OCALA, Fla. — Darrell Lanigan continued his mastery of Bubba Raceway Park, winning Saturday night’s 50-lap Bubba Army Late Model Winter Nationals A-Main in dramatic fashion.
The defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion slipped his Cornett-powered Rocket car past Mike Marlar for the lead coming to the white flag, propelling him to his second Winter Nationals triumph in as many evenings. The $10,150 victory was his fifth in seven career starts over the past four years at the three-eighths-mile, D-shaped oval.
Lanigan, 42, became the first driver to win twice during the young 2013 WoO LMS season. He is coming off a championship season that saw him establish numerous records on the national tour, including a new single-season mark of 15 A-Mains victories.
Marlar, 35, settled for a runner-up finish in the Bryson Motorsports Rocket, 0.499 of a second behind Lanigan. He appeared headed to his first-ever WoO LMS win after grabbing the lead from Lanigan on lap 11, but his slight slip out of the preferred inside groove rounding turns three and four on the 48th circuit gave Lanigan the opportunity he needed to register his circuit-leading 43rd career victory.
Tim McCreadie finished third in the Sweeteners Plus Warrior, advancing from the sixth starting spot to nab his second consecutive top-three run. Josh Richards remained atop the WoO LMS standings after moving forward from the eighth starting position to place fourth in the Rocket Chassis house car and third-starter Shane Clanton was fifth in the Kennedy Motorsports Capital Race Car.
Lanigan, who started from the outside pole and assumed command at the initial green flag, thought he might have allowed the race to slip through his fingers when he watched Marlar surge underneath him off turn four to take the lead on lap 11. But Lanigan drew close to Marlar late in the event, which ran caution-free from lap 20 to the finish, and was able to steal the checkered flag.
“We gave (the lead) up there early,” said Lanigan. “I just didn’t get down quick enough (to the bottom). I thought the top (lane) was still good, and (Marlar) got around.
“I just screwed up myself there. Right there when I got passed the bottom was coming in good, and I just had to get down there and get in line.”
Lanigan never resigned himself to a runner-up finish, however. He was ready to seize the moment when Marlar ceded the inside line on lap 48.
“He went down there (in turns three and four) and just slipped out of the rubber,” said Lanigan. “He got bent a little too hard, slipped up and left a hole open.
“He had a really good car and I feel for him,” added Lanigan, who discussed the race with Marlar after the Victory Lane ceremonies. “He’s trying to get an Outlaw win, but I gotta take what I can get and he left the bottom open down there and I just put the door in there. Your car’s gotta be good, but you gotta have luck on your side, too.”
Marlar was gracious in the wake of the difficult defeat, which came one year after he fell short of winning the Bubba Army Late Model Winter Nationals finale in heartbreaking fashion. His bid for the victory in 2012 ended when he got squeezed into the turn-three wall while attempting to pass eventual winner Rick Eckert on the final lap.
“Within the last 10 laps I got to where I could hardly even keep up with the lapped cars off turn four,” said Marlar, who started fourth. “I guess a combination of my car going away and my tires going away hurt me, but ultimately I had the lead and I’m disappointed I didn’t win. I should’ve been able to fend (Lanigan) off a little better.
“But honestly, he was just a little faster. Basically, I passed him (on lap 11) because I found the groove faster than he did. Then he passed me because he could stay in it better.
“My first World of Outlaws win here is starting to feel elusive,” he added, “so I don’t like that at all. But even though I’m disappointed, I just try to look at the mental mistake and the chassis (tuning) mistake, and try to figure out why I didn’t win and why I lost. Tonight Darrell was definitely better, but I still maybe should have won because I was in the right position to capitalize.”
Richards was quickest in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials with a lap of 15.046 seconds.
Darrell Lanigan, Mike Marlar, Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards, Shane Clanton, Rick Eckert, Brady Smith, Chub Frank, Morgan Bagley, Brandon Sheppard, Clint Smith, Tim Fuller, Jonathan Davenport, Dave Hess Jr., Bub McCool, Dillon Wood, Tyler Ivey, Kent Robinson, Billy Moyer, Scott James, Pat Doar, Eric Wells, Gregg Satterlee, Casey Roberts, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.