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Wrapping Up The Fayetteville/Swainsboro Weekend


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World of Outlaws Late Model Series News & Notes: Wrapping Up The Fayetteville/Swainsboro Weekend

 

CONCORD, NC - May 3, 2010 -

 

WHAT A RACE: All the pre-race concerns that Josh Richards and Tim McCreadie had about their chances of contending for victory in Friday night's 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway were, in the final analysis, unfounded.

 

Richards and McCreadie started 10th and 11th, respectively, in the talent-laden field -- seemingly tough post positions considering that passing was at a premium during heat action. But Richards won the headliner and McCreadie finished just a half car length back in second place, prompting both drivers to hail the track crew for whipping the red-clay surface into shape before the feature.

 

"With Southern dirt, it's so hard to get a track right," said Richards, who held off McCreadie's furious late-race challenges to become the first repeat winner in nine WoO LMS events this season. "You don't really have a lot to work with because of the sandy tracks down here, and it was looking like the track might be one-lane after the heats.

 

"But they did a great job at intermission trying to do their part to get the racetrack better for us. You gotta give them a lot of credit because we could pass in the feature."

 

McCreadie was even more vocal about the work done to reinvigorate the speedway.

 

"Like I said in the (post-race) interview on the homestretch, this place listened to a few people who I think know a lot about racing – the guys who are actually on this track racing," said McCreadie. "They graded half up the track, left the bottom alone, watered and packed it in, and it got wide. Down in (turns) three and four, it got real wide; actually the cushion was better than the bottom.

 

"Hat's off to them," he continued. "We could've had as good a car, but if they hadn't touched the track we probably wouldn't have run where we did. They made it where you can race on it so we were able to get where we (finished) and I thank them for it. It was a lot more fun than it was in the heats."

 

McCreadie made very similar comments about Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway's track-prep team after scoring his first WoO LMS victory of 2010 at the three-eighths-mile oval on Saturday night. Swainsboro's surface was also reworked before the A-Main, contributing to the entertaining racing that concluded two of the most action-packed programs the tour has ever contested on consecutive evenings in the Southeast.

 

"Just like last night, I have to thank the track guys here for going out there and working on the track before the feature," McCreadie said following the race. "If we have a racy track we'll put on a show for everybody, and that's what happened again tonight."

 

NICE HARDWARE: Swainsboro promoter Paul Purvis and his staff came up with a unique trophy to present McCreadie as a momento for his victory in Saturday night's A-Main.

 

Playing off the annual Pine Tree Festival that took place in the town of Swainsboro all weekend, Purvis and Co. commissioned the creation of a wooden replica of a pine tree sitting atop a dirt Late Model. It was carved out with a chainsaw in an hour on Friday by the 'Masters of the Chainsaw' group, top sculptors from Pennsylvania's Poconos who conducted an exhibition during the Pine Tree Festival.

 

McCreadie kissed the carving, which was engraved on its back with the event name, track and date, while posing with it for photographers. It then drew plenty of attention sitting in the back of McCreadie's trailer from drivers and crew members who visited to congratulate the New Yorker.

 

PODIUM KID: Rookie sensation Austin Hubbard returned to contender status during the Southeastern doubleheader, ending a three-race slump with back-to-back third-place finishes at Fayetteville and Swainsboro.

 

The 18-year-old from Seaford, Del., had been a non-factor since breaking out with a sizzling stretch of three consecutive top-three finishes – including his first career WoO LMS victory – in late March. He finished no better than 11th in his next three tour starts and used two provisionals to gain entry to the A-Main field during that span.

 

"I think we got back to our kind of tracks this weekend," said Hubbard. "It's no secret that I struggle in the slick (surfaces) like we've had the last few races and I have to work on getting better in those conditions. We'll get there, but right now we're at our best at tracks like we ran the last two nights, kind of the 'in-between' condition – not too slick and not too heavy.

 

ROLLER-COASTER: Brady Smith's emotions bounced back-and-forth between high and low all weekend.

 

For starters, Smith thought he might have broken a brand-new engine after only running a couple laps of Friday night's practice session at Fayetteville. He looked down while speeding along the homestretch and noticed that his dashboard gauge showed no oil pressure, prompting him to immediately turn off his powerplant.

 

"When it says 'zero,' it's a scary feeling," Smith said of his oil-pressure gauge. "I couldn't hit the kill switch fast enough when I saw that."

 

Fortunately, Smith and his crew found that the reading resulted from a faulty oil-pressure gauge. They installed a new one and the Wisconsinite proceeded to rip off his series-leading third fast time of the season and win a heat race, but he picked the wrong tire combination for the A-Main and faded from the sixth starting spot to a disappointing 10th-place finish.

 

Smith seemed primed to salvage his weekend on Saturday night at Swainsboro, where he entered the 50-lap A-Main's late stages in a battle for second with Darrell Lanigan and well within striking distance of eventual winner McCreadie. But on lap 42 he tangled with a lapped car between turns three and four and spun, relegating him to a heartbreaking 15th-place finish and dropping him to seventh in the points standings.

 

NO LUCK: Struggling Shane Clanton was so disgusted after seeing a pair of potential top-five finishes slip through his fingers last weekend that all he could do was shake his head and joke about his fate.

 

"I guess we have to build a bullet-proof car somehow," Clanton cracked after finishing 14th at Swainsboro, where he was battling for fourth on lap 14 when he stopped to bring out a caution flag because his hood flew up due to broken pins.

 

Actually, Clanton's fate at Swainsboro was better than the previous evening at Fayetteville. He had just inherited fourth place on Friday night thanks to Steve Francis's spin when his machine's right-front ball-joint broke, forcing him to limp into the pit area and not return.

 

A GOOD HOME: The last time the WoO LMS visited Clint Smith's home state of Georgia – on March 20 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania – the tour veteran left the track not with a first-place trophy but a puppy. That day a young black Lab mix dog was found trapped in a hole on the racetrack grounds and, when no one stepped up to claim the pooch, Smith adopted him.

 

Now the little guy is named Rocket and happily lives at Smith's shop. He made his return to the racetrack over the weekend, making the doubleheader trip in Cat Daddy's hauler with Smith's wife, Kim, and teenage daughter Jenna.

 

No longer tired and weak like when he was saved at Screven, Rocket is a healthy, growing dog and pranced around the pit area all weekend. He brought his master no good fortune, however – Smith registered a respectable ninth-place finish at Fayetteville, but he could only manage 17th (last driver on the lead lap) at Swainsboro after making a pit stop on lap 42 to replace a left-rear wheel that came off his car.

 

GREAT RECOVERY: Chub Frank struggled so much with his one-race-old Rocket car early in the night at Fayetteville, he hastily pulled out his backup – a machine that he prepares for, and is actually owned by, Canadian Peter Mantha Jr. – just before the start of the A-Main. He drove it forward with aplomb, finishing an unlikely sixth.

 

Unfortunately, Frank ended the Fayetteville event with steam spewing from the Mantha car due to an overheating engine. Thus he had to park the car for Saturday night's action at Swainsboro and run his new mount; he wasn't pleased with the car's performance in time trials (24th out of 29 cars), but he qualified through a heat and finished ninth. Frank lost a spot on the final lap to 20-year-old up-and-comer Chris Ferguson of Mt. Holly, N.C., who ran as high as third in the Starrette Trucking No. 22F before fading due to an incorrect tire choice.

 

ETCETERA:

 

* Tim Fuller – struggling to seriously contend for a win so far this year after capturing a career-high seven WoO LMS A-Mains in 2009 – appeared ready to get back in the mix at Swainsboro after timing fourth fastest in qualifying to earn an outside front-row starting spot in the first heat. But on the opening lap of that prelim close racing sent him sliding over the track's wall-less backstretch bank; he didn't pull back onto the racing surface until he was in eighth place. Fuller then failed to qualify, used a provisional to start the A-Main from the 23rd spot and managed only a 13th-place finish.

 

* Rick Eckert, who was featured in a WoO LMS preview story by motorsports writer Thomas Pope that appeared on the front of Friday's Fayetteville Observer sports section, scored a steady-as-she-goes fifth-place finish on Friday night. He might have been in line for back-to-back top fives if not for some bad luck at Swainsboro, where he was closing in on fifth place early in the distance when his car's air cleaner flew off. He pitted on lap seven for a replacement and salvaged a 10th-place finish.

 

* Darrell Lanigan could have swept the weekend's A-Main – if only a cut left-front tire hadn't forced him to make a pit stop while leading on lap six at Fayetteville (he caught a hole in turn four and glanced off the inside wall), and he had found a way to hold off the hungry McCreadie at Swainsboro. He still rallied to place fourth at Fayetteville, so combined with his runner-up effort at Swainsboro he joined McCreadie, Richards and Hubbard as drivers with top-fives in both events.

 

* Steve Francis entered the weekend ranked among the top five in the WoO LMS points standings for the first time this season and seemed positioned to climb higher on Friday at Fayetteville – until his car slid sideways and stopped in turn four on lap 33. He was in a side-by-side, close-shave battle for second with McCreadie on a restart when he said some fender-rubbing between the two caused him to lose control.

 

* Russell King didn’t leave Swainsboro with a smile on his face, but the 2009 Rookie of the Year was at least encouraged that he's headed in the right direction after scoring a season-best finish of 11th. "Baby steps," said King, who qualified through a heat at Swainsboro for just the second time this season in 10 events.

 

* The WoO LMS 'Bonus Bucks' cash -- $500 to the highest-finishing driver who hasn't won a tour event and isn't ranked among the top 12 in the series points standings – went to Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va. (eighth at Fayetteville) and Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga. (fifth at Swainsboro).

 

A 2009 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contender, Robinson, 22, has been showing signs of marked improvement recently as he seeks to stay on the road with the Outlaws by cracking the top 12 in points in order to earn the benefits of the tour's travel-incentive program. The 33-year-old Roberts, meanwhile, was no surprise top-five finisher – he knows how to get around Swainsboro, as evidenced by his victories in the two special events (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Ray Cook's Southern Nationals Series) he ran there in 2009.

 

NEXT UP: The WoO LMS now heads to the Midwest next, visiting Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway on Fri., May 7, and Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Ky., on Sat., May 8. Both events will feature 50-lap A-Mains paying $10,000 to win.

 

Lincoln is hosting the tour for the fourth consecutive year, while Bluegrass Speedway – a half-mile oval promoted by Steve Francis's new in-laws David and Anita Ferrell – will run a WoO LMS event for the first time in its history.

 

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

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