Looking Back On The First WoO Late Model Season

The inaugural World of Outlaws Late Model Series season took place in 1988.
The inaugural World of Outlaws Late Model Series season took place in 1988.

CONCORD, N.C. – Next year the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series will embark upon its 20th season.

However, the inaugural season for the series actually took place in 1988. Ted Johnson had already established the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars as a national powerhouse after 10 years.

Next, he planned to do the same with dirt late models.

Founded on the same principles which transformed his 1978 band of travelers into The Greatest Show on Dirt, Johnson formed a series of fendered fanatics in 1988.

Recruiting an elite breed of drivers, this original outfit of Outlaws was a list of legends on top of legends. Eleven of the top 12 in the series’ inaugural point standings have now found a home at the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.

Some of the iconic names which headlined that opening campaign in ’88 includes Moyer, Kraft, Phillips, Kosiski, Swartz, Essary, Moran, Boggs, Purvis, Smith, Aukland, and more.

With 17 races on the docket, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series contested events from Pennsylvania to Colorado, and everywhere in between in 1988. Twelve unique tracks in 11 different states highlighted year one.

Forever etched in the record books is the date April 22, 1988, when the World of Outlaws Late Models officially roared to life with the first event in series history held at the revered Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Distinguished as the first feature winner, Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., outran an all-star cast of competitors which included Jack Boggs, Freddy Smith, Rodney Franklin and Billy Moyer for his lone series victory.

When the series ventured west, Billy Moyer entered the win column and promptly established himself as the original Outlaw. A three-race win streak at Badlands Raceway in Yates Center, Kan., and Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo., pushed Moyer to the top of the all-time wins list, a spot he would hold until 2012 when Darrell Lanigan stripped it away.

The summer of ’88 began with a variety pack of fresh faces in victory lane as Willy Kraft won at Black Hills (S.D.) and Jackson (Minn.), Rick Egersdorf put his name into the hat by scoring at Cedar Lake (Wis.), and Johnny Stokes  was top dog in an Enid (Okla.) showdown.

From there, Moyer turned up the heat and went on an unrelenting run to win six of the final seven shows, including a five-race stretch which lasted 11 more seasons as the longest win streak in series history.

Triumphs at Sante Fe (Ill.) and Knoxville (Iowa) led into a perfect trifecta when Moyer swept three straight nights of the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway. The soon-to-be Million Dollar Man, Donnie Moran, stopped Moyer’s streak when the Outlaws hit Missouri for the first time ever, beating him head-to-head at Highway 13 in Bolivar. Billy got him back one night later with a season-ending score at Lebanon I-44.

Recording 10 wins and 14 top five finishes in the 17-race series, Moyer became the first champion in World of Outlaws Late Model Series history with 2,024 points earned aboard his famous No. 21. Closing out the top five point finishers in the inaugural season was Willy Kraft (-109), Larry Phillips (-200), Joe Kosiski (-578), and Charlie Swartz (-757).

It was a year to remember and will forever be written into the history books. With the groundwork laid, the stage was set for the World of Outlaws Late Models to return in 1989 with bigger goals in mind.