World of Outlaws Late Model Series News & Notes: Previewing The ‘Commonwealth 100’ On April 15-16 At Virginia Motor Speedway
Star-Studded Field Expected For Second Annual $25,000-To-Win Spectacular
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
JAMAICA, VA – April 13, 2011 –
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Who stacks up as the favorite to win the second annual NAPA of King William ‘Commonwealth 100’ this weekend (April 15-16) at Virginia Motor Speedway?
That lofty status undoubtedly belongs to Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., the winner of last year’s inaugural 100-lap spring spectacular at Bill Sawyer’s showplace half-mile oval. When the discussion turns to the drivers most likely to pocket the race’s $25,000 top prize, his VMS performance record is simply too strong to disregard
“I just fell in love with the place the first time I ran there,” said Madden, whose 2010 Commonwealth 100 victory marked his third win in as many appearances at the track over a three-year period. “I like big, high-speed places, and (VMS) has a lot of character to it.”
Madden, 35, used a savvy tire choice and a cool, calm approach to emerge triumphant in last year’s Commonwealth 100. Some doubt crept into his mind early in the race when his hard-compound tires fired slowly and he slipped from his outside pole starting spot to nearly out of the top 10, but that rubber allowed him to outlast his softer-tired rivals. Over the final 19 laps Madden watched the four drivers ahead of him all succumb to flat right-rear tires, culminating on a lap-91 restart when he inherited the lead after long-time pacesetter Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., slowed with a popped shoe.
Already a two-time feature winner this season, Madden will bring his Team Zero by Bloomquist chassis into the Commonwealth 100 weekend with plenty of momentum. He will shoot for his third straight WoO LMS victory at VMS, where he captured a 50-lap tour event in April 2009.
TRY AGAIN: Lanigan suffered crushing heartbreak in last year’s Commonwealth 100, relinquishing the lead to a worn-out right-rear tire on a lap-91 restart after running out front since lap four. He settled for a 14th-place finish.
The race represented more disappointment in 100-lap WoO LMS events for the 2008 tour champion, who had experienced extra-distance near-misses before the Commonwealth (runner-up finishes in the 2008 and 2009 Firecracker 100s and the ’09 Lone Star 100, late misfortune in the 2009 Colossal 100) and would go on to experience more in ’10 (a third straight second-place run in the Firecracker 100 and engine failure while running third in the USA Nationals). But Lanigan finally broke through with a convincing victory in last month’s ‘Cash Cow 100’ at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway, so there should be no more “What now?” thoughts coursing through his mind in 100-lappers.
Lanigan also enters this weekend’s action riding a two-race WoO LMS win streak and ranks eighth in the points standings – just 54 points out of the lead – despite missing the season opener on Feb. 17 at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park due to a medical issue. In addition, he hasn’t been in a race car since his triumph on March 25 at Ocala (Fla.) Speedway – weather prevented the next three scheduled events from being contested – so he’s had nearly a month to work out the lower-back pain that was still plaguing him after his last competition.
UNCONQUERED: Josh Richards’s 28 career WoO LMS A-Main victories have come at 18 different tracks in 10 states and one Canadian province, but missing from his resume is a win in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
VMS has been a particular headache for Richards, whose lone top-five run in seven WoO LMS A-Mains contested there since 2005 is a third, on April 11, 2008. He’s never even led a lap in a tour feature at the track.
Richards, 23, of Shinnston, W.Va., finished 12th in last year’s Commonwealth 100, but he was a contender. He sat in the runner-up spot behind Lanigan until lap 87 when a flat tire forced him to pit.
“We kind of struggled there years back, but last year we were good,” said Richards, who enters this weekend’s racing leading the WoO LMS points standings in search of his third consecutive championship. “We were running second when we were blew a tire like everybody else started to. It was disappointing, but I felt like that was the best we’ve ever been there so we’re confident going into this year’s race.
“There’s a lot of good cars coming in this weekend, but with the way our program is going I feel really comfortable and I’m looking forward to going out there to race. Hopefully we can get our car balanced so we don’t have to hustle it and lean on the right-rear tire too much, and then we’ll be there at the end.”
FAMILIAR TURF: There’s no track that WoO LMS followers Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., and Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., enjoy visiting more than VMS. Both drivers, after all, grew up as regulars at the pristine oval.
Hubbard, 19, started his dirt Late Model career at the track as a 13-year-old in 2005 and won the Late Model points championship two years later. The 2010 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year now rarely visits VMS, so he understandably red-circles the Commonwealth 100 on his calendar. “It’s one of the biggest races of the year for me personally,” he told DirtonDirt.com earlier this week.
Last year’s Commonwealth 100, however, was demoralizing for Hubbard, who got out of shape during his heat race and never really recovered. He was never a factor in the A-Main, finishing one lap down in 23rd.
Hubbard, whose top finish in five career WoO LMS A-Main starts at VMS is seventh (2009), has pledged to put less pressure on himself during this year’s Commonwealth 100 weekend. He’s also been among the strongest drivers on the tour this season – he’s currently third in the points standings, only a late-race flat tire at Ocala away from holding the points lead – so he sits as a solid bet to achieve success in the race.
And if he were to win the Commonwealth 100? Well, the young star known for wild post-race celebrations told DirtonDirt.com, “The party would be raw.”
The 23-year-old Robinson, meanwhile, began racing a dirt Late Model at VMS in 2002 at the age of 14. He’s never won at the track closest to his home, but there’s no speedway at which he owns more experience.
Robinson qualified through a heat race for last year’s Commonwealth 100, but a setup miscalculation – his car ended up way too free because he didn’t expect the track to be so much different from Friday night – prompted him to pull out of the race on lap 45, leaving him 25th in the final rundown. He returns with high hopes, having run strong in early-season action on the tour.
Win or lose, the Hubbard and Robinson pits will certainly be the place to be this weekend for anyone seeking sustenance. Hubbard’s father, Mike, will set up a compound in the middle of the pits to host his second annual ‘Hubbard-Beitler-Rocket-Integra Shocks-Little Brian Daugherty Birthday Barbeque Bash,’ while Robinson’s mother, Elaine, will undoubtedly put together her usual food spread throughout the weekend at her son’s trailer.
TURNAROUND?: VMS just might be the perfect tonic for Tim McCreadie’s early-season struggles.
The Watertown, N.Y., star, who turned 37 on April 12, has just a single top 10 in four WoO LMS A-Mains so far in 2011, but he’s traditionally run extremely well at VMS. He owns WoO LMS finishes of second (2006) and third (2007), won an unsanctioned 40-lap feature at VMS in May 2007 and was running second on lap 97 of last year’s Commonwealth 100 before a flat tire the following circuit left him 17th at the finish.
HE’LL BE THERE: Despite a directive from his car owner barring him from running WoO LMS events until further notice, Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., isn’t ready to give up on continuing as a tour regular.
With his car owner John Wight at odds with World Racing Group officials over sanctioning and scheduling issues (Wight owns New York’s Brewerton and Fulton speedways), Fuller finds himself caught in the middle. He’s unable to enter Wight’s Gypsum Express equipment in WoO shows, so he plans to drive his good buddy Clint Smith’s second car in the Commonwealth 100.
“I want to run with the World of Outlaws and I’m real appreciative that ‘Cat’ (Smith) and Chub Frank offered me cars to race,” said Fuller, who placed eighth in last year’s Commonwealth 100 and owns a career-best VMS finish of third in WoO LMS action (July 2007). “I accepted Cat’s offer for Virginia because it gives me two more weeks before the next Outlaw shows where anything can change.”
Fuller said he’s hoping other avenues open up that allow him to continue following the WoO LMS. He’s not interested in running Smith’s – or anyone else’s – backup car regularly because he doesn’t “want to hurt their program.”
GOOD TO HIM: Of the seven WoO LMS regulars who have competed in the seven tour events held at VMS since 2005, Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., is the lone driver who has never finished outside the top 10.
Clanton was at his VMS best in 2007 when he finished second in the April event and came back to win the 50-lapper in July. His performance record also includes finishes of fifth (last year’s Commonwealth 100 and in ’08), eighth (’05 and ’09) and 10th (’06).
Clanton will compete this weekend with his former chief mechanic, Mark (‘Head’) Lloyd, back on his crew. Lloyd returns to Clanton’s team after a year-long absence, replacing Jonathan Owenby, who moved to Chip Brindle’s operation last month.
FOCUSED: Rick Eckert experienced his worst WoO LMS outing ever at VMS in last year’s Commonwealth 100, finishing two laps down in 23rd after starting fifth. He pledged that he won’t let such a moribund performance happen again.
“That’s the kind of race you don’t forget,” said Eckert, “so I promise I won’t be the same way I was last year.”
Eckert is hoping to recapture his past magic at the track located 200 miles due-south of his home in York, Pa. He WoO LMS record there includes a third-place finish in ’05 and a victory in the ’06 event, but since then his Outlaw outings have been lackluster: sixth in ’08, 11th in April ’07 and 12th in July ’07 and ’09.
HANGING WITH THE OUTLAWS: Reigning DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., will make his first-ever visit to VMS for the Commonwealth 100 – as the fourth-place driver in the WoO LMS points standings.
Feger, 32, plans to follow the WoO LMS for the remainder of the month, continuing along the circuit to events on April 29 at Hartford (Mich.) Speedway and April 30 at Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Ky.
FIRST-TIMER: Reigning DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., will make his Commonwealth 100 debut. He missed last year’s inaugural while serving a six-month suspension from World Racing Group events as a result of a tire infraction during the 2009 World Finals.
The 47-year-old Bloomquist has won more 100-lap WoO LMS events than any other driver, capturing six races. Other drivers expected to compete at VMS who have triumphs in WoO 100-lappers to their credit include Clanton and Madden (three apiece); Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. (two); and Lanigan, Richards, Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla. (one each).
EXTRA CASH: Nininger Tire and Auto Service of Brunswick, Md., has added a special bonus prize for regional and local racers in the Commonwealth 100. The three highest-finishing drivers not ranked in the top 15 of the WoO LMS or Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points standings are eligible for prizes of $250, $150 and $100, respectively.
COVER YOUR EARS: Saturday night’s pre- and post-race ceremonies will once again feature costumed Civil War reenactors, who will provide a nod to the rich history of the area surrounding VMS by sending off the starting field with piercing cannon blasts and greeting the Commonwealth 100 winner with a flurry of revolver and rifle fire.
The reenactors are part of a Virginia-based Civil War reenactment group that portrays the 3rd Company Richmond Howitzers, one of the two most famous artillery units on the Southern side of the war. Half of the soldiers will be dressed in Confederate grays and the others will don Union blues representing Company A, 2nd U.S. Artillery under Capt. John C. Tidball, who, ironically, is an ancestor of VMS staffer Brian Tidball.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON EXPECTED COMMONWEALTH 100 ENTRIES:
* VMS is a special place for Senoia, Ga.’s Clint Smith, who won his first-ever WoO LMS event at the track in 2005. He finished 10th in last year’s Commonwealth 100 despite starting 26th using a provisional.
* Chub Frank has finished as high as fourth in WoO LMS competition at VMS (2005), but he managed only a 15th-place finish in last year’s Commonwealth 100. He moved from 24th to 10th before his charge stalled and a late-race flat tire forced him to pit.
* Of the four 2011 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contenders – Ron Davies of Warren, Pa., Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., and Brian Reese of Sharpsburg, Ga. – only Davies has previously visited VMS. Davies entered an event under the former MACS tour banner several years ago but did not qualify after getting wrecked in a B-Main.
* WoO LMS traveler Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., placed sixth in the 2010 Commonwealth 100 after starting 22nd.
* Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa – the only female driver to ever follow the WoO LMS as a regular – did not qualify for the 2010 Commonwealth 100 in her first career start at VMS.
* Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa., who downed the tour stars at VMS to win his first-ever WoO LMS A-Main in 2008, qualified 30th-fastest for last year’s Commonwealth 100 and missed transferring through a heat race by two spots. He then became a non-qualifier after mechanical trouble prevented him from starting a B-Main.
* Steve Francis has never won at VMS, but he’s been knocking on the door to Victory Lane in recent seasons. Since finishing 20th in the track’s first WoO LMS event in 2005 and 17th in the 2006 edition, Francis hasn’t run outside the top five in his last four starts – including runner-up finishes in both 2008 and 2009 and fourth-place run in last year’s Commonwealth 100.
* Midwestern stars Brian Birkhofer and Jimmy Mars suffered the same fates in last year’s Commonwealth 100: flat tires while running second. Birkhofer’s came on lap 85 (he finished 23rd) and Mars was struck down on lap 91 (he placed 13th).
* Standout regional talent Jason Covert of York Haven, Pa., was very impressive in the 2010 Commonwealth 100, winning a heat race, leading the first lap of the A-Main and running in the top five for most of the distance. But he finished 18th after popping a right-rear tire while running fourth on lap 98.
* Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished second in the 2010 Commonwealth 100. He benefitted from joining Madden as the only drivers to bolt on hard-compound tires at the start of the event.
* Last year’s third-place Commonwealth 100 finisher, Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., came back to the track later in the year and earned $15,000 for winning a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event.
* NASCAR stars Clint Bowyer and Bobby Labonte will each field a pair of entries in the Commonwealth 100. Bowyer’s team boasts Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga. (finished 24th in last year’s event) and Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark. (first-ever appearance at VMS), while Labonte Motorsports includes Pearson (fast-time and 11th-place finish last year) and Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky. (finished 21st last year).
* Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va., will be behind the wheel of the K&L Rumley No. 6 that he drove to a sweep of last year’s WoO LMS doubleheader at West Virginia Motor Speedway. He finished ninth in the 2010 Commonwealth 100 despite slowing with a flat tire on lap 81.
* Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., made a good impression in his first-ever VMS start last year, timing ninth-fastest and finishing second in a heat to qualify for the Commonwealth 100. He finished 16th after slowing with a flat tire on lap 92.
* Darryl Hills of Great Mills, Md., won a B-Main for last year’s Commonwealth 100 but finished 26th in the A-Main, retiring after 40 laps.
* Gregg Satterlee of Rochester Mills, Pa., was a DNQ for last year’s Commonwealth 100.
* Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., didn’t make the cut for the 2010 Commonwealth 100, but he still went home with a $2,000 check after finishing second in the 30-lap ‘Rumble on the River’ Non-Qualifiers Race that is once again on this year’s weekend schedule.
* Ricky Elliott of Seaford, Del., who has finished as high as fourth in WoO LMS action at VMS (2009), didn’t qualify for last year’s Commonwealth 100.
* Last year Coleby Frye of Dover, Pa., was in the pit area working as a crewman for Austin Hubbard during the Commonwealth 100. This year he has his family-owned dirt Late Model entered in the event.
COMMONWEALTH 100 INFORMATION: All seats for the Commonwealth 100 are general admission – and thanks to Bill Sawyer’s decision to extend the deadline for purchasing reduced-price two-day tickets right up to the ticket window this weekend, fans can take advantage of a great bargain. Two-day tickets are $30 for adults, $27 for senior citizens/military and $15 for students ages 7-17.
Fans can purchase tickets in advance by calling the speedway office at 804-758-1867 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and using a Mastercard, Visa or Discover card.
Pit gates will open at 3 p.m. and the spectator gates will be unlocked at 4 p.m. on both April 15 and 16. Practice is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. each day, with action starting at 7 p.m. on Friday (time trials) and Saturday (B-Mains). Friday’s program will also include heat races, while Saturday’s shows features the B-Mains, Non-Qualifiers Race and the 100-lap A-Main, which is scheduled to get the green flag at 9:15 p.m.
An autograph session with the drivers will be held on Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sun., April 17, has been reserved as a rain date for Saturday’s competition.
Free camping (no hookups) will be available in designated areas on the speedway grounds for the Commonwealth 100 weekend.
Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway is located on U.S. Route 17, eight miles north of Saluda, Va., and 20 miles south of Tappahannock, Va. The speedway is just a short drive from Richmond, Fredericksburg, Southern Maryland and the Hampton Roads areas.
For complete information on the Commonwealth 100, log on to www.vamotorspeedway.com.
More information on the WoO LMS can be obtained by visiting 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.