Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – Home-state racers are faring better than ever this season, which bodes well when 2011 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series champion Rick Eckert takes on the Outlaws this week in Pennsylvania starting Friday at Williams Grove Speedway, Saturday at Port Royal Speedway and Sunday at Eriez Speedway.
Nine times this season a driver has won in his home state. It happened only four times through all of 2018.
Eckert, who hails from York, PA, has done plenty of winning in the Keystone State since his departure from the full-time roster after last season.
“I wasn’t sure how it would be to come back and race locally, but I’ve enjoyed it. I really have,” Eckert said.
At the very end of January, Eckert made the announcement he would not be returning to the World of Outlaws after 15 consecutive seasons and over 700 straight starts on the tour. However, he put together a very competitive regional schedule at several tracks across Pennsylvania.
With a brand-new Rocket Chassis and Jay Dickens power plant under the hood, Eckert has earned five wins in 25 starts so far this year, four of which were at tracks the Outlaws will visit before the season is out. Eckert has two wins at Williams Grove, one at Port Royal and one at Selinsgrove Speedway, where the Outlaws will be next month for the Late Model National Open.
Across more than two decades of racing, Eckert has pretty much seen it all, as far as competition goes. This year has been no exception for the Hall-of-Famer. But that’s just it — Eckert is a Hall-of-Famer, and even at 53 years old, there isn’t much he can’t handle. And he hasn’t forgotten about the skill level he’s been accustomed to on the road with the Outlaws either, so expect the Drydene/PPC Lubricants/Firehouse Subs #0 to bring it this weekend.
“The competition hasn’t been quite as tough (as with the Outlaws), but we have some really good cars around here,” he said. “There’s plenty of tough competitors, just not as many as there is with the Outlaws.”
A former regular with the Hav-a-Tampa and UDTRA series’ of the 1990s and early 2000s, Eckert has spent more time on the road to this point than a lot of national drivers will see in their entire career. But there was a slice of Eckert’s career, before embarking on his first national tour, that was spent cutting his teeth on the local Pennsylvania scene. It’s been a pick-and-choose kind of year for his first year back as a local/regional driver, but he’s once again become accustomed to the tracks he knows best.
“We try to run with the races that pay a little bit better,” Eckert said. “We haven’t really raced in back-to-back weekends, but the nice thing is we’ve run the same tracks. So, in turn, we do have some notes from these places, whether they be good or bad.”
The Outlaws haven’t seen these tracks since this time last year, nor the state of Pennsylvania since Firecracker 100 weekend at Lernerville Speedway back in June. The rookies haven’t seen them at all, but now they’ll play in Eckert’s backyard, where he’s won several times already this season on a part-time schedule. This mix of competition promises to be the perfect recipe for an exciting weekend of racing.
And who knows, 2018 may not be the last time Eckert fans will have seen him aboard the full-time World of Outlaws roster…
“If can get all of my ducks in a row and get in a situation where I’d have a competitive team, I will,” Eckert said. “I don’t want to go back just to go back, I only want to return if I have a shot at winning the championship.”