WHEEL, Tenn. — Eric Wells will never forget his first World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory.
The tour rookie from Hazard, Ky., inherited the lead on lap 47 when the top three cars were swept up in a tangle with a lapped machine, then outran defending WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan to capture Sunday night’s 50-lap A-Main at Duck River Raceway Park.
“We had a pretty good car from the drop of the green,” said Wells, who earned a career-high paycheck of $10,800. “I don’t think I had the car to win if not for the misfortune of (the top three), but sometimes you gotta have luck on your side and tonight we did. I couldn’t be any happier to win a World of Outlaws race this early in our first season (as a regular).”
Wells, 24, suddenly found himself in the top spot after leader Josh Richards, second-place Scott James and third-place Rick Eckert crashed together on the homestretch while lapping Mark Gant. The Bluegrass State driver sidestepped the scramble and never flinched over the final three circuits of the rough-and-tumble race, pulling away in his father David’s Team Zero by Bloomquist mount to defeat Lanigan’s Rocket by 0.696 of a second.
Tim McCreadie finished third in the Sweeteners Plus Warrior car, a couple car lengths behind Lanigan. Tyler Reddick recorded a WoO LMS career-best finish of fourth in a Team Zero by Bloomquist car and Tim Fuller placed fifth in the Kennedy Motorsports Capital Race Car after starting 23rd because a broken battery box during heat action forced him to use a provisional to gain entry to the A-Main.
Wells fulfilled the promise he showed in February when he registered a pair of top-five finishes during the season-opening eight-race stretch of WoO LMS competition in Georgia and Florida. His triumph made him the fifth driver in WoO LMS history to win an A-Main while chasing the Rookie of the Year honor, joining Fuller (’07), Brian Shirley (’07), Austin Hubbard (’10) and Bub McCool (’12).
“Coming here today I was pretty down on (racing at Duck River) with the weather conditions and the muddy pits and everything,” said Wells, alluding to a night of action that many doubted would happen due to the heavy rain that saturated the quarter-mile oval and its grounds on Saturday and into Sunday morning. “I definitely have a different outlook on it tonight. I’ve been telling everybody I’m not really sure about this track, but I think it might be alright now.”
Wells, who started 12th, appeared to be in line for a fourth-place until the dramatic turn of events on lap 47. He couldn’t believe his eyes when, about a half-straightaway ahead of him, Richards tangled with Gant off turn four, nosed into the outside wall just past the flagstand and collected James and Eckert.
“I saw a mess here on the frontstretch and the track was blocked,” said Wells, whose previous career-high WoO LMS finish was fourth, on Feb. 21 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. “I got on the brakes and tried to stay out of trouble. I just headed for the infield to try and stay out of it and keep our stuff in one piece. We slipped through that one and ended up with a win.”
Lanigan set a track record of 11.970 seconds in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials for the 30-car field.
Eric Wells, Darrell Lanigan, Tim McCreadie, Tyler Reddick, Tim Fuller, Chub Frank, Morgan Bagley, Clint Smith, Josh Richards, Josh Putnam, Scott James, Rick Eckert, Shane Clanton, Mark Gant, Dillon Wood, Bub McCool, Brad Skinner, Ray Cook, Jay Brinkley, David Seibers, Scott Bloomquist, Mark Fields, Scott Cook, Steve Casebolt Jr.