Lanigan Sweeps NeSmith Late Model Possum Town Grand Prix at The Mag

 COLUMBUS, MS - Darrell Lanigan of Union, KY swept the Possum Town Grand Prix for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series at Magnolia Motor Speedway on Saturday night driving his own Lanigan Racing Club 29 entry.  Lanigan set fast time, earned the pole with the first heat race win, and then led all 100 laps in the big show to pick up the top prize of $10,000.

The only hiccup Lanigan had all weekend was a slip coming off the second turn on lap 99, and three-time NeSmith Late Model National Champion and National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN was right there to move up on the leader's back bumper. 

While Johnson made an inside run on the leader to challenge for the front spot, Lanigan made a quick recovery and Johnson, who was looking for his third Possum Town Grand Prix win, had to settle for second in the Josh Roberts Trucking Special.

               "This is pretty cool," Lanigan said.  "I came down here last year with Grant Garrison, and this year, we built him a new car for next year, so I said I'd come down and try it out.  We sold this car yesterday, so we'll go back to the shop and build him another one.  This place is awesome. This is the reason we came back down here to race.  The Golden Helmet NeSmith trophy is pretty different, so that will have a place in my trophy case back in Union."

               Evan Ellis of Plantersville, MS made a late-race charge to take the third spot in the Ellis Welding Special, and fourth went to Jamey Boland of Cuba, AL in the Trak-Star Race Cars "House Car."  Walker Arthur of Forest, VA was fifth in the Cecil B. Arthur Beef Farms Special.

The Beyea Headers Hard Charger of the Race was 14-year-old Colton Horner of Katy, TX, who started 20th in the Houston Specialty Products Special and finished sixth.  Horner was also the Cruise With The Champions Rookie of the Race.  Matt Henderson of Loudon, TN took the seventh spot in the Bassett Hound Motorsports GRT, and Grant Pearl of Anniston, AL was eighth in the Tommy Pope Construction Special.

Spencer Hughes of Meridian, MS finished ninth in the Villa South Special, and Cale Finley of Athens, AL rounded out the top ten in the Thirty-Six Racing and Fabrication Special.  In preliminary action, the two 20-lap B-Main races were won by Marcus Minga of Shannon, MS in the B&M Salvage Rocket and Horner.

On Friday afternoon, Lanigan set fast time honors with a lap around Magnolia Motor Speedway in 14.321 seconds to out-time the 62 entrants in Sunoco/Knowles Race Parts and Bodies Group Qualifying. 

The six ten-lap heat races were won by Lanigan, Scott Dedwylder of Vossburg, MS in the Scott's Wrecker Service Special, Rodney Martin of Cartersville, GA in the Martin Towing Special, Boland, Ellis, and Pearl.

When the green flag was unfurled to start the 100-lap Possum Town Grand Prix, Lanigan took the lead followed by Dedwylder, Ellis, the 2017 Cruise With The Champions Rookie of the Year Grant Garrison of Walton, KY in the Darrell Lanigan Racing Special, and Martin.  Lanigan set a fast pace in the opening laps of the race, and he caught the cars on the tail of the lead lap by lap seven.  Boland moved up into the top five on lap nine when he got by Martin.

The first of six caution flags came out on lap ten when Jake Knowles of Rome, GA stalled his Knowles Race Parts and Bodies Rocket in turn three.  Lanigan lined up in a row all by himself for the Dixie Style Double-File Restart with Dedwylder, Ellis, Garrison, Boland, Martin, Neil Baggett of Mathiston, MS in the Montgomery Farms Special, Johnson, Chad Thrash of Meridian, MS in the Miller Lite Special, and Henderson doubled up behind him in the top ten.

On the restart, Garrison passed Ellis and Dedwylder to climb up to the second spot.  That put Darrell Lanigan Racing machines running one-two.  Johnson came from eighth to sixth when the green flag came out to restart the race.

Dedwylder was up to the challenge to break up the Lanigan Racing party at the front of the pack, as he got back by Garrison for the second spot on lap 12.  Garrison came charging back to retake the second spot on lap 19.  While Garrison and Dedwylder battled for the second spot, Lanigan opened up a full straightaway lead and began to encounter lapped traffic on lap 20.

After starting 11th, Johnson continued his charge to the front of the pack, and took the fourth spot on lap 24.  Lap 25 saw Johnson drive around Dedwylder to claim the third spot at the one-quarter mark of the race.  Johnson then chased down Garrison and took over the second position on lap 40.

The second yellow flag was waved on lap 42 when Andy Picklesimer of Ooltewah, TN stalled the Hyma Motorsports Special in turn two.  Lanigan had Johnson, Boland, Garrison, Thrash, Ellis, Dedwylder, Baggett, Pearl, and Henderson doubled up behind him for the restart.  Thrash was able to get by Garrison when the green flag came out for the restart.

Lanigan could not open up the big leads he previously had in the race, as Johnson stayed within striking distance.  Garrison stalled on lap 56 down the front straightaway to light up the yellow bulb for the third time in the race.  The top ten for the double-file restart was Lanigan, Johnson, Boland, Thrash, Baggett, Ellis, Hughes, Pearl, Henderson, and Arthur.

Boland got by Johnson for second on the restart, and Baggett dropped from fifth to ninth before pulling off the track on lap 65.  Dedwylder also called it a night on lap 55.  T.J. Brittain of Centre, AL stalled the Brittain Hauling Warrior in turn four, and as he slowed off the pace, he collected Thrash, who cut down a tire and had to pit.  Thrash came back out to restart in the 12th spot as the last car on the lead lap.

With Lanigan leading, Boland chose the inside for the double-file restart, which put Johnson to his right on the outside.  When the green flag came out, "The Chattanooga Flash" drove around the outside of Boland to retake the second spot in turn one.  Back in the pack, Thrash stepped up to the top shelf and charged from 12th to seventh in one lap.

Henderson stalled on lap 78 in turn one with a cut tire and had to pit.  He returned to the track in the 11th spot as the last car on the lead lap.  Lanigan led Johnson and Boland doubled up behind him.  Hughes had been a young man on a mission, as the 16-year-old driver had climbed up to the fourth spot.  Pearl, Arthur, Ellis, Thrash, Finley, and Horner rounded out the top ten for the restart.

Hughes had a bad restart and dropped from fourth to seventh.  With 20 laps to go, Lanigan led Johnson by five car-lengths followed by Boland, Pearl, Ellis, Arthur, Hughes, Finley Horner, and Thrash.  Most of the drivers had settled on running their race cars on the inside groove by lap 85.  Lanigan had settled into a 1.3 second lead over Johnson with ten laps to go.

That lead went away on lap 91 when Thrash stalled in turn two.  The top ten cars of Lanigan, Johnson, Boland, Pearl, Ellis, Arthur, Hughes, Finley, Horner and Henderson were on the lead lap and doubled up for the restart, and the ten lap dash to the checkered flag.

Hughes once again stumbled at the drop of the green flag and dropped from seventh to tenth, while Horner went the other direction and climbed from ninth to sixth.  Johnson was able to stay within three car lengths of Lanigan, but it looked like he needed a mistake from the leader to challenge for the point and the $10,000 top prize.

It's rare for a veteran to make a mistake with that kind of money on the line, but it happened to Lanigan on lap 99.  The leader got loose coming off the second turn, and Johnson tried to get a run on Lanigan going down the backstretch.  As quickly as he got loose, Lanigan gathered up his race car, and stayed in the lead to take a .913 second margin of victory under the checkered flag.

The Possum Town Grand Prix concludes the 2017 season for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series.  America's Leader In Racing will open its 2018 season on January 4th through the 7th at the 27th Annual Ice Bowl at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, AL.

For more information and rules about the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series, visit the series web site at, or visit the series on Facebook at NeSmith Racing.  Becoming a fan of the NeSmith Racing Facebook page will make you eligible for special prizes that will be given away each month.  You can follow us on Twitter @NeSmithRacing.

POS       STRT    CAR #   DRIVER                       HOMETOWN                   LAPS     $ WON
1.            1             29           Darrell Lanigan            Union, KY                         100        $10,000
2.            11           85           Ronnie Johnson            Chattanooga, TN              100        $5,000
3.            5             73           Evan Ellis                       Plantersville, MS             100        $3,000
4.            4             232        Jamey Boland                 Cuba, AL                          100        $2,000
5.            13           87           Walker Arthur                 Forest, VA                       100        $1,750
6.            20           56           Colton Horner (R)           Katy, TX                         100        $1,500
7.            7             17           Matt Henderson              Loudon, TN                     100        $1,300
8.            6             8             Grant Pearl                       Anniston, AL                 100        $1,200
9.            10           33h        Spencer Hughes                Meridian, MS                 100        $1,100
10.          12           F36        Cale Finley                        Athens, AL                     100        $1,000
11.          18           72           Steve Russell                     Pontotoc, MS                   99           $800
12.          19           19           Marcus Minga                  Shannon, MS                   99           $700
13.          24           P1          Andy Picklesimer (R)     Ooltewah, TN                    98           $600
14.          23           05           T.J. Brittain (R)              Centre, AL                         98           $500
15.          9             G1          Grant Garrison (R)         Walton, KY                       96           $450
16.          15           1c           Chad Thrash                     Meridian, MS                   89           $440
17.          21           3             Kelly Schryock                 Des Moines, IA                 85           $430
18.          3             92           Rodney Martin                 Cartersville, GA               70           $420
19.          8             21           Neil Baggett                      Mathiston, MS                  63           $400
20.          2             33           Scott Dedwylder               Vossburg, MS                   53           $400
21.          16           1s           Jeremy Shaw                    Millport, AL                      44           $400
22.          22           17b        Chip Brindle                     Chatsworth, GA                40           $400
23.          17           23           Cory Hedgecock              Loudon, TN                       20           $400
24.          14           66           Jake Knowles                   Rome, GA                          9             $400

PROVISIONALS:  Brittain and Picklesimer
LAP LEADER:  Lanigan, 1-100

BEYEA HEADERS HARD CHARGER OF THE RACE:  Horner (started 20th and finished 6th)
MARGIN OF VICTORY:  .913 Seconds
TIME OF THE RACE:  54 Minutes and 11.411 Seconds

B-MAINS (20 Laps - Top 2 Transfer To Main Events):

               1ST B-MAIN:  1. Minga; 2. Schryock; 3. Hickerson; 4. Hickman; 5. Williams; 6. Winger; 7. C. Skinner; 8. Banes; 9. Picklesimer (R); 10. Baugh; 11. Halford; 12. D. Brocato; 13. Fields; 14. Holloway; 15. Beckwith; 16. Britton; 17. Johns; 18. B. Shaw; 19. Flannagan DNS; 20. Hobson DNS; 21. Weaver DNS; 22. McRee DNS.

               2ND B-MAIN:  1. Horner (R); 2. Brindle; 3. Marsh; 4. Mitchell; 5. M. Skinner; 6. Brittain (R); 7. Green; 8. M. Brocato; 9. Cooper; 10. Maher; 11. Williamson; 12. Mike; 13. Sutherland; 14. McDuffie; 15. Henry; 16. Boyd; 17. Davis; 18. Lambert; 19. Cummings; 20. Mayfield; 21. Jenkins; 22. K. Shaw.

R - Denotes Cruise With The Champions Rookie of the Year Candidate