his first season as a tour regular since winning the title in 2006. It’s where he won his first-ever dirt Late Model feature (UMP show in 2004), captured his first-ever WoO LMS A-Main (in 2005) and clinched his only World of Outlaws championship. He also won two UMP-sanctioned features in 2005 and reached Victory Lane in DIRTcar big-block Modified competition there in 2002.
McCreadie, who in last year’s DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH WoO LMS finale made a memorable charge from the 28th starting spot to a third-place finish after gaining entry to the A-Main thanks to a provisional spot, heads into 2011 battle with some new faces supporting his Sweeteners Plus racing effort. His crew now features 25-year-old Barry Knapp, who traveled the WoO LMS with Tim Fuller in 2009 before spending last season working for New York big-block Modified driver Ryan Phelps, and former Russell King crewman Craig (‘Snowman’) McCrimmon, whose brother, Matt, is a mechanic for McCreadie’s teammate Vic Coffey. Al Stevens, who has served as McCreadie’s crew chief for several seasons, remains with the Sweeteners Plus team but is expected to spend more time working in the shop than traveling in 2011.
* Caledonia, N.Y.’s Vic Coffey will be in action at Volusia and is considering a fulltime assault on the WoO LMS for the first time since he won the Rookie of the Year award in 2008. He plans to run the tour’s early-season events and then decide whether he will continue down the road.
* Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., will lead the DIRTcar UMP brigade into the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH. Feger is the reigning DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion and the circuit’s 2009 national champion, while Erb has won three Summer Nationals and two national titles in the last four years.
Neither driver, however, owns a prolific track record at Volusia. Feger made his first career winter racing trip to Florida last year and scored a top finish of 13th (in the UMP opener) at the half-mile oval; Erb has been a DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH stalwart for a decade but his best finish over the past six years is a fifth (in 2008 and 2010 UMP races).
* Another driver from the heart of DIRTcar UMP country, two-time Summer Nationals champion Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., will likely be chasing a DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH triumph for the third time in the last five years. A Volusia UMP feature winner last year and in 2007 and a WoO LMS victor in 2004, the nationally-known star has switched to Victory Circle by Moyer chassis in 2011 and is hopeful that his equipment will be ready for Volusia action.
* Other Midwestern talents from the DIRTcar UMP circuit with plans to enter the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH include Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., who finished third in the 2010 national points standings; rising teenage star Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.; Dillan White of Crofton, Ky.; Jason McBride of Carbondale, Ill.; Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill.; 2009 American Late Model Series champ Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio; and 62-year-old veteran Mike Hammerle of St. Charles, Mo., who will likely set up camp in his usual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH spot along the pit-area access road leading down to the ‘Gator Pond’ area behind Volusia’s backstretch.
* Rick Eckert of York, Pa. – one of just two drivers who has started all 281 WoO LMS A-Mains contested since 2004 – knows how to get around the D-shaped Volusia layout. He’s won seven features since 1999 – more than any other racer over that span. But Eckert hasn’t won at the track since 2006 and has never captured a WoO LMS event; his triumphs came in UMP, UDTRA/Hav-A-Tampa and unsanctioned races.
* One year ago Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., arrived at the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH without his familiar No. 25 – and with a PICC line in his left arm so he could receive IV bags filled with powerful antibiotics every eight hours in order to rid his bloodstream of the strep bacteria that had spread from a serious infection in his thumb. Still recovering from the late-January medical scare that had sent him to a hospital for a week, all he could do at the 2010 Volusia meet was use emergency provisionals to start each of the WoO LMS A-Mains in teammate Tony Knowles’s car for points-chasing purposes.
Clanton left Volusia last year already over 100 points behind in the WoO LMS standings, effectively ending his championship hopes. He hopes to turn that around this season; he’s healthy and ready to chase glory in the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH with a brand-new Capital Race Cars chassis that he’s built with retired racer Marshall Green.
* WoO LMS regular Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., won five DIRTcar big-block Modified features at Volusia from 2001-2007, but the tour’s 2007 Rookie of the Year has enjoyed nowhere near that type of success in dirt Late Model competition. A full-fender entrant in every DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH since 2006, he’s managed just one top-10 finish in WoO LMS action (eighth in the first 2009 A-Main) and a personal-best finish of sixth in UMP events (2008).
* Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who won the $10,000 UMP finale of the 2008 DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, will begin his WoO LMS mentorship of fellow Georgia racer Brian Reese during this year’s meet. The 45-year-old driver known as ‘Cat Daddy’ has been commissioned by Reese’s family-owned team to provide the young upstart technical assistance and driving tips throughout the 2011 season, during which Reese plans to chase the WoO LMS Rookie of the Year award.
Reese is one of at least three drivers expected to apply for WoO LMS Rookie of the Year status at Volusia, joining John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., who earned a WoO LMS fast-time award last year at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Ont., and Ron Davies of Warren, Pa. Davies, whose daughter Michelle is engaged to Shane Clanton, is a veteran driver who has decided to take a stab at a national tour for the first time after focusing primarily on the western Pennsylvania circuit throughout his career.
* Coming off the first winless season of his WoO LMS career in 2010, Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., is hopeful that he can get his program back on a winning track at a speedway that’s treated him well over the years. Frank, who turned 49 on Jan. 20, owns five wins at Volusia since 1999, tied for third-best on the victory list over that period. He last won in 2006, however, and hasn’t triumphed in a WoO LMS A-Main.
* Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., and Russell King of Bristolville, Ohio – the WoO LMS Rookies of the Year in 2010 and 2009, respectively – hope to end their past frustration at Volusia. Both drivers have competed in the last two DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH; Hubbard has qualified for four of the nine events he’s entered (top finish: 10th in last year’s WoO LMS finale), and King has started two of the 10 races he’s attempted (he finished 24th in each of last year’s WoO LMS A-Mains).
* After having her Rocket Chassis mount gone over by Clint Smith in the Outlaw veteran’s Peach State shop during the off-season, Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa, plans to return to the WoO LMS road in 2011 after becoming the first female driver to pursue the tour’s Rookie of the Year award last season. She heads to Volusia after participating in a mid-January ARCA stock car test at Daytona International Speedway behind the wheel of an Andy Hillenburg Racing stock car.
* Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. – who, at 54, enjoyed a spectacular 2010 season that included victories in the DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned Dream and World 100 at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway – has the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH on his early-season schedule. He’s won five times at Volusia since 1999, including WoO LMS A-Mains in 2005 and 2008.
Moyer’s son, budding racer Billy Moyer Jr., plans to accompany his legendary father to Volusia to make his DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH competitive debut. The 23-year-old graduated from Arkansas State University in December.
* Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., is scheduled to return to the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH after sitting out last year’s action while serving a suspension from World Racing Group events for a tire infraction during the 2009 World Finals. His last February victory at Volusia came in a 2004 WoO LMS event, but he also won the track’s ‘Gator 100’ in October 2005.
* Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., who closed the 2010 WoO LMS campaign with a victory in the Lowes Foods World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, is in search of his first-ever win at Volusia. He’s finished as high as second.
* Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., is planning to enter the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH for the first time since 2007. His lone career win at Volusia came in a 2000 event sanctioned by the American Late Model Series.
* Wisconsin veteran Pat Doar is accompanying Mars to Volusia. He also has one career win at the Barberville facility – a UMP-sanctioned event back in 1996.
* Jacksonville’s Earl Pearson Jr. is the only driver from Florida to win a DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH event over the past decade. His resume shows four victories, the last coming in the 2009 DIRTcar UMP opener.
* Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., ranks second on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH win list since 1999, with six triumphs. All his victories came between 2002-2004.
* Other former DIRTcar Nationals feature winners expected in this year’s field include Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis. (WoO LMS 2010), Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wis. (UMP 2009), Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga. (UDTRA/Hav-A-Tampa 1999) and Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Ark. (UDTRA/Hav-A-Tampa 1999).
* Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., will be searching for his initial DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH triumph, but he pocketed $20,000 for winning the 2006 WoO LMS ‘Gator 100’ at Volusia.
* Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who won his first-ever WoO LMS A-Main in the first half of last November’s Lowes Foods World Finals, is slated to make his DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH debut at Volusia in the Barry Wright house car.
* Among other drivers expected to compete in the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH include 2010 United Late Model Series champion Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa.; Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., one of the country’s busiest dirt Late Model racers last season; Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., a former WoO LMS winner in Pennsylvania who became a father for the first time in November with the birth of his daughter Addison; 2009 DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified champion Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., who will be a dirt Late Model regular for the first time this season in cars owned by NASCAR star Clint Bowyer; 2010 WISSOTA Late Model national champion Ricky Weiss of St. Francis Xavier, Manitoba; Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., who followed the WoO LMS in 2009 and for half the 2010 season; teenager Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., who during the 2009 DIRTcar Nationals became the youngest driver in WoO LMS history to qualify for an A-Main; Larry Wight of Phoenix, N.Y., a teenager from the DIRTcar big-block Modified ranks whose father John also owns Tim Fuller’s Gypsum Express dirt Late Models; Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky.; and Will Vaught of Crane, Mo.
The dirt Late Model portion of the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH kicks off with DIRTcar UMP programs topped by 30-lap, $7,000-to-win features on Feb. 14, 15 and 16. The season-opening WoO LMS events on Thurs., Feb. 17, and Sat., Feb. 19, boast 50-lap headliners paying $10,000 to win, and the DIRTcar UMP finale on Fri., Feb. 18, will run over the 40-lap distance and offer a $10,000 first-place prize.
All six nights of full-fender competition will be capped by a ‘Bulrush Dash,’ a 12-lap, 15-car race reserved for the top-five non-transfers from each evening’s B-Mains who have not yet qualified for an A-Main during the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH. A $300 prize and trophy will go the winner of each dash.
The DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH is a 12-night short-track blockbuster that also includes the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series (Feb. 11-13); the O’Reilly All-Star Sprint Car Series (Feb. 9-10); the Super DIRTcar Series for big-block Modifieds (Feb. 16-19); and the UMP Modifieds (Feb. 8-15).
For more information on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH – including special pricing on advance-sale tickets and details of the ‘Free Pit Pass With Every Ticket’ offer that allows fans to get up-close-and-personal with the race teams every night of the DCN – visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com or call 704-795-7223 or 386-985-4402.
Additional info on the WoO LMS is available by logging on to www.worldofoutlaws.com.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award), Chizmark Larson Insurance, Factory Value Parts and RacingJunk.com; in addition to contingency sponsors MSD Ignition, Pro Power Engines, Quartermaster, Rocket Chassis and Wrisco Aluminum.