CONCORD, N.C. – Time is running out on Rick Eckert.
With seven races remaining on the 2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series schedule, Eckert, the national tour’s 2011 champion and fourth all-time winningest driver, is dangerously close to ending the season winless on the series for just the second time in 10 years and for the first time since 2007.
“That would be a big disappointment,” said Eckert, the 48-year-old York, Pa., driver who has followed the WoO LMS full time since its modern era began in 2004. “You surely don’t want to go a whole year and not get a win on the series you race; that’s not a very good sign. We’re doing our best to avoid it, but we obviously got to do it here soon ’cause we’re running out of races.”
Eckert will have ample opportunity to break into victory lane this weekend as the WoO LMS heads for a tripleheader in his home state of Pennsylvania. The series kicks off the holiday weekend Friday evening at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver for the inaugural Working Man 50 before heading to Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway for the Showdown on Sand Hill on Saturday and the Late Model National Open on Sunday.
Eckert, whose national traveling duties only allow him a few chances each year to race close to home, would like nothing more than to end his year-long WoO LMS winless streak in front of his home-state fans.
“I’d like to win anywhere at this point, but it would be nice if we win one close to home like that,” said Eckert, who began his Late Model career at Selinsgrove in the mid-80s. “Racing close to home like that is always neat. Your family and friends can come, which is always a plus and charges everybody up.
“We’re racing on two good tracks. Lernerville is a really racy place that pretty much everyone enjoys going to. Selinsgrove, the last couple years has been really good. Between those two, hopefully we can get it done because there’s no excuse not to.”
Indeed, Eckert doesn’t have much room for excuses for his WoO LMS drought. The 2014 season was expected to be a great year for the veteran racer after he was tapped to drive the Rocket Chassis house car in place of three-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards, who has been sidelined all season with medical issues.
Headed by Rocket Chassis co-founder Mark Richards, the Rocket house car team ranks among the top Dirt Late Model rides in the country. But Eckert and the Rocket crew haven’t clicked like one might expect a top-flight race team and a Hall of Fame shoo-in driver. His only victories in the famous blue No. 1 machine came away from the WoO LMS in a pair of DIRTcar Summer Nationals Hell Tour events in June.
As for Eckert’s WoO LMS campaign, the consistency has been there with 14 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes in 31 WoO LMS A-Mains putting Eckert second in the series standings. But he hasn’t found that extra gear to help him break into victory lane or seriously challenge points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who is headed toward his third series title with a whopping 13 A-Main victories this season.
“They have a lot more stuff to work with and they have a great team here,” Eckert said of the Rocket house car program. “Their budget’s a lot better than mine has been so that in turn should mean results, but I haven’t been able to give it to them. It doesn’t help that Darrell’s been a little bit hoggish and takes half the wins, but even as good as he is, we should be winning races.