CONCORD, N.C. – Rick Eckert has experienced a full range of emotions while at The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the PEAK Motor Oil World of Outlaws World Finals Presented by NAPA Auto Parts – everything from the depths of despair (in 2009 when he learned that his longtime car owner, Raye Vest, had passed away) to the heights of exhilaration (last year when he won his first World of Outlaws Late Model Series title in dramatic fashion).
So what’s in store for Eckert when he sets up shop at The Dirt Track for the sixth annual PEAK World Finals Presented by NAPA starting today? With no chance of repeating as champion but a second-place finish in the points standings assured, he would like a stress-free weekend topped by at least one season-ending win.
Eckert, 46, of York, Pa., seems well positioned to end 2012 on a high note during the PEAK World Finals Presented by NAPA, which features 50-lap, $10,000-to-win WoO LMS A-Mains on both Friday (Nov. 2) and Saturday (Nov. 3) evenings. He’s riding a two-race win streak on the national tour, including his first career victory at The Dirt Track just three weeks ago, on Oct. 10, in the Circle K World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown.
“We’ve picked up some momentum here lately so hopefully we can build on that,” said Eckert, whose five WoO LMS wins this season ranks second to the record-setting 15 recorded by presumptive ’12 titlist Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. “I finally got Charlotte off my bucket list (with his recent triumph), but I’d still like to get another one before the year is done.”
Eckert’s best World Finals finish is second, in the first half of the 2010 doubleheader. That A-Main was run on Saturday afternoon after action on Friday night was postponed by rain.
This weekend’s competition will bring back Eckert’s memories of his raucous 2011 championship celebration at The Dirt Track, which came after Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., slowed with a flat tire on the final lap of Saturday’s A-Main to hand the WoO LMS crown to Eckert.
“That was a cool moment,” said Eckert. “The way it happened, with all those people there and going crazy when we got to Victory Lane, was something you never forget. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we did it.”
Eckert trails Lanigan in the WoO LMS points standings by 194 markers and leads third-place Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., by 198 points, so he’ll lock down a $60,000 runner-up finish as soon as everyone enters Thursday night’s qualifying program. He’s obviously disappointed to fall short of another championship, but he’ll gladly take second-place money after a season that saw him nearly forced off the circuit by an outbreak of mechanical trouble – with his race car and hauler – in June.
“We actually had a decent season except for that one period where we broke a bunch of stuff and our truck broke down,” said Eckert. “We struggled through that stretch, but we got back on track in July and we’re finishing real strong.
“But Darrell’s been awesome all year. You can’t catch a guy when he runs top-three just about every race, so hat’s off to him and his crew. They work hard, and they just beat us this year. Hopefully we can come back next year and beat them.”
Free of points pressure, Eckert is ready to enjoy the 2012 WoO LMS season finale – an event that he considers one of short-track racing’s true spectacles.
“For us racers, it’s work,” Eckert said of the PEAK World Finals Presented by NAPA, which also includes the WoO Sprint Car Series and the Super DIRTcar Series for big-block Modifieds. “But for a fan – man, it’s really cool to go to. If I was a fan, I’d enjoy the s— out of it.
“Hell, if I’m not racing, I usually end up at a Sprint Car race somewhere around home, so I enjoy all kinds of racing. It’s all cool to me, so I think it would be a cool ticket to get. I mean, it’s a really good deal to be able to see all three classes at such a great place – there’s so much stuff around Charlotte to do. For a race-crazy fan, he can go visit Cup shops all day long, watch races all evening, and then get up again the next day and do it all over again and still not hit the same shops.”