It's no easy task to repeat in Gopher 50
In the 33-year history of the Gopher 50 charity Late Model race, only one driver has won the event in back-to-back years. That was Billy Moyer in 2000 and 2001.
The 34th annual Gopher 50 is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start Saturday at Deer Creek Speedway. The event initiated at Chateau Raceway in 1980 and 81, moved to Owatonna's Steele County Fairgrounds Speedway in 1982, then to Deer Creek Speedway in 2005.
Here's a glance back at each Gopher 50 in the Deer Creek Era:
2012: Shane Clanton won what track and World of Outlaws officials called the most entertaining Gopher 50 since the race moved to Deer Creek in 2005. Clanton and series front-runners Tim McCreadie and Darrell Lanigan battled three-wide out of Turn 2 on the last lap, but Clanton made a hard dive to the low side of the track in Turn 3 to protect the lead and preserve his $10,000 victory.
2011: Josh Richards made a daring move right off the green flag, blasting from his fourth starting position to the lead by splitting front-row starters Clint Smith and Rick Eckert. Richards never looked back, leading all 50 laps to capture the 32nd annual Gopher 50. "The car just took off on the start and I couldn't waste the momentum," said Richards, who made his NASCAR Trucks debut six days earlier.
2010: Tim McCreadie's first child was born on July 5. McCreadie boarded a plane for Minnesota about 48 hours later. He was able to call home that night with a nice surprise for his new son, Gavin -- a $10,000 check for winning the Gopher 50. "It couldn't have been a better week," McCreadie said in victory lane. "To top it off with a win in my first race since he was born, man, it's too cool."
2009: Darrell Lanigan captured the second Gopher 50 victory of his career, having also won in 2005, the first year the event was held at Deer Creek. Defending race champion Brian Birkhofer passed Lanigan on lap 31, but Lanigan was determined to snap a 46-race winless streak. He regained the lead on lap 37 and beat Birkhofer to the finish line by .850 of a second.
2008: Muscatine, Iowa, driver Brian Birkhofer led from flag to flag, winning the second Gopher 50 of his career. Birkhofer also won the Gopher in 2004, the final time it was held at Owatonna's Steele County Fairgrounds Speedway. Birkhofer started on the outside pole and was never serioulsy threatened, beating Darrell Lanigan to the line by more than 2 seconds.
2007: Chub Frank led all 50 laps to pick up his third World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory of the year. Frank started on the outside pole and held off Clint Smith in the waning laps to pocket $10,000 for winning the 28th annual Gopher 50. Smith finished second, followed by Darrell Lanigan and five-time Gopher winner Billy Moyer.
2006: Rick Eckert started on the pole, but led only the final seven laps to capture the 27th annual Gopher 50. He passed defending champion Darrell Lanigan on lap 43 when Lanigan's car slid up the track in Turn 2. Eckert then pulled away to win by .526 of a second. The victory was Eckert's second consecutive World of Outlaws win and fifth of the 2006 season.
2005: Darrell Lanigan jumped into the lead on the opening lap and led from green to checkers, pocketing $10,000 as the champion of the first Gopher 50 held at Deer Creek. Lanigan quickly opened a big lead and was rarely challenged by runner-up Steve Francis, who finished 1.564 seconds behind the winner. Josh Richards, a 17-year-old up-and-comer, finished third.