LAKE CITY, Mich. — Darrell Lanigan topped a back-and-forth battle with Brady Smith midway through Saturday’s NAPA Merritt 50 A-Main at Merritt Speedway and pulled away in the closing laps to earn his 13th World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory of the season.
The 44-year-old Lanigan, a two-time series champion and current points leader, earned $10,650 for his series-leading 66th career WoO LMS victory and his first triumph at Merritt’s three-eighths-mile oval.
“We went a little different (on tire selection) and I knew we would be better on the long run,” said Lanigan, who moved within two victories of his record 15-win mark set in 2012. “I was just biding my time and once my stuff came in it was like a rocket ship.”
Smith settled for second, fading to 4.925 seconds behind Lanigan at the finish, while home-track driver Dona Marcoullier made a late charge to finish third. Former WoO LMS champion Rick Eckert was fourth with Clint Smith, who led the first four laps from the outside pole, rounding out the top five in a race slowed by four cautions.
Dropping back to second on the start, the polesitting Lanigan pressured Clint Smith through the first three laps before pulling ahead on lap four. Lanigan pulled away on three early restarts before 10th-starting Brady Smith reeled him just before lap 15.
Smith first took a look to the outside of Lanigan on the 15th lap, and was alongside the leader the following circuit. The two cars battle side by side over the next four laps before Smith pulled ahead just before the final caution waved with 19 laps complete.
Smith eased away from Lanigan after the restart, but Lanigan was soon making his bid to retake the point. Lanigan took advantage when Smith attempted to drive around a slower car on lap 30, dropping to the inside lane to make a three-wide pass for the lead on the back straightaway.
Once back in command, Lanigan’s Club 29 Race Car drove away from Smith and had only to avoid trouble in traffic to secure the victory. That was no simple task, however, as slower cars ran two and three wide ahead of him. But he skillfully handled the congestion, passing cars two at time on more than one occasion.