When it comes to the World of Outlaws Late Model series there is definitely never a lack of excitement.
The racing programs are so well organized and the drivers so skilled that any event is a good event.
Couple the World of Outlaw regulars with a few local standouts, and an ever changing racing surface and it is a recipe for entertainment.
On August 18th the World of Outlaws made their second venture up to the great white north in as many years for a stop at Merritt Raceway in Merritt Michigan.
With Merritt being far removed from the other tracks on the 2012 schedule, the two day Northern sweep included a Friday night stop at Winston Motor Speedway followed by the Saturday trip to Merritt which is located on M-55 halfway between Houghton Lake and Lake City, Michigan.
Friday night saw some intense action at the 3/8-mile dirt track in Rothbury, Michigan as Rick Eckert (no.24) shattered Darrell Lanigan’s (no.29) winning streak, and halted Josh Richard’s dreams of driving back into victory lane. Richards has been running in the NASCAR Nationwide series and with a weekend off made his first venture onto the dirt in four months and drove home in 2nd after leading a portion of the race.
The 2011 Merritt stop had greeted drivers with a dry slick racing surface, but over the off season Rick Ancel and his crew have been working on a new track surface, and if the WoO regulars were expecting dry slick they definitely got a surprise.
Instead a heavy rough track was on tap for the night and it was amazing how many drivers quickly adjusted to the ever changing conditions. By the end of the race of champions which kicked off the night, Josh Richards was sitting in victory lane after having gracefully navigated through the holes and ruts and he was looking good for the feature.
Heat races were exciting and the no.7R of Kent Robinson was definitely part of the excitement. In Heat 4 Robinson looked like he was on a pogo stick as his MastersBilt bounced up and down multiple times in turn 2 with all wheels lifting off the ground. Robinson made it back for the B-Main, transferred to the A with a second place finish and after starting in the back of the A-Main the WoO rookie navigated his way to a third place finish. Although Robinson and Wisconsin’s Terry Casey (no.42) were exciting to watch, nobody had anything for the Rocket cars.
Mark Richards pulled a house car sweep when son Josh picked up the win, tying him back up for 1st with Darrell Lanigan on the all-time WoO win list. Josh’s replacement in the house car; Brandon Sheppard, showed that he was the perfect fit for the no.1 machine as he trailed Richards to the line, making a number of attempts at the win himself and leading lap no.25 of the 50-lapper.
The northern swing for the World of Outlaws was definitely a treat for all us Michigan fans, the grandstands were packed, the pits full and the racing talent on display incredible!
In addition to the on track action it was also great seeing Kevin Kovac once again and spending a few minutes catching up with my friend and fellow Michigander Rick Eshelman. The 2012 MARFC Tom Carnegie award recipient is the voice of the World of Outlaws and was able to see some familiar sights on this series swing. For me it was just awesome hearing Rick’s voice over the P.A. system once again.
If you didn’t get a chance to hear Rick announce, or see the World of Outlaws in action or just want more of it, don’t worry there are still a couple more chances on tap for us Michiganders. On September 21st & 22ndthe series will be making a stop at Berlin Raceway. The high speed asphalt track in Marne Michigan is getting coat of dirt at the end of the season. Hauling in clay to cover the wicked fast high banks and hosting the inaugural Keyser Manufacturing 100.
Also, there is a late fall vacation opportunity as on November 1st – 3rd the Dirt Track at Charlotte will be hosting the World Finals for the WoO Late Models, WoO Sprinters and the Super DirtCar Big Block Modifieds. If you would like to learn more about the World of Outlaws and other DirtCar series check them out on the web at http://www.woolms.com/
I had an amazing time during my visit to Merritt and would like to thank Merritt Raceway and The World Racing Group for their awesome hospitality.