World of Outlaws Late Model Series News & Notes: Reviewing Farmer City's Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100
Clanton's First 2015 Setback, Heartbreak For Junghans, Chub's Quick Recovery & More
CONCORD, N.C. - April 22, 2015 - Shane Clanton isn't invincible on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series this season after all.
After starting his WoO LMS campaign with eight consecutive top-five finishes and four victories, Clanton, 39, of Zebulon, Ga., experienced the first setback in the chase for his first series championship with a 23rd-place finish in Friday's opening round of Farmer City Raceway's Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100 weekend.
Clanton rebounded with a fifth-place finish in Saturday's 75-lap Illini 100 finale - a $15,000-to-win event won by Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. - but he left Farmer City with his points lead over defending series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., cut from 92 to 68 points.
"I said at the beginning of the year, if we keep winning races and run top fives we're gonna be hard to beat," Clanton said after Friday night's 25-lap Illini 100 A-Main. "But if we're running 23rd, we're kind of beating ourselves."
Indeed, Clanton's disappointing Friday night finish could best be described as a self-inflicted wound. Instead of going on the defensive to protect his points lead, Clanton has kept the same aggressive approach that helped him build the massive early-season advantage.
That cost Clanton during time trials for Friday night's time trials when he jumped the turn-four cushion on his first lap and ended up recording the slowest lap in his qualifying group. He never recovered and had to take his first provisional of the season to start Friday's 25-lap A-Main.
"It's too early to points race," Clanton said after Friday night's race. "We're going out each night with the attitude that we're here to win. That's what got us ahead in the points to begin with and that's what we're sticking to."
Clanton did indeed stick with his in-it-to-win-it approach, and it nearly cost him again on Saturday. During time trials for Farmer City's $15,000-to-win Illini 100 finale, Clanton spun out in turn four on his warmup lap. Luckily, Clanton was able to continue without major harm to his No. 25 Capital Race Car and went on to record the fastest time in his qualifying group.
He later won his heat race and ran as high as third in the A-Main before dropping to fifth at the finish.
"I was going for the gusto - wreckers or checkers," Clanton said when asked about Saturday's qualifying mishap. "I was trying hard because that's what it takes to qualify up front at this place. If I had left anything out there, I'd probably been starting second or third row in my heat and I would've been mad at myself."
Clanton realizes that he'll likely have to reign in his aggressive driving style and conserve his points lead at some point when the tour gets closer to its November finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. But he doesn't see that happening any time soon.
"I think you get to the last five or six races and you've got to start points racing then," Clanton said. "But with my luck at Charlotte, I'll need about a 300-point lead going into the World Finals if I want to win it."
Run of Bad Luck
Chase Junghans is beginning to wonder if his luck will ever change. The 22-year-old Manhattan, Kan., driver has ran well for most of his sophomore WoO LMS season but has seen multiple strong runs wiped out by bad luck.
He had perhaps one of the best performances of his WoO LMS career going in Saturday night's 75-lap feature but ultimately left Farmer City with nothing to show for it.
After winning his heat race, Junghans pulled ahead of a back-and-forth battle with 2014 Illini 100 winner Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., to lead 19 laps of the prestigious event.
With his Shop Quik-sponsored Capital machine hampered by front-end damage from hitting a chunk of mud, Junghans lost the lead and began to fade but was still in line to score a strong finish until contact from third-running Kevin Weaver of Gibson, City, Ill., sent both cars spinning.
"It's beyond disappointing," said Junghans, who ended up 21st in Saturday's final rundown. "The whole right-front of the nose was caved in and I was just trying to hold on and at least get a good finish. But (Weaver) took me out. It was all downhill from there."
Stuck in 10th in the WoO LMS standings with just two top-10 finishes on the season, Junghans is hopeful that his luck will soon change and he'll begin converting his strong runs into solid finishes.
"If I could ever get some damn luck, we'd be a lot better," Junghans said. "Hopefully this is rock bottom and we can start building back up from here.
"I know they say it can always get worse, but you would think that at some point our luck has to get better."
Knee surgery in February hasn't slowed down Chub Frank. The 53-year-old WoO LMS veteran underwent a knee replacement operation on his left knee on Feb. 23 and has been solid in the three races since returning to the seat of his No. 1* Longhorn Chassis.
After finishes of sixth and seventh at Farmer City and a seventh-place finish at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway on April 11, Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., is third in WoO LMS standings with eight top 10s in 10 races on the season.
Frank's recent performance is even more remarkable considering he's not fully recovered from his surgery.
"It's actually not bending quite as far as it should even doing therapy and stuff," Frank said. "They told me to do normal stuff and it'll fix itself, so I'm racing. It's a little sore, but I just put it on ice and exercise it like they say to. I'll keep doing that till we get past it."
Luckily for Frank, the lingering soreness isn't a problem when he's in his race car.
"I don't really feel it until I get out," Frank said. "Maybe if it was a long yellow or if we had to sit under red or something I would start to feel it. But racing, no, I never notice it until after I get out of the car and it's a little sore."
Right At Home
Tim McCreadie is beginning to find himself right at home in the Land of Lincoln. McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who last season scored a $25,000 victory at nearby Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway, was perhaps the best he's been all season at Farmer City.
Scoring his first back-to-back top-10 finishes of the year, McCreadie battled among the leaders and finished third in Friday's 25-lap opener and advanced from 24th to ninth in Saturday's 75-lap finale.
"They're a little bit like New York - big cushion, slick in the middle and bite on the bottom," McCreadie said in comparing Illinois bullrings like Farmer City and Fairbury to his beloved Empire State ovals. "In my opinion, that's always the best kind of track because it enables the driver to do things.
"You don't get bottled up in one lane; you can move around and drive a little harder and make some time up. It's hard to do that nowadays with the way these cars are built and the way the tire rules are. It's hard to just physically manhandle stuff, so it's nice to come to places like this where you can put more gear in it and just push the throttle harder to go faster."
Shades of Florida
With daytime temperatures creeping well into the 70s at Farmer City, WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contender Jordan Yaggy of Rochester, Minn., couldn't help but notice how much the doubleheader weekend reminded him of the tour's trip to Florida earlier in the season.
"You really couldn't ask for better weather," the 23-year-old Yaggy remarked while going through event registration and pill draw Saturday afternoon at Farmer City. "I walked out this morning and thought I was in Florida."
As Yaggy also noticed, the Illini 100 entry list was also similar to a Florida event at Volusia Speedway Park, which like Farmer City, attracted nearly 50 entries for its weeklong DIRTcar Nationals.
"It's kind of like Florida weather and Florida competition," Yaggy said, noting that the Illini's mix of WoO LMS regulars, other national travelers and regional standouts was one of the best fields he's raced against. "We knew it was going to be tough coming to race these Illinois guys, then you throw in the extra touring guys and it's a really tough field.
"That's part of what makes it fun. We're trying not to get down. This is only our second year in Super Late Model and first year out on the road like this, so we're just having fun and learning."
Yaggy has had his trials in his first year of national traveling, and Farmer City was no different. But the former WISSOTA Late Model standout is remaining positive as he aims to continue his learning process.
"It's kind of been everything I expected," said Yaggy, who finished 25th in both of the weekend's WoO LMS A-Mains. "We had some good nights, a couple of top 10s down in Florida, then we've had some nights that have been a struggle.
"Everybody told me that being a rookie I was gonna take my lumps and bumps. We definitely have been, but we're not gonna quit."
Learning to Adjust
Like Yaggy, fellow WoO LMS rookie contender Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., has had his struggles during his first stab at full-time WoO LMS competition. But the 24-year-old racer got a chance to shine Saturday night at Farmer City.
After qualifying second fastest, Overton outdueled Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., to win his heat race and ran among the top 10 for much of the A-Main. He faded late in the race and ended up 15th at the finish, but Overton was pleased with the experience he gained in his first visit to Farmer City.
"It's a different animal than what I'm used to racing on," said Overton, who opened the WoO LMS season with back-to-back top-three finishes when the tour visited his home region for a pair of events at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. "But I stayed out there and ran the whole race and we learned a lot. I think it'll help us down the road and it felt good to run up front for a little bit."
Like most first-time travelers, Overton has found it difficult to adjust to tracks he's unfamiliar with, especially on nights when there isn't much time for practice.
"It's tough because you unload and all you get is a green, a white and a checkered (in hot laps)," Overton said. "Then you better be good in qualifying or you're in for a long night.
"Every racetrack you go to is so different. Even if they look the same, they're still so different. That's what we've gotta get used to: how to adjust to tracks we've never been to."
The good news for Overton is he has four races in a row coming up at tracks where he has considerable experience, beginning with the May 1 WoO LMS visit to Friendship Motor Speedway in Elkin, N.C. The 4/10-mile, which welcomes the WoO LMS for the first time ever, was the site of one of Overton's biggest Super Late Model victories on the Carolina Clash tour last season.
"Now we're headed back to my house," Overton said. "I can't wait to get to some tracks I know so I can maybe build a little bit of confidence. I guess we could go to those tracks and not be any good, but I think we'll be OK. I'm much more comfortable when we're running those tracks around home."
WoO LMS competitors take the upcoming weekend off before returning to action with a May 1-2 doubleheader in North Carolina. Both the Blue Ridge Bash on Fri., May 1 at Friendship and the WoO LMS portion of Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway's Tar Heel 100 on Sat., May 2 feature 50-lap, $10,000-to-win A-Mains.
From North Carolina, the series heads to Kentucky for the tour's first visit to Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City, Ky., on Fri., May 8. On Sat., May 9, the series moves to Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., for the third annual Mountain Outlaw 50 Presented by NAPA. Both events pay $10,000 to the winner.
Sheppard Outduels Lanigan & Babb At Farmer City, Scores $15,050 Victory In Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100 Finale
Illinois Standout Becomes Second Home-State Driver To Win Farmer City's Prestigious World of Outlaws Late Model Series Event
FARMER CITY, Ill. - April 18, 2015 - Brandon Sheppard put his experience at Farmer City Raceway to good use Saturday night, mastering the quarter-mile oval to score a $15,050 victory in the Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100 finale.
Sheppard, the 22-year-old New Berlin, Ill., driver who cut his teeth at Farmer City and other central Illinois bullrings, advanced from his 12th starting spot in the 75-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series event and overcame both Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., to become just the second home-state driver to win at the Illini 100.
"There's a reason why it's my favorite racetrack in the country," said Sheppard, who earned the fifth WoO LMS victory of his young career. "Not only do we run good here, but it usually produces pretty good racing."
Lanigan settled for second in the Illini 100 finale for the second consecutive year, while Babb, who last year became the first Land of Lincoln driver to win the event, finished third. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., was fourth with WoO LMS points leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., rounding out the top five.
Sheppard entered the lead battle just before the race's halfway point as he and Lanigan began to catch Babb and second-running Pierce. Both Sheppard and Lanigan moved around Pierce shortly after halfway, but neither could get clear of the other long enough to make a serious challenge on Babb.
A lap-47 restart gave Sheppard the opportunity he needed. With a strong run off the top of turn two, Sheppard pulled ahead of Lanigan down the back straightaway and drove hard into turn three to slide ahead of Babb exiting turn four.
"I was trying to pace myself as much as possible," Sheppard said. "But once I got to third and me and Babb and Lanigan were battling it out, I knew if Lanigan got to the lead he was going to be hard to pass. After that restart when he choose the bottom, I didn't have any choice but to go as hard as I could for them two laps and try to get the lead."
Sheppard did get to the lead, but his work wasn't finished. After building nearly a straightway advantage, his car was hampered in the closing laps by damage from contact with the lapped car of Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Ark.
A furious late charge from Lanigan made matters worse, but Sheppard was up to the task. He avoided any more run-ins with slower cars and held on to beat Lanigan by 0.888 seconds at the finish line.
"I was getting real loose after me and Wendell got together and I was a little bit nervous," Sheppard said. "The top blew off a lot in one and two as the race went on. We just kept going slower and slower and slower, but my crew guy was telling me I was alright."
Settling for the runner-up finish for the second consecutive year at the Illini 100, Lanigan, who with the result closed to 68 points behind Clanton at the top of the WoO LMS championship chase, was disappointed to again come up short but was overall pleased with his weekend at Farmer City.
"We had a good piece here tonight, just qualified kind of bad," said Lanigan, the three-time and defending WoO LMS champion. "All in all, the car was pretty awesome in the feature. I think we've ran second here two or three times. It's about like (the Firecracker 100 at) Lernerville, but I like coming here. I like the crowd and I like the racetrack."
After pulling away from an early battle with fellow front-row starter Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., Babb appeared to be headed for his second Illini 100 victory until he began to fade around halfway. Switching his line around the track allowed him to close back in on Sheppard and Lanigan during the race's closing laps, but the move came too late.
"I really wish I would've moved up a lot sooner on both ends," said Babb, who raced for the first time in 2015 during Farmer City's doubleheader Illini 100 weekend. "I rode around the bottom too long and the car got too tight down there. Brandon did a hell of a job and Darrell. Those guys are fun to race with."
The race's early portions featured an epic battle at the front between Babb and Junghans. The two No. 18 machines raced side-by-side for much of the race's opening 20 laps until Babb used the low line to clear Junghans for the lead on lap 22.
Junghans continued to run second until lap-27 contact from third-running Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., sent both cars spinning, ending strong runs for both drivers.
The run-in between Junghans and Weaver was the first of the race's six cautions. A lap-39 tangle between Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., caused the second yellow flag, while a slowing Richards caused the third caution on lap 45.
A spin by Junghans back in the pack brought out the race's fourth caution, while the fifth yellow flag waved when contact on the front straightway sent Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., spinning from a top-10 position. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., slowed to bring out the final caution on lap 56.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series returns to action May 1-2 with a North Carolina doubleheader at Friendship Motor Speedway in Elkin, N.C., on Fri., May 1 and Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Sat., May 2. Both events pay $10,000 to the winner.
Results of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100 at Farmer City Raceway
1. (12) Brandon Sheppard/75 $15,050
2. (13) Darrell Lanigan/75 $7,150
3. (1) Shannon Babb/75 $5,000
4. (5) Bobby Pierce/75 $3,550
5. (7) Shane Clanton/75 $2,550
6. (8) Jimmy Owens/75 $2,000
7. (16) Chub Frank/75 $1,850
8. (19) Jimmy Mars/75 $1,650
9. (24) Tim McCreadie/75 $1,650
10. (20) Steve Francis/75 $1,350
11. (23) Morgan Bagley/75 $1,250
12. (21) Frank Heckenast Jr./75 $1,200
13. (10) Dennis Erb Jr./75 $1,100
14. (18) Rick Eckert/75 $1,200
15. (6) Brandon Overton/75 $1,300
16. (22) Josh Richards/75 $1,050
17. (11) Eric Wells/75 $925
18. (15) Wendell Wallace/74 $850
19. (14) Daren Friedman/74 $825
20. (4) Don O'Neal/48 $800
21. (2) Chase Junghans/46 $850
22. (9) Mckay Wenger/40 $850
23. (17) Jason Feger/39 $800
24. (3) Kevin Weaver/27 $850
25. (25) Jordan Yaggy/26 $135
Time of Race: 38 Mins., 27 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.888 Secs.
Yellow Flags: Six (laps 27, 39, 45, 47, 48, 56)
Lap Leaders: Babb (1, 22-47), Junghans (2-21), Sheppard (48-75)
2015 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of April 18 - 10 A-Mains
1. Shane Clanton 1418
2. Darrell Lanigan 1350 (-68)
3. Chub Frank 1320 (-98)
4. Josh Richards 1316 (-102)
5. Tim McCreadie 1276 (-142)
6. Morgan Bagley 1274 (-144)
7. Rick Eckert 1222 (-196)
8. Frank Heckenast Jr. 1218 (-200)
9. Eric Wells 1198 (-220)
10. Chase Junghans 1188 (-230)
11. Brandon Overton 1176 (-242)*
12. Boom Briggs 1126 (-292)
13. Jordan Yaggy 1032 (-386)*
*WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contender
Bloomquist Tops Shirley To Score Opening Night Victory At Farmer City Raceways Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100
Veteran Tennessee Racer Claims First World of Outlaws Late Model Series Victory In More Than Two Years In A Triumphant Return To Famer City
FARMER CITY. - April 17, 2015 - Before Friday's Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100 opening night event, Scott Bloomquist hadn't raced at Farmer City Raceway in more than a decade.
The veteran Dirt Late Model racer from Mooresburg, Tenn., made up for all that lost time with a fantastic performance in Friday's 25-lap main event, outdueling Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., to claim a $6,000 victory in the first leg of a World of Outlaws Late Model Series doubleheader weekend at Farmer City's quarter-mile oval.
The Illini 100 weekend continues on Saturday with another complete WoO LMS slate of racing highlighted by the 75-lap, $15,000-to-win Illini 100 finale.
Making his first appearance at Farmer City since 2002, Bloomquist recovered from a poor qualifying effort during Friday's preliminary action to win his heat race from the fourth spot then roared to the front of the A-Main from his sixth starting position before overcoming Shirley in a tight back-and-forth battle.
"It's been a long time since we've been here," said Bloomquist, who drove a Reece Monuments-sponsored Sweet-Bloomquist machine to the victory. "The track was real racy. It had one little hole in the middle of one and two that seemed to mess other guys up, but we could float right through it."
Shirley settled for second after starting from the pole and twice leading the race. He was followed by Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who ran close to the leaders for most of the distance but never could mount a strong enough charge to make a serious bid for the lead. Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., was fourth at the finish, while three-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., advanced from his 18th starting spot to round out the top five finishers.
Bloomquist established himself as a contender with a three-wide move from sixth to fourth on the race's opening lap. He then made quick work of Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., to take the third spot.
Taking full advantage of the race's only restart with three laps completed, Bloomquist powered around McCreadie in turns one and two to grab second, then crossed to the bottom groove down the back straightaway to pull even with Shirley in turns three and four.
Bloomquist completed the pass for the lead the next time through turns one and two and began pulling away. But Shirley battled back during the race's middle portions and retook the lead with a high-side pass on lap 15.
Shirley never could quite break free from Bloomquist after edging ahead, and a bout with turn-four cushion gave Bloomquist the chance to pull back ahead on lap 18. Bloomquist never looked back from there, pulling to an advantage of 1.595 seconds at the finish line.
"This is one of the ones that you can say was fun," said Bloomquist, the 2004 WoO LMS champion who claimed the 27th series victory of his career and first since February of 2013. "Once I saw him out there, I stayed focus and tried just to get more out of the bottom. I knew I could pick it up a notch because I was kind of in a zone just trying not to tear the tires up.
"When he got by I said piss on the tires and just went after it. The car responded and the tires stayed good."
Shirley, a veteran of the Illinois bullrings and a former DIRTcar UMP Summer Nationals champion, was doing his best to turn back Bloomquist's bid to retake the lead in piloting his Riggs Motorsports Rocket Chassis around the track's high line, but a fit with the turn-four cushion on lap 18 cost him.
"We got beat by one of the best guys in the business," said Shirley, whose lone WoO LMS victory came at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway in 2007. "I hit (the cushion) one time and that really cost me a lot of time. It's just one of those things that you flirt with when you're up there running it.
"All in all, we'll just do what we can to get the car better next time and see what tomorrow brings."
The race's only caution appeared with three laps complete when Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., and Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., tangled in turns three and four.
WoO LMS points leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., saw his streak of eight consecutive top-five finishes to start the season come to end with a 23rd-place finish. Clanton, who won four races during the tour's seven-race trek through Georgia and Florida in February, saw his lead in the championship chase cut from 92 points entering Friday's event to 74 points over defending series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who finished 14th and 80 points over Richards.
The Douglas Ram Trucks Illini 100 weekend continues on Saturday with another complete WoO LMS slate of time trials, heat races and Last Chance Showdowns to set the lineup for the 75-lap, $15,000-to-win Illini 100 finale.
Pit gates open at noon with grandstand gates opening at 1 p.m. More information on the Illini 100 at Farmer City Raceway is available by logging on to www.farmercityracing.com.
Results of World of Outlaws Late Model Series Douglas Ram Truck Illini 100 at Farmer City Raceway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (6) Scott Bloomquist/25 $6,150
2. (1) Brian Shirley/25 $3,000
3. (3) Tim McCreadie/25 $2,650
4. (5) Don O'Neal/25 $2,300
5. (18) Josh Richards/25 $2,200
6. (8) Chub Frank/25 $1,950
7. (10) Brandon Sheppard/25 $1,300
8. (2) Mike Marlar/25 $1,250
9. (4) Jimmy Owens/25 $1,150
10. (13) Shannon Babb/25 $1,050
11. (7) John Gardner Jr./25 $900
12. (15) Bobby Pierce/25 $900
13. (12) Joe Harlan/25 $800
14. (9) Darrell Lanigan/25 $1,425
15. (20) Steve Francis/25 $850
16. (11) Jason Feger/25 $750
17. (17) Rick Eckert/25 $1,310
18. (14) Frank Heckenast Jr./25 $1,190
19. (22) Eric Wells/25 $1,170
20. (16) Dennis Erb Jr. /25 $600
21. (26) Brandon Overton/25 $860
22. (21) Morgan Bagley/24 $1,150
23. (23) Shane Clanton/24 $1,150
24. (19) Steve Thorsten/24 $675
25. (27) Jordan Yaggy/24 $110
26. (24) Chase Junghans/24 $1,150
27. (25) Boom Briggs/4 $670
Time of Race: 8 Mins., 19 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 1.595 Secs.
Yellow Flags: One (lap 3)
Lap Leaders: Shirley (1-4, 15-17); Bloomquist (5-14, 18-25)
2015 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of April 17 - nine A-Mains completed
1. Shane Clanton 1278
2. Darrell Lanigan 1204 (-74)
3. Josh Richards 1198 (-80)
4. Chub Frank 1184 (-94)
5. Morgan Bagley 1146 (-132)
6. Tim McCreadie 1144 (-134)
7. Rick Eckert 1100 (-178)
8. Frank Heckenast Jr. 1092 (-186)
9. Eric Wells 1082 (-196)
10. Chase Junghans 1080 (-198)
11. Brandon Overton 1056 (-222)*
12. Boom Briggs 1048 (-230)
13. Jordan Yaggy 932 (-346)*
*WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contender
Heckenast Hopes To Thrill Home-State Fans During Farmer City Raceways Douglas Dodge Ram Trucks Illini 100
Reigning WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Enters This Weekend's Blockbuster Doubleheader Riding Confidence From First Series Victory
FARMER CITY, Ill. - April 14, 2015 - One year ago, Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., entered Farmer City Raceway's Douglas Dodge Ram Trucks Illini 100 simply hoping to make the main event and gain some momentum toward his rookie World of Outlaws Late Model Series season.
This weekend - with both the 2014 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Award and his first WoO LMS victory under his belt - Heckenast has his sights aimed much higher as he returns to Farmer City's quarter-mile bullring for a blockbuster Illini 100 weekend that features separate WoO LMS programs on both Friday and Saturday.
"I would definitely say a lot has changed since last year as far as my confidence and how I approach these big races," said the 26-year-old Heckenast, who will join a star-studded roster of WoO LMS regulars and an impressive list of regional and local standouts who will compete in a $6,000-to-win WoO LMS event on Friday and a separate $15,000-to-win program on Saturday.
"Last year I went into it praying and hoping to make the race and just get a good run. It almost felt like we were going into it with our back against the wall. Now we go with the goal of running in the top five and maybe even challenging to win it."
Heckenast has good reason to be more confident in his chances compared to a season ago. He has, after all, spent the past year honing his skills against some of the country's top Dirt Late Model drivers. In that time, he's gone from a rookie hoping to stay out of trouble and gain valuable experience to a formidable series contender who regularly runs up front. He proved as much earlier this season with his first series victory on Feb. 14 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Along with helping to improve his skills and build his confidence, touring with the WoO LMS has also given Heckenast a renewed excitement toward his racing program. He enjoys traveling and racing at dirt tracks around the country. But it's also nice to race close to home on occasion, as Heckenast will this weekend at Farmer City.
"Anytime we can race an hour and a half away from home is good," said Heckenast whose only two Illini 100 starts produced a ninth-place finish last season and a 10th in 2012. "To see all the people that support us - fans, family, crew guys, other teams and competitors we're friends with - yeah, we're excited to see everyone and hopefully put on a good show for them."
While Heckenast would like nothing more than to thrill his home-state fans by winning one or both of the weekend's A-Mains, he won't let the added pressure of performing well in his home state get to him. Being able to handle the pressure from those expectations and not allowing them to affect his performance is another byproduct of his national touring experience.
"I used to let that kind of pressure get to me some, but not anymore," Heckenast said. "I've learned that there's times you're gonna have bad nights. You're gonna struggle some times and it can happen close to home as easy as somewhere on the road."
Heckenast will, of course, do all he can to avoid any bad nights at Farmer City this weekend. But if he does happen to run into trouble during Friday's program, he'll at least start over with a clean slate on Saturday thanks to the event's new two-race format.
In the six previous Illini 100s contested, all of which featured a single $20,000-to-win event stretched over two days, drivers who struggled during preliminary action on Friday often found themselves struggling to recover for the remainder of the weekend. That won't be the case at this weekend's Illini 100, which for the first time features two separate programs.
"I think it's way better," Heckenast said of the new format. "Last year was one and done, so you had only one chance to qualify good and one heat race. If you started the weekend off bad, you couldn't really get out of it. This year no matter happens Friday, you have another complete night on Saturday.
"You're going home with two paychecks and you've got two chances at having a good night. I'm definitely excited for it. I think the fans will love it and it'll be better for everybody."
While Heckenast will have the luxury of racing close to home this weekend, he won't have an advantage from tons of extra experience at Farmer City. Though the track is within two hours of his home, he's raced there less than 15 times during his 10-year Late Model career.
The lack of experience at Farmer City doesn't bother Heckenast, but the fact that he hasn't won a race there does. He'll look to change that this weekend with another WoO LMS triumph.
"I probably raced there probably 12 or 14 times and got three or four seconds," Heckenast said. "I've never won a race there and it's always bothered me that I haven't got it done. Maybe that's something we can change at the Illini. It would be a good one to win for sure."
About The Track
Farmer City Raceway is a semi-banked quarter-mile oval located just south of I-74 in Farmer City, Ill. The track address is 850 North Grove Street, Farmer City, IL 61842. For more information, visit the track's website at www.farmercityracing.com or call the track office at 309-928-9110.
The Douglas Dodge Ram Trucks Illini 100 weekend kicks off Thurs., April 16 with an open practice. Racing action kicks off Fri., April 17 with a complete slate of WoO LMS time trials, heat races, Last-Chance Showdowns and a $6,000-to-win main event. Saturday will feature another complete program of WoO LMS time trials, heat races and Last-Chance Showdowns, followed by a main event paying $15,000.
General admission ticket prices are $25 for Friday and $35 for Saturday. Two-day tickets with a reserved seat are available in advance at the reduced price of $50. Two-day ticket prices at the gate will be $55 without reserved seating. Tickets are available now at http://dirtcar.ticketforce.com.
Pit gates will open at 1 p.m. on Friday and at noon on Saturday. Grandstand gates will open at 2 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Following Friday's racing, there will be a "Party in the Pits" with a DJ. Fans are invited to attend the party and meet their favorite racers and their crew members.
Open-wheel modifieds and street stocks will compete both Friday and Saturday nights. Both divisions will compete for regular payouts on Friday, while Saturday's modified feature will pay $1,000 to the winner and the street stock feature will pay $500.
Illini 100 History
The Illini 100 has routinely matched the hype of its blockbuster status with thrilling on-track action. The event's inaugural running in 2008 remains one of the best dirt Late Model events ever contested in Illinois with its eight lead changes among five drivers and thrilling late drama.
Storming from the tail of the field, Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., nearly scored a home-state victory for the ages in the 2008 Illini 100 A-Main, but his last-to-first rally was spoiled by Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. Topping off an action-packed 100-lapper, Moyer charged ahead of Babb on lap 99 and turned back Babb's last-ditch effort to regain the lead in the final corner.
Moyer's dramatic victory in the inaugural Illini 100 was a sign of more to come for the veteran driver. Through six Illini 100s to date (the race was rained out in 2011), Moyer has claimed three victories and is the only driver to win the event multiple times.
The 2009 Illini 100 produced another dramatic A-Main with two superstar drivers battling to the finish. Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., pressured polesitter Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, for most of the distance before finally taking command on lap 94. Birkhofer mounted a countercharge through the final six circuits, but Clanton held on through traffic.
Moyer returned to the spotlight at Farmer City in 2010. In a race that featured five lead changes among four drives, Moyer found himself once again battling Babb in the closing laps. Moyer pulled ahead of Babb on lap 72 and turned away multiple challenges from the home-state hopeful through the race's closing laps.
After a rainout in 2011, the Illini 100 returned in full force in 2012 with another of the sport's heavyweights etching his name on the race's impressive list of winners. Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., became the race's first flag-to-flag victor, holding off late challenges from three-time WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., in leading all 100 laps.
Fans attending the 2013 Illini 100 saw Moyer win the race for the third time, although they weren't aware of it on the night of the race. Moyer actually crossed the finish line second that night, while Illinois standout Jason Feger of Bloomington, thrilled his home-state crowd as he appeared to become the first Illinois driver to claim an Illini 100 trophy. However, Feger's dream-come-true was short lived. Post-race tire testing determined that Feger had used chemically altered tires in the event, leading Feger to be disqualified and Moyer to be named the race winner.
After multiple near-misses, Babb finally broke through to give the Illinois faithful a home-state Illini 100 winner in 2014. Charging forward on a lap-45 restart, Babb swept around Lanigan and fellow Illinois standout Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, to pull ahead. Babb never relinquished the lead, pulling away from Lanigan on a late restart to claim an emotional victory.
The WoO LMS made two visits to Farmer City prior to the inaugural Illini 100 in 2008. Moyer claimed the tour's first ever Farmer City event in 2006, while Babb won an event at the track in 2007.
Previous WoO LMS A-Main Winners at Farmer City Raceway
2014 - Shannon Babb on April 26
2013 - Billy Moyer on April 6
2012 - Jimmy Mars on March 31
2010 - Billy Moyer on April 10
2011 - Shane Clanton on April 4
2008 - Billy Moyer on April 5
2007 - Shannon Babb on April 27
2006 - Billy Moyer on Aug. 14
Current WoO LMS Points Standings (as of April 11 - eight A-Mains completed)
1. Shane Clanton 1174
2. Darrell Lanigan 1082 (-92)
3. Josh Richards 1058 (-116)
4. Chub Frank 1046 (-128)
5. Morgan Bagley 1040 (-134)
6. Tim McCreadie 1000 (-174)
7. Rick Eckert 984 (-190)
8. Chase Junghans 982 (-192)
9. Frank Heckenast Jr. 978 (-196)
10. Eric Wells 970 (-204)
11. Boom Briggs 952 (-222)
12. Brandon Overton 948 (-226)*
13. Jordan Yaggy 832 (-342)*
*Rookie of the Year contender
2015 WoO LMS Event Winners
Feb. 6 Screven Motor Speedway - Sylvania, GA - Steve Casebolt
Feb. 7 Screven Motor Speedway - Sylvania, GA - Shane Clanton
Feb. 14 Bubba Raceway Park - Ocala, FL - Frank Heckenast Jr.
Feb. 15 Bubba Raceway Park - Ocala, FL - Josh Richards
Feb. 19 Volusia Speedway Park - Barberville, FL - Shane Clanton
Feb. 20 Volusia Speedway Park - Barberville, FL - Shane Clanton
Feb. 21 Volusia Speedway Park - Barberville, FL - Shane Clanton
April 11 Tazewell Speedway - Tazewell, TN - Billy Ogle Jr.
Upcoming WoO LMS Events
May 1 Friendship Motor Speedway - Elkin, NC
May 2 Fayetteville Motor Speedway - Fayetteville, NC
May 8 Ponderosa Speedway - Junction City, KY
May 9 Smoky Mountain Speedway - Maryville, TN
Ogle Earns First World of Outlaws Late Model Series Win With Dramatic Final-Lap Pass At Tazewell Speedway
Veteran Tennessee Racer Muscles By Richards To Score Popular Home-State Victory During The Ray Varner Ford 50
TAZEWELL, Tenn. - April 11, 2015 - Billy Ogle Jr. made sure his first career World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory was a memorable one.
The veteran Knoxville, Tenn., racer overtook Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., with a dramatic pass on the final lap of Saturday night's Ray Varner Ford 50 at Tazewell Speedway and earned $10,575 for one of the biggest victories of his career.
"This is definitely one of my top wins," the 50-year-old Ogle told a capacity crowd that cheered him to victory at one of his home tracks. "I'd never won an Outlaws race, so now I can check that off my list. That was a goal I've really been wanting to get."
Ogle, who spent the early years of his career racing weekly at Tazewell's high-banked third-mile oval, had to rely on late heroics after running third behind Richards and WoO LMS points leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., for most of the race.
Clanton, who entered Saturday's race having won four of the year's first seven WoO LMS events, chased Richards through most of the distance as the two WoO LMS veterans broke away from the pack. But Richards and Clanton both began to fade as the race entered its crucial moments.
Ogle made the most of his competitors' struggles. He pounced when Clanton slipped out of the grove in turn two on lap 42 to grab the second spot and was looking under Richards for the lead just a few laps later.
With the tires on his Rocket Chassis house car fading, Richards managed to turn back Ogle's heavy pressure through most of the race's final five laps, but he couldn't keep his car from sliding slightly out of the groove as he made his final trip through turns one and two.
The small opening was all Ogle needed. He dove underneath Richards and pulled even in turn two and muscled his way by as the two cars made contact exiting the corner. Richards attempted to retake the lead with a hard charge of his own entering turn three, but Ogle used the preferred line to easily pull away down the homestretch.
"I knew that Josh was having a problem with about five or 10 to go and he was really holding me up," said Ogle, who credited his American Racer tires for allowing his Stacy Boles-owned Rocket Chassis to remain strong when his competitors faded. "When we got the white (flag), I said this is it. He kind of struggled off two and I just kind of muscled through there."
Another slip high by Richards in the final corner allowed Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., to drive by and claim the runner-up finish. Richards settled for third while Clanton recorded his eighth top-five finishes in eight WoO LMS events this season with his fourth-place result. Three-time and defending series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished fifth.
Owens was quiet for most of the race after starting from the sixth position, but he took advantage of opportunities to move his Rowland Racing Club 29 Race Car forward. Two of those opportunities were created by Ogle's determined drive to the front.
"Things just worked our way," said Owens, a three-time champion on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. "We followed Billy up through there. He'd kind of scooted them out of the way and we'd just follow him right through the hole. We came home second, so I'm happy."
Richards, the three-time WoO LMS champion who is back on the tour full time this season after missing most of 2014 due to medical concerns, seemed to be headed for his second WoO LMS victory of the year before his uncharacteristic mistake gave Ogle the opportunity to take the lead.
"I feel like I gave it away there," Richards said. "I kept trying to protect too much and got myself sideways in the middle of the corner. I should've just rolled the corner like I was earlier.
"He was just better than I was. He did what he had to do and we just got beat tonight."
Rick Eckert of York, Pa., recovered from a problem during the night's time trials session to finish sixth in the main event, ahead of Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who was racing for the first time since undergoing knee-replacement surgery in February. Vic Hill of Mosheim, Tenn., finished eighth with Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky., and Steve Smith of Powell, Tenn., rounding out the top 10 finishers.
The race was slowed by three cautions. The first appeared when polesitter Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., slowed with mechanical problems after just six laps. The up-and-coming racer led the event's opening lap and was in the middle of a tight three-car battle with Richards and Clanton when he slowed from the second position.
The race's second caution appeared when 2006 WoO LMS champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., slowed with mechanical problems and headed to the pit area. The third and final yellow flag occurred when Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., spun in turn four.
Saturday's race marked the WoO LMS tour's first event since opening the year with seven February races in Georgia and Florida. Harsh weather wiped out much of the tour's spring schedule with five consecutive events - including Friday's race at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn. - begin either cancelled or postponed.
WoO LMS competitors next move to Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway for two events during the Douglas Dodge Ram Trucks Illini 100 weekend April 17-18. The doubleheader event, which was postponed from its original date of March 27-28 due to inclement weather, features an open practice on Thurs., April 16 ahead of a $6,000-to-win WoO LMS program on Fri., April 17 and a $15,000-to-win WoO LMS event on Sat., April 18. Tickets are available now at http://dirtcar.ticketforce.com.
Results of World of Outlaws Late Model Series Ray Varner Ford 50 at Tazewell Speedway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (4) Billy Ogle Jr./50 $10,575
2. (6) Jimmy Owens/50 $5,000
3. (2) Josh Richards/50 $3,650
4. (3) Shane Clanton/50 $3,050
5. (8) Darrell Lanigan/50 $2,700
6. (10) Rick Eckert/50 $2,350
7. (11) Chub Frank/50 $1,950
8. (14) Vic Hill/50 $1,350
9. (7) Brad Neat/50 $1,200
10. (15) Steve Smith/50 $1,200
11. (12) Eric Wells/50 $1,550
12. (13) Chase Junghans/50 $1,550
13. (17) Morgan Bagley/50 $1,500
14. (16) Stacy Boles/50 $950
15. (19) Brandon Overton/50 $1,550
16. (24) Jordan Yaggy/50 $800
17. (20) Chad Ogle/50 $820
18. (23) Boom Briggs/48 $1,300
19. (18) Jeff Neuber/47 $730
20. (21) Frank Heckenast Jr./34 $1,250
21. (22) Dakotah Knuckles/26 $700
22. (9) Tim McCreadie/21 $1,350
23. (5) Mack McCarter/6 $750
24. (1) Donald McIntosh/6 $700
Time of Race: 22 Mins., 59 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.758 Secs.
Yellow Flags: Three (laps 6, 22, 36)
Lap Leaders: McIntosh (1); Richards (2-49); Ogle Jr. (50)
2015 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of April 11, 2015- Eight A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):
1. Shane Clanton 1174
2. Darrell Lanigan 1082 (-92)
3. Josh Richards 1058 (-116)
4. Chub Frank 1046 (-128)
5. Morgan Bagley 1040 (-134)
6. Tim McCreadie 1000 (-174)
7. Rick Eckert 984 (-190)
8. Chase Junghans 982 (-192)
9. Frank Heckenast Jr. 978 (-196)
10. Eric Wells 970 (-204)
11. Boom Briggs 952 (-222)
12. Brandon Overton 948 (-226)
13. Jordan Yaggy 832 (-342)
Wet Conditions & Inclement Forecasts Force Duck River Raceway Park Officials To Cancel Fridays World of Outlaws Late Model Series Event
Saturday's WoO LMS Ray Varner Ford 50 At Tazewell Speedway Remains On Schedule
WHEEL, Tenn. - April 8, 2015 - With forecasts predicting more rain to fall on an already heavily saturated racetrack, Duck River Raceway Park officials have cancelled this Friday's World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at the Middle Tennessee dirt oval. Saturday's WoO LMS event at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway will be ran as scheduled.
Duck River track owner Bob Harris informed WoO LMS officials that rain every day this week has left the quarter-mile oval and its surrounding facility extremely wet, preventing track workers from preparing the racing surface and facility grounds. With a 90 percent chance of rain on Friday, the decision was made by the track to call off the event.
The cancellation continues a string of spring victories for Mother Nature with the past five scheduled WoO LMS races having been either cancelled or postponed due to a combination of unfavorable forecasts and inclement weather during the days and weeks leading up to the events.
Tazewell Speedway will attempt to end that streak on Saturday with its Ray Varner Ford 50. The $10,000-to-win event will feature a complete program of WoO LMS time trials, heat races, Last-Chance Qualifiers and the 50-lap main event. Support divisions will be sportsman, classic cars, four cylinders and super stocks.
Tazewell's pit gates will open at 3 p.m. on Saturday with the grandstand gates opening at 4. The drivers' meeting is scheduled for 7 with racing to follow. Adult general admission is $25 while children 9 and under admitted for free. Adult pit passes are $40 while children ages 12 and under are $30 with a minor release. Visit the track's website at www.tazewellspeedway.net for more information.
1. Shane Clanton 1418
2. Darrell Lanigan 1350
3. Chub Frank 1320
4. Josh Richards 1316
5. Tim McCreadie 1276
6. Morgan Bagley 1274
7. Rick Eckert 1222
8. F. Heckenast Jr. 1218
9. Eric Wells 1198
10. Chase Junghans 1188