MONTAGUE, Mich. — Jeep VanWormer gave his homestate fans a reason to cheer with a convincing victory in Friday night’s NAPA Auto Parts Winston 50 Presented by Keyser Manufacturing at Winston Speedway.
After becoming the first — and still only —driver from Michigan to win a World of Outlaws Late Model Series event on Sept. 16, 2007, at LaSalle (Ill.) Speedway, VanWormer turned up the excitement level with his second career checkered flag. The $10,000 triumph came at a track that is a three-and-a-half-hour drive across the Wolverine State from his residence.
“It felt good to go out there and perform and actually do what I always want to do – win in your home state,” said VanWormer, who became the 14th different winner in 35 events on this year’s WoO LMS. “It feels great to win in front of my home crowd. A lot of fans came out to support us.”
VanWormer, 38, steered his Dickens-powered Rocket car past 2011 WoO LMS champion Rick Eckert for the lead on lap 14 and never looked back. He beat another former World of Outlaws titlist, Josh Richards to the finish line by 2.120 seconds in one of the most memorable performances of his career.
Eckert, 47, who won last year’s WoO LMS event at Winston, settled for a third-place finish after starting from the outside pole and leading laps 1-13. Mike Spatola equaled his career-best WoO LMS finish with a solid fourth-place run and Tim McCreadie advanced from the 14th starting spot to finish fifth.
A former DIRTcar Summer Nationals stalwart, VanWormer has cut back his racing schedule in recent years due to work commitments. Friday night’s event marked just his 13th start of the season – and first since July 23-24 at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway – but he showed no rustiness while smoothly negotiating the three-eighths-mile oval.
“We haven’t been racing a whole bunch,” said VanWormer, who emerged victorious in his first WoO LMS appearance of 2013. “Somebody made a comment to me today, ‘How am I ever gonna get good if I don’t race?’ Well, I’m not saying this happens (regularly), but we did well tonight. We had the right tires, the right car.”