SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — Deer Creek Speedway has become Darrell Lanigan’s personal playground.
The defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion continued his decade-long mastery of the three-eighths-mile oval on Saturday night, rolling to a convincing victory in the 34th annual NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 Charity Late Model Race.
Lanigan, 43, earned $11,650 for his fourth triumph in 11 career WoO LMS starts at Deer Creek. He has finished outside the top three just twice since he began visiting the Queensland family’s track in 2005.
“This place is awesome,” said Lanigan, whose previous wins at Deer Creek came in the NAPA Gopher 50 in 2005 and 2009 and the opening night of the 2006 Heartland Nationals. “They work (the surface) right before the feature and it’s always great racing here. It’s a good place where you can get up on the wheel and race all over the racetrack.
“We definitely feel comfortable here, and our car seems to always work good here. I just like to come to Deer Creek.”
Though Lanigan did not grab the lead at the start of the race from his pole position slot on the grid, he overtook Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, for the top spot on lap 10 and never looked back. He repelled a mid-race challenge from Josh Richards before pulling away to defeat the WoO LMS points leader by a commanding 3.876 seconds — nearly a full straightaway — at the checkered flag.
Simpson settled for a career-best WoO LMS finish of third after driving off the outside pole to lead laps 1-9. Tour rookie Eric Wells finished fourth and defending NAPA Gopher 50 champion Shane Clanton placed fifth, falling short of becoming the first driver to win the tradition-laden race in back-to-back years since Billy Moyer in 2000-01.
Racing in front of a near-capacity crowd that turned out for one of Minnesota’s most tradition-laden dirt-track events, Lanigan didn’t take long to show the speed in his Cornett-powered Rocket car.
“The outside had a little bit better jump getting in the corner at the start,” said Lanigan, who registered his WoO LMS-leading seventh victory of the 2013 season and the 48th of his career. “You had that momentum on the top, and (Simpson) got ahead. But our car was pretty good on the bottom so we just raced him hard there for the first few laps and got by him.”