Pittman, Gravel Lead World Finals Qualifying

Daryn Pittman during Peak Motor Oil World Finals qualifying Thursday. (Adam Fenwick/AKFPhotos.com Photo)
Daryn Pittman during Peak Motor Oil World Finals qualifying Thursday. (Adam Fenwick/AKFPhotos.com Photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – Daryn Pittman and David Gravel each established quick time, but in very different fashions on a chilly Thursday during Kellogg’s Qualifying Night at the Sixth annual PEAK Motor Oil World of Outlaws World Finals Presented by NAPA Auto Parts.

On a night when the temperature dropped into the low 40s at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, the bundled spectators were treated to 50 drivers qualifying for this weekend’s World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series season finale.

Pittman, who went out ninth to set up Friday’s heat race lineups, clocked the top time at 13.047 seconds before Gravel ended the night by laying down the quickest lap at 13.026 as the final qualifier for Saturday’s event.

Pittman rode the cushion around the four-tenths-mile oval to post the fastest time and he watched as five other drivers came within six-hundredths of a second from knocking him off the top of the chart.

“Obviously with 50 cars the first goal is to go out there and get in the invert,” Pittman said after his third quick time of the season. “There’s 50 really good sprint cars and probably 30 of the best in the country, so you just start with a small goal of making sure you’re in the invert so you’ve got a chance to win and you try to improve from there.”

By the time Gravel hit the track to conclude qualifying for both events, the cushion was up to the wall. Gravel set a pair of smooth laps, the fastest earning him his fifth quick time of the season with the World of Outlaws.

“You just had to be a little more aggressive on the curb,” he said. “I was right up on it. It’s really awesome because the first time trials session we were one off in the inversion. We qualified 21st, so to go quick time here definitely makes up for it.”

By virtue of their qualifying results, both Pittman and Gravel finished the season ranked in top 10 in bonus qualifying points and quick times with the Outlaws. Sammy Swindell ended the year leading both categories with 14 quick times and 143 bonus points via qualifying.

In World of Outlaws Late Model Series competition, Darrell Lanigan and Josh Richards – the only two-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champions since 2004 –- shared fast-time honors during Thursday night’s Kellogg’s Qualifying Night.

Friendly rivals who two years ago battled for the WoO LMS title at The Dirt Track, Lanigan and Richards topped a massive field of 72 dirt Late Models that were signed in for two rounds of Ohlins Shocks Time Trials.

Kellogg’s Qualifying Night featured two rounds of WoO LMS time trials –- the first to line up Friday night’s heat races and the second to align Saturday night’s preliminaries.

On an evening that saw him clinch his second career WoO LMS points crown simply by entering the competition, Lanigan, 42, blistered the four-tenths-mile oval in 15.155 seconds during the first round of time trials. It was his sixth fast time of 2012, giving him sole possession of first place in the category ahead of Rick Eckert.

Lanigan went on to time fifth-fastest in the second round of qualifying, leaving him just short of becoming the third driver in history to sweep both legs of WoO LMS time trials during the PEAK World Finals Presented by NAPA. His circuit of 15.522 seconds was just a hair off Richards’s quick lap of 15.425 seconds –- even though Lanigan went on the track next to last in the qualifying order.

“We had a real good car,”” Lanigan said of his Cornett-powered Rocket. ““We missed out on a chance to sweep (the fast times) because the track definitely slowed down by the time we went out in the second round, but we’ll take two top-five qualifying runs. We know we’ll be on the pole for two heats.””

Lanigan, who previously registered a PEAK World Finals Presented by NAPA fast-time award in the first round of qualifying in 2009, will start from the pole position in the first heat on Friday night and the fifth heat on Saturday night.

Richards, 24, steered the Rocket Chassis house car to his fourth WoO LMS fast time of 2012 despite running an abbreviated schedule while pursuing a pavement career on the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It marked the second straight year that he set fast time in one round of qualifying during the PEAK World Finals Presented by NAPA.

While Richards will start Saturday night’s first heat from the pole position, his seventh-fastest lap in Round 1 of time trials handed him the outside pole for Friday night’s first preliminary.

Lanigan was one of four drivers to time inside the top six in both rounds to secure a pair of pole-position starts, joining 2011 WoO LMS champion Eckert, Chris Madden and Don O’’Neal.

Other pole position winners for Friday’s program were Eric Wells and Scott Bloomquist, while Dale McDowell will start a Saturday heat from the inside of Row 1.

Super DIRTcar Series big-block modified teams completed most of their qualifying events, including timed hot lap sessions and heat races, for both upcoming features, which take place Friday and Saturday. Race day B-Features and redraws will complete the starting grid for each A-Feature.

The stakes are high as competitors prepare for the last two races of the season. More than 300 series points are on the line the next two days, and Jimmy Phelps, currently second in points, hopes a good starting spot can help him win an ample portion of those points.

“We’ve got two more races, and we want to win them both,” said Phelps, who made fast time and placed first in his heat in qualifying events for Saturday’s 40-lap A-Feature. His qualifying results allow him to take part in Saturday’s redraw for one of eight top starting positions. Phelps also finished third in qualifying events for Friday’s A-Feature, also 40 laps, earning him the tenth starting position.

The driver of the HB Motorsports No. 98h is just 84 points behind series point leader Matt Sheppard, and anything could happen over the next 80 feature laps to close that gap, or make it wider. For now, Phelps is trying to take it one race at a time.

“Our goal right now is to just keep this thing in second,” said Phelps, whose heat win followed of a tight battle with Hearn in the Madsen Overhead Doors No. 20. “We need to get a little faster. I thought in that qualifying race, even though we won, Brett had us on the watch a little bit. We got the jump on the green and we were able to hold him off, but I thought his car was a little better. So, that being said, we have to pick it up a little for Saturday. We’re definitely in the ballpark, we just have to make a few adjustments.”

Hearn, who is currently third in the series and trails Sheppard by 100 points, also qualified well, making it to the redraw both nights. Even for Hearn, the tension is high; a lucky redraw could have him starting first, a not-so-lucky one starting eighth. His main concern is keeping up with track conditions and making sure the car’s setup is suited for them.

“The challenge is going to be to read the track and drive it the way it needs to be driven,” said Hearn. “We know the car is good, it’s just a matter now of watching the track and making the right adjustments at the right times. We don’t know if the track is going to be the same tomorrow night, or if it’s going to change.”