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World of Outlaws Late Model Series News & Notes: Wrapping Up The Ocala/Screven Weekend


CONCORD, NC - March 22, 2010 -


HAPPY KID: Ah, the exuberance of youth.


Austin Hubbard is an extremely talented 18-year-old who's thrilled to be running for a high-profile team on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series – and when he wins a race, he's going to show just how thrilled he is.


Such was the case on Saturday night at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., where Hubbard followed through on his promise to celebrate wildly after his first career WoO LMS A-Main victory. He had, of course, already broken out his impersonation of Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights – stripping down to his fireproof long underwear and running wildly on the racetrack – after winning his first major dirt Late Model event in January at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Ga., but he was more than ready to do it again.


Actually, Hubbard had to go full-on Ricky Bobby after driving Dale Beitler's No. 19 to his milestone Outlaw triumph. Screven's standing-room-only crowd was expecting nothing less, as evidenced by the way the fans cheered the affable teenager to the checkered flag and waited with baited breath for him to reach Victory Lane.


"I could hear the fans cheering when I took the lead (from Steve Francis on lap 30) from inside the car," said Hubbard, amazed by the support he received at a track he had visited just once previously (a seventh-place finish in last year's WoO LMS event). "Having all these people here, cheering me on, made me want (to win) even more – and when I got out of the car I saw all the fans up against the fence and yelling for me, so I had to do something to show them how much I like winning."


Hubbard added some new elements to his arm-flapping Ricky Bobby run, this time putting his helmet back on after removing his fireproof top and executing several "I'm on fire!" rolls on the inside of the track. With red clay smeared on his exposed skin, he also ran along the outside wall and high-fived the long line of fans sticking their hands through the catch fence.


"I about knocked the wind out of me when I hit the ground to roll," quipped Hubbard, who replaced Francis as the driver of Beitler's familiar Reliable Painting car and captured his first WoO LMS win in just his fourth start as a series regular. "I had to catch my breath when I got back up."


At the end of Hubbard's post-race interview with WoO LMS announcer Rick Eshelman, he was asked if he was ready to head over to the t-shirt trailer outside turn two to meet his growing fan base. He happily obliged.


"Well, I just took my clothes off in front of them," said Hubbard, "so I don't see why I couldn't sign some autographs for them."


With that, another roar rose from the crowd. A few minutes later Hubbard rode up to the merchandise area on a golf cart and was greeted by dozens of fans – young and old alike – waiting to meet their new hero. He walked into the ASI Racewear trailer and spent nearly an hour signing autographs, meeting fans and even helping sell his suddenly very-much-in-demand t-shirts; he reported that he personally folded 26 t-shirts and handed them to fans.


Yes, a new star has been born in the dirt Late Model world. And he's open to suggestions for new Victory Lane celebrations.


FALLING SHORT: After Ivedent Lloyd Jr. set fast time, won a heat race and drew the pole position for the A-Main, Friday's show at Ocala (Fla.) Speedway had the makings of a storybook evening for the hometown hero.


Alas, the 43-year-old Lloyd wasn't able to complete a sweep. He led laps 1-2 but then began a slow fade backward, finally settling for an eighth-place finish.


"We went too hard with our right-front tire (compound)," said Lloyd, a native and lifelong resident of Ocala who owns two career dirt Late Model titles at the track. "It took like two laps for me to know we picked the wrong tire. The car got real tight and I just started to push."


But while disappointed to let a golden opportunity for WoO LMS glory on home turf slip through his fingers, the personable Lloyd remained upbeat about his fate.


"Hey, we don't run open-tire (compound) races very much, and we screwed up," said Lloyd, who registered a best-ever WoO LMS finish in what was just his fourth career start in a tour A-Main. "But that's why they call it racing. It was still a great night for us."


Lloyd also traveled to Screven on Saturday night, pulling double-duty with an 11th-place finish in the WoO LMS 50-lapper and winning the companion National Late Model Series feature. He is also contemplating hitting the road with the Outlaws again this weekend to enter the Texas doubleheader at Battleground Speedway in Highlands on Fri., March 26, and Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore on Sat., March 27.


MARCH MADNESS: Just as Saturday night's program at Screven was getting ready to begin, Rick Hartzell was sitting in a lawnchair in the pit area feeling some mixed emotions.


The husband of 2010 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year candidate Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Hartzell had learned that the University of Northern Iowa – his alma mater and the school where he served as athletic director from 1999-2008 – defeated No. 1 seed Kansas in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament. Hartzell, 56, hired Northern Iowa's head coach, Ben Jacobsen, in 2007, and obviously still knows many people working at the Cedar Falls institution, but not being there for one of the great moments in the school's athletic history left him at least a bit blue.


"A lot of my friends are celebrating tonight back home tonight," said Hartzell, who resigned from his position at Northern Iowa two years ago.


Hartzell now makes his living as a referee of men's college basketball games. An official for over 25 years, Hartzell worked 105 games during the 2009-2010 season, including the recent Big 10 Tournament. He's also worked games during 22 NCAA Tournaments and was selected as a referee for this year's tourney, but he declined the opportunity at least partially because he wanted to attend last weekend's WoO LMS events with George, who finished 19th at Ocala but failed to qualify at Screven.


MECHANICAL ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS: One WoO LMS regular's crew grew bigger prior to last weekend's doubleheader, while another racer's manpower level shrunk.


Clint Smith hired some help for his chief mechanic (and cousin) Darrell ('Don Vito') Cooper, who spent most of the 2009 season as Smith's lone fulltime wrench. Joining the Georgia veteran's team last week was Brad Baum, the 2007 WoO LMS Crew Chief of the Year while working under Chub Frank.


Baum, who split with Frank midway through the 2009 season and then found a job with rookie Dustin Hapka's operation for the remainder of the campaign, dived right into the grind. After an engine problem during heat action forced Smith to run his backup car in Friday night's A-Main at Ocala, Baum was up early on Saturday morning in Screven's pit area helping Cooper pull the problematic powerplant from the primary machine and bolt in a backup.


There was no rest for Baum on Saturday night either. Smith, who celebrated his 45th birthday on Saturday, experienced a dreadful, car-swapping evening. He began the program in his primary car, but a skipping engine during hot laps prompted him to pull out the backup again – just for a moment, that is, because an oil-pump belt broke as he waited to hit the track for qualifying, forcing him to climb back in his primary machine and take one lap at the end of the time-trial session. Smith qualified through a heat and started 10th in the A-Main, but his dismal outing ended on lap five when the machine lost power and he was pushed into the pit area with a 23rd-place finish.


Tim Fuller, meanwhile, was one man short after the recent departure of crewman Barry Knapp, who joined Fuller's team last year and handled all tire prep. Knapp decided to take a job working on New Yorker Ryan Phelps's DIRTcar big-block Modifieds and at a used-car lot owned by Phelps's father Roger.


Fuller's right-hand man remains Mike 'Smoke' Countryman, the 2009 WoO LMS Crew Chief of the Year. Countryman's wife, Kelly, made the trip to the Southeast and pitched in to help in the pit area.


ANIMAL RESCUERS: Scott Gurdak, a western Pennsylvania dirt Late Model racer who accompanied Chub Frank to the Southeast to provide additional help in the pits, was walking near the dragstrip on Screven's expansive property Saturday morning when he saw a couple looking into a hole in the ground. He sidled over and discovered that a whimpering black lab-mix puppy was stuck in the eight-foot crevice, unable to escape.


Local sheriffs soon arrived and managed to free the dog, which apparently had been trapped for some time. Dirty and weak, the cute puppy was initially taken to Russell King's trailer and given food and water. It then spent the afternoon lying beneath the King, Frank, Tim Fuller and Clint Smith race cars as crews serviced the machines for the evening's action, and prior to the start of racing Smith placed the visibly exhausted dog on a blanket inside his trailer.


With no one stepping up to claim the animal, Smith decided to take it home with him. "We can make it a shop dog," said Smith, whose teenage daughter, Jenna, was seen with the sleeping dog – which she appropriately plans to give the name 'Lucky' – on her lap in the pit area after the A-Main was completed.




* Tim McCreadie ran both events in a Sweeteners Plus car that had not seen action since he flipped it last June during qualifying for the Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. The car's rollcage and frame was completely overhauled by Rocket Chassis and McCreadie immediately felt comfortable racing it, registering finishes of second (Ocala) and fourth (Screven) to keep him a perfect four-for-four in the top-five-finish category on the 2010 WoO LMS.


* With two aunts and an uncle living near Ocala, Steve Francis was supported on Friday night by a healthy contingent of perhaps three-dozen family members and friends who came out to watch him race. He didn't give them much to cheer about, struggling to a 12th-place finish with an ill-handling car that he later discovered was hampered by a bent birdcage.


* Brady Smith, who entered the weekend as the WoO LMS points leader, debuted a new Team Zero by Bloomquist car – complete with a graphics scheme showing more orange color – on Saturday at Screven. He looked supersonic in winning his heat race and advancing from the eighth starting spot in the A-Main to third in just four laps, but he climbed no higher and ultimately spun out of fourth place on lap 31.


"I left my car too free and just spun out," said Smith, who settled for a 10th-place finish after restarting at the rear of the field. "The car was great in qualifying, but we made the wrong decisions for the feature. I knew we were in trouble when we were too good early (in the A-Main)."


* Russell King, the 2009 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year who entered the new season with high hopes for improved performance, finds himself mired in a full-fledged sophomore slump. After a heat-race tangle at Ocala forced him to pull out his backup car and then struggling at Screven, King has used a provisional spot to start all four tour A-Mains this season – two emergency provisionals last month at Volusia Speedway Park, and two WoO LMS points provisionals last weekend.


* Shane Clanton was back in competitive action last weekend after a serious thumb infection forced him to merely start-and-park his car in last month's season-opening WoO LMS events. His left thumb is healing well (he had only a small bandage covering it) and gave him no problems behind the wheel – even after a flying rock struck his injured finger shortly after he took to the track at Ocala.


* Rick Eckert experienced a frustrating weekend. At Ocala he started fifth but faded to a 13th-place finish thanks largely to an incorrect tire choice, and at Screven he qualified through a B-Main but rallied from the 17th starting spot to place seventh.


"Last night we qualified good and raced bad, and tonight we qualified bad and raced good," said Eckert. "We have to put a complete night together."


* Eckert's chief mechanic, Zach Frields, made his first racing trip since his wife April gave birth to the couple's son, Brinson, on Feb. 20.


* After a lackluster performance in last month's pair of WoO LMS events at Volusia, Darrell Lanigan got back in rhythm with a win on Friday night at Ocala and third-place finish at Screven on Saturday evening.


* Brent Robinson was all smiles after marching forward from the 20th starting spot to record a WoO LMS career-best finish of eighth at Screven. The 2009 Rookie of the Year contender said his confidence level is rising as he gets a better handle on the new Rocket car he debuted last month at Volusia.


* Jordan Bland visited a local hospital following Friday night's program at Ocala for treatment of a cut on his right thumb – an injury he suffered when he angrily grabbed his car's crumpled, jagged hood following a tangle on lap 32 of the A-Main. Bland, who needed two stitches to close the wound, had slid sideways between turns three and four due to a flat tire and was hit hard in his car's nosepiece by Ausperger's passing machine.


Bland's luck didn't improve on Saturday at Screven, where he slapped the turn-four wall during his heat and lost a potential transfer spot in the first B-Main due to a flat left-rear tire on the final lap.


* Christian Ausperger of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., became the third 14-year-old driver to qualify for a WoO LMS A-Main in the past year, joining Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., and Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, in the tour's record books. The teenager timed sixth-fastest on Friday night at Ocala and transferred through a heat race, but he ran into problems in the A-Main and finished 22nd.


* Making his debut last weekend as the WoO LMS pit steward was Mark Hoegerl, who resides in western Pennsylvania. He replaces Kris Underwood, who had worked for the tour since 2005.


* Legendary short-track drivers spotted spectating at Ocala included open-wheel superstar Jack Hewitt and Canadian Late Model racer Tom Nesbitt.


For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.

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