World of Outlaws Late Model Series Stars Eye Big Money In This Weekend’s Circle K Colossal 100 At Lowe’s Motor Speedway
CONCORD, NC – April 16, 2008 – The Circle K Colossal 100 is only in its third year of existence at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway, but it already stands as one of the most coveted races on a dirt Late Model driver’s to-do list.
A $50,000 top prize, $200,000 total purse and big-time atmosphere certainly make the event larger-than-life – not to mention the richest show on the 2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series.
Grabbing that cash would provide a nice boost into the busy touring schedule ahead for the stars of the WoO LMS, a group of top dirt Late Model talents who are geared up for Circle K Colossal 100 action this weekend. Time trials and heat races are scheduled for Friday night (April 18), and last-chance events and the 100-lapper are set for Saturday night (April 19)
Perhaps the WoO LMS regular most likely to break 2004 WoO LMS champion Scott Bloomquist’s two-year stranglehold on the Colossal 100 Victory Lane ceremonies is defending tour titlist Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., who has enjoyed as much success in the event as anyone not named Bloomquist.
Francis, 40, is one of two ’08 WoO LMS regulars with a top-10 finish in both previous Colossal 100s. He started from the pole position and placed third in the 2006 inaugural after losing the runner-up spot to Donnie Moran with just three laps remaining, and last year he steered Tim Logan’s No. 11 to a sixth-place finish after starting 20th.
This weekend Francis returns to The Dirt Track behind the wheel of Dale Beitler’s Reliable Painting/Valvoline Rocket No. 19. He’s third in the WoO LMS points standings but still looking for his first tour win of the season driving for Beitler.
“Hopefully they’ll have the track (surface) the same way they had it for the last night of the ‘World Finals’ last (November),” said Francis, who finished a close second in that 50-lap WoO LMS event. “The track was absolutely the best I’ve ever seen it that night and we were really good.”
Francis won’t just be busy with Beitler’s equipment this weekend. He’ll also make his debut as a car owner, bringing out his familiar Valvoline Rocket No. 15 for the first time since moving to Beitler’s team and putting 2006 WoO LMS champ Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., in the seat for the weekend.
And Francis will also have an opportunity to hang out with his famous friend Ryan Newman, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner who enters selected dirt Late Model events in a car prepared by Francis. With a weekend off from NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Newman is planning to return from a vacation in time to attend Saturday’s program.
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., is the other ’08 WoO LMS traveler with a pair of Colossal 100 top 10s – sixth in 2006, fifth in 2007. He was a contender both years driving a Billy Moyer Sr.-owned car; in ’06 he set fast time, won a heat and led until being overtaken by Bloomquist on lap 51, and last year he moved from 14th to second in just 25 laps but then clipped an inside marker tire while challenging Bloomquist for the lead, damaging his car’s left-front corner enough to end his hopes for victory but not a decent finish.
Babb, 34, will try again this weekend driving for NASCAR Sprint Cup star Clint Bowyer, who has formed a new dirt Late Model team for the 2008 season.
“I’m excited about it,” said Babb, who plans to run his Rayburn car at The Dirt Track. “We’ve run good there in the Colossal in the past and last year we won the October race (at Lowe’s), so we feel like we’ll have a good shot at it.
“Racing close to our shop (in the Richard Childress Racing complex in Welcome, N.C.) will be fun. It’ll be neat for the (RCR) team to come out and see us race.”
A little luck might be all it takes to propel 20-year-old Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., to the promised land in the Colossal 100. After failing to qualify for the inaugural event, he was running a strong second last year when power-steering woes forced him to retire on lap 25.
“We’ve always had a fast car there, even though the track’s been different just about every time,” said Richards, who also looked like a potential winner in last October’s WoO LMS show at The Dirt Track before his Rocket Chassis house car sustained suspension damage when he slammed the track’s cushion. “We just haven’t been able to finish up front.
“I’d really like to win a big show,” he added. “We’ve been close in some of these big races, so it would be nice to finish one off and win one.”
The Colossal 100 has been a source of frustration for Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., who has finishes of 36th in 2006 (he lasted just four laps) and 15th in 2007 (after using a provisional to start the A-Main).
But the 32-year-old nearly broke through and won the second event of last year’s ‘World Finals,’ blasting into the lead at mid-race before a scrape caused him to fall back several spots. He hopes the conditions he took a liking to in November are rekindled this weekend.
“If they make (the surface) like the ‘World Finals,’ we can race all over,” said Clanton, who covets a Colossal 100 victory so he can “have my picture up (on a huge billboard) on the back of the grandstand next year.”
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., will go to the post with plenty of Cornett Thunder under the hood of his Rocket No. 29 in hopes of bettering his 10th-place finish in last year’s Colossal 100. He didn’t qualify for the first event in 2006.
“We got a new motor we’re gonna take down there,” said the 37-year-old Lanigan, who is coming off a strong fifth-place finish in the second event of last November’s ‘World Finals’ at The Dirt Track. “And we’re gonna take our four-link car. A lot of guys run their swing-arm stuff (at Lowe’s), but we’re sticking with our four-link.”
Rick Eckert of York, Pa., would like his 2008 Colossal 100 outing to last quite a bit longer than his run a year ago.
The 42-year-old driver known as ‘Scrub’ lasted a mere three laps in the race’s ’07 edition. When he slowed for a caution flag, a shove from behind sent him into the backstretch wall, damaging his car’s right-front suspension and even slightly bending its frame.
Eckert is ready for his visit to The Dirt Track.
“You always want to go there because it’s such a nice place, such a nice facility,” said Eckert, who plans to enter his Raye Vest-owned Rayburn car. “The racetrack has struggled in the past to get the surface right, but maybe they’ve got a handle on it now. The track we had for the ‘World Finals’ last year was the condition everybody was hoping for.”
Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., would like to be around at the finish of this year’s Colossal 100 – a feat he hasn’t accomplished in the race’s two previous runnings.
In ’06 Smith, 42, won a heat race but finished 33rd after retiring seven laps into the A-Main, and last year he completed 60 laps and finished 20th.
Smith has his Colossal artillery ready to go.
“We’ll proably run our swing-arm (GRT) stuff again,” said Smith. “We’re a little bit smarter with it now than I was the first time I went there with it. I feel like we learned even more about (swing-arm setups) when we tested at (sponsor) Don Cliburn’s track (in Jackson, Miss., on March 31); we worked about 10 hours on stuff.
“You better come with some heat (to Lowe’s), so I’ll have my biggest cubic-inch (RaceTek) piece in for that race,” he added.
Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., finished fifth in the inaugural Colossal 100, but last year he was forced out after just three laps when his car’s engine lost oil pressure.
‘Chubzilla’ is counting on a smooth racetrack for this weekend’s program similar to last November’s ‘World Finals’ conditions. He said with a smile that he’s also “looking forward to seeing Roger Slack (who oversees The Dirt Track’s operation).”
Frank and Slack have developed an ongoing back-and-forth, throwing out little verbal one-liners to jokingly bust on each other. They last engaged in some barb-dishing during the WoO LMS awards banquet in December.
Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., will take to the track this weekend with a bit more confidence than he did in his first Colossal 100 attempt last year. The 2007 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year was still learning the ropes as a dirt Late Model driver back then and didn’t qualify.
The 40-year-old driver, who has won an Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series big-block Modified event at The Dirt Track, proved he can get around the four-tenths-mile oval in a dirt Late Model on the last night of the 2007 ‘World Finals’ when he came from deep in the field to finish third. He returns to Charlotte with his Gypsum Express team’s gun blazing.
“We’re putting a freshened Enders motor in for the Colossal,” said Fuller. “You need everything you got (in the engine department) and then some. You’re stuck down there hard, wide-open.”
The 2007 Colossal 100 marked the first-ever start at The Dirt Track for Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill. – and it was eventful. Driving NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader’s familiar No. 99 in a one-shot deal, he experienced a flat tire in time trials and brake problems in his heat, but he still advanced through the C- and B-Mains and completed 75 laps of the headliner to finish 19th.
“I’m looking forward to going back with my own stuff,” said Shirley, who returns with his usual Petroff Towing mount that he had in contention during The Dirt Track’s October and November WoO LMS events last year. “I’ll be just a little more comfortable.
“We get to go there and be in a Rayburn car, which is more familiar to me. The Rocket cars are still a learning process for me. I’m having my ups and downs with them. We ran the same car (Rayburn) for five years and won races, but then you change your agenda a little (add a Rocket to the team) to get better in certain areas and there’s more decisions to make.”
Shirley has already won a major dirt Late Model event – the 2006 Knoxville Late Model Nationals – but he doesn’t want to stop there.
“You don’t want to go without winning another big one in your career,” he said. “That’s kinda how you mark your territory, so people know you can do it again.”
John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., who has plans to follow the WoO LMS this season, started from the outside pole in last year’s Colossal 100 but finished 18th. A non-qualifier for the inaugural event, the 26-year-old heads to Charlotte this year knowing that he’ll be behind the wheel of a proven ‘Team Zero’ car built by Scott Bloomquist, whose mounts swept the top-three finishing positions in last year’s Colossal 100.
And then there’s three-time WoO LMS champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who has won four of six tour events this season and leads the points standings but hasn’t committed to following the entire schedule.
No driver in the country is hotter right now than the 50-year-old Moyer, so everyone is looking at him as a favorite to unseat Bloomquist.
“We’ve been rivals for a long time,” Moyer said of Bloomquist. “He’s got a head start on me there (at the Dirt Track), because I’m taking this kind of car (a Victory Circle Chassis he helped design rather than a swing-arm Rayburn) I’ve never run there before.
“I have no notes to go by…but sometimes I might work better with no notes because it keeps my head thinking.”
The Circle K Colossal 100 will be run over two days (April 18-19) at the four-tenths-mile Dirt Track @ Lowe’s.
The Friday-night (April 18) portion of the weekend features group time trials and heat races. The top-two finishers in each heat will secure a spot in the 100-lap finale and a draw will determine the starting lineup.
Saturday night's program begins with a driver autograph session and the on-track action includes at least four additional qualifying races prior to the main event. The race is part of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, but The Dirt Track's traditional format, including the extremely popular Delaware-style restarts, will be utilized.
If purchased in advance, reserved tickets for both Friday and Saturday nights are just $39 for adults and $10 for children ages 12 and
under. Two-day pit passes are $60 in advance.
Tickets and pit passes for the April 18-19 Circle K Colossal 100 can be purchased online at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.
The Fleetwood RV Camping Resort is located adjacent to The Dirt Track and full-service camping spots can be reserved by calling (704) 455-4445.
The Circle K Colossal 100 is the first of four WoO LMS events at The Dirt Track this season. The tour returns on Oct. 8 for the Armour Foods Vienna Sausage Showdown presented by Ferris Mowers and Oct. 30-Nov. 1 for the second running of the ‘Outlaws World Finals’ that also includes the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.