Both Drivers Pass Up Opportunity To Start From Rear And Chase $25,000 Bonus For Winning Saturday's Main Event
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
NEW RICHMOND, WI – Aug. 3, 2012 – Frankie Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill., and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., earned front-row starting spots in the 25th annual USA Nationals with their performances on Friday night at Cedar Lake Speedway.
Even the possibility of racing for another $25,000 to win Saturday evening's 100-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main wasn't enough to shake them from their prime positions.
After Heckenast won Friday night's 15-lap dash and Lanigan finished second to put them at the head of Saturday's USA Nationals field, both drivers were given the opportunity to forfeit their spots and start from the last row as part of the 'Tail-Start Challenge' in celebration of the event's 25th anniversary. Accepting the challenge would make them eligible to claim a $25G bonus – on top of the race's already huge $50,000 first-place prize – if they could drive through the pack to win.
But even with the qualifying night's big crowd urging them on during the Victory Lane ceremony following the dash, neither Heckenast nor Lanigan took the potentially lucrative gamble.
"No deal," the 24-year-old Heckenast said when offered the challenge by WoO LMS announcer Rick Eshelman.
"I'm a gambler, but there are too many variables out there with this racetrack," Lanigan said when Eshelman posed the question. "I hate to let the fans down. Any other time I would've done it, but we gotta look at the big picture. I got my favorite car here tonight and I'm gonna play it safe."
Both drivers will be given a chance to reconsider their decisions overnight. Cedar Lake Speedway officials plan to offer them one more shot to accept the challenge during Saturday evening's opening ceremonies.
A competitor in the dirt Late Model division for eight years, Heckenast earned his berth in the 10-car dash by finishing second in Friday's second heat. He drew the pole position and dominated the event, racing virtually unchallenged for the entire distance in his Rocket machine.
Heckenast will make his second career start in the USA Nationals 100. He finished 11th in last year's 100-lapper.
"I'm just tickled to death," said Heckenast. "My goal today was just to make the race – you gotta make it before you can win it. We're in the race and we start in the front, so we'll take that."
Lanigan was the biggest heat-race winner of the evening, capturing the third prelim by a convincing 4.977-second margin. He started third in the dash, which featured the top-two finishers in each heat in a battle for USA Nationals starting position, and stayed in the spot until finally overtaking defending WoO LMS champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., for second place with a inside move through turns three and four on the final lap.
Eckert settled for third in the dash, Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., was fourth and 10th-starter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., climbed forward to place fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the dash was Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., and heat winners Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.
With Saturday's USA Nationals offering only WoO LMS show-up points, Lanigan will have no worries about ceding any of his commanding 152-point lead over Eckert in the tour's standings. He will be laser-focused on adding a first-ever USA Nationals triumph to his resume – and, in the process, pushing his 2012 earnings on the WoO LMS over the $250,000 mark.
Lanigan will make his fifth career start in a USA Nationals A-Main. His finishes include a personal-best fifth in 2011, plus 10th in 1995, 11th in '10 and 13th in '05.
Lanigan has been a serious contender in each of the last two USA Nationals, but overheating issues have plagued his efforts. In 2010 he started from the pole position and led lap one and laps 20-31 before his hot powerplant seized up on lap 75 while he was running third, and last year he advanced from the 18th starting spot to place fifth despite nursing his car late in the distance due to a hole in its radiator.
The evening's most significant incident came on the opening lap of the third heat when Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., slammed hard into the turn-two wall with the front end of his Rocket Chassis house. The machine sustained heavy damage but the 19-year-old driver was not injured.
Chad Simpson of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, topped the event's 53-car field in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, turning a lap of 13.270 seconds for his third career WoO LMS fast-time honor. It was his second fast time in as many World of Outlaws appearances this season, duplicating his qualifying performance on July 7 at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn.
With the top 15 qualifiers inverted for the heats, Simpson started and finished third in the fifth preliminary. He will start 15th in the USA Nationals.
Saturday's grand finale program, which includes B-Mains, a last-chance race and the 100-lap USA Nationals plus a full show for Cedar Lake's NASCAR Late Models, is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 6:30 p.m.
Additional details and ticket info on the USA Nationals can be obtained by logging on to www.cedarlakespeedway.com.
1. 25s-Chad Simpson/Mt. Vernon, IA 13.270
2. 5b-Mike Marlar/Winfield, TN13.380
3. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 13.439
4. 25-Shane Clanton/Fayetteville, GA 13.548
5. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 13.555
6. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 13.560
7. 32-Chris Simpson/Oxford, IA 13.567
8. 1-Brandon Sheppard/New Berlin, IL 13.577
9. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 13.594
10. 2-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, WI 13.647
11. 3s-Brian Shirley/Chatham, IL 13.648
12. 11-Pat Doar/New Richmond, WI 13.652
13. 27T-Tyler Reddick/DuQuoin, IL 13.657
14. 10-Pete Parker/Kaukauna, WI 13.667
15. 0-Scott Bloomquist/Mooresburg, TN 13.765
16. 7R-Kent Robinson/Bloomington, IN 13.771
17. 99Jr-Frankie Heckenast Jr./Orland Park, IL 13.776
18. 32P-Bobby Pierce/Oakwood, IL 13.786
19. 15b-Brian Birkhofer/Muscatine, IA 13.812
20. 28-Jimmy Mars/Menomonie, WI 13.816
21. 32c-Vic Coffey/Caledonia, NY 13.829
22. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 13.836
23. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 13.859
24. 21-Billy Moyer/Batesville, Ar 13.860
25. 28e-Dennis Erb Jr./Carpentersville, IL 13.894
26. 87-Walker Arthur/Forest, VA 13.906
27. 18c-Ross Camponovo/Clarksdale, MS 13.955
28. 20-Jimmy Owens/Newport, TN 13.956
29. 1s-Jack Sullivan/Greenbrier, AR 13.957
30. 81-Scott James/Bright, IN 13.966
31. 25F-Jason Feger/Bloomington, IL 13.973
32. 27R-Jake Redetzke/Eau Claire, WI 13.975
33. 19-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 13.998
34. 14M-Morgan Bagley/Longview, TX 14.009
35. 1d-Don O'Neal/Martinsville, IN 14.012
36. 18H-Dustin Hapka/Grand Forks, ND 14.114
37. 98-Jason Rauen/Farley, IA 14.141
38. 58-A.J. Diemel/Elk Mound, WI 14.147
39. 42-Terry Casey/New London, WI 14.162
40. 5M-Mike Fryer/Freeport, IL 14.186
41. 89-Mike Spatola/Manhattan, IL 14.186
42. 57J-Bub McCool/Vicksburg, MS 14.190
43. 21Jr-Billy Moyer Jr./Batesville, AR 14.219
44. 9T-Tim Isenberg/Marshfield, WI 14.221
45. 15-Nick Anvelink/Navarino, WI 14.263
46. 90-Lance Matthees/Winona, MN 14.288
47. R15-Mark Burgtorf/Quincy, IL 14.317
48. 27-Rodney Melvin/Logan, IL 14.349
49. 22M-Charlie McKenna/Clear Lake, IA 14.612
50. 40-Bryan Wennen/Lindstrom, MN 14.907
51. 57-Chad Williamson/Watertown, SD 15.151
52. 55-Duane Treadwell/Lagrange, GA 15.399
53. 22-Jill George/Cedar Falls, IA N/T
B. Smith, Eckert, Feger, Bloomquist, K. Robinson, Spatola, Matthees, Coffey, Arthur, Hapka, Williamson
Babb, Heckenast, C. Smith, Clanton, Redetzke, Camponovo, Rauen, McCool, Burgtorf, Treadwell, Parker
Lanigan, Owens, Reddick, Pierce, Frank, Moyer Jr., Fuller, Diemel, Melvin, Sheppard (DNS) George
Moyer, Marlar, Birkhofer, Doar, Bagley, Chris Simpson, Isenberg, Sullivan, McKenna, Casey
Shirley, O'Neal, Chad Simpson, Anvelink, Erb, Mars, James, Wennen, McCreadie, Fryer
Heckenast, Lanigan, Eckert, O'Neal, Owens, Marlar, B. Smith, Moyer, Shirley, Babb