311 Motor Speedway
Back in form, McCreadie nabs WoO victory at 311
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
MADISON, N.C. (May 4) — Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., returned to his winning ways on Friday night, rolling to victory in the 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series main event at 311 Motor Speedway.
Snapping a nearly 10-month winless slump on the national tour, McCreadie surged into the lead at the initial green flag and never looked back in the first-ever WoO event at the half-mile Tar Heel State oval. The circuit’s 2006 champion beat defending titlist Rick Eckert of York, Pa., to the finish line by 0.669 of a second.
Series points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished third, Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va., was fourth and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., placed fifth for his first top-five run of the 2012 tour.
McCreadie, 38, righted a ship that had been listing this season. He began the campaign with renewed vigor thanks to a switch to Warrior Race Cars, but he struggled to find his rhythm and entered Friday evening’s action mired in eighth in the points standings, without a top-five finish through nine WoO events.
After poor performance prompted him to retire early from back-to-back WoO events last week at North Alabama Speedway and Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway, McCreadie and his Sweeteners Plus-sponsored team went back to the drawing board. Several days spent at Warrior’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., and a Tuesday-night practice session at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., led to an uplifting checkered flag.
“It feels good. It’s also a big relief,” McCreadie said of his first win on the WoO tour since July 15, 2011, at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D. “You make changes during the winter and you hope they pay off. Sooner or later we were hopefully gonna hit on something.
“We got better a lot by sitting down as a team with Warrior and figuring stuff out. It was a total team effort. This win is as much for our whole team as it is just for me.”
McCreadie caught a much-needed break when he drew the pole position for Friday’s feature, but he used sheer speed to keep his No. 39 in front for the race’s entire distance. He was never seriously challenged, pulling away to a short-but-steady edge after each of the four caution flags and one red that dotted the affair.
There was one anxious moment for McCreadie, however. It came after a red flag flew on a lap-38 restart for a multi-car tangle in turn two that left McCreadie’s teammate, Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., and WoO Rookie of the Year leader Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., stuck together at the bottom of the track.
“Earlier this year in a (big-block) modified I led so many laps and got beat at the end when the track changed,” said McCreadie, who earned $10,650 for the 18th WoO victory of his career. “We had that long red and everybody’s packing the cushion, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, here we go. We’re gonna crab around the bottom and somebody’s gonna get up on that cushion and make it work.’
“It just didn’t work out that way.”
Indeed, McCreadie had little trouble outdistancing the second-starting Eckert, who slipped to third early but wrestled second back from Shaver on a lap-26 restart and kept his Team Zero by Bloomquist car in the spot to the finish. It was Eckert’s second runner-up finish in the last three races.
“He was better than firing off on restarts,” Eckert said of McCreadie. “I could run back up on him after a few laps, but passing him would’ve been another thing.”
Lanigan, meanwhile, survived an opening-lap incident that could have quickly ended his hopes for a second straight third-place finish on the WoO. The race’s third starter, he tangled with Chris Ferguson of Mt. Holly, N.C., entering turn three and both drivers spun. Lanigan restarted in his original spot by rule because he was involved in a multi-car tangle at the initial green flag; Ferguson, who started fourth, could have rejoined Lanigan in the second row but nose damage forced him to pit and then retire after completing one lap.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., finished sixth, quietly working his way forward from the 13th starting spot. Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., placed seventh to earn the $500 WoO Bonus Bucks cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn’t won a tour event and isn’t ranked among the top 12 in series points; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., was eighth after using a provisional to start the event; 18th -starter Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., was ninth; and Greg Johnson of Bedford, Ind., who started 25th after using a WoO emergency provisional to gain entry to the field, finished 10th and earned the $250 top-rookie bonus.
Among the contenders struck down by mechanical trouble was Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., who ran as high as sixth before exiting on lap 26 due to an overheating engine; Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., who relinquished seventh place on lap 38; and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who joined Clanton in retiring to the pits on lap 38.
Ferguson earned his first career WoO fast-time honor, topping the 33-car Ohlins Shocks Time Trials session with a lap of 15.653 seconds.
Heat winners were Ferguson, Shaver and Donald Bradsher of Burlington, N.C. The consolation race was captured by Trinity, N.C.’s Justin Labonte, the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Terry Labonte.
The evening’s hard-luck driver was Bradsher, whose joy of winning a career-first WoO heat race turned to despair when his crew found that the front seal blew was leaking on his car's engine. He was forced to relinquish the sixth starting spot and merely take the green flag for start money.
The tour heads farther south to complete its weekend doubleheader Saturday night, visiting Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway for a 50-lap, $10,000-to-win event that is part of the track’s Pine Tree 100.
WoO @ 311: (1) Tim McCreadie, (2) Rick Eckert, (3) Darrell Lanigan, (4) Steve Shaver, (5) Clint Smith, (6) Dale McDowell, (7) Dennis Franklin, (8) Chub Frank, (9) Pat Doar, (10) Greg Johnson, (11) Justin Labonte, (12) Kent Robinson, (13) John Lobb, (14) Mike Gault, (15) Tim Fuller, (16) Shane Clanton, (17) Vic Coffey, (18) Bub McCool, (19) Chris Madden, (20) Mike Marlar, (21) Daniel Baggerly, (22) Dustin Mitchell, (23) Jay Sessoms, (24) Donald Bradsher, (25) Chris Ferguson. Fast qualifer (among 33 cars): Ferguson, 15.653 seconds. Heat race winners: Ferguson, Shaver, Bradsher. Consolation race winner: Labonte. Provisional starters: Frank, Robinson, Johnson.
Correction: Clarifies engine problems on Donald Bradsher's car.