Rick Eckert is undefeated at North Central Speedway.
The driver from York, Pa., is also on a World of Outlaws Late Model Series hot streak he's enjoyed since winning in his only career start at North Central in 2006. It's no surprise he's looking forward to the national tour's return to the track after a one-year hiatus Thursday night.
"I won there a couple years ago and we've been running good lately," said Eckert, who leads the Outlaws charge to North Central for a 50-lap feature paying $10,000 to win. "That makes me feel pretty good about our chances when we go back."
Eckert, 42, has nothing but fond memories of North Central Speedway, a three-eighths-mile oval.
"It was an excellent racetrack," Eckert said. "It's fairly flat and shaped like a paper-clip, but they had some really good dirt (clay surface) and you could race all over it. It's the kind of track you love to race on."
Eckert certainly used every inch of the oval in the 2006 North Central 50. He battled his way forward from the sixth starting spot, outdueling fellow tour travelers Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., and Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., to assume command for good on lap 29.
"We had a real good battle for the lead," said Eckert. "The track was a few grooves wide, so that made for great racing."
Eckert's victory at North Central came in the midst of a torrid stretch on the WoO LMS for the veteran racer. It was his fourth checkered flag of the 2006 season and first in a record-setting, four-race win streak. Eckert would win eight of the first 17 races of the campaign.
Considering that Eckert owns wins at North Central as well as Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn., which kicks off the nine-race WoO LMS Wild West Tour on Wednesday night, he's confident.
"Hopefully things will keep going the way they've been going," said Eckert, who will hit the North Central Speedway clay with the same Raye Vest-owned team he put in Victory Lane in 2006. "If we can run as well on this western swing as we did on that northern tour, we'll be happy."
Other WoO LMS travelers who competed in the 2006 event at North Central include defending champion Francis; Clanton, who led laps 10-25 of the A-Main before the flat tire relegated him to a 12th-place finish; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. (finished third); Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga. (fifth); and John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va. (sixth). First-time WoO LMS visitors to North Central will include Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., 2007 Rookie of the Year Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., and '08 Rookie of the Year candidate Vic Coffey of Leicester, N.Y.
A host of regional stars have plans to enter the event, including Justin Fegers of Mound, Minn., who set fast time and finished seventh in the 2006 WoO LMS North Central 50; Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis.; Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis.; Adam Hensel of Barron, Wis.; Chad Simpson of Oxford, Iowa; and John Anderson of Omaha, Neb.
"Everyone is excited about the Outlaws coming back," said North Central general manager Peggy Jensen, whose track will also host the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on Oct. 3. "We're expecting a big night."
Pit gates are scheduled to open at 4 p.m. and spectator gates will be unlocked at 5 p.m. on Thursday night. An autograph session with several WoO LMS drivers is set for 5:30 p.m., and time trials are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.
General admission to the program, which also includes a $1,000-to-win Midwest Modified special, is $30 for adults, $15 for kids (7-14) and free for children 6-and-under. Reserved seats are available for $35, and pit passes are also $35.
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