Rolling Wheels Raceway Park
Eckert rolls past WoO foes at Rolling Wheels
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
ELBRIDGE, N.Y. (Oct. 4) — Rick Eckert has figured out Rolling Wheels Raceway Park. The 46-year-old star from York, Pa., was untouchable Thursday on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, cruising to victory at the 5/8-mile oval during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week for the second straight year. | Video
Eckert steered his Bloomquist Race Car past Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., for the lead on lap 11 and never looked back. He had a straightaway-plus advantage wiped out by a lap-35 caution flag but still triumphed by a commanding margin, pulling away over the final circuits to defeat a late-charging Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., by 5.529 seconds in the 50-lapper.
“I just love this place,” said Eckert, whose four career WoO starts at Rolling Wheels include two wins (2011 and ’12) and two runner-up finishes (’05 and ’10). “It’s turned into my favorite racetrack in the country.”
Runaway WoO points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., had an relative off night, finishing third despite starting from the pole position. He was outgunned for the lead at the initial green flag by McCool and fell back as far as fourth before passing McCool for third on lap 40.
Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., who has frequented Rolling Wheels throughout his career to compete in DIRTcar Northeast Modified events, battled forward from the sixth starting spot to place fourth. McCool, who led laps 1-10 and ran second until lap 39, settled for a fifth-place finish in a car that sported a fresh Halloween-themed wrap.
Eckert earned $11,150 for his sweep of the night’s program. He set fast time — his fifth of 2012 to tie Lanigan for the top spot in that category — won a heat race and dominated the feature.
The triumph was Eckert’s fourth of 2012 and the 28th of his career on the WoO, pulling him into a tie with Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., for third on the national tour’s win list since 2004.
Eckert, who started third, was in a league of his own once he overtook McCool for the lead. He passed Lanigan for second on a lap-four restart and spent six circuits measuring McCool before surging by the 2012 WoO Rookie of the Year.
“Me and Bub talked about tires before the race and I told him what I was putting on,” said Eckert. “He went softer — and this place likes one tire, and one tire only, and if you don’t have it on you’re in trouble, so I wasn’t panicking when he was leading (early).
“I finally moved up in (turns) three and four and about run over (McCool) off of four. I was like, ‘The next lap when we get here, it’ll be good.’ Then I drove around him down there.”
Eckert praised the performance of his Jay Dickens-powered machine.
“My car was maneuverable,” said Eckert. “I could go anywhere I wanted to go. We caught on to something when we got to Berlin, Michigan (on Sept. 21-22), and since then (the setup) lets me drive (the car) just as hard as I can drive it. I had to drive the wheels off it tonight because when you ease up on it, it ain’t very good.
“My guy (Bob Miller) was telling me I had a big lead, but I couldn’t slow up. If I slowed up I got worse, so I just ran as hard as I could.”
That was actually quite simple for Eckert, who feels utterly comfortable circling Rolling Wheels.
“Our car and my driving style sort of fit this place,” said Eckert. “It’s big — and I grew up on big racetracks — and you gotta drive straight. I drive straighter than the average guy — too straight for most places, and it gets me in trouble — but here it makes up for it for sure.”
Clanton, 37, advanced from the seventh starting spot to finish second in the Kennedy Motorsports Capital Race Car, but he never drew close to Eckert. The Peach State racer vaulted from fourth to second shortly after a lap-35 restart, overtaking Lanigan and McCool, but couldn’t challenge the eventual winner.
“I don’t think there was any catching him,” Clanton said. “His car was a little more balanced than what ours was. We got to second and just maintained, and then we got to lapped traffic and he was just more maneuverable. He could pass cars faster than I could.”
Lanigan, 42, was surprisingly never a threat to push his single-season record win total to 16, but he left Rolling Wheels with a 204-point lead in the WoO standings that puts him on the verge of clinching his second career championship. Eckert still is mathematically alive, but Lanigan can claim the title by merely earning a minimum of 82 points — the amount given to the fifth consolation race non-transfer — in each of the season’s three remaining events.
Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., finished a quiet-but-steady sixth after starting fourth. Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., briefly reached fifth place but settled for seventh. Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., finished eighth, Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., slipped from the fifth starting slot to a ninth-place finish and Coleby Frye of Dover, Pa., earned recognition as the highest-finishing non-Outlaw by rounding out the top 10.
Three caution flags slowed the event. Alan Fink of Brewerton, N.Y., and Sean Beardsley of Central Square, N.Y., spun between turns one and two on the second lap; Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., was sent twirling between turns three and four on lap four; and Bryan Driver of Pennington, N.J., spun on the homestretch on lap 35.
The WoO will be back in action Wednesday in the Circle K World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C.
WoO @ Rolling Wheels: (1) Rick Eckert, (2) Shane Clanton, (3) Darrell Lanigan, (4) Vic Coffey, (5) Bub McCool, (6) Clint Smith, (7) Pat Doar, (8) Chub Frank, (9) Tim Fuller, (10) Coleby Frye, (11) Ron Davies, (12) Tim McCreadie, (13) Boom Briggs, (14) Andy Haus, (15) Dave Zona, (16) Greg Belyea, (17) Jim Yoder, (18) Alan Fink, (19) Chad Hollenbeck, (20) Sean Beardsley, (21) Bryan Driver, (22) Doug Eck, (23) Kent Robinson, (24) Dan Stone. Scratched: Ricky Elliott. Fast qualifier (among 25 cars): Eckert, 18.632 seconds. Heat race winners: Eckert, Fuller, Lanigan.