BRIGHTON, Ontario — One bad outing was enough for Darrell Lanigan.
Rebounding from an uncharacteristic subpar performance the previous evening, the defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion drove to a dominant victory in Thursday night’s Excel Tower Series 50 Presented by Dibbits Excavating, Campbellford Chrysler and J.J. Stewart Motors at Brighton Speedway.
Lanigan, 43, started outside the front row and grabbed the lead from polesitter Josh Richards at the green flag and never looked back. His two-race-old Rocket Chassis machine became stronger as the race wore on, propelling him to a convincing 3.187-second margin of victory over Richards.
Chub Frank advanced from the seventh starting spot to finish a season-best third and Dan Stone placed fourth for his second consecutive top-five finish on the WoO LMS. Shane Clanton completed the top five after starting 12th.
The $10,650 triumph in Brighton’s first-ever WoO LMS event was Lanigan’s tour-leading fifth of the 2013 season. It came almost exactly 24 hours after he was nearly lapped while struggling to a 14th-place finish in a WoO LMS event at Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway.
“We struggled to death last night, so man, it definitely pays off to work hard,” said Lanigan, whose streak of seven straight top-three finishes ended at Fonda. “Me, (chief mechanic) Jason (Jameson) and (crewman) Adam (Logan) put our heads together and we came up with a pretty good plan. We put some stuff that Jason learned last week on (a car) he drove and it definitely works good.
“I’m telling you — that car there was unbelievable. The car would just go anywhere. It didn’t matter if you were top, bottom — wherever, it was unbelievable.”
Lanigan’s impeccable mount was the same car he debuted so inauspiciously the previous night at Fonda. Everything the car didn’t do in its first race track appearance it did flawlessly in Canada.
“I thought we were good (at the start),” said Lanigan, “and then we moved to the bottom and got really good. I could actually run through the corner and not hardly even lift. It was just unreal.”
Richards, 25, stayed within a few car lengths of Lanigan during the race’s first 24 laps, which were slowed by caution flags for Gil Tegg Jr. (slowed in turn three on lap six); a turn-two tangle involving seventh-place Tim Fuller and the lapped Jon Rohacevich (lap 18); and Larry Wight (slid to a stop high in turn four). But over the final 26 green-flag circuits Lanigan pulled away with ease.
“I knew I had a big lead,” said Lanigan, whose increased his alltime-best WoO LMS win total to 46. “But I could just roll right through the center and be just as good, so I just kept rolling.”
Richards conceded that Lanigan was the class of the field.
“I knew after we made one corner that we just didn’t tighten up enough (for the feature),” said Richards, who extended his WoO LMS points lead to 32 points over Clanton. “I’m frustrated that we started on the pole and got beat, but Darrell just had the better car and beat us tonight.
“The track had a lot more grip in it earlier and we really didn’t adjust our car enough for later. We just kind of left it alone. It still drove really good, but it just wasn’t quite right for that (slicker) condition in the feature.
“The track had shiny spots and traction spots and as long as I hit the traction spots I was fine,” he added. “The longer the race went on, though, the black (shiny) spots got a lot wider. I was a little too free in those spots, but Darrell could go right through them and maneuver through lapped real good.”
Beyond the top-two finishers, Frank, 51, was story of the race. He enjoyed his best outing of the season, reaching third by lap 20 and holding strong to the show position for the remainder of the distance.
“It was a good run for us,” said Frank. “We were a little tight if we slowed down and loose if we ran in there hard like them (leaders) were, but we’re happy. (Lanigan and Richards) are the two guys that you gotta beat, so I guess finishing behind them is almost like a win – for us anyway right now.”
Darrell Lanigan, Josh Richards, Chub Frank, Dan Stone, Shane Clanton, Rick Eckert, Morgan Bagley, Bub McCool, Andrew Reaume, Billy Decker, Tim McCreadie, Tim Fuller, Eric Wells, Clint Smith, Charlie Sandercock, Corey Earl, Larry Wight, John Mason, Greg Belyea, Philip Potts, Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs, Jon Rohacevich, Greg Oakes, Gil Tegg Jr.