CONCORD, N.C. – Whether Tim McCreadie can raise his game sufficiently to make a serious run at the World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship in 2014 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: he isn’t lacking for confidence as he plunges into the chase.
When the national tour’s 2014 campaign kicks off with the Bubba Army Dirt Late Model Winter Nationals on Feb. 14-16 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., and the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment on Feb. 20-22 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., McCreadie fully expects to be in the title conversation.
“I wouldn’t go out on tour if I didn’t think we had a shot at winning the championship,” Watertown, N.Y.’s McCreadie asserted with steely-eyed resolve. “That’s always the focus. Now, it hasn’t worked out that we’ve been a contender the last few years, but we’ve always thought we had good enough cars and help to win a championship and it’s no different this year.”
McCreadie, of course, knows what it takes to be a World of Outlaws champion. He won the crown in 2006, just three years after switching his focus to dirt Late Model racing from his roots in the Northeast’s DIRTcar Big-Block Modified division.
But since reaching the WoO LMS mountaintop, McCreadie has struggled to find his way back. While he’s never finished outside the top five in the points standings since returning as a series regular in 2010 (he entered only selected WoO LMS events from 2007-2009), he’s only gotten a sniff of a title once. That was in ’10 when he battled Josh Richards and Darrell Lanigan until faltering late in the season and settling for a third-place finish.
McCreadie hasn’t forgotten how to win – with eight triumphs over the past two seasons (three in ’12, five in ’13), he ranks behind only Lanigan (27 wins) and Richards (12) on the WoO LMS victory list for the period – but he has lost the championship formula. He’s simply been too up-and-down, bidding for a win one night and falling completely out of the mix the next. His failure to find consistent speed is evidenced by the combined 26 DNFs he rang up in 2012 and ’13, a number accentuated by McCreadie’s penchant for pulling out of races rather than wallowing at the back of the pack.
McCreadie is well aware of the area in which he needs to improve. In hopes of doing that in 2014, he made an off-season decision with his Sweeteners Plus Racing team to reunite with Rocket Chassis, the car make he hasn’t driven exclusively since 2010. He spent much of the 2011 season running a Victory Circle car and campaigned Warrior Chassis machines in 2012 and ’13.
“The last time we were really, really comfortable in our equipment and were a real threat to win the championship the whole way through the year, we were in Rocket stuff,” said McCreadie, who has two new Rocket mounts ready for action. “It was just me and Al (Stevens) working on the cars back then too, but we have three guys now (including crewmen Craig McCrimmon and Johnny Coco) and we have more people who can come to races and help. So really, I feel like our program is stronger today than it was in 2010 and even back when we won the championship in ’06. I think we have a stronger core with everything now, so, as long as I can get up to speed with the Rockets, I think we can win like we were winning last year and not be as bad as we were in other races.
“That’s what it’s gonna take. You can’t finish 15th or drop out and contend for the championship. You’re gonna have to be able to match what the best two cars the last few years are able to do – that’s Darrell and Josh. They’re the standard right now and we’re doing everything we can to match up with them.”
McCreadie figures to benefit from working closely throughout the season with Richards, the three-time and defending WoO LMS champion, and Richards’s father Mark’s Rocket Chassis house car team. With Lanigan leaving the Rocket fold to start up his own car-building business, McCreadie becomes the highest-ranked driver besides Richards running Rocket machines on the circuit.
“It was a company decision more than anything,” McCreadie said of his team’s move to Rocket. “Business-wise, it just makes sense. Vic (Coffey, McCreadie’s Sweeteners Plus teammate) drives ’em and he likes his cars, and we decided that as a company that’s the direction we should go to keep everything more in line.
“Then after talking with Mark and those guys down at Rocket – they’re just really good at helping people. Warrior (led by Sanford Goddard) is really good with helping people too, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that there’s more of these (Rocket) cars out there, so that should help me get a baseline (setup) at some places where I struggled last year and hopefully I won’t struggle like that again.”
With McCreadie ready to celebrate his 40th birthday on April 12, he understands that he’s in his racing prime. He’s counting on using the larger pool of technical information available at Rocket to maximize the years ahead of him.