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Auld Lang Syne: World of Outlaws Late Model Series Stars Recall Their Most Memorable
Auld Lang Syne: World of Outlaws Late Model Series Stars Recall Their Most Memorable
Published by RaceJunkie
01-03-2008
Default Auld Lang Syne: World of Outlaws Late Model Series Stars Recall Their Most Memorable

CONCORD, NC – Dec. 30, 2007 – Where do the stars of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series like to spend New Year’s Eve?

Well, three of the top-10 finishers in the tour’s 2007 points standings will tell you that the most memorable experience they’ve had ringing in the new year came Down Under.

Reigning WoO LMS champion Steve Francis, third-place points man Clint Smith and Rookie of the Year Tim Fuller rave about the New Year’s Eve fun they enjoyed in Australia.

Francis, a veteran star from Ashland, Ky., who won his first WoO LMS title in 2007, was in Australia for the holidays during the mid-‘90s while running a dirt Late Model in the country as part of Team USA. Accompanied by his late brother/crew chief Chris and fellow Team USA members, he spent New Year’s Eve in Sydney, a city that welcomes the new year with a world-renowned fireworks display above its harbor.

“We hung out in King’s Cross, which is basically the Bourbon Street of Australia,” Francis says of the effervescent section of Sydney. “There was just all kinds of wild stuff going on there, and we saw the Sydney Harbor fireworks that are just incredible.”

Making the experience even more memorable, Francis saw the new year arrive 16 hours before the East Coast of the United States. Sydney, which is on Australia’s East Coast and sits near the International Date Line, is one of the world’s first major cities to usher in the new year.

“We’re there thinking, People at home are watching this (Sydney fireworks) real early in the morning, and we’re celebrating the new year,” says Francis.

Smith, a 42-year-old WoO LMS standout from Senoia, Ga., also spent a New Year’s Eve in Australia during the ‘90s while touring the country’s dirt tracks as part of Team USA. He partied in Newcastle, a town that also throws one heck of a bash.

“There must have been 100,000 people celebrating New Year’s all along the river there,” remembers Smith. “There were fireworks, lots of partying – it was way more massive than anything I’ve ever been to on New Year’s Eve in the United States.”

New Year’s Eve in the Southern Hemisphere also means summer, and Smith loved that fringe benefit.

“The weather made it even more fun to be there,” says the driver known as ‘Cat Daddy.’ “It’s like 80, 90 degrees, and you’re wearing shorts on New Year’s Eve.”

Fuller, a 40-year-old DIRTcar big-block Modified star from Watertown, N.Y., who made a successful transition to dirt Late Models in 2007, spent the 1999-2000 off-season racing a dirt Modified throughout Australia. Thus he was among the first revelers to usher in the new millennium while partying on the coast in Byron Bay, the easternmost point in Australia.

“It was just a huge party there,” says Fuller. “All these people started lighting flairs with no clothes on, and at midnight they just took off walking into the ocean with the flairs up in the air. That was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen.”…

York, Pa.’s Rick Eckert, the second-winningest driver on the WoO LMS since 2004, says his most memorable New Year’s Eve experience is a ‘Millennium Cruise’ through the Caribbean he went on with his wife and more than two dozen other family members and friends.

“There was that whole ‘Y2K’ thing (entering the year 2000), when the whole world was gonna end,” quips Eckert. “We decided to go on a cruise so that if it did, we’d be in the middle of the ocean and it wouldn’t matter. We figured when the clock struck 12 we wouldn’t know if everything went dead or not because we were on a boat.”…

The low-key Darrell Lanigan, a WoO LMS regular since 2004, also fondly recalls welcoming the new year on the high seas.

“We took a cruise one year over New Year’s,” says Lanigan. “That was pretty neat, something different.”…

Two top-10-ranked WoO LMS racers hailing from central Illinois – ninth-place finisher/Rookie of the Year contender Brian Shirley of Chatham and 10th-place Shannon Babb of Moweaqua – count New Year’s Eve visits to the West Coast as their most memorable celebrations of the holiday.

“Back when I was like 18 (and racing flat-track motorcycles), I went to downtown San Francisco for New Year’s Eve,” says the now 26-year-old Shirley, who was in Northern California with a sponsor of his bike racing effort. “It was chaos. I had never seen so many people in one place for New Year’s Eve before.”

Babb, a five-time WoO LMS winner in ’07, saw 2007 arrive while in Sin City.

“Last year Emalie (Meyer, his fiancee) and I and some friends went out to (Las) Vegas,” says Babb. “We went to some parties, the casinos, just had a good time.”…

Bear Lake, Pa.’s Chub Frank hung out with the beautiful people one memorable New Year’s Eve a few years ago.

“We were going on a cruise (from Miami) so we went down early and went to South Beach for New Year’s Eve,” says Frank, who led the WoO LMS in A-Mains wins in 2007 and finished second in the points standings. “There were four of us – me, my wife Mary, and my cousin and his wife. We had a good time.

“But actually, I think we have more fun when we’re home for New Year’s,” adds a smiling Frank, who is well-known for hosting epic bashes in his race shop, which includes a bar adorned with his racing memorabilia…

Locust Grove, Ga.’s Shane Clanton traveled up to the Tar Heel State to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000.

“My wife and I went to Boone, North Carolina,” says Clanton, who finished fourth in the 2007 WoO LMS points standings. “We went skiing and watched the big fireworks show they put on. It was also the year my Dad passed away, and we took my Mom with us.”…

Hitting the slopes on New Year’s Eve is almost a New Year’s Eve tradition for Shinnston, W.Va.’s Josh Richards, who at 19 years old has seen the fewest New Years of all WoO LMS drivers and is also the tour’s only regular who can’t legally drink at a bar.

“We went skiing for New Year’s for like five or six years,” says Richards, who won four times on the 2007 WoO LMS. “I’m not much of a partier, so that’s really exciting enough for me.”…

Happy New Year from the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, which kicks off the 2008 season on Feb. 14 and 16 during the 37th annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.

For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
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