LAKE CITY, Mich. — Tim Fuller’s long-awaited return to victory lane on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series finally occurred on Saturday night at Merritt Speedway.
Snapping a frustrating winless streak that stretched over three years and 133 races, Fuller charged forward from the 14th-starting spot and beat upset-minded Michiganders Eric Spangler and Rich Neiser in a thrilling three-wide finish to capture the NAPA Auto Parts Merrit 50 Presented by Allstar Performance.
Fuller, 45, flashed under the checkered flag just 0.101 of a second ahead of Spangler and 0.234 of a second in front of Neiser to record his first WoO LMS triumph since June 17, 2010, at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Ontario.
The $10,550 win was the 13th of Fuller’s career on the national tour but first since joining Kennedy Motorsports last summer as a teammate to Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga. He entered Saturday night’s event with just four top-five finishes in 35 WoO LMS A-Mains this season but confident that his breakthrough run was close at hand.
“It’s been a slow start (with Kennedy Motorsports) and I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to win,” said Fuller, who sits sixth in the WoO LMS standings. “I have struggled so long, there’s so many people to thank. Everybody that stuck with me through thick and thin – (car owner) John Kennedy, Shane Clanton, (chief mechanic) Ross (Robinson), Donnie (crewman Eugene Mulhany), my wife Lori. I can’t thank them all enough.
“I’ve felt like we’ve been getting closer and closer, so I hope this is a sign of things to come.”
Spangler, 44, and Neiser, 43, fought Fuller down to the wire, both drivers threatening to join the short list of local stars to pull off a WoO LMS victory. They each settled for finishes that were by far their best in World of Outlaws competition.
Defending WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan finished fourth, nearly three seconds behind the lead trio after carving his way through the pack from the 20th starting spot. Clint Smith completed the top five, fading to fifth place after starting on the outside pole and leading the first 39 laps of the A-Main.
Fuller, whose two previous WoO LMS appearances at Merritt resulted in unspectacular finishes of 15th in 2011 and 12th last year, credited his success to his pre-race tire-compound selection.