GILLETTE, Wyo. — Rick Eckert’s turn to lead the World of Outlaws Late Model Series pack finally came on Tuesday night at Gillette Thunder Speedway.
The 47-year-old broke into victory lane for the first time this season on the national circuit, passing defending series champion Darrell Lanigan for the top spot on lap 18 and then holding on to capture the Wild West Tour’s ‘Cowboy 40.’
After registering four runner-up finishes in 2013 without grabbing a checkered flag, Eckert was excited to at long last bag his milestone 30th career win on the WoO LMS. His last victory came on Oct. 10, 2012, at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C.
“We’ve been so close so many times this year and haven’t got it done,” said Eckert, who ranks third on the alltime WoO LMS win list. “You come to win every race, and when you don’t get it done for like 27 races (entering Tuesday night’s action) it’s not very good on your morale or your team. They’ve worked very hard to try and get us a win, they’ve done their job — and I just haven’t got my job done.
“Finally tonight we had all the pieces together and got the job done. Hopefully there will be some more to come.”
Lanigan, 43, started from the pole position and led laps 1-17, but he had to settle for second place after being unable to regain command from Eckert. The circuit’s winningest driver this season fell short in his bid for two straight victories on the Wild West Tour, crossing the finish line 0.884 of a second behind Eckert.
Clint Smith marched forward from the ninth starting spot to finish a strong third, nearly five seconds behind Eckert. Seventh-starter Jimmy Mars placed fourth after climbing as high as third early in the distance and WoO LMS rookie Eric Wells, who started 11th, slipped into fifth place in the final laps and finished there for his second consecutive top-five outing.