For a driver who’s about to tackle the World of Outlaws Late Model Series with a new race team, Shane Clanton is remarkably cool, calm and collected.
That’s probably because Clanton’s 2014 racing effort is only ‘new’ in the strictest sense of the word.
Yes, Clanton, 38, of Zebulon, Ga., has a new car owner this season after ending his two-year run with the Kennedy Motorsports operation in December. But when he begins his pursuit of the ’14 WoO LMS title on Feb. 14-16 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., and Feb. 20-22 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., he expects to seamlessly pick up where he left off last year – a campaign that was arguably his best on the WoO LMS since he became a tour regular in ’05.
“Really, our deal this year ain’t much different than it was before,” said a confident Clanton, who in 2013 won four WoO LMS A-Mains and finished third in the points standings. “We have the same (Capital) cars and basically the same (Clements) motors. We’re still at the same shop, have the same parts and the same crew chief (Brock Wise).
“Basically, I worked everything out with (John) Kennedy where I got just about everything I had last year. We just have a different truck (transporter) and somebody different paying the bills.”
That person is Ron Davies, the western Pennsylvania dirt Late Model veteran who also happens to be Clanton’s father-in-law and the soon-to-be grandfather of Clanton’s first child with wife Michelle (she’s due to give birth on May 22). When Clanton decided to leave Kennedy Motorsports about a month after the final checkered flag of 2013, Davies stepped up to make sure Clanton could continue racing as a national touring professional.
“I was going to try to do it on my own,” said Clanton, “but it costs a lot to do a full racing deal like I’ve been doing. I was gonna have to cut back on my schedule, but then Ron said, ‘There’s no sense in doing that. Just go ahead and do what you’ve been doing the last few years and make it work.’
“I’m lucky to have somebody who’s really interested in racing behind me.”
After spending the short off-season reworking one of the machines he campaigned for Kennedy in 2013 and building two new mounts with his Capital Race Cars partner Marshall Green, Clanton made his debut under the Weldbank Energy Racing banner – so named for Davies’s successful Warren, Pa.-based business – during last month’s Winter Extreme series at Tucson (Ariz.) International Raceway. He fell short of Victory Lane but capped the six-race meet with a solid runner-up finish on Jan. 19, proving he’s ready to be a contender again in ’14.
“Anytime you go to the racetrack you’re supposed to learn something and I feel like we did out there,” Clanton said of his Spring Training-type trip west. “We made progress all week at Tucson and hopefully we can use what we learned there to our advantage when we go racing in Florida.
“The main thing is to have at least as good of a season as we had last year, but hopefully get more wins like Josh (Richards) and (Darrell) Lanigan do. They get eight, 10, 12 wins a year, and we have to step up our program to win at that kind of rate. If you can win races like, you’ll be better in the points and make more money.”
With the 2014 WoO LMS championship race taking on a new look following the recent announcement that reigning titlist Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., will miss the season-opening events at Bubba Raceway Park and Volusia due to undisclosed medical issues, Clanton seems well-positioned to make a run at the $100,000 crown. He flashed impressive, career-best consistency last year – his 40 top-10 finishes in 46 events was topped only by Richards’s 41 – and believes he can not only match that steadiness but improve upon it.
“By far, this is the best I’ve been sitting in a good little while for the start of the season,” said Clanton, who has finished as high as second in the WoO LMS points standings (2006). “I feel that we have what it takes to win the championship, but it’s gonna depend a lot on how things go down in Florida. We have to get off to a good start.”
Clanton has never won a dirt Late Model feature at Bubba Raceway Park or Volusia, but he’s certainly contended for victories at both tracks over the past decade. He understands that breaking through during the always highly-competitive events in the Sunshine State can take some time.
“There are just so many good cars down there, it’s hard to win,” said Clanton, who was triumphant in last year’s WoO LMS season opener at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., but couldn’t duplicate the success when the circuit moved on to Florida. “You gotta have Lady Luck on your side plus have a good car – and we’ve had a good car many times but just haven’t had the best luck to get the job done.
“I’ve always said, though, that luck is what you make of it, so if you’re not winning races you gotta work on your race car and make it better and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
If recent Speedweeks results are any indication, Clanton is on the verge of grabbing a checkered flag at BRP and/or VSP. In the six Bubba Army Dirt Late Model Winter Nationals A-Mains run at the egg-shaped, three-eighths-mile BRP over the past two years, Clanton has three top-five finishes (his best: third in the 2012 opener) and just one finish worse than seventh (a 14th in the second ’12 feature after a late-race flat tire knocked him out of second place). At the half-mile Volusia oval, four of Clanton’s six top-five finishes in 20 career WoO LMS starts there have come in the last two years – a third in the ’12 finale, plus a third, fifth and fourth in last year’s three A-Mains.
Winning at either track – but preferably both – would be significant for Clanton, an accomplished racer who is one of just five drivers to win the prestigious DIRTcar-sanctioned Dream and World 100 events at NASCAR star Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
“They’re two of the premier facilities anywhere when they’re groomed right,” said Clanton. “Mother Nature has a lot to do with things down there. But when there’s good weather, you’ll generally see some of the best races in the country at those two tracks.”
The Bubba Army Dirt Late Model Winter Nationals at Bubba Raceway Park includes three complete WoO LMS programs: a 35-lap A-Main paying $7,000 to win on Fri., Feb. 14; a 50-lapper for $10,000 to win on Sat., Feb. 15; and the 60-lap ‘Super Sunday Showdown’ offering a $12,000 top prize on Feb. 16.
Advance-sale tickets for the Bubba Army Dirt Late Model Winter Nationals are available on-line at www.bubbaracewaypark.com or by calling the track office at 352-622-9400.
Volusia Speedway Park’s DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment, meanwhile, features 50-lap, $10,000-to-win WoO LMS A-Mains on Thurs., Feb. 20, Fri., Feb. 21, and Sat., Feb. 22. Most WoO LMS regulars will also compete in DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned Late Model events on Mon., Feb. 17, Tues., Feb. 18, and Wed., Feb. 19.
More information on the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit, including details on advance ticket packages and the ‘FREE Fan Pit Pass With Every Ticket’ promotion, can be obtained by visiting www.DirtCarNationals.com.