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Rickman brothers ready to defend home turf

 

By Kevin Kovac, Special to the Dispatch

 

The nation''s biggest dirt Late Model stars will be in Rick and Brian Rickman''s hometown this weekend for the inaugural World of Outlaws Late Model Series ''Cash Cow 100'' at Columbus Speedway. 

 

Are the Columbus born-and-bred racers ready to defend their turf? Sure sounds like it. 

 

"The best of the best will be there this weekend," said Brian, 34. "It''s gonna be tough just to get in (the 100-lap A-Main), but we''re gonna give it our best shot. We jump off in there with both feet. We''re not scared." 

 

Said Rick, who is 39, "A race like this always gives us a little more of a challenge because a lot of the (invading) guys do it for a living and we''re what you call Weekend Warriors. "But we always tend to run pretty well with ''em when they come in here, so I feel like we got a good shot at it." 

 

The Rickmans represent the best hope for the local fans to witness a storybook performance in the Cash Cow 100, the biggest dirt Late Model event this month and the 2011 season opener at The Bullring. Time trials and qualifying heats will be contested Friday night (March 18). Last-chance B-Mains and the $20,000-to-win, long-distance feature will headline Saturday''s schedule. 

 

While Brian will make his first career WoO LMS start this weekend, Rick has tested himself against the national tour''s stars in the past. A five-time Columbus dirt Late Model track champion with more than 75 career wins at the track in several divisions, Rick entered the two previous World of Outlaws events at Columbus, finishing eighth (after starting 24th) in a 50-lapper in August 2006 and failing to qualify for the A-Main in March 2007. 

 

As a veteran beginning his 25th season behind the wheel, Rick is considered a driver to watch by the outsiders who will fill the Columbus pit area for the Cash Cow 100. The list includes former WoO LMS champions Josh Richards, of Shinnston, W.Va.; Billy Moyer, of Batesville, Ark.; Darrell Lanigan, of Union, Ky.; Steve Francis, of Ashland, Ky.; and Tim McCreadie, of Watertown, N.Y. Rickman hopes his experience at the one-third-mile, high-banked oval will allow him to live up to the expectations. 

 

"We''ve been around a while, so I''m gonna say we have at least a little bit of a hometown advantage," said Rick, who won points titles last year at Columbus and its sister track, Magnolia Motor Speedway. "We know the place, know it''s physically and mentally demanding because it''s so fast. It''s pretty draining because you''re on the edge all the time, just inches off the wall the whole time. You''re right up against the wall, against the cushion. Normally if you''re not up there, you''re not gonna be that fast." 

 

But Rick, who works with his sibling at Rickman Brothers Trucking in Columbus, isn''t overconfident: 

 

"We only really ran (at Columbus) but eight times last year, so we don''t have quite the edge we maybe used to have when we ran every week," he said. "Those (touring) guys that are coming in race at so many different tracks, they always have notes from someplace to compare to this one." 

 

Brian understands the challenge ahead of him. He''s coming off one of the strongest seasons of his dirt Late Model career (he has spent about 15 of his 21 racing years in the full-fender class) and feels he has the equipment to contend, but he''ll have to be at his best to be in the mix for the big check. 

 

"The biggest thing that hurts us is that (the traveling professionals) already got 500 laps under their belts and we ain''t even started yet this year," said Brian, referring to the WoO LMS regulars and several other high-profile Cash Cow 100 entrants who started their seasons last month in Florida. "They''re already ahead of the ballgame and we ain''t even fired ''em up yet. But being local, we''ll have about as good a shot as anybody here. 

 

"If you get in the race, run up near the front, and stay out of trouble, you never know what can happen at the end. We just need that ''lucky dog'' on us." 

 

Brian, who will drive a MasterSbilt No. 7 car owned by Johnny Glasgow, of Vernon, Ala., because his new family owned machine isn''t ready, said he has dreamed about standing in Victory Lane at his home track after the Cash Cow 100. 

 

"Winning $20,000 here in your hometown -- man, you don''t want to think about it because you don''t want to jinx yourself, but you can''t help it," said Brian, who has never won a race worth more than $5,000. "It would be awesome to win it. We''d definitely have a big party." 

 

Rick is equally starry-eyed about the prospect of capturing Saturday night''s WoO LMS blockbuster. With his new car also not ready for action, he will chase the checkered flag in the family-owned MasterSbilt No. 68 his semi-retired father, Eddie, will race in a limited number of local events this season. 

 

"It would mean so much to win a big one here at home, especially because our sponsors are local," said Rick, whose team''s Columbus-based backers include Advanced Logistics, J&J Tobacco Store, and the 1250 Package Store. "Our whole family will be there, too -- our mom and dad, our wives, our kids, our crews'' families. We usually camp the whole weekend at the track when there''s a big race, so if we could win it we''ll be having fun at the camper after it''s over." 

 

Eddie, the 60-year-old patriarch of one of the region''s most well-known racing families. was the quickest qualifier for the last WoO LMS event at Columbus four years ago. He still holds the record for oldest driver to earn a fast-time award on the tour, but he won''t compete this weekend. 

 

"He''s been racing since ''68 and I guess he''s kind of burnt out to do it all the time," Brian Rickman said of his father. "He''s rather sit up in the stands and tell us what we''re doing wrong."

 

 

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