Davenport dominates Tazewell's WoO prelims
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
TAZEWELL, Tenn. (July 2) — Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., was the star of Saturday night’s action at Tazewell Speedway, setting fast time and winning a heat race during qualifying for the inaugural Outlaw Sizzler 101.
A $20,000 top prize will be up for grabs Sunday in the 101-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series spectacular at the high-banked, third-mile oval, which Davenport blistered during Saturday’s qualifying program. His lap of 11.162 seconds in the 30-car time trials was less than two-tenths of a second off the track record — earning him his first fast-time of 2011 and the fifth of his career on the national tour — and he dominated the first of three 15-lap heat races to position himself for a top-six starting spot in the Sizzler.
“We were good ever since we unloaded,” said the 27-year-old Davenport, who drove veteran chassis builder Barry Wright’s house car. “We got two hot-lap sessions and every time we went out we were quickest in our group. We tried a couple different things with our car and we really seemed to get rolling here.
“I think we know what we’re gonna do tomorrow. We already got a gameplan and we’re gonna stick to it.”
Davenport, who scored the lone WoO triumph of his career last November in the World Finals opener at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, will redraw Sunday for a top-six starting spot for the richest race in the history of Tazewell Speedway.
Joining Davenport in the draw for positions will be Saturday’s other heat winners, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., and prelim runners-up Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., who won last year’s 50-lap WoO event at Tazewell, Eric Jacobsen of Seacliff Beach, Calif., and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga.
Smith had one of the strongest runs of Saturday’s heat, charging forward from the sixth starting spot to chase Madden across the finish line. He ran the inside groove to pick off every car ahead of him except the machine driven by Madden, who turned back a late-race challenge from Smith.
“I was kinda set up to run the bottom and then I think I made a good tire choice on the left-rear,” said the 46-year-old Smith, who appeared ready to bid for the lead when a caution flag flew on lap 13 of the heat. “I went one step harder (on tire compound) than everybody else had on. After about three laps it got a lot of grip and we were able to power up by everybody.
“I think we had the heat race won, but the caution come out and let them cool their tires down and Madden beat me. But I knew the top two drew for the starting positions for the feature, so I knew second was just as good as winning.”
Two-time defending WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., finished third in the first heat, giving him the seventh starting spot for the 101-lapper. Current tour points leader Rick Eckert of York, Pa., will start further back in 11th after placing fourth in the second heat.
The Outlaw Sizzler 101 concludes on Sunday evening (July 3) with a program headlined by a last-chance race and the 101-lap feature. Tazewell’s Limited Late Model and Classic Car divisions will also be in action during the weekend’s grand finale, which is scheduled to kick off with hot laps at 8 p.m. and will include a holiday fireworks display.
30. Chad Ogle (10), Sevierville, Tenn., 11.448 (disqualified; light at scales)
Heat race finishes
(15 laps; top six transfer)
First heat: Davenport, Clanton, Richards, Davies, Kerr, Neubert, Fuller, Doar, Hendrix, Weeks.
Second heat: Lanigan, Jacobsen, Hill, Eckert, J. Wolfenbarger, Frank, S. Smith, Lobb, White. Scratched: B. Ogle.
Third heat: Madden, C. Smith, Hubbard, McCreadie, Coffey, Vineyard, T. Wolfenbarger, Fultz, Trammell, C. Ogle.