Eckert Collects $100,000 For First-Ever World of Outlaws Late Model Series Title At Sunday’s Awards Banquet
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
CONCORD, NC – Nov. 6, 2010 – Twenty-four hours after clinching the 2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship, Rick Eckert’s head finally came out of the clouds.
On Sunday Eckert received his $100,000 check for winning the title during the national tour’s annual ‘Night of Champions’ Awards Banquet at the Great Wolf Lodge, capping an emotional whirlwind that put the York, Pa., driver on top of the dirt Late Model world.
Eckert, 45, secured his first-ever WoO LMS crown in dramatic fashion on Saturday night just up the road at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. He ended the season with a 14-point advantage over Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who slowed with a flat right-rear tire on the final circuit of the 50-lap Lowes Foods World Finals A-Main and could only watch as Eckert sailed by him on the backstretch to finish 12th and enjoy a championship celebration.
“Although I don’t really know what it means, I guess it’s sunk in,” Eckert said of his emotions following Sunday’s gala evening. “It’s cool when you get the trophy and then you get the check. Then you kind of realize that all this is real.”
Over $400,000 in points-fund cash and special awards was handed out during Sunday’s affair, which for the third year in a row was held immediately after the Lowes Foods World Finals in conjunction with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series awards banquet. Awards ceremonies for each series were conducted simultaneously in separate rooms.
Eckert was the center of attention on the Late Model side, earning the acclaim that comes with capturing the full-fender division’s richest series championship. A WoO LMS regular since the circuit was re-launched in 2004 under the World Racing Group banner, Eckert ended Richards’s two-year reign as champion with a remarkably consistent campaign that featured three wins, 16 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes in 32 events and $219,100 in earnings including his championship payoff.
Outdueling the 23-year-old Richards for the title provided a sense of accomplishment for Eckert, who hailed his young rival as a driver headed for stardom beyond the WoO LMS. Richards ran a limited schedule of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events for Kyle Busch Motorsports this season and plans to go fulltime on the truck circuit in 2012.
“I want to start off by saying I don’t feel very bad about beating Josh for this championship – but not for any reason that’s going through you guys’ heads right now,” Eckert said with a smile when he began his address to the banquet attendees. “It’s because he’s got a great future ahead of him, and I’m sure when he retires there’s not gonna be room for this trophy in his trophy case.
“We raced each other hard up through there (on Saturday night),” he continued. “Till today, I still don’t know where we finished last night. All I know is that we finished ahead of him.”
The championship came in Eckert’s second season as an owner-operator after spending the previous 15 years driving for the late Raye Vest, who passed away in 2009 while Eckert was competing in the Lowes Foods World Finals. Eckert dedicated his title to Vest, whose wife, Barbara, watched Eckert win the championship on Saturday night from a suite at The Dirt Track and joined Eckert’s family and team at Sunday’s banquet.
Eckert made it clear that while Vest has been gone for two years, the well-respected man still played a major role in propelling him to the championship.
Laughing as he spoke, Eckert said, “Raye’s wife told me last night, ‘I knew that Raye was gonna help you, but I think he fell asleep. He didn’t wake up until the last lap though. He almost didn’t wake up in time.’ I said, ‘I’m glad he woke up.'”
Eckert paid special tribute to his list of sponsors and supporters, including his brother-in-law Joe Darrah’s J&K Salvage business; chassis builder Team Zero by Bloomquist; engine constructor Jay Dickens Engines; and associate sponsors Ritchie Sandblasting, Heinz Performance, All-Star Performance, Hoosier Tire, Performance Bodies, Sunoco Race Fuels, Peterson Aluminum, Ohlins Shocks, Schaeffer Oil and Arizona Sports Shirts.
Eckert’s top crewman, Bob Miller, was also honored on Sunday night. He was called to the stage as the winner of the 2011 WoO LMS Crew Chief of the Award, which was determined by vote of Miller’s fellow traveling crew chiefs.
Richards, who counts Eckert as one of his racing mentors, was gracious in defeat. He led the series with nine victories, 22 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes, but he wasn’t quite consistent enough to beat Eckert for an unprecedented third consecutive championship.
“I know how you guys have been struggling the last few years, so to come out on top like this is really awesome,” Richards told Eckert and his team after accepting a $60,000 check for finishing second in the points standings. “We definitely fought as hard as we could all year long, and I know we couldn’t have gotten any closer.
“We’d much rather have gotten another trophy to put in the case, but we still got two that they can’t take from us and you guys earned it, so congratulations.”
Richards, whose runner-up points-fund payout pushed his 2011 earnings to a series-leading $265,410, became emotional when reflecting on his successful WoO LMS career and expected move to the Truck Series next season.
“You can say that (finishing second to Eckert was) unlucky, but truthfully, I feel like I’m the luckiest man who’s ever walked this earth,” said Richards, his voice cracking as he spoke. “It’s still a dream come true for me to race and be a part of this deal. It really means a lot to me. Our first year started with the new modern era (of the WoO LMS)…I’m gonna miss this dearly. I’m kind of speechless right now.
“Thanks again to everybody. I’m just trying to move on. It’s been a wild and wonderful ride and I’m just gonna try to keep racing.”
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who lost the 2010 WoO LMS championship to Richards by four points, settled for a third-place finish in this year’s standings. He pocketed a $40,000 points-fund check for a season that saw him tie his career high with seven wins.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., collected $35,000 for finishing fourth in the standings while Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., pocketed $30,000 for a fifth-place finish.
Rounding out the top 10 in the 2011 points standings was Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del. ($25,000); Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga. ($24,000); Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga. ($23,000); Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y. ($22,000); and Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y. ($21,000).
Pat Doar, 47, of New Richmond, Wis., was honored as the 2011 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year. The veteran spec-motor specialist’s most ambitious season of full-blown dirt Late Model racing ever saw him outdistance Ron Davies of Warren, Pa., and John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., for the $10,000 rookie crown.
“I really had a lot of fun racing with all you guys,” Doar told the assemblage. “I got to meet everybody and know everybody, (and) there were all kinds of highlights throughout the summer.”
Davies, 53, was unable to attend the banquet due to work commitments, but his daughter Michelle, who is engaged to Clanton, accepted his $3,000 check for finishing second in the Rookie of the Year standings. The 41-year-old Lobb received $2,000 for his third-place finish in the rookie race.
Rocket Chassis was recognized as the winner of the 2011 WoO LMS Chassis Builders’ Challenge – the eighth straight year that the company has earned the nod. Five drivers won WoO LMS A-Mains using Rocket cars this season, giving the manufacturer 19 victories in 32 events.
Jay Dickens Engines was announced as the winner of the 2011 WoO LMS Engine Builder of the Year award, which was determined through the DIRTcar Horsepower program.
WoO LMS director presented the tour’s 2011 Promoter of the Year award to Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway’s Gary Hall, whose high-banked track hosted the tour for the first time in 2010 and stepped up this season by running the inaugural $20,000-to-win ‘Outlaw Sizzler 101’ on July 2-3.
Other special awards handed out during the banquet included:
* The Raye Vest Memorial Pill-Draw Awards presented by McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning went to Eckert (lowest time-trial pill-draw average for the 2011 season) and Clanton (highest average). Each driver received a $500 check.
* The DirtonDirt.com Hard Charger Award, a $500 check that went to Frank for the second consecutive season. He picked up the most positions in WoO LMS A-Mains this season, advancing 179 spots to beat Clanton by 37 positions.
* VP Racing Fuels handed $500 in cash to Richards as a bonus for his series-best win total in 2011 – under the condition, of course, that he spend the money treating his fellow banquet attendees to drinks at the bar following the festivities.
Among the WRG officials who addressed those in attendance were Chief Executive Officer Brian Carter, President and COO Tom Deery and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Geisler. Christman also gave a review of the 2011 season, recognized the tour’s hard-working road crew (race director Bret Emrick, announcer and banquet host Rick Eshelman, tech director Terry Watson, scorer Sandy Holt and P.R. director Kevin Kovac) and looked ahead to the upcoming 2012 campaign.
Chrisman said the full 2011 WoO LMS schedule will likely be released in the coming weeks, but the season is scheduled to kick off on Feb. 10-11 with the running of the $20,000-to-win ‘Winter Freeze’ event at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. The tour will then head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. On Feb. 23 and 25 for action during the 41st annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award), McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award), Chizmark Larson Insurance, Factory Value Parts and RacingJunk.com; in addition to contingency sponsors Comp Cams, Eibach Springs, JE Pistons, MSD Ignition, Ohlins Shocks, Pro Power Engines, Quartermaster, Rocket Chassis, R2C Performance, Superflow Dynos, Wix Filters and Wrisco Aluminum.