CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THIS EVENT
Pevely, MO - September 16, 2007
By: Kevin Kovac
WOO Late Model Series PR
Clint Smith has turned the Midwest into his second home this season.
With a dramatic victory in Saturday nights 25th annual Pepsi Nationals at I-55 Raceway, the Southern gentleman put himself squarely in the headlines of another World of Outlaws Late Model Series trip to middle America.
Its fun to win in some new territory, said Smith, whose road victories this season have helped increase his popularity away from his native Southeast. Weve won in three different states for the first time this year, and were proud of that.
Smiths latest victory was easily his most difficult. He had to outduel a pair of 2006 UMP DIRTcar Racing champions Summernationals titlist Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and national champ Randy Korte of Highland, Ill. in a rousing shootout over the races final three laps to preserve his 10th career WoO LMS win.
Smith never relinquished the lead after driving his J&J Steel/Cliburn Tank Lines GRT car by Korte for the position on lap 23, but both Babb and Korte made aggressive bids to overtake Smith following the second and final caution flag of the A-Main, on lap 47.
Babb, 33, used the extreme high side of the one-third-mile to slide from fourth to second after the final restart, but he fell short in his attempt to steal the win from Smith. The driver of Billy Moyer Sr.s Car City Rayburn mount crossed the finish line 0.702 of a second behind Smith.
The 42-year-old Korte, who led the first circuit and laps 9-22 after starting from the pole position, settled for third in his TMCI Transportation Rocket.
Completing the top five was Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., in his Lester Buildings Rocket and WoO LMS points leader Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., who started from the outside pole and led laps 2-8 in his Valvoline Rocket.
Smith, who started third, used one of the slight imperfections he discovered in the surface of NASCAR star Ken Schraders track to assert control over the field.
There was a little hole in (turns) three and four where I was able to get my biggest advantage, said Smith, whose only previous start at I-55 Raceway was a 16th-place finish in the 2005 Pepsi Nationals sanctioned by the WoO LMS. If I could charge it hard and catch it just right with the right-side tires, it would scotch my car.
Korte and a couple other guys were missing that hole or they just werent seeing it so theyd drift all the way to the top (of the turns) and lose momentum. But I could hit it and turn to the bottom off of four and just cook the front straightaway.
That was probably the difference all night I could get my car to turn in the center of the corner and come off in the wet really full throttle. Even off turn two I was really good; thats where I could set em up to make a pass in three and four.
Smith wasnt happy to see the caution flag fly on lap 47, however.
I knew a couple of guys behind me, like Babb (who restarted fourth), had 20s (tires) on, said Smith, referring to the softer compound of the UMP DIRTcar Racing Hoosier 20/40 tire rule, which was in place for Saturday nights event. I knew they were gonna fire pretty good and they did.
Smith, who ran the harder 40-compound rubber, saw Korte duck underneath him a couple times following the restart. And on the final circuit he repelled a bonsai charge by Babb, who charged around the outside of Korte for second off turn two on the final lap and then attempted to slip by Smith at the other end of the high-banked oval.
I was running the middle the whole time, but I probably went in a little too high for (Babb) the last lap so he didnt know where I was going, Smith said when asked how he preserved his victory. Then I cut to the bottom and got my full gas off the corner (to the checkered flag) and aint nobody gonna pull you when you leave at full throttle with the motors we have today.
That RaceTek in the car, its one of his 441s, and its a killer. We knew if we could get it hooked up, aint nobody gonna pass us at full throttle.
The victory broke Smith out of a modest slump on the WoO LMS. He had been winless on the tour since July 3 at Lebanon I-44 Speedway a stretch of nine races during which his points deficit to Francis ballooned from 34 to 96.
We got back a little in the points, so we tried some different setups and kinda got off our program, said Smith, who sits third in the WoO LMS points standings. Tonight we pretty much got back to square one.
Tonight we raced to win, because the points are kinda getting out of hand. Unless Francis and Chub have the same trouble I had I fell out of three key races and it cost me over a hundred points they pretty much have the top two spots (in the standings) locked up. Im just trying to get third-place locked down, that way I can race free towards the first two spots.
Id like to work it down to within 50 points for the last two races, Smith added when asked about his title hopes. Then wed have a mathematical chance to win the points (in the season-ending Outlaws World Finals on Nov. 1-3 at The Dirt Track @ Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.).
Babb, who started eighth, nearly pulled off a memorable high-side run to victory after the final caution flag.
The caution just fell at the right time for me, said Babb. I was on soft tires, so my car fired real good. I thought I might have a shot (at winning) by running the top.
The top was there all along, but it was like messing with fire. You cant run more than two or three laps in a row real good, but when youve got a chance (late in the race) you just give it all you got.
Babb was virtually on Smiths rear bumper heading down the backstretch for the final time, but his momentum was slowed by Smiths race-savvy move.
I didnt know what he was gonna do on that last corner, Babb said of Smith. I followed him down the backstraightaway and he was all the way out against the fence, so I thought he was gonna stay up there. But then he dove all the way down to the bottom, and I couldnt go under him.
I think I shouldve just stayed up there (in the top groove) and followed him around (three and four). If I stayed behind him, I mightve had a better shot at it.
Korte, who won four of his six features this season at I-55 during the month of August, ran the same tire combination (hard right-rear, three softs) as Smith but didnt quite match Smiths setup.
Clint was just a little better than us, said Korte, who earned $500 in WoO LMS Bonus Bucks for being the highest-finishing driver who wasnt ranked among the top 12 in tour points and hasnt won a WoO feature. I was kinda frustrated because I shouldve run second, but Shannon pulled that off there on the outside at the end to get by us.
It wouldve been awesome to win tonight. Ive won this (Pepsi Nationals) deal before, and its always real nice to win at home but it would have been unbelievable to win against these (WoO LMS) guys.
They knew I was here, though, and thats the main thing.
Frank advanced from the ninth starting spot to finish fourth, but he was confident he left a little bit of speed on the table.
I was soft on tires and I was trying to save em, said Frank. I didnt have a scoreboard to look at to know what lap it was, so I waited too long to make a move.
I shouldve just rolled em (the leaders) on the outside earlier. My car was better than Babbs up there, so I knew I could roll the top. I almost ran into the back of Korte and Babb on the last lap when I tried running up there.
Coming off his second win in his last three WoO LMS starts the previous night at Paducah (Ky.) International Speedway, Francis was a solid pre-race favorite. But he only led seven early laps before beginning to fade.
The racetrack was a little faster than we thought it would be, and it caught us a little off guard, said Francis, who slipped as far back as sixth before rallying to snare a top-five finish. I thought it was gonna be a lot slicker than it got in the feature. It kept brown strips in it and you could hit the strips (for traction), but we were so tight wed drive right out of em.
It was a good night, though. We got a top-five and only finished one spot behind Chub (who trails Francis by 58 points), so well take it.
Finishing in positions 6-10 was 16th-starter Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who made most of his moves forward during the races second half; Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who picked up two spots after the final restart; Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga.; Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa; and WoO LMS Rookie of the Year candidate Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who was surprisingly quiet at a track where hes enjoyed more success than anywhere else in his young career.
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., rallied to finish 11th after pitting to change a right-rear flat tire that caused him to bring out a caution flag on lap 10.
A field of 39 cars comprised the event, which was run on a crisp, cool night that ushered in the fall season.
Francis earned a $100 bonus for capturing his third National Interstate Insurance Fast Time Award of the season. He turned a lap of 12.377 seconds just under three-tenths of a second off Billy Moyers track record established earlier this year.
Heat winners were Richards, Korte, Clint Smith and Birkhofer, and the B-Mains were captured by Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., and Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis.
The WoO LMS concludes its three-race Midwest swing on Sunday night (Sept. 16) at La Salle (Ill.) Speedway, where Bob Sargents Track Enterprises, Inc. will present the 16th annual Best Western Illinois Fall Nationals. The 40-lap A-Main will pay $7,000 to win.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
Results of WoO Late Model Series Pepsi Nationals (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (3) Clint Smith/50 $10,225
2. (8) Shannon Babb/50 $5,125
3. (1) Randy Korte/50 $3,500
4. (9) Chub Frank/50 $2,500
5. (2) Steve Francis/50 $2,100
6. (16) Rick Eckert/50 $1,700
7. (13) Billy Moyer/50 $1,400
8. (12) Shane Clanton/50 $1,300
9. (5) Brian Birkhofer/50 $1,200
10. (10) Brian Shirley/50 $1,350
11. (6) Darrell Lanigan/50 $1,050
12. (19) Jeep VanWormer/50 $1,000
13. (7) Josh Richards/50 $950
14. (11) Matt Miller/49 $900
15. (18) Brady Smith/49 $850
16. (22) Bryan Collins/49 $800
17. (21) Dewayne Kiefer/49 $770
18. (15) Will Vaught/46 $750
19. (20) Billy Faust/45 $730
20. (14) Ron McQuerry/43 $700
21. (17) Michael Kloos/42 $700
22. (4) Jimmy Mars/10 $750
23. (23) Roy Mitchell/7 $700
24. (24) Kerry Hansen/5 $700
Time of Race: 19 Mins., 23.464 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.702 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 2 (Laps 10, 47)
Lap Leaders: Korte (1); Francis (2-8); Korte (9-22); C. Smith (23-50)
Provisional Starters: Mitchell, Hansen
Rookie of the Race: Shirley ($250)
WoO LMS Bonus Bucks Winner: Korte ($500)
National Interstate Insurance Fast Time Award: Francis ($100)
National Interstate Insurance Hard Luck Award: Mars ($50)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race ($100): Chad Curran (Rick Eckert)
Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. 15-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 12.377
2. 28M-Jimmy Mars/Menomonie, WI 12.431
3. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 12.435
4. 25-Shane Clanton/Locust Grove, GA 12.480
5. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 12.487
6. 00-Randy Korte/Highland, IL 12.488
7. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 12.494
8. 15b-Brian Birkhofer/Muscatine, IA 12.532
9. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 12.539
10. 55-Jeep VanWormer/Pinconning, MI 12.581
11. 7-Matt Miller/Waterville, OH 12.654
12. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 12.708
13. 21-Billy Moyer/Batesville, AR 12.748
14. 3s-Brian Shirley/Chatham, IL 12.756
15. 1V-Will Vaught/Crane, MO 12.775
16. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 12.860
17. 33-Tim Manville/Highland, IL 12.861
18. 24T-Dick Taylor/Springfield, IL 12.931
19. 11z-Bryan Collins/Elsbury, MO 12.964
20. 2J-David Jumper/Fenton, MO 12.968
21. 6K-Michael Kloos/Trenton, IL 12.986
22. 95-Jeff Johns/Belleville, IL 13.014
23. 2-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, WI 13.031
24. 25H-Kerry Hansen/Spencer, WI 13.047
25. 30s-Craig Smith/Marine, IL 13.058
26. 13-Dewayne Kiefer/St. Genevieve, MO 13.064
27. 92B-Billy Faust/Lebanon, IL 13.069
28. 30-Mark Voigt/Marine, IL 13.106
29. 67-Mark Oller/Highland, IL 13.125
30. 1HR-Ron McQuerry/St. Albans, MO 13.210
31. 11d-Brian Dively/Springfield, IL 13.218
32. 50-Ed Dixon/Washington, MO 13.226
33. 78-Chad Zobrist/Highland, IL 13.236
34. 27-Mike Schulte/Summerfield, IL 13.286
35. 76-Butch Kruckeberg/Edwardsville, IL 14.665
36. 31-Brent Helmkamp/Greenville, IL 14.943
37. 66H-Allen Hammond II/Bonne Terre, MO 14.997
38. 93-Roy Mitchell/Hobart, IN 15.803
Heat No. 1 (10 laps Top 4 Transfer): Richards, Francis, Frank, Moyer, Kloos, Manville, Oller, Craig Smith, Zobrist, Hammond
Heat No. 2 (10 laps Top 4 Transfer): Korte, Mars, Shirley, McQuerry, Kiefer, Schulte, Taylor, Mitchell, VanWormer, Johns
Heat No. 3 (10 laps Top 4 Transfer): Clint Smith, Babb, Miller, Vaught, Brady Smith, Faust, Collins, Dively, Kruckeberg
Heat No. 4 (10 laps Top 4 Transfer): Birkhofer, Lanigan, Clanton, Eckert, Voigt, Jumper, Dixon, Hansen, Helmkamp
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps Top 3 Transfer): Kloos, VanWormer, Kiefer, Manville, Oller, Schulte, Zobrist, Craig Smith, Johns, Hammond (DNS) Taylor, Mitchell
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps Top 3 Transfer): Brady Smith, Faust, Collins, Jumper, Hansen, Dively, Kruckeberg, Helmkamp, Voigt, Dixon
2007 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Sept. 15 - 37 features completed (rank/driver/wins/top-5s/top-10s/earnings/points/deficit to leader):
1. Steve Francis 3-21-33-$107,225-5,112 (-0)
2. Chub Frank 5-17-30-$110,855-5,054 (-58)
3. Clint Smith 4-16-28-$112,325-5,026 (-86)
4. Shane Clanton 2-13-25-$83,547-4,946 (-166)
5. Josh Richards 3-10-23-$87,982-4,942 (-170)
6. Rick Eckert 0-11-22-$71,110-4,926 (-186)
7. Darrell Lanigan 2-7-23-$73,740-4,658 (-454)
8. Tim Fuller 1-8-13-$65,505-3,973 (-1139)
9. Brian Shirley 1-4-11-$50,609-3,570 (-1542)
10. Shannon Babb 4-12-15-$80,860-3,446 (-1666)
11. Eddie Carrier Jr. 0-2-5-$23,720-2,571 (-2541)
12. Chris Madden 2-8-12-$89,215-2,379 (-2733)
13. Billy Moyer 1-9-12-$42,575-2,373 (-2739)
14. Brian Birkhofer 0-1-7-$23,410-2,004 (-3108)
15. Roy Mitchell 0-0-0-$9,680-1,996 (-3116)
16. John Blankenship 0-0-0-$10,720-1,663 (-3449)
17. Jimmy Mars 0-5-7-$27,130-1,647 (-3465)
18. Dan Stone 1-1-3-$17,305-1,340 (-3772)
19. Dennis Erb Jr. 2-4-6-$31,700-1,295 (-3817)
20. Billy Decker 0-0-1-$7,390-1,267 (-3845)
LISTEN ONLINE: If fans cant get to a track to see the series, they can experience the excitement of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series live on DIRTvision.com through the DIRT Radio Network.
To listen to the free audio broadcasts, log on to www.dirtvision.com and click on the DIRT Radio Network logo.
Listeners will need Windows Media Player 9 or higher to listen to the DIRT Radio Network. For technical support or questions, e-mail .