CONCORD, N.C. - Darrell Lanigan’s dream season on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series officially came to a close on Sunday night.
The 42-year-old star from Union, Ky., was crowned the 2012 champion of the renowned national tour - and collected a $100,000 points-fund check - during Sunday’s annual WoO LMS Night of Champions Awards Banquet at the Great Wolf Lodge.
Lanigan rewrote the circuits record book en route to becoming the second two-time WoO LMS titlist since 2004. He established new standards for wins in a single season (15), consecutive victories (six) and alltime triumphs (41), leaving the typically reserved driver even more at a loss for words.
“Wow…what a year!” Lanigan told a filled ballroom when he was called to the stage to accept his championship honors. “Unbelievable, just unbelievable. Thats all I can say.”
Lanigan seized the points lead with a victory in the 2012 season opener on Feb. 11 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and never relinquished it, becoming the first driver to remain atop the standings from start-to-finish. His final championship margin of 228 points over 2011 titlist Rick Eckert of York, Pa., was the largest in series history.
The longtime WoO LMS regulars 2012 earnings totaled a record $426,200, including his share of the more than $400,000 in points-fund cash and special awards distributed during Sundays ceremonies. He clinched the title by simply entering the PEAK Motor Oil World of Outlaws World Finals Presented by NAPA Auto Parts held the previous three nights at The Dirt Track at Charlotte just a couple miles from the site of the banquet.
“Its been a great year,” said Lanigan, who claimed his first WoO LMS points crown in 2008. ”This takes a lot of hard work. I know everybody does it and everybody wants a year like this, but everything has to come together for it to happen.”
Lanigan had a long list of reasons for his success, including the builders of his chassis (Rocket) and engines (Cornett); sponsors Keyser Manufacturing, Integra Shocks and Arizona Sport Shirts; and, of course, his crew.
“My crew was just unbelievable,” said Lanigan. “Jason (Jameson) took time off from his (dirt Late Model) racing career to help me (as chief mechanic of Lanigan Autosports), and Adam did an unbelievable job. I can’t thank them guys enough.”
The impressive job Jameson did for Lanigan was recognized by his mechanical peers from rival WoO LMS teams, who voted the 27-year-old from Lawrenceburg, Ind., as the tours 2012 Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Year. He was presented a specially-designed wrench-shaped metal trophy and a set of Integra Shocks.
”Jason definitely has been a big asset to my racing this year,” said Lanigan, whose WoO LMS performance log showed 33 top-five and 37 top-10 finishes in 40 A-Mains. ”(Being a driver) he can make calls (by) seeing what my car does on the racetrack. Just having his driving skills has definitely improved my racing program a bunch.”
Eckert, 46, settled for second place in the 2012 points standings, worth $60,000 in points-fund money to push his overall earnings to $217,930. He registered five wins, 20 top-five and 34 top-10 finishes all second-best to Lanigans totals.
Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., who won a single A-Main in 2012, finished a distant third in the standings. He pocketed $40,000 for his best points performance since placing second in 2006.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., collected $35,000 for finishing fourth in the standings while Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., pocketed $30,000 for a fifth-place finish. Both drivers finished in the same spots that they did in 2011.
Rounding out the top 10 in the 2012 points standings was Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga. ($25,000); Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss. ($24,000); Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y. ($23,000); Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y. ($22,000); and Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis. ($21,000).
McCool, 35, picked up an additional $10,000 for winning the 2012 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Award. He captured one A-Main and registered nine top-five finishes to outdistance Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., for the rookie crown.
Robinson, 25, ran the entire WoO LMS schedule and finished 11th in the final points standings. He received a check for $5,000 for placing second in the rookie battle.
Rocket Chassis was recognized as the 2012 WoO LMS Chassis Builder of the Year - the ninth straight year that the company has earned the nod. Four drivers won WoO LMS A-Mains using Rocket cars this season, giving the manufacturer 19 victories in 40 events.
Cornett Racing Engines was named the winner of the 2012 WoO LMS Engine Builder of the Year award, which was determined through the DIRTcar Horsepower program.
WoO LMS director Tim Christman announced that the tours 2012 Promoter of the Year Award winner was the management team of Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.: brothers Bob, Chuck and Steve Kaufman and Brad Both. The partners present the rich $50,000-to-win USA Nationals, which was part of the WoO LMS for the third straight year.
Other special awards handed out during the banquet included:
– The Raye Vest Memorial Pill-Draw Awards presented by McCarthys One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning went to Fuller (lowest time-trial pill-draw average for the 2011 season) and Lanigan (highest average). Each driver received a $500 check.
– The $500 DirtonDirt.com Hard Charger Award, which went to Frank for the third consecutive season. He picked up the most positions in WoO LMS A-Mains this season, advancing 169 spots to beat Smith by 18 positions.
– VP Racing Fuels handed $500 in cash to Lanigan as a bonus for his series-best win total in 2012 under the condition, of course, that he continue the tradition of spending the money treating his fellow banquet attendees to drinks at the bar following the festivities.
Among the World Racing Group officials who addressed those in attendance were Chief Executive Officer Brian Carter and President Tom Deery. Christman also gave a review of the 2012 season, recognized the tours hard-working road crew (race director Bret Emrick, announcer and banquet host Rick Eshelman, tech director Jim Harrah, scorer Sandy Holt, pit steward Tyler Bachman and P.R. director Kevin Kovac) and looked ahead to the upcoming 2013 campaign.
Christman said the full 2013 WoO LMS schedule will likely be released in the coming weeks, but the season is scheduled to kick off on Feb. 8-9 with the running of the Winter Freeze event at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. The tour will then head to Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., from Feb. 15-17 and Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., for the 42nd annual UNOH DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 21-23.