Wrapping Up The Circle K Colossal 100 At The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway
CONCORD, NC – April 21, 2008 -
HITTING HIS STRIDE: Before the 2008 season started, Steve Francis estimated that he’d be completely comfortable and rolling with Dale Beitler’s team by Memorial Day Weekend.
Well, after Francis cruised to a convincing $50,000 victory in Saturday night’s Circle K Colossal 100 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway, he could probably move up that performance time-table.
“To win a race like this for Dale, as early as we are here with this new team, is just a great accomplishment,” said Francis, who decided to park his own team after winning the 2007 World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship and chase a second title driving for Beitler. “We haven’t gotten our consistency exactly where we want it yet, but our cars are getting closer and closer.
“We’re really starting to jell as a team. We’re getting everything where we really want it.”
Francis is actually still getting accustomed to using American Racer tires, which he rode to victory in the Colossal 100.
“I have worn them American Racer guys out since I took this ride,” said Francis. “We did a bunch of testing before the season started, and they’ve been sending some engineers to the races with us to help us out. We’ve been working on development, but we’re still not 100 percent there.”
Francis, 40, credits West Friendship, Md.’s Beitler with providing him all the tools for success.
“The group of guys that Dale has put together behind me – Robby Allen, Kevin Miller, Jeff, Jeremy – they’ve given me excellent equipment every time I’ve gone on the racetrack,” said Francis. “I can’t ask for anything more.”
Francis has especially enjoyed working with Allen, a former WoO LMS traveler as Rick Eckert’s chief mechanic who serves as a consultant to the Beitler team.
“Me and Robby are able to talk and he understands when I’m trying to explain things to him now,” said Francis. “It’s very similar to the relationship I had with Lee (Logan, Francis’s ’07 crew chief) last year, and my brother (the late Chris Francis) in the past.
“I’ve been real fortunate to be able to work with excellent crew chiefs my whole career – my brother, Ronnie Stuckey, Ronnie Hackworth, Lee – and then for Dale to put Robby in there…it’s phenomenal to work with guys like that. It makes my job a lot easier because it just adds that much experience.”
Beitler, meanwhile, is just enjoying the magic-carpet ride that Francis is giving him.
“This is great, as good as it gets,” a smiling Beitler said in the pit area after the Colossal 100. “It’s just an awesome feeling to win this race.
“I’ve got a great team, a great driver. I couldn’t be any happier right now.”
KNIGHTS OF THE OUTLAWS TRAIL: One of the spoils of victory in the Circle K Colossal 100 is the ceremonial Medieval knight's helmet and 50-inch Macleod Medieval sword that is presented to the race winner.
Francis, of course, donned the helmet and waved the sword during the Victory Lane ceremonies. But the whole time he posed in the full regalia he just wanted to find Robby Allen and hand the headgear over to the mechanic known affectionately as ‘Hog Head.’
“When we started racing this year Robby Allen said, ‘I wanna put that Colossal hat on at Charlotte,’” said Francis. “That’s why I was trying to find him after the race.”
When Allen came to the stage to try the helmet on for size, announcer Ozzie Altman asked him, “Is it big enough to fit you?”
Allen answered quickly, saying with a smile over the p.a. system, “I saw (Scott) Bloomquist wear it (after winning in 2006 and 2007), and if it fits on his head, I know it’ll fit on mine.”
Francis enjoyed joining Bloomquist as the only other winner of the Colossal helmet and sword, but he might have actually been a bit more excited about becoming the featured driver on the huge banner that will be hung from the back of The Dirt Track’s tower to promote the 2009 Circle K Colossal 100.
“It’s a pretty unique situation to be on the second winner of the race,” said Francis. “But when (Ryan) Newman (the NASCAR star who is friendly with Francis) drives by over here (for a Sprint Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway), he gets to look at my picture now (on the banner) – plus everybody who drives through Charlotte will see it too!”
DOUBLE-DUTY: Francis also claimed a seventh-place finish in the Colossal 100 as the owner of the car driven by 2006 WoO LMS champion Tim McCreadie, who made his debut in Francis’s Valvoline No. 15.
McCreadie led Francis across the finish line in heat action on Friday night, finishing second to Francis’s third. But McCreadie had to fight through several problems during the 100 to score a top-10 finish.
McCreadie had to pit to change a left-front flat tire on lap 40 after a scrape with Jackie Boggs that also left his car with a bent spindle. He returned to the pits later to make more adjustments and work on his mud-caked helmet, which was out of tearoffs, and he finished the race with a right-rear tire that was deflating thanks to a piece of metal stuck in its side.
WILD RIDE: Chub Frank had never flipped a car during his 30-year racing career – until Saturday night.
While biding his time running 11th on lap 45 of the 100, Frank’s machine bicycled onto its right side between turns three and four and went flipping. He got some serious air time before the car landed on its wheels in turn four.
“I came in (the corner) on a bad angle,” said Frank. “Instead of going in high, I kinda come in a little bit off the cushion and slid to it. But I was in there so hot, the whole right side just caught and bicycled over, and then it just took off.
“It felt like when you’re watching a crash on those in-car cameras, when the camera is behind the driver. At one point I was standing on my nose and looking right at the ground, and I’m thinking, ‘This ain’t gonna be good.’”
Frank, who has worn an R3 head-and-neck restraint from Safety Solutions all season, quickly emerged from his cockpit without injury. He even jogged back to the pits.
Frank’s car – his favorite Rocket since he debuted it in September 2006 – had its bodywork mangled and plenty of suspension parts broken, but Frank didn’t think it sustained significant frame damage.
HE’LL TAKE IT: After losing several spots in the first-lap jam-up that occurred when outside-polesitter Eddie Carrier Jr. spun in turn four, Josh Richards thought he might be stuck racing just outside the top 10 for the entire Colossal 100.
But the 20-year-old broke free late in the distance and finished third, his personal-best run in the event.
Richards spent the race battling a push condition (his right-front tire choice was too hard), visibility problems due to the large amount of flying mud during the race (he ran out of tearoffs and actually changed helmets during the red flag for Frank’s wreck) and perhaps some unexpected handling issues that resulted from the thick mud that was caked all over the nose of his car.
“On that first lap the front of my car just got covered with mud,” said Richards. “I didn’t know the nose was so bad with mud, but I know the car drove kind of sluggish so maybe it was affected by all that extra weight on the front.”
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: While Francis thought that Darrell Lanigan had run out of fuel due to the excessive number of caution circuits when Lanigan slowed and fell from second place on lap 90, Lanigan’s fuel tank actually wasn’t dry.
The culprit: rearend problems on Lanigan’s car, which he said felt strong throughout the race.
“I was having fun out there,” said Lanigan.
DISAPPOINTMENT: Rick Eckert didn’t know if he “had anything for Francis,” but he certainly appeared to have enough speed in his GRT No. 24 to contend for a second-place finish.
Those hopes went down the drain, however, when Eckert’s car began billowing smoke on a lap-82 restart, seconds after he took fourth place. He pulled off two circuits later, done in by an oil line that had come loose.
ODDS & ENDS…
* Shannon Babb struggled on Friday night, but he turned his weekend around in the Colossal 100.
Guaranteed the 11th starting spot even though he failed to transfer in Friday’s heats because he won last October’s Jani-King Southern Showdown at The Dirt Track, Babb drove his Clint Bowyer-owned car straight to the front in the 100. He ran second for much of the distance, but after losing the spot when he slipped high in turn two on lap 86 he never recovered and settled for sixth place.
* Clint Smith had to rely on a WoO LMS provisional to start the A-Main after breaking a jackshaft in a Friday heat and sliding into the wall between turns three and four during Saturday’s B-Main, which was run with the track still slick in spots following a two-hour rain delay.
There were more problems in the 100 for Smith, who pulled out his backup car after the B-Main incident. He was an early retiree after a tangle smashed in his car’s right-side door.
* WoO LMS traveler John Blankenship persevered through several mid-race pit stops to claim eighth at the finish, just inches behind a slowing McCreadie at the checkered flag.
* WoO LMS Rookie of the Year aspirant Vic Coffey was forced out of his heat race with damage to his Sweeteners Plus No. 39, but he came from deep in the field of the B-Main to transfer to the 100. He was an early dropout, however, after being involved in several incidents.
* WoO LMS followers who failed to qualify were Shane Clanton, who broke a wheel during time trials, was involved in a couple heat-race scrapes and pulled out of the B-Main early; Tim Fuller, whose hopes ended when he slid into the wall between turns one and two on a slick track at the start of the first B-Main, causing him to fall from fourth to near the back of the pack; Brian Shirley, who dropped out of his heat and retired early from the second B-Main; and Rookie of the Year contenders Danny Johnson (blew motor on Friday) and Joe Isabell (did not return for a B-Main).
* With the Colossal 100 offering only WoO LMS show-up points to all entered drivers because the tour’s normal format was not used, the top of the points standings didn’t change.
Billy Moyer, who wasn’t allowed back in the race by Lowe’s Motor Speedway officials after he stopped on the track to draw a caution flag on lap 64 while running sixth because his car’s hood was flapping up, remains the points leader heading to a Missouri doubleheader on May 3 (Lebanon I-44 Speedway) and May 4 (Monett Speedway).
* The Sirius satellite radio NASCAR racing show Tradin’ Paint, which is hosted by MRN pit reporter Steve Post and former RCR gas-man ‘Chocolate’ Myers, beamed out live interviews with three WoO LMS stars – Josh Richards (Thursday), and Steve Francis and Shannon Babb (Friday) – who have affiliations with Sprint Cup drivers in advance of the Colossal 100.
* WoO LMS announcer Rick Eshelman reluctantly relinquished his race-calling duties to tour race director Bret Emrick – a longtime announcer himself – on Friday night after spending Thursday night in a local hospital.
Eshelman feared that he might be having a heart attack when he experienced chest tightness and shortness of breath upon arriving at The Dirt Track on Thursday afternoon, but tests he underwent on Thursday and Friday found no heart problems. He was released late Friday afternoon and told to rest that night, so he wasn’t at his usual spot behind the microphone.
Feeling much better on Saturday, Eshelman was in The Dirt Track’s announcer’s booth and called the Colossal 100.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of April 19 - 7 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Billy Moyer 4-5-5-$66,820-935 (-0)
2. Josh Richards 1-4-6-$32,200-909 (-26)
3. Steve Francis 1-5-6-$69,000-905 (-30)
4. Rick Eckert 0-2-5-$18,050-895 (-40)
5. (tie) Darrell Lanigan 0-0-5-$13,850-879 (-56)
5. (tie) Chub Frank 0-2-4-$16,630-879 (-56)
7. Shannon Babb 0-3-4-$25,650-857 (-78)
8. Clint Smith 0-2-2-$11,660-843 (-92)
9. Shane Clanton 0-3-3-$14,750-839 (-96)
10. John Blankenship 0-0-2-$10,760-793 (-142)
11. Tim Fuller 0-0-1-$7,340-789 (-146)
12. Brian Shirley 0-0-2-$7,470-777 (-158)
13. Vic Coffey 0-0-1-$6,520-599 (-336)
14. (tie) Joe Isabell 0-0-0-$1,910-589 (-346)
14. (tie) Danny Johnson 0-0-0-$2,300-589 (-346)
16. Jeep VanWormer 0-0-1-$6,270-479 (-456)
17. (tie) Eddie Carrier Jr. 0-0-3-$8,500-471 (-464)
17. (tie) Tim McCreadie 0-1-2-$11,550-471 (-464)
19. Billy Decker 0-0-0-$3,020-438 (-497)
20. Darren Miller 0-0-3-$5,700-404 (-531)