The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.
*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
Richard: While racers have already been in Georgia and Florida for a week by now, this Friday will serve as the beginning of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series when that national tour takes on the Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, GA. This marks what appears to be a year of transition for the series as there was a situation last season in which a driver came in for his first full run on a national tour then won the title and dropped back off the series. With Mike Marlar opting to drive for the re-formed K&L Rumley Enterprises team on a “pick-and-choose” type schedule, WoO will not have a defending champion racing with them on a full-time basis in 2019.
Along with losing the reigning champion, long term campaigner Chub Frank dropped away last year and this off-season former champion Rick Eckert announced that he had been unable to secure a ride and will no longer be able to follow the series.
At the same time, drivers such as Brandon Sheppard, Shane Clanton, Chris Madden and other veterans will return for action.
This is a year of transition, isn’t it?
Michael: It certainly is. Eckert was the last of the original “Dirty Dozen” drivers that have run with the series since it came back to life in 2004. And it’s very unusual to see a series champion not be back the following year.
There were also changes behind the scenes as Matt Curl has left the series to go back to promoting Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois. Moves like this make fans wonder about the stability of the series. I feel as if the series will remain in good shape.
As much as teams leave, Darrell Lanigan is back this year running his familiar black No. 29. It will be interesting to see how he fares this season.
Richard: That leads right into my next point regarding transition. Lanigan, of course, had been away for three years while participating on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series for Clint Bowyer Racing. Since parting ways with CBR, he has made the decision to return to the series on which he has won championships and piled up race wins.
But more than just Lanigan, there are others who have indicated their intention to race full-time with the WoO Late Models.
Brandon Overton looks to possibly return to the series with Joey Coulter’s Rum Runner Racing team. Another interesting name that has indicated he will race with WoO in 2019 is that of Dennis Erb, Jr. who has for several years been a fixture on the Lucas tour. And another driver to watch on this series in 2019 would be North-South 100 winner Ricky Weiss.
And while he isn’t a newcomer, Chase Junghans garnered some attention last year as he picked up a win and had several solid runs.
Of these newcomers/returnees, who do you see having an impact?
Michael: If Overton does run a full WoO schedule, I think he’ll have the biggest impact of those you mentioned. Weiss would be the one I’d put there if Overton doesn’t run the whole schedule.
I think Erb Jr. moving to WoO is an interesting development. I tend to think he will run better with that series, not because of the competition, but because the tracks on their schedule would be more suited to him. Of course, I could potentially see Erb Jr. jumping off midseason and running the Summernationals.
It looks as if there is more up in the air with who will run this year than in years past. It will be interesting to watch who goes where once Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks is over.
Richard: Agreed, the real tell-tale for both national series will come around April when the schedules really get going in earnest. At that point we will see who is staying on tour and who will opt to race regionally.
As far as how the 2019 campaign will play out, it may be an oversimplification, but I see Sheppard and Madden being the two drivers to beat as the long season grinds away. Those two have the experience and the resources behind them to consistently run up front all year long.
I believe Sheppard in particular is in for a strong season. I can see him once again scoring double-digit numbers of wins and ultimately claiming his second WoO Late Models title.
How do you see things playing out?
Michael: I agree that Sheppard will win the most races this year. But I’m going to go in another direction on the title and say Chris Madden will get over the hump and win this year’s championship.
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