I-55 Raceway's 25th Annual 'Pepsi Nationals' Returns As Stop On WoO Late Model Series This Saturday!
A staple on the Midwest's post-Labor Day special-show schedule for a quarter-century, Saturday night's 25th annual edition of the 'Pepsi Nationals' is destined to be bigger and better than ever. The 50-lap event is back as part of the renowned WoO LMS after a one-year absence, and it will pay a rousing $10,000 to win from a total purse of nearly $50,000.
Saturday night will also mark just the WoO LMS's second appearance ever at I-55 Raceway, a one-third-mile, high-banked oval owned by NASCAR star Ken Schrader. The only previous tour event at the track was the 23rd annual 'Pepsi Nationals,' held on Sept. 17, 2005.
That race was won by 2005 WoO LMS champion Billy Moyer of Batesville , Ark. , a dirt Late Model legend who has won a record seven 'Pepsi Nationals' crowns in his sparkling career. His 2005 score followed victories in the 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2002 events.
The '07 WoO LMS traveler who is most looking forward to Saturday's program is Rookie of the Year contender Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who has enjoyed a great deal of success at the track located a half-hour south of downtown St. Louis. Last year he captured a July special and an August MARS DIRTcar Series event at I-55, and earlier this season, on June 2, he pocketed $6,000 for winning the UMP DIRTcar Racing 'Tri-Track Challenge' affair.
Shirley, 26, also owns top-five finishes in the last two 'Pepsi Nationals' A-Mains, placing third in the 2005 WoO LMS event and fifth in last year's UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned 50-lapper that was won by Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Ark.
With only seven WoO LMS events remaining after the 'Pepsi Nationals,' the event figures to play a critical role in determining the 2007 points champion. Entering this weekend's three-race Midwest to Paducah ( Ky. ) International Raceway (Sept. 14), I-55 and La Salle ( Ill.) Speedway (Sept. 16), S teve Francis of Ashland , Ky. , who finished ninth in the 2005 WoO LMS 50 at I-55, leads the tour standings by 52 points over Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. (11th in the 2005 WoO LMS event) and 78 over Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga. (16th in 2005). Francis of
Frank, the popular driver known as 'Chubzilla,' is very hopeful that I-55 will be a track where he can close the gap on Francis. Last month Schrader drove one of Frank's dirt Late Models in a 'NASCAR Night of Stars' event at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., and the I-55 Raceway owner provided a scouting report on the track that made Frank smile.
"I talked to Kenny a lot at Lernerville about what I-55 has been like," said Frank, who leads all WoO LMS drivers this season with five tour victories. "It's usually real slippery, and that's the way I like a track to be."
Other WoO LMS standouts with eyes on a 'Pepsi Nationals' win include Josh Richards of Shinnston , W.Va. (finished 14th in I-55's WoO LMS show in 2005), Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga. (15th in '05), Rick Eckert of York, Pa. (fourth in '05) and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. (second in '05).
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. , who won four WoO LMS features while chasing the first half of this year's schedule and ranks 10th in the current points standings, will certainly be a pre-race favorite on Saturday. The 2003 'Pepsi Nationals' winner also has two UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals triumphs at I-55 (2002 and 2006).
Other drivers expected to sign in on Saturday include Don O'Neal of Martinsville , Ind. , who won I-55's 'Pepsi Nationals' in 2004 and the UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals event in 2003; recent Topless 100 winner Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis.; Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis.; Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa; Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich.; 2006 UMP national Late Model titlist Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., who has won four of his six I-55 A-Mains this season over the past month; defending I-55 champion Bryan Collins of Elsberry, Mo.; and five-time 'Pepsi Nationals' winner Ed Dixon of Washington, Mo.
I-55 Raceway's gates will be unlocked at 4 p.m. on Saturday, with hot laps set for 6 p.m. and WoO LMS time trials at 6:30 p.m. Racing is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Reserved seats for the event are $30, with general admission tickets $25 and kids 12 and under admitted free in general admission sections. Pit passes will be $35.
Information about I-55 Raceway is available by calling 636-479-3219 or visiting www.i55raceway.com.
Additional info on the WoO LMS can be obtained by logging on to www.worldofoutlaws.com.