TUCSON, Ariz. — The two drivers going door-to-door for a lucrative bonus at the 10th Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout started on the front row Friday evening and went right down to the wire at USA Raceway.
Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who lost his race-long lead to Jonathan Davenport with two laps remaining, edged back ahead to grab a $5,000 payday in the fourth round of Arizona’s winter miniseries.
With his victory in the nonstop 30-lapper, O’Neal matches Davenport with two victories apiece at Tucson. With two miniseries events remaining, both drivers have a shot at a $50,000 bonus if they can manage to sweep Saturday and Sunday’s events.
The 51-year-old O’Neal’s victory ended Davenport’s pursuit of the $100,000 bonus going to any driver winning five of six races, part of the Keyser Quarter-Million Challenge that also posted $250,000 to any driver with six victories.
Davenport, of Blairsville, Ga., stayed right with O’Neal most of the way and slipped underneath him exiting turn four to lead lap 28. But O’Neal kept rolling in the high groove to sweep back ahead and take the checkers a half-second ahead of Davenport, who had won the previous two miniseries events.
O’Neal credited Clint Bowyer Racing crew members with helping him win at the 3/8-mile oval where he captured last Saturday’s opener. “They make my job easy,” O’Neal said after donning a cowboy hat in victory lane and firing blanks from a couple of six shooters.
“I felt like the bottom was as good as the top, but I really didn’t know what line” to take, said O’Neal, who received signals from crew members. “So I just stuck with them and it worked.”
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill, finished four seconds back in third while Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., advanced four positions to finish fourth and post his second top-five finish of the miniseries. A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound, Wis., was fifth followed by 18th-starting Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa.
While the third- through sixth-place finishers had solid runs, including Francis grabbing fourth after just four laps and Gustin charging on the high side from the eighth row, it was basically a two-car race between the most recent Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champions.
O’Neal lapped his first competitor on the 10th lap and held a half-second lead, but that margin was cut in half by lap 15 with Davenport briefly pulling side-by-side with O’Neal entering turn one.
Davenport tried the high side entering turn one on lap 19, but O’Neal closed the door exiting turn two and survived a couple of touchy moments on the high side entering turn three when it appeared his Peak Motor Oil No. 5 was inches from the wall.
When O’Neal put Garrett Alberson a lap down on lap 25 with a turn-three slide job, he briefly got a little breathing room, but Davenport was suddenly hot on his heels a half-lap later and eventually moved ahead on lap 28, leading by three-hundredths of a second.
O’Neal went back to work to regain the point on lap 29, leading by seventh-hundredths of a second and then edging away over the final lap to wrap up the victory.
“We nearly came back there at the end,” the 32-year-old Davenport said. “We’ve still got a little work to do on these shorter races. The car was excellent. We just left it a little too free tonight. We tried some different things and probably should’ve just went back to what we had been doing.”
Sheppard made up a little ground on the frontrunners in the second half of the race in scoring his best finish of the miniseries.
“We’re making improvements on the car … the track’s pretty tricky out here, you know (and) these tires are tricky, too,” said the 22-year-old driver. “We’ve been working our butts off and we’re finally starting to (get something) to show for it a little bit. Hopefully, I’d like to get a win before the end of the deal, but if I can stay in the top three, I’ll be happy.”
Francis rebounded from missing Wednesday’s main event for a solid fourth-place finish.
“We just spotted them guys too much,” the 48-year-old Francis said. “It’s hard to say you start eighth and spot ‘em too much, but when you put O’Neal and Davenport and Sheppard all up in front of you, you’ve got your hands full.
“We had a good race car. We could get kind up besides Brandon up off the corner, but he had that momentum around the top. Don and J.D., they weren’t too far out there in front of us, so we’re making gains on it.”
The final weekend of the miniseries continues Saturday with another $5,000-to-win Super Late Model event. DirtonDirt.com’s pay-per-view begins at 3:15 p.m. Mountain Time with hot laps scheduled for 3:30 and racing at 5.
Sunday’s miniseries-richest $11,000-to-win finale concludes the miniseries with the same starting times as Saturday.
Notes: As with many unsanctioned events, drivers push the envelope with aerodynamic enhancements, and runner-up Jonathan Davenport noted that winner Don O’Neal’s left sailpanel didn’t match the right, typically a requirement in most series rulebooks. “Don did a good job,” Davenport said. “He must’ve gotten a little cold and had to roll that left-rear window up on us, but we’ll see how that works out.” … Friday’s miniseries newcomers: Home-state drivers Lonnie Parker Jr., Craig Parker and Brad Williams … Joey Moriarty’s night ended against the wall between turns one and two while battling with Tyler Erb in the third heat. … Scott Ward led the first half of the fourth heat, but smashed the turn-four wall after Jonathan Davenport slid by to take the lead. … James Laing broke a motor during the fourth heat and was pushed off the track after dropping fluids in the racing groove. … Jake O’Neil and Ricky Weiss tangled while battling for third on the final lap of the fourth heat. … Drivers starting their first features of the week: Sean Bray and Billy Franklin (Austin Siebert had qualified for a previous feature but scratched, so he also made his first start).
Late Model feature lineup
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Don O'Neal
Row 2: Dustin Strand, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: A.J. Diemel, Rodney Sanders
Row 4: R.C. Whitwell, Steve Francis
Row 5: Billy Moyer Jr., Rob Sanders
Row 6: Jimmy Mars, Donny Schatz
Row 7: Shane Clanton, Darrell Lanigan
Row 8: Sean Bray, Ryan Gustin
Row 9: Morgan Bagley, Austin Siebert
Row 10: Garrett Alberson, Jason Krohn
Row 11: Chris Simpson, Jason Papich
Row 12: Terry Phillips, Billy Franklin
Late Model consolation results
(12 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Ryan Gustin, Garrett Alberson, Jason Papich, Billy Moyer, Ricky Thornton Jr., Jason Rauen, Tyler Erb, Ricky Weiss, Hunter Rasdon, Craig Parker, Larry Childress, Junior Coover, Don Shaw.
Second consolation: Morgan Bagley, Jason Krohn, Terry Phillips, Brad Looney, Jake O'Neil, Kyle Beard, Chase Junghans, Jeremy Keller, John Duty, Lonnie Parker Jr., Justin Duty, Dana Fite, Terry Carter, Doug Blashe. Scratched: James Laing.
Third consolation: Austin Siebert, Chris Simpson, Billy Franklin, Pat Doar Clay Daly, Ray Moore, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Scott Lewis, Tony Toste, Brad Williams, Dave Deetz, Rob Odegard, Rick Ortega. Scratched: Scott Ward, Bucky Andrews.
Late Model consolation lineups
(12 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Ryan Gustin, Jason Rauen
Row 2: Jason Papich, Garrett Alberson
Row 3: Ricky Thornton Jr., Tyler Erb
Row 4: Billy Moyer, Craig Parker
Row 5: Hunter Rasdon, Larry Childress
Row 6: Ricky Weiss, Don Shaw
Row 7: Junior Coover, Joey Moriarty
Row 8: Paul Guglielmoni
Row 1: Jason Krohn, Brad Looney
Row 2: Morgan Bagley, Doug Blashe
Row 3: Terry Phillips, Lonnie Parker Jr.
Row 4: Chase Junghans, Jake O'Neil
Row 5: Kyle Beard, Justin Duty
Row 6: Jeremy Keller, Terry Carter
Row 7: John Duty, James Laing
Row 8: Dana Fite
Row 1: Austin Siebert, Ray Moore
Row 2: Chris Simpson, Billy Franklin
Row 3: Scott Lewis, Pat Doar
Row 4: Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Clay Daly
Row 5: Tony Toste, Brad Williams
Row 6: Dave Deetz, Rob Odegard
Row 7: Scott Ward, Rick Ortega
Row 8: Bucky Andrews
Late Model heat results
(Eight laps; top 15 in passing points transfer)
First heat: Steve Francis, Ray Moore, Morgan Bagley, Billy Franklin, Jason Papich, Billy Moyer, Justin Duty, Junior Coover, Chase Junghans. Scratched: Bucky Andrews.
Second heat: Donny Schatez, Jimmy Mars, Don O'Neal, Darrell Lanigan, Ricky Thornton Jr., Clay Daly, Hunter Rasdon, Jeremy Keller, Don Shaw, Rick Ortega.
Third heat: Dustin Strand, Jason Rauen, Chris Simpson, Billy Moyer Jr., Tyler Erb, Terry Phillips, Kyle Beard, Rob Odegard, Brad Williams, Joey Moriarty.
Fourth heat: Jonathan Davenport, R.C. Whitwell, Rodney Sanders, Rob Sanders, Sean Bray, Jake O'Neil, Ricky Weiss, Dave Deetz, James Laing, Scott Ward.
Fifth heat: Brandon Sheppard, Brad Looney, Ryan Gustin, Jason Krohn, Pat Doar, Garrett Alberson, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Tony Toste, John Duty, Dana Fite.
Sixth heat: Shane Clanton, A.J. Diemel, Doug Blashe, Austin Siebert, Lonnie Parker Jr., Scott Lewis, Craig Parker, Terry Carter, Paul Guglielmoni.
Late Model heat lineups
(Eight laps; top 15 in passing points transfer)
Row 1: Bucky Andrews, Steve Francis
Row 2: Ray Moore, Billy Franklin
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Junior Coover
Row 4: Chase Junghans, Jason Papich
Row 5: Justin Duty, Billy Moyer
Row 1: Donny Schatz, Clay Daly
Row 2: Rick Ortega, Jimmy Mars
Row 3: Jeremy Keller, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 4: Hunter Rasdon, Darrell Lanigan
Row 5: Don Shaw, Don O'Neal
Row 1: Rob Odegard, Jason Rauen
Row 2: Chris Simpson, Dustin Strand
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Joey Moriarty
Row 4: Kyle Beard, Terry Phillips
Row 5: Billy Moyer Jr., Brad Williams
Row 1: Ricky Weiss, Scott Ward
Row 2: Jake O’Neil, Dave Deetz
Row 3: R.C. Whitwell, James Laing
Row 4: Jonathan Davenport, Rodney Sanders
Row 5: Rob Sanders, Sean Bray
Row 1: Dana Fite, Brad Looney
Row 2: Pat Doar, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Ryan Gustin, John Duty
Row 4: Jason Krohn, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth
Row 5: Tony Toste, Garrett Alberson
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Doug Blashe
Row 2: Paul Guglielmoni, Larry Childress
Row 3: Lonnie Parker Jr., A.J. Diemel
Row 4: Austin Siebert, Scott Lewis
Row 5: Terry Carter, Craig Parker
(All times Mountain Standard)
1 p.m. - Pit gate opens (draw begins)
4:30 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
5 p.m. - Grandstands open
5:30 p.m. - Hot laps (modifieds, X-mods, Late Models by heat lineups)
6:45 p.m. - National anthem
7 p.m. - Racing begins
Heat races: Modifieds (eight laps), X-mods (six laps), Late Models (eight laps)
Consolations: Modifieds (12 laps), X-mods (10 laps), Late Models (12 laps)
Features: Modifieds (25 laps), X-mods (20 laps), Late Models (30 laps)