It’s safe to say that Darrell Lanigan hasn’t had the season that he and his Clint Bowyer Racing team would have hoped for when the 2018 campaign began. After all, it wasn’t until the 13th race of the season that the No. 14 team earned their first top-5 of the year. However, the Union, Kentucky driver has shown signs that he may be returning to the form that won him three World of Outlaws Late Model Series championships.
A $10,000 win in one of the preliminary races for the Dirt Million event was sandwiched between a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes during the heat of summer. Lanigan currently sits 10th in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series standings as that tour takes a break for this weekend’s World 100 at the Eldora Speedway.
“We built a new car last week and it seems like a pretty good piece,” Lanigan pointed out in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “We’re just trying to get in a little bit of a different direction from where we’ve been going. I think we’re turning a little bit in the right direction. We’ve got a few more steps to go but we’re getting closer.”
In 2017 the team owned by NASCAR star Clint Bowyer scored five wins between Labor Day and the end of the season. Is there something about this time of year that clicks for the 48-year-old driver or did it just happen to work out that way?
“It just happened to be the way things worked out,” Lanigan explained. “We got on a little program there at the end of the year last year and it worked out pretty good on the tracks we went to. We tried to get back on it at the beginning of this year but the tracks we went to were so much different than what we had been racing on that it just didn’t work at them places so we had to go in a little bit of a different direction.”
Lanigan and crew know the importance of having their car ready to race at the moment it rolls of the hauler. With competition such as Jonathan Davenport, Josh Richards, Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, Tim McCreadie and CBR teammate Don O’Neal among the superstars who line up on the Lucas Oil starting grids every night, there is no room for error.
“In this whole deal you can’t give up anything from hot laps to qualifying, you just can’t give up anything,” Lanigan stated. “The whole key to the whole night is to start on the front row of a heat race and that will make your night just about. But if you go out there and qualify bad you’re going to be stuck in the back all night long because these guys are just that good and it’s hard to pass.
“The competition is so close,” he continued. “Everybody is within a tenth of each other and it’s just easy to be off a tenth or two and be in the back of a heat race then it’s hard to capitalize on the night. The cars are so close now that it’s hard to pass.”
Driving for a team owned by a NASCAR racer has its advantages in terms of the resources available so that they can capitalize on as many nights as possible.
“They definitely give us what we need,” Lanigan declared. “It’s not an unlimited budget but it’s what we need to race with. I wouldn’t say we’ve got an abundance of anything, but if we needed something, we can definitely get it. It’s a good program, don’t get me wrong.”