Lucas Oil Speedway Spotlight: Larry Ferris knocking on victory-lane door in ULMA Late Model division
WHEATLAND, Missouri (July 2, 2019) - Little did Larry Ferris know it at the time, but a spur-of-the-moment trip to Nevada Speedway some 30 years ago ignited a love for dirt-track racing that's still burning.
Ferris, one of the veterans of the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Model division at Lucas Oil Speedway, said that he was a high school senior looking for something to do one weekend. He and some buddies decided to go to the races in their hometown.
"Ron Bolin was an awesome racer over there," Ferris recalled. "I loved watching him race and it got me hooked. I wanted to be like him and we've been racing ever since."
Ferris, 48, is showing signs that this season could rival any he's had. A strong second-place run last Saturday in the feature at Lucas Oil Speedway - a race Ferris led 17 laps before Johnny Fennewald made a winning pass with three to go - was Ferris' second runner-up finish of the season and fourth top-five run. He's a solid fourth in track points behind the big three of Kaeden Cornell, Johnny Fennewald and Aaron Marrant.
The Lucas Oil Speedway Spotlight Driver of the Week is back at it on Thursday for a special "Thursday Night Thunder" edition of the Big Adventure RV Weekly Racing Series. Casey's General Stores and KY3 for Kids present the holiday program and the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Models are the featured class, with a 25-lap, $1,000-to-win main event courtesy of HICKAMO Country Store.
It also kicks off the ULMA Triple Crown weekend, which moves to Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon on Friday Night and concludes Saturday at Central Missouri Speedway in Warrensburg. A ULMA Triple Crown Champion will be determined, based on a special points system from three events.
Ferris enters the weekend with momentum on his side. But he looked back at last week's near-win and the final laps and wondered if it's one that got away.
"I wish I had it to do over again," Ferris said. "I'd do things a little different. My tires got hot. We're getting better every week, though. I think we're real close. We just have to have a little luck on our side.
"I feel like we're going to have a better second half than we've ever had. We're finally getting this car figured out."
Ferris debuted his Black Diamond car with a Scott Bailey racing engine late last season. He said some rules tweaks before the 2019 season threw the team - led by crew chief Bryan Larimore of Dirt Track Specialist - a bit of a curve.
"Bryan's been working real hard to get us dialed in," Ferris said. "He's the key to the thing. He takes care of the car while I'm working and pretty much takes care of everything for me."
Ferris owns and operates his own over-the-road trucking company - Larry Ferris Trucking - with a fleet of eight, hauling mostly livestock.
"That keeps me pretty busy," Ferris said of work. "It's pretty steady for us and it's always more busy in the summer it seems like."
Ferris' racing career began three decades ago, after that initial trip to Nevada Speedway, as he drove a Street Stock. He then moved into a Modified before going to Late Models in about 1998.
"I raced for 12 years, then quit racing for about 14 years and then started back up again," Ferris said, noting a health scare in about 2002 led him to sell his racing equipment.
But once he son, Ryan, got into high school and showed an interest in racing Larry Ferris decided to get back in. Ryan Ferris, who works full time and attends Pittsburg State University, drove a Late Model last year but has been too busy to race so far in 2019.
Ryan Ferris does help out on race nights, along with Billy Portwood and Bryan Larimore's wife, Samantha, who does anything from grinding tires to changing gears.
"I also have to thank Josh Poe and Scott Bailey," Larry Ferris said. "Scott, of course, with the engine and Josh for being a big help. My wife, Jenny, and daughter, Megan, also are big supporters of our racing program and I couldn't do it without them."
Ferris said his goals for the remainder of the season are simple in the highly competitive ULMA Late Model division.
"I want to win a couple of this year," he said. "That would be great."
The Pitts Homes USRA Modifieds, Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mods and O'Reilly Auto Parts Street Stocks also will be in action on Thursday, with a big fireworks show courtesy of AM Pyrotechnics capping the July 4th festivities.
It's also the annual Kids' Bicycle Night Giveaway, for boys and girls ages 5-12, during intermission. Youngsters can sign up for the Frog's Signs Junior Fan Club when they arrive at the speedway for a chance to win a new bicycle. The speedway is still seeking donations of bicycles or cash donations toward new bikes. For questions or more details, contact Lisa Lorton at the Lucas Oil Speedway office (417) 282-5984 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gates open at 4 p.m. with hot laps at 6:30 and racing at 7:05. Visit participating area Casey's General Stores locations for $2 discount coupons to the night's activities.
Adults (16 and over) $12
Seniors (62 and over)/Military $9
Youth (ages 6-15) $5
Kids (5 and under) FREE
Family pass $30
Pit pass $30
For questions about tickets or camping for any event at Lucas Oil Speedway, contact Admissions Director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or via email at Nichole@LucasOilSpeedway.com.
Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager
Office: (417) 282-5984