CONCORD, N.C. — Rick Eckert finally conquered The Dirt Track at Charlotte, breaking into victory lane at the four-tenths-mile oval with a powerful performance in Wednesday night’s 50-lap Circle K World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown.
The defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion streaked into the lead on lap 31 when Josh Richards slowed with a blown right-rear tire and never looked back. He kept Clint Smith at arm’s length over the remaining distance to register his second consecutive and fifth overall triumph of 2012 on the national tour.
“We won Charlotte!” exclaimed the 46-year-old Eckert after emerging from his victorious Team Zero by Bloomquist car. “It’s a great feeling because this is an awesome place. We’ve been here a bunch (over the past decade) and we’ve run second, we’ve run third, we’ve run fourth — and we’ve run terrible here too. I’ve always wanted to win here, so now I can take this place off my bucket list.”
Smith, 47, finished 0.725 of a second behind Eckert in second place — after starting 24th because he used a provisional spot to gain entry to the A-Main. It was the third runner-up placing of 2012 for Smith, whose last WoO LMS victory came 61 races ago on May 8, 2011, at Needmore Speedway in Norman Park, Ga.
Chub Frank quietly moved forward from the 11th starting spot to finish third, his 10th top-five outing of 2012. He moved to fourth in the WoO LMS standings, overtaking Tim McCreadie, who started sixth but retired after just nine laps.
Bub McCool advanced from the 21st starting spot to add a fourth-place finish to his 2012 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year campaign, and point leader Darrell Lanigan salvaged a rare off night (he used a provisional to start 23rd in the A-Main) with a fifth-place run that marked his 31st top-five finish in 38 starts this season.
Lanigan, 42, left Charlotte leading the WoO LMS points standings by 194 points over Eckert. He will officially clinch his second career championship when he enters the qualifying program of the Peak Motor Oil World of Outlaws World Finals presented by NAPA Auto Parts on Nov. 1 at The Dirt Track, assuring himself 60 show-up points for each of the event’s two shows.
“I got up through there fairly well without hurting my tires, but when I got (to third) Josh was rolling and Dale was rolling,” said Eckert, whose 29 th career WoO LMS win moved him into sole possession of third place on the tour’s victory list since 2004. “Then those two touched each other (in turn one on lap 13) and I snuck by Dale, and then I just got to where I started creeping back in on Josh when we ran a long enough green. On those short greens he was like a rabbit — he’d get out there — but once we got going I finally could change my line into three and I started moving in on him.
“If he didn’t break I think we would’ve had a helluva race at the end because I started getting better and he started getting worse.”
Forty-five cars were signed in for the event, which was run on a gorgeous autumn day.
Richards was quickest in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials with a lap of 14.997 seconds. It was his third WoO LMS fast-time honor of 2012 and the 30th of his career.
Rick Eckert, Clint Smith, Chub Frank, Bub McCool, Darrell Lanigan, Shane Clanton, Eric Jacobsen, Steve Shaver, Donnie Moran, Pat Doar, Brandon Sheppard, Austin Dillon, Jared Landers, Tyler Reddick, Steve Francis, Josh Richards, Jeff Rine, Eddie Carrier Jr., Kenny Pettyjohn, Dale McDowell, Tim Fuller, Eric Wells, Tim McCreadie, Kent Robinson, Jimmy Owens, Vic Coffey.