Every seat at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway was filled with a fan Friday night during the eighth annual World Finals – except for when Darrell Lanigan brought each fan to their feet.
Lanigan, of Union, Kentucky, wowed the sold-out crowd with a thrilling last-corner pass of South Carolina’s Chris Madden to win the World of Outlaws Late Model Series 50-lap feature on a night that saw many memorable moments among the three dirt track series in competition.
But no moment wowed the packed house more than Lanigan’s winning pass, which utilized the same outside lane that he used to work his way through the field with his No. 29 en route to the victory.
“It was unbelievable,” said Lanigan in victory lane. “We were a little harder on tire, so I knew I had to stay on the top to keep my stuff going. I didn’t know it was the last lap. I drove my butt off.”
Lanigan’s thrilling move came at the expense of Madden, a past winner at Charlotte. Madden suffered damage earlier in the race when he tangled with Chub Frank while trying to put Frank a lap down. Madden held the lead even after the contact, but down the stretch it was Frank again that seemed to hold up the leader, allowing Lanigan to make the move on the outside coming to the checkered flag.
“The racetrack got one lane on us and leading is not the place to be with lapped traffic,” said Madden. “It opened up for those guys to choose another line. We got beat. We were good enough to win tonight.”
Stewart Friesen set the precedent of utilizing the high lane earlier in the night when he rocketed through the field in the top groove to win the 40-lap Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified A-Main. Friesen backed up his winning performance from last year’s victory at the World Finals and his Syracuse 200 victory during Super DIRT Week last month.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Friesen, a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. “Whenever you get up there and beat the balls off it like that, that’s a lot of fun.”
Friesen motored past Matt Sheppard on lap 20 and cruised to victory.
“This track changes so much,” added Friesen. “it’s so different from what we’re used to in the northeast. Our tires are a little bit of a harder compound and we were able to apply that tonight. We got them working about halfway through the race.”
Sheppard entered Friday’s racing just one point ahead of Billy Decker in the Super DIRTcar Series championship race. Friday, Sheppard finished second, which combined with Decker’s ninth-place finish, helped Sheppard extend his point lead. He will take a 20-point advantage into the Super DIRTcar season finale Saturday night in Charlotte.
“We had a pretty good car tonight,” said Sheppard. “I went with a little softer tire than the two guys ahead of me and it showed. We took off early, then died pretty good about halfway through. I did everything I could to keep Stewie and Brett behind me, but the race was a little too long for me.”
Daryn Pittman also had to do some work in order to claim the victory in the nightcap of World Finals Friday, the 30-lap World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars Series A-Main. Pittman took the lead when early race dominator Rico Abreu got hung up in lapped traffic on lap 22.
“It’s just a lot of fun to come out here and try to finish the year off on a good night,” said Pittman. “We got a win tonight and we’ll come out here tomorrow and try to do it again.”
Pittman was quick to tip his cap to Charlotte Motor Speedway officials who recently added a new type of clay to the racing surface that held up well on its first night of race-action competition during World Finals weekend.
“Everybody was banking on that it was going to lay rubber and went with harder tires,” said Pittman. “We went with harder tires also, but it just never laid rubber. Hat’s off to the track crew for us to run this many cars with this many laps and start when the sun was up and they never touched the track. They never went and did any track prep at all. This track has always been a little bit of a you don’t know what you’re going to get when you get here, but from last night all the way through tonight, they’ve just done a fantastic job and it’s a lot of fun to race on.”
Abreu was left disappointed with his decision-making while leading late, which cost him the Sprint Car victory.
“The bottom just got really clean there at the end,” said Abreu. “I knew it was going to be there at some point, but I wasn’t sure when. I was trying to watch and judge off lapped cars and I thought I did really good in traffic. You get guys running side by side and you get air off your nose. You’re not sure where to go, so it’s best to go where they aren’t. I thought I had a really good car tonight. I just felt like I needed to make some better decisions just judging cars.”
World FInals weekend will draw to a close Saturday night at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Speed51.com will be on hand with live Trackside Now coverage beginning at 4pm ET.
Click here to replay Friday’s Trackside Now coverage from Charlotte
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter @MattKentfield
– Photo credit: Brenda Meserve/Speed51.com