"Bluegrass Bandit" Darrell Lanigan is hoping a strong run in the World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown Wednesday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte will help propel him to his second series championship.


A native of Union, Ky., the 40-year-old dirt-late-model driver has spent his entire career collecting victories and championships, including the 2008 World of Outlaws Late Model Series title.


Now, with only three events left in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series season, Lanigan holds a mere two-point lead in the standings over defending 2009 series champion, "Rocket Man" Josh Richards.


Lanigan and his nomadic brethren will take to the lightning-fast four-tenths-mile clay oval Wednesday night to compete for a trip to Victory Lane at The Dirt Track and a $10,000-to-win payday.


"I like The Dirt Track. It's a nice, state-of-the-art facility," Lanigan said. "The track is usually in pretty good shape. They usually keep it pretty wet. Here lately it hasn't been rough or anything, I think it has been pretty good racing."


Lanigan started racing in 1988 at Florence Speedway, a dirt track located only a few miles from his home. He picked up one victory there during his rookie season in a dirt late model. After that, he began to slowly work his way up the proverbial racing food chain in search of more competition.


Between 1996 and 2001, Lanigan decided to try something new. He made 17 starts in the ARCA Series and four in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, with little or no sponsorship.


Despite the lack of funding, Lanigan achieved mild success in ARCA competition, collecting four top-five and nine top-10 finishes. His only career ARCA pole came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1998.

While he may not have made it big in NASCAR, Lanigan has done pretty well for himself racing on the dirt tracks of America. Every year since 2004, Lanigan has visited Victory Lane at least twice in World of Outlaws competition and in 2008 he led the series with 25 top-five and 36 top-10 finishes, including a series-record 15-consecutive top-five runs during the summer months.

That consistency was enough to earn Lanigan his first World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship by a series-record 160 points over second-place Richards.

A few years removed from that championship season, Lanigan has a shot to win his second series title. He has already eclipsed his career-best win total with seven wins so far this season, and he is hoping to leave The Dirt Track on Wednesday with another trophy to add to his ever-growing collection.

With a good run at the World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown Lanigan may receive the momentum he needs to win a second championship heading into the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, Nov. 4-6.

"Anytime we go there (The Dirt Track) we definitely want to run good," Lanigan said. "Right now our points are getting kind of tight anyway. Every race we've got to look to do good and try to gain some points."


In order to claim his second title, Lanigan will have to beat his two top competitors this season, Richards, and Tim McCreadie, the 2006 series champion. With only a few points separating them, the championship may not be settled until all three men cross under the checkered flag at World of Outlaws World Finals.


In addition to World of Outlaws racing action next week, the National Dirt Racing Association's crate late models are scheduled to battle it out in a 30-lap, $2,000-to-win feature during the Late Model Showdown.


Gates will open at 5 p.m. and drivers will participate in an autograph session from 5 -5:45 p.m. on the main concourse. Hot laps start at 6 p.m. and opening ceremonies begin at 6:50 p.m. The World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown is scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m.


The Dirt Track features stadium-style seating along the frontstretch and all events are family priced. Reserved seats to the Late Model Showdown are just $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

Tickets can be obtained by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455 FANS (3267) or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.


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