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Wrapping Up The Inaugural 'Commonwealth 100' At Va Motor Spwy


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World of Outlaws Late Model Series News & Notes: Wrapping Up The Inaugural 'Commonwealth 100' At Virginia Motor Speedway

 

JAMAICA, VA - April 19, 2010 -

 

SOUTHERN STAR: Chris Madden thoroughly enjoyed the unique post-race reception he received from a group of costumed Civil War reenactors after his triumph in Saturday night's inaugural 'Commonwealth 100' at Virginia Motor Speedway.

 

The standout from Gary Court, S.C., didn't even mind the soldiers' celebratory burst of revolver fire that left his ears ringing.

 

"This is the second year in a row I've been to Victory Lane here (after a World of Outlaws Late Model Series event) and I can't hear again," joked Madden, who also won last year's WoO LMS show at VMS that featured the debut appearance of the reenactors dressed in Confederates grays and Union blues.

 

Madden, 34, once again donned a Civil War general's hat and was surrounded by the reenactors for the post-race photos. This time, however, he also was handed a revolver to fire off a few shots of his own – and, of course, his $25,000 paycheck was a lot bigger.

 

"For my season, it means a lot," Madden said of his Commonwealth 100 earnings, the second-highest of his career after the $30,000 he picked up for winning the 2007 National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway. "It keeps us going and racing through the year. I kinda pay my way – my racing pays for my racing. I can make $25,000 go a long way."

 

The checkered ranks high on Madden's list of career accomplishments, largely because the expectations surrounding him last weekend were so high. He had scored wins in his only two previous starts at VMS, so he was clearly a favorite entering the Commonwealth 100.

 

"This is one of my top ones," said Madden. "To come to this place – there was more pressure coming here than there was racing, just being we won the last two. That's a lot of pressure, to come back and win another one because everybody's expecting you to do it, but we did it."

 

Madden has never been a WoO LMS regular for a full season – he followed the tour through early June in 2007 before dropping off due to the premature birth of his son (now a healthy toddler approaching the age of three) and other team issues – but he now owns an impressive six career victories on the series. The only driver with more WoO LMS victories than Madden despite never being a tour regular is Brian Birkhofer, with seven.

 

SNAKEBIT: Darrell Lanigan just can't nail down the signature WoO LMS victory that he craves.

 

After finishing second in three 100-lap tour events in 2009 – the Lone Star 100 (he charged from the rear after being knocked from the lead by a flat), Colossal 100 (another rally from the rear due to an early flat) and Firecracker 100 (he led most of the distance before being passed late by a hooked-up Jimmy Mars) – the '08 WoO LMS champion appeared primed to break through at VMS. He grabbed the lead from Earl Pearson Jr. on lap four and held firm control as the race wound down.

 

But on a lap-91 restart Lanigan slowed with a right-rear flat tire, dashing his hopes again. He returned after a pit stop but could only manage a 14th-place finish.

 

What does Lanigan need to do to snap his hex in 100-lappers?

 

"Put a little harder tire on, I guess," the disappointed Lanigan said while discussing the race afterward with Josh and Mark Richards, Chub Frank, Clint Smith and Mars. "We actually decided we were gonna put a softer one on, then after that last race (the Non-Qualifiers' 30) we came back in and put a little harder one on. We just didn't go hard enough.

 

"With about 15 to go the car started getting loose. Then it just blew on the front chute. What are you gonna do?"

 

Lanigan knew the Commonwealth 100 had slipped through his fingers.

 

"I think our car was pretty good – it looked pretty good, right?" he asked rhetorically to those standing around him, a wry smile on his face.

 

STILL SEARCHING: Defending WoO LMS champion Josh Richards saw his quest for the first long-distance, major-event victory of his young-but-already-impressive career march on after a worn-out right-rear tire doomed his bid in the Commonwealth 100.

 

Richards, 22, was forced pit side for a tire change on a lap-87 restart, two laps after inheriting second place from Brian Birkhofer. He had started 10th but reached the top five by lap 18.

 

"I felt really good early," said Richards, who finished 12th but did move into a tie for the WoO LMS points lead with Tim McCreadie. "I felt like we had a legitimate shot to win the race."

 

But Richards wondered whether he had erred by pushing his car a bit harder to run down leaders Lanigan and Birkhofer late in the distance. He wanted to be in position to take advantage of any slips the two drivers might make out of the preferred hard groove of rubber that developed midway through the event.

 

"Maybe I should've just conserved a little bit more and then we maybe we could've been there at the end," said Richards. "Who knows what would've happened if I would've let off a little? It's just one of those things where you're trying to win."

 

A LITTLE SHORT: Tim McCreadie thought he just might be able to steal a top-three finish – or perhaps a win – in the Commonwealth 100 with a car that had no business even running in the top five.

 

Then the worn-through right-rear tire on his Sweeteners Plus No. 39 popped on lap 98, knocking him out of third place. He settled for a 17th-place finish, dropping him into a tie for the points lead with Richards.

 

"I'm just not lucky enough to steal a good finish with a car that's not very good," said the dejected McCreadie, who lost second to Jimmy Owens one lap before slowing with a flat tire.

 

SURVIVORS: WoO LMS regulars Steve Francis and Shane Clanton quietly snatched top-five finishes in the Commonwealth, placing fourth and fifth, respectively, after going the distance without popping a tire.

 

Francis, who started 14th, conceded that he probably had "about a ninth-place car." But when a rash of flat tires broke out, he gladly accepted the charity positions.

 

"I actually had more tire left than I thought," said Francis. "I probably could have run a little harder, but I was worried we wouldn't make it."

 

Clanton, meanwhile, registered his first top-five finish of the 2010 WoO LMS campaign after starting 21st. He didn't have any tread left on his right-rear tire.

 

"The cords were hanging out," said Clanton. "I saw guys smoking tires in front of me (midway through the 100), so I just started tire management. I can't believe we made it. This is first time I finished a race with a tire that looked like that."

 

GAMBLIN' MAN: Clint Smith tried a slick maneuver in hopes of stealing the Commonwealth 100, but his strategy didn't go quite according to plan and he settled for a 10th-place finish.

 

"I thought I made the call to win the race," said Smith. "When Earl (Pearson) blowed his tire (running third on lap 59), I streaked in the pit area immediately off the corner (when the caution flag came out) so I could change a tire and beat him out of the pits because I knew nobody could make it (on tires). The problem was, I put a 2400 (compound) on it instead of a white-dot. I knew they were good for 50 laps so I knew I had to take care of it, but I thought the track had rubbered enough that I'd be able to roll people on the outside."

 

Alas, Smith didn't have quite enough tire to overtake the cars that survived the distance without getting a flat. As his tire "got slick at the end," he watched eventual third-place finisher Jonathan Davenport drive by and knew his best laid plan wasn't going to work.

 

ROUGH HOMECOMING: WoO LMS rookie sensation Austin Hubbard had high hopes for his return to VMS, the half-mile oval where he began his dirt Late Model career five years ago and won his first championship in 2007.

 

But the 18-year-old from Seaford, Del., experienced a frustrating weekend, unable to show the friendly crowd the strength he flashed last month in winning his first career WoO LMS A-Main at Georgia's Screven Motor Speedway. He fell out of contention in a Friday-night heat race when he slid high and tapped the wall between turns three and four, and after transferring through a B-Main on Saturday night he was never a factor in the 100 and finished 19th.

 

Hubbard, who brought out a caution flag on lap 91 when he slid to a stop in turn one after jumping the cushion, had plenty of familiar faces supporting him both days. His father, Mike, had a motorhome set up in the middle of pit area and grilled up dozens of pork chops throughout the weekend. The elder Hubbard's picnic area also included a large banner wishing Integra Shocks rep Brian Daugherty a happy 37th birthday.

 

ETCETERA:

 

* For the first third of the 100 Chub Frank looked like he might be the race's biggest charger as he sliced from the 24th starting spot to the verge of the top 10. But his advance stalled when the track surface took rubber and his car became very loose. After he pitted to change a flat right-rear tire during a lap-91 caution period, he could only manage a 15th-place finish.

 

* Brady Smith was scheduled to start 18th in the 100, but his night was turned upside down when a lifter failed on his car's engine as he was warming it up in the pit area to head out on the track. His team then went into "fire drill" mode to pull out a backup car and hastily ready it for action. He barely made it onto the speedway in time for the start and fell in at the rear of the field.

 

Unfortunately, in the wild scramble to get the backup machine fired up, no one had time to torque the lug nuts. As a result, the left-rear wheel came loose and broke on lap 29. Since his crew couldn't get to the infield with their pit cart in time for the start, Smith had no spares at his disposal and glumly retired to the outside pit area, finishing 27th.

 

* After getting swept up in an opening-lap tangle in Saturday night's first B-Main, Tim Fuller appeared to be on his way to absorbing a big hit in the WoO LMS championship chase. Instead, he moved from fifth to fourth in the points standings and sliced his points deficit to the leader from 84 to 70 points – all thanks to an improbable run from the 25th starting spot (he used a provisional) to a quiet-but-satisfactory eighth-place finish driving his backup car.

 

* Rick Eckert's solid qualifying performance on Friday night – sixth-fastest time and a heat win – morphed into a frustrating outing in the 100. He started fifth but was never a factor; he slid backwards immediately, brought out a caution flag on lap 16 and finished two laps down in 22nd after making multiple pit stops.

 

* Brent Robinson was riding high after qualifying through a heat race on Friday night, giving the Virginia resident and former VMS regular the 17th starting spot in the 100. But a setup miscalculation – his car ended up way too free because he didn't expect the track to be so much different from Friday night – prompted him to pull out of the race on lap 45, leaving him 25th in the final rundown.

 

* Russell King's sophomore season on the WoO LMS continued to just get worse at VMS. He was involved in a multi-car tangle during a Friday heat that left his brand-new Rocket car with significant damage and had to use an 'emergency' provisional to start 27th in the 100, thereby forfeiting the start money for the event. He went on to finish one lap down in 20th place driving his backup car.

 

* Rookie of the Year candidate Jill George fell short of the Commonwealth starting field, but she felt she was making strides with a strong run in the 30-lap Non-Qualifiers Race until her car's right-rear shock broke and forced her out.

 

* VMS owner Bill Sawyer, general manager Clarke Sawyer and their staff were very pleased with the inaugural Commonwealth 100 weekend. Campers were plentiful, the 56-car field was a record for a WoO LMS event at VMS and a great crowd turned out on Saturday night despite steady winds that created chilly conditions. Sawyer and Co. are already talking about making the event bigger and better in the future.

 

NEXT UP: The WoO LMS will be silent one weekend before heading to the Southeast for a doubleheader, visiting Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Fri., April 30, and Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway on Sat., May 1.

 

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

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