HIBBING, Minn. – Jimmy Mars waited a long time for the opportunity to return to Hibbing Raceway for a major event. When the Menomonie, Wis., driver finally got that opportunity at Thursday night’s Wild West Tour opening round race, he didn’t waste it.
Competing at Hibbing’s three-eighths-mile clay oval for the first time in nearly two decades, Mars overtook Darrell Lanigan amid heavy traffic on lap 38 of Thursday’s 50-lap main event and led the remaining distance to earn a $10,050 victory in Hibbing’s first-ever World of Outlaws Late Model Series race.
“This is one of the tracks that when I was younger and racing more on a local level, we would come up here and run a lot of their shows,” said Mars, whose Deppe Enterprises-sponsored race team is based roughly four hours from the northeast Minnesota track. “It just seems like we’ve always had other stuff going on so we couldn’t make it back here. But there’s a real good fan base up here and we’ve got a lot of friends up here. To win this one is definitely special for us.”
Mars’ self-designed MB Customs machine crossed the finish line 3.018 seconds ahead of Tim McCreadie, who moved by Lanigan for second on lap 39. Lanigan, the WoO LMS points leader who paced the race’s first 37 circuits after moving from third to first on the opening lap, slid back to third at the finish just ahead of eighth-starting Morgan Bagley. Sixth-starting Chub Frank settled for fifth after climbing as high as second.
After falling as far back as fourth from his pole starting spot early in the race, Mars’ hard-compound tire choice allowed him to begin his march back toward the front just before the race’s midway point. He battled back and forth with McCreadie and Frank for the second spot between laps 15 and 30 before finally emerging ahead and setting his sights on Lanigan.
Mars began to pressure Lanigan at lap 35 and was in position to look under the leader when Lanigan attempted to move around a group of slower cars on lap 37. Mars took advantage and pulled ahead of Lanigan exiting turn four on lap 38, then used a strong run into turn three the following lap to slide under the group of cars that had held up Lanigan.
Mars cruised from there, successfully negotiating the slower traffic as he pulled away to the finish.
“I didn’t want to fall back, but I knew I just had to be patient with what I had for tires,” said Mars, who claimed his first WoO LMS triumph since March 31, 2012. “When a driver like Darrell gets out ahead like that you do get worried, but toward the end we got really good and the lapped traffic kind of worked out in our favor.
“Anytime you can race against these guys and beat them, I mean Darrell’s been on a tear. Eckert, McCreadie, Chub – I’m glad to see he’s running good here. I wish I could run more of these races because this is unbelievable.”