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Shane Clanton Looks To Snap Winless Streak At Farmer City Raceway

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Defending 'Illini 100' Champ Shane Clanton Looks To Snap Winless Streak In Third Annual Event April 9-10 At Farmer City Raceway


FARMER CITY, IL - April 1, 2010 - When Shane Clanton won last year's World of Outlaws Late Model Series 'Illini 100' at Farmer City Raceway, all his great expectations for the 2009 season seemed ready to be realized.


Pre-race favorite status at tracks big and small, a career-high series victory total, a $100,000 points title – that was Clanton's destiny.


But as Clanton prepares to defend his Illini 100 crown in the third annual blockbuster event on April 9-10, he's not a reigning national tour champion but rather a driver trying to regain his mojo. Last year's Illini 100 was, in fact, his last triumph on the WoO LMS.


Clanton, 34, of Locust Grove, Ga., saw his fortunes go south almost immediately after his $20,000 score at Farmer City. He briefly grabbed the WoO LMS points lead following the next race and then fell into an extended slump, finishing no better than third during the remainder of the 2009 schedule and settling for a disappointing sixth-place finish in the points standings.


Can a return to the quarter-mile oval in central Illinois get Clanton back on the fast track to superstardom he was riding coming off a 2008 season that saw him win a personal-best 16 features overall, including four WoO LMS A-Mains and the prestigious DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned World 100? He sure hopes so.


"It would be great to get this thing turned around in a $20,000-to-win show," said Clanton, who is winless in his last 40 starts on the WoO LMS. "We're gonna go back (to Farmer City) just as confident as we were last year. We'll prepare the best we can and race as hard as we can, and the cards will fall where they fall."


A pre-season championship favorite in 2009, Clanton appeared to be at the height of his growing powers when he captured last year's Illini 100. He pulled it off in dramatic fashion, passing race-long pacesetter Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, for the lead with just six laps remaining.


"I knew I had a better race car than Birky did, so it was a matter of picking the right time to get by him," said Clanton. "We did it at the right moment. We started catching lapped traffic a little, and he started pulling off the cushion a little bit. Then he spun the tires, I got a good run through (turns) one and two and pulled even with him, and then I just slid him through three and four to get back to the cushion."


Clanton was an intense winner, pounding his fists on the roof of his car when he climbed out in Victory Lane. One year later he recognizes the significance of winning the biggest dirt Late Model event run in the Land of Lincoln.


"Any time you win a $20,000-to-win race, it's high up there," said Clanton, who has been driving full-blown dirt Late Models for less than a decade. "It's probably one of the top five most prestigious wins I have. It's a new race, but I think it's going to build into one of the most prestigious races we have if we keep running it every year.


"It's really hard to put into words how different a race it is," he added, analyzing what is a rare 100-lap event contested on a quarter-mile bullring. "There's no other big race we run that's like it. It doesn't take long to run a hundred laps there, and it's pretty demanding when (the track) gets rough. It's an accomplishment to win it."


Clanton isn't bringing much momentum into his bid to become the first repeat winner of the Illini 100. The young 2010 season has been a struggle for the tall southerner –physically and mechanically.


For starters, Clanton was far less than 100 percent when the WoO LMS campaign began in February with a pair of events at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. Unable to race competitively because he was still recovering from a badly-infected left thumb and resulting case of blood poisoning that hospitalized him for eight days, he merely used two provisional spots to start-and-park Tony Knowles's car and earn last-place points in each A-Main.


Clanton returned to full action when the WoO LMS ended a month-long break with a Southeastern swing to Florida and Georgia on March 19-20 and Texas on March 26-27, but he didn't roar back into the spotlight. He scored just two top-10 finishes, including a season-best run of seventh in the tour's last A-Main, on March 27 at Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, Texas.


"We're starting off rough this year," said Clanton, who will enter the Illini 100 ranked 11th in the points standings, already 160 points behind leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va. "I've never been through anything health-wise like I have this year – the most time I had ever spent in a hospital before was two days – and that obviously has us behind (in the points race), but that hasn't been our biggest problem. Our car just hasn't been as good as it needs to be.


"We're struggling a little bit right now. We're not choosing the right tires at the right time and making the right decisions and adjustments to the car. Our car's just been a little bit loose, and when your car isn't right against this kind of competition you run 10th or 12th like I've been running.


Clanton, who on Wednesday underwent a second plasma enrichment procedure to help his left thumb heal (he can't use or hit his thumb for five days to allow the healing process to occur), understands it will now take a minor miracle for him to come back this season and win the WoO LMS championship he covets. But he can certainly still make 2010 a campaign to rival '08.


"We have a long way to go," said Clanton, who now uses Malcuit engines exclusively after moving his team's motor program to the Ohio builder during the off-season. "It's not looking good for a championship, so we're going out there to win races. I gotta get back on the winning track."


Clanton will be part of a star-studded field expected to enter the Illini 100 weekend, which kicks off with an open practice from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thurs., April 8.


On Friday night, April 9, time trials and heat races will be contested for the Illini 100 along with a regular show for Farmer City’s DIRTcar UMP Modified and Hornet divisions. The finale on Saturday night, April 10, will include full shows for the UMP Modifieds and Pro Late Models plus the Illini 100 B-Mains, a 25-lap Non-Qualifiers’ Race and the 100-lap headliner.


Ticket prices for adults are $15 (Friday) and $30 (Saturday), with tickets for children (ages 6-12) priced at $5 (Friday) and $15 (Saturday). Kids 5-and-under will be admitted free.


Two-day reserved seat tickets are available for $40 (adults) and $25 (kids), while pit passes are $30 on Friday and $40 on Saturday or $60 for a two-day combo. Pit passes for kids (ages 4-11) are $15 on Friday, $20 on Saturday or $30 for a two-day pass.


Reserved seat tickets can be purchased through Thurs., April 8, by calling 217-568-7525 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT. The tickets will be held for pickup at the racetrack will-call window.


Reserved drive-in parking spots outside turns one and two are also available for purchase at a cost of $50 for the weekend.


Reserved seats and drive-in parking spots that were not renewed by April 1 will be put back up for sale to the general public.


Gates are scheduled to open at 10 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.


More info on the Illini 100 is available by logging on to www.farmercityraceway.net.


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

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