latemodelamerica.com - July 30 - Attica Raceway Park
LateModelAmerica.com by Sam Holbrooks

 
 
Rick Eckert after his unlikely return to Victory Lane at Attica. (Todd Ridgeway)
World of Outlaws: Eckert Thrills Fans With "Rags-to-Riches" Victory at Attica

Kevin Kovac

ATTICA, Oh. - July 30. Rick Eckert went from rags to riches in the course of one memorable evening at Attica Raceway Park.

Just hours after a blown engine during time trials left him contemplating his immediate future on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, Eckert drove his backup car to a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the tour's 50-lap "Ohio-Pennsylvania Speedweek" A-Main on Friday at the one-third-mile oval.

Eckert, 44, of York, Pa., overcame a host of obstacles to post his second WoO LMS triumph of 2010, including a starting spot deep in the pack (18th); a massive mid-race crash that involved more than half the field; a hasty in-race radiator replacement; and, finally, two former series champions who stood between him and an improbable win.

Frank wreck at Attica Raceway Park World of Outlaws

Eckert managed to duck through a wreck that saw Chub Frank flip after driving over #7 Matt Miller's nose. (Todd Ridgeway)

The veteran driver's stirring rally reached its zenith on lap 47 when he surged ahead of Shinnston, West Virginia's Josh Richards to take the lead, clinching a $10,575 score that prompted Attica’s big crowd to give Eckert a standing ovation upon his arrival in Victory Lane.

Richards settled for second place after leading laps 12-46, good enough to slightly pad his points lead as he chases a second consecutive WoO LMS title. Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished third to end the night second in the points standings, while 12th-starter Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., placed fourth and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., took fifth to register his third top-five finish of 2010.

"Bad luck, good luck" we experienced it all tonight," said Eckert, whose 21st career WoO LMS victory was his first since March 26 at Battleground Speedway in Highlands, Texas.  "I was ready to go home after we blew the motor (moments after clicking off what would stand as the night's fourth-fastest qualifying lap). I was about to call it off.–I said, 'We should just load up'.’ But we decided to stick it out and now I’m sure glad we did".”

Eckert, who is one of only two drivers to start every WoO LMS A-Main contested since 2004, fell one spot short of transferring to the headline event through a heat race before punching his ticket with a victory in the second B-Main. He made his presence known in the feature by moving up to eighth place by lap 23, but then his night took another unexpected turn.

After Eckert somehow escaped a lap-23 restart accident that sent Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., into a barrel-roll and left more than a dozen cars scattered across the homestretch ("A hole opened and I just drove right through it",” he said), his apparent change in fortune was quickly tempered by the problem his crew discovered when he stopped in turn four under red-flag conditions.

"We were in eighth and three guys ahead of me were in the wreck, so I was thinking, We might have a shot to win this thing,"”recalled Eckert. "Then my crew guy, Bob, said, "Did you park in a water puddle?’I said, `Nah, I don't think so. They pushed me and there was water coming from my car, so we took the hood off and saw there was a hole in the radiator core. I was like, `Well, that's just the way the night's going.’"


Steve Francis - Darrell Lanigan - Attica Raceway Park World of Outlaws

Darrell Lanigan (#29) took third at at Attica, while #15 Steve Francis finished sixth after reaching as high as second in the running order. (Jim Denhamer)

 "I can't afford to break another motor, so I said, `Let's go in and fix it right. We'll change the radiator, and if we don't get out in time, we don't get out in time."

With some help from western Pennsylvania racer Ron Davies and his crew, and an assortment of other people nearby, Eckert was back on the racetrack well before the field began rolling toward a restart. He proceeded to take full advantage of his new lease on life, using the extreme inside groove around the track to move into contention.

Eckert was sixth on lap 35 when a caution flag flew for the stopped car driven by 2009 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Russell King of Bristolville, Ohio, who was the race's early story while leading laps 1-11. Two laps after the restart, Eckert was third, and, after finally disposing of Lanigan to grab second on lap 42, he quickly ran down Richards.

Rick Eckert - Tim Fuller - Attica Raceway Park World of Outlaws

Rick Eckert bypasses #19 Tim Fuller as he advances from near the rear of the field to win Friday's WoO event at Attica Raceway Park. It ended a night of a series of misfortunes for the popular York, Pa. veteran. (Jim Denhamer)

Keeping his Team Zero by Bloomquist car on the inside hub, Eckert slid ahead of Richards exiting turn two on lap 46 and officially assumed command for good as lap 47 was scored.

"That's the best kind of win, when you come from the back,"”added Eckert, who was greeted after the race by his ecstatic wife Kristal. "After everything that happened to us tonight, pulling off a win like this is really exciting".”

Early in the race, it appeared that the 21-year-old King had the car to beat. He powered around the track as the leader for the first 11 laps, and then his night went from bad to worse.

First, King spun in turn two on lap 11 to avoid the slowing Mike Knight of Ripley, N.Y. Though King remained in the lead for the ensuing restart because officials ruled that Knight was the reason for the caution, his car's steering was damaged and he ceded the top spot to Richards. He held on to second until sliding high in turn two on lap 22, and one lap later a scrape with Matt Miller of Waterville, Ohio, sent both drivers sliding off the backstretch and triggered another caution period.

King took the lap-23 restart at the rear of the field and was then marginally involved in the race's biggest incident. Miller, who restarted in third place, made contact with Richards exiting turn four and ended up turned around in front of the field, setting off a tangle that saw Frank flip after overrunning Miller's machine.

There were no injuries in the accident, but Frank and Miller joined Gregg Satterlee of Rochester Mills, Pa., who was fourth at the time, Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., and Devin Shiels of Britton, Mich., as casualties of the wreck.

King continued, but he was never a factor. After stopping on lap 35 to bring out the race's third and final caution flag, he limped to a 13th-place finish.

Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., finished sixth, a disappointing result because he was up to second and ready to pressure Richards for the lead on lap 32 when he slid over the track's bank between turns three and four, causing him to fall to eighth before he recovered. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., started third but was involved in the lap-23 accident and fell to seventh in the final rundown, ahead of rookie Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., who also got a piece of the crash; 23rd-starter Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who used a provisional after his car was eliminated from heat action by left-front suspension damage; and Rick "Boom" Briggs.

World of Outlaws - Attica Raceway Park
1) Rick Eckert; 2) Josh Richards, 3) Darrell Lanigan, 4) Shane Clanton, 5) Clint Smith, 6) Steve Francis, 7) Tim McCreadie, 8) Austin Hubbard, 9) Tim Fuller (prov.), 10) Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs, 11) Donnie Moran, 12) Robbie Blair, 13) Russell King, 14) John Mason, 15) Bump Hedman, 16) Doug Drown, 17) Jill George (prov.), 18) Jon Henry, 19) Matt Miller, 20) Gregg Satterlee, 21) Chub Frank, 22) Brent Robinson, 23) Devin Shiels, 24) Mike Knight
Fast Time (45 entries): Francis (14.303 secs. - new track record); Heat winners: Francis, Miller, Lanigan, King; B-Main winners: Hedman, Eckert

Jim Denhamer photo


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