Mars Hits $20,000 Illini Marks


FARMER CITY, Ill. — Jimmy Mars added another major-event victory to his already bulging resume, holding off Darrell Lanigan, to capture Saturday night’s Illini 100 at Farmer City Raceway.

Racing in front of a standing-room-only crowd, Mars roared off the outside pole starting spot to grab the lead at the initial green flag and never relinquished the position. He turned back repeated challenges from Lanigan during the race’s final circuits to pocket the $20,000 top prize.

“I’ve never really been all that good here at Farmer City where I’ve been in contention to win,” said Mars, who recorded his first-ever triumph at the quarter-mile fairgrounds oval. “So to come out of here with a win, to me, it’s a true honor.”

Mars, 40, drove his Mars Race Car across the finish line 0.308 of a second in front of Lanigan, who advanced from the sixth starting spot in his Rocket mount and retained his WoO LMS point lead. Shannon Babb finished a distant third in a Victory Circle machine, defending WoO LMS champion Rick Eckert placed fourth in a Team Zero by Bloomquist car and Brian Birkhofer was fifth in an MB Customs chassis.

In a blistering-fast race that was slowed by just two caution flags, Lanigan surged to second place on a lap-22 restart and took up the chase of Mars. The 2008 WoO LMS titlist was on Mars’s rear bumper when the second caution flew on lap 80 and made several bids over the remaining distance but couldn’t pull off a pass.

Mars knew Lanigan was nipping at his heels, but he never made a mistake en route to his fifth career WoO LMS victory.

“I couldn’t keep my momentum up as much as I wanted to on the bottom and I’d get a little loose off (turn) two,” said Mars, whose previous Illini 100 finishes at Farmer City included a fourth in 2009 and 12th in 2010. “My car was really flawless early on when the track was completely slick, but it started to get a little bit narrow and I couldn’t turn quite as good as I needed to. I was just trying to protect it as much as I could.

“But Darrell’s a good driver, we race hard against each other and we respect each other, so I’d have to say I think it would’ve been a clean pass (if he made a move). It wouldn’t have been anything other than that.”

Lanigan, 41, settled for another runner-up finish in a 100-lap WoO LMS show. His only century-grind victory on the circuit came in last year’s Cash Cow 100 at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway.

“We had an excellent car,” said Lanigan, whose previous best finish in the Illini 100 was seventh, in 2009. “I just wish we could’ve started a little closer to the front. Once we got to second it got tough to make a move. I tried everything I could but I wasn’t getting by (Mars) unless he made a mistake.”

The finish:

Jimmy Mars, Darrell Lanigan, Shannon Babb, Rick Eckert, Brian Birkhofer, Josh Richards, Brian Shirley, Bobby Pierce, Greg Johnson, Frankie Heckenast Jr., Jason Feger, Jack Sullivan, Tim McCreadie, Clint Smith, Kent Robinson, Pat Doar, Vic Coffey, Chub Frank, Shane Clanton, Billy Moyer, Jill George, Brandon Sheppard, Steve Lance Jr., Mike Marlar, Chris Simpson, Kevin Weaver, Billy Moyer Jr., Bub McCool.

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