Rick Eckert put an end to Darrell Lanigan’s reign over Berlin Raceway with a dominating performance in Saturday’s Keyser Manufacturing Down & Dirty Weekend presented by NAPA finale.
Eckert of York, Pa., overtook Lanigan of Union, Ky., on lap 30 of Saturday’s 60-lap main event and pulled away over the remaining distance to score his fourth World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory of the season. Eckert’s $12,650 triumph snapped Lanigan’s streak of three consecutive wins in the national tour’s three previous visits to the popular pavement oval that covers its surface with dirt for its annual late-season WoO LMS action.
Starting from inside the second row, Eckert took the second spot from polesitter Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., early in the race and settled in behind second-starting Lanigan while he waited for his harder-compound tire choice to go to work.
After erasing Lanigan’s early advantage, Eckert began to challenge for the lead as the frontrunners raced through traffic just before the halfway point. He pounced on Lanigan’s struggles with slower cars to pull ahead on lap 30 and never looked back. Eckert’s Paul Crowl-owned Longhorn Chassis was unstoppable through the remainder of the caution-free race as he stretched his lead to a massive 9.219 seconds by the finish.
“We were a little different on tires than most of them,” said Eckert, the 2011 WoO LMS champion who notched the 34th series victory of his career. “We struggled a little bit there at the beginning when I seen them guys were all softer than us.
“Later in the race, they would be skating across the middle of the corner and I’d get them. There’s no traction. The racetracks awesome. It’s icy-slippery all the way across it, so you can race all over it. I just ran across the middle where I could keep my car tucked under me and carry that little bit of speed and maneuver through traffic a little bit better.”
Lanigan settled for second at the finish, holding off third-finishing Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich. WoO LMS points leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., advanced from his seventh starting spot to finish fourth, virtually locking up his first WoO LMS championship. Clanton’s closet points challenger, Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., finished fifth.
Eckert’s second win in the past three WoO LMS events came at an unexpected location. While Eckert was pleased with Berlin’s slick and smooth surface during Saturday’s feature, those aren’t conditions that are usually favorable for the veteran racer.
“This is good,” said Eckert, whose previous WoO LMS victory was a $30,000 triumph at Lernerville Speedway’s Firecracker 100 on Sept. 5. “This is a condition where we haven’t been very good. I gotta thank (fellow WoO regulars and Longhorn drivers) Chub Frank and Boom Briggs. The first night here in qualifying I was terrible. I talked to them and they gave me some clues on what I should try to get through the middle. That helped me, so I gotta thank them guys.”
Lanigan entered Saturday’s race looking to extend his streak of Belin perfection to four wins in four WoO LMS races at the track. He appeared to be headed in that direction when he opened a comfortable advantage early in the race. But he couldn’t match Eckert’s torrid pace later in the event.
“We just came up a little short,” said Lanigan, the three-time and defending WoO LMS champion who’s following the tour part time this season while spending more time focusing on his Club 29 Race Cars business. “The track was awesome and smooth all over. They did a great job with it.”
Marcoullier slid back to sixth at the finish with Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., moving up from 10th the finish seventh. Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., was eight with 12th-starting Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., ninth. Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., rounded out the race’s top 10 finishers.
Saturday’s race was scheduled to be the second leg of a WoO LMS doubleheader weekend at Berlin. Friday’s weekend opener was rained out and will not be made up.
With his fourth place finish on Saturday, Clanton leaves Berlin with a 172-point lead over Richards in the WoO LMS points chase. With only two races remaining on the series schedule, Clanton needs only to enter the two events to clinch his first-career WoO LMS title.
WoO LMS competitors take an extended break before wrapping up the season at the Bad Boy Buggies World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C. The blockbuster three-day event features season-ending action for the WoO LMS, the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and the Big-Block Modifieds of the Super DIRTcar Series. Visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for more information.
Results of World of Outlaws Late Model Series Keyser Manufacturing Down & Dirty Weekend presented by NAPA at Berlin Raceway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (3) Rick Eckert/60 $12,650
2. (2) Darrell Lanigan/60 $6,150
3. (5) Jeep Van Wormer/60 $4,500
4. (7) Shane Clanton/60 $4,050
5. (4) Josh Richards/60 $3,650
6. (1) Dona Marcoullier/60 $3,000
7. (10) Frank Heckenast Jr./60 $2,550
8. (6) Chub Frank/59 $2,350
9. (12) Tim McCreadie/59 $2,150
10. (8) Steve Casebolt/59 $1,400
11. (20) Morgan Bagley/59 $1,800
12. (11) Chase Junghans/59 $1,750
13. (14) Nick Latham/59 $1,200
14. (18) Eric Wells/59 $1,650
15. (9) Ryan VanderVeen/59 $1,100
16. (15) Brandon Overton/58 $1,800
17. (13) Boom Briggs/58 $1,500
18. (22) Eric Spangler/57 $900
19. (17) Rich Neiser/57 $850
20. (24) Herb Reich/57 $800
21. (19) Chad White/50 $800
22. (16) Brandon Thirlby/21 $800
23. (23) Aaron Morey/15 $800
24. (21) Jordan Yaggy/15 $825
Time of Race: 18 Mins., 58 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 9.219 Secs.
Yellow Flags: None
Lap Leaders: Lanigan (1-29), Eckert (30-60)
Provisional Starters: Morey, Reich
– WoO press release
– Photo credit: Jim DenHamer, from DirtOnDirt.com