QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (Jan. 17) — Leading all 50 laps from the pole, second-starting Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., won Sunday's Wild West Shootout finale at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, collecting $25,000 along with a $10,000 bonus for his third WWS win of the season. Two-time Wild West Shootout winner Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, who started 11th, advanced nine spots to finish second, 0.390 seconds back.
Third-starting Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., who won Jan. 10’s feature, rounded out the top three. Polesitter Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., settled for fourth, while eighth-starting Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., finished fifth, his third top-five of the week.
As the first driver to win three features during the six-race miniseries, Davenport pocketed a $10,000 bonus from Keyser Manufacturing. He also earned an additional $3,000 as the champion of the miniseries. Along with his three wins, Davenport piloted his Lance Landers-backed Longhorn Chassis to a pair of runner-up finishes and a third-place.
“It’s so great. It just feels so great to have a consistent car,” said Davenport. “Man we was just battling last year to run in the top 10. This is awesome. We can have a bad night and run third. I almost had to learn how to race again up front ‘cause usually I’m in the back. It’s just totally different.
“Thanks for (car owner) Lance (Landers). I finally … it took me a long time to get him talked into letting me come out here. He finally let us. Now, me and (crew chief) Jason (Durham) has got a long trip back. I know Tyler (Erb) and Ricky (Thornton) and all them guys have to be in Florida (for Georgia-Florida Speedweeks) in four days. Work never stops.”
After a lackluster 2020, Davenport’s stellar Arizona performance has the three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion excited about 2021. He credited the early-season speed to changes the team made in the offseason.
“This sport is so mentally draining. It’s the most humbling sport there is,” Davenport said. “We can go to Florida and not even be able to line up. I hope that don’t happen. Actually, now I can’t wait to start racing again. I was kinda in a lull there this winter and then we finally decided to switch shock companies and bring Kevin on and build some new cars and I was all ready to come out here and we was working extra hard. So now I’m ready to get the whole season started.”
Davenport and the nearly 60 drivers on hand each of the six nights were challenged by an ever-changing track surface. Johnny Stokes, the Magnolia Motor Speedway track promoter renowned for his track-prepping ability, was tasked with preparing the FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway surface each night. Rarely were two nights the same this year as Stokes worked diligently to provide drivers with a racy surface. For Sunday’s finale, the track crew dug a little deeper and added a little more water in hope the the surface wouldn’t take rubber during the 50-lapper — 10 more laps than Saturday’s feature.
“This place, when it gets like that, it just blows so much grit and it slows you down,” said Davenport. “When we was in clean air and nobody was in front of us, we finally got to show just how stout this No. 49 car is. Give this to my crew. They worked their tails off between the heat race and the feature there. We made a couple adjustments that we hadn’t made all week and I think it really paid off. It was really, really good right there.”
Erb appeared to have the only car capable of keeping pace with Davenport, but after starting 11th it took him a while to make his presence felt. He was up to eighth on lap 10 and was sixth by lap 23. On a lap-28 restart, Erb slid in front of Shirley, forcing Shirley to get on the brakes as the two made slight contact, while Erb darted by Thornton to take the second spot.
But with a clear track ahead of him, Davenport raced away, building a lead of nearly four seconds. It wasn’t until the leader encountered lapped traffic in the final eight circuits that Erb managed to cut the lead back to a half-second.
“Just didn’t have a good track position there, but those guys were fast all week. J.D., Ricky, Squirrel … ,” said Erb. “Just, I don’t know what to say. You always wish it was a couple more laps, but it was a good run for us. (I) gave it all I had. (The track) rubbered there with about five to go in (turns) one and two and I knew I was pretty much toast unless a lapper held him up. Congrats to him. Somebody had to leave here with a lot of money and hopefully next time it’s us.”
Erb added that with a lot of money on the line and a lot of cars between himself and the leader, he had little choice but to take a few chances, especially on restarts.
“If you woke up in the morning and had a chance to win $35,000, I think everyone out here would have the same mindset,” he said. “It was just hard racing.”
Thornton meanwhile felt as though he wasn’t quite aggressive enough. Still, the Arizona transplant now living in Iowa, was happy with his week, which included a win, two seconds and two third-place finishes.
“I think I need to get a little more aggressive on these restarts and really make my passes,” Thornton said. “I’m driving a little too easy once we get going and it’s kinda letting guys get by. If I get a little more seat time and just kinda get up on the wheel a little harder a little sooner I think we’d be good.”
Notes: Fourteen of the 24 starters finished the race with 10 completing 50 laps. … After a caution-free 40-lapper on Saturday, Sunday’s 50-lap affair was slowed by five cautions, two in the first three laps for Chase Allen of Midlothian, Texas; one on lap 25 for Rodney Sanders of Chandler, Ariz.; and two on lap 28 when Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., spun collecting Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D.; and Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., and Jared Landers of Benton, Ark., got together on the restart. … Fourth-place finisher Brian Shirley ran as high as second, but said he finished about where his car was capable. “We weren’t that good,” Shirley said. “We was anywhere from a third to fifth-place car there. We was pretty good, then on that restart, Turbo (Tyler Erb) went in there and did what he does and just messed everything up.” … Bobby Pierce recorded another top-five but felt his week could have been better. “It’s always good to have a top-five,” Pierce said. “We had three top-fives and three DNFs and every night I feel like we could have been up front. Tonight we really needed to get that heat race win so we could start up front because the track was just so hard to pass there in the beginning. Those restarts I possibly could have been a little bit more aggressive to pick my way through there, but I wanted to race everybody clean.”
Preliminary notes and results
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Ricky Thornton Jr., Jimmy Mars
Row 3: Rodney Sanders, Mike Marlar
Row 4: Billy Moyer, Bobby Pierce
Row 5: Mitch McGrath, Garrett Alberson
Row 6: Tyler Erb, Jason Papich
Row 7: Dustin Sorensen, Jason Feger
Row 8: Tony Toste, Donny Schatz
Row 9: Chris Simpson, Rusty Schlenk
Row 10: Jared Landers, Chad Simpson
Row 11: Chase Allen, Scott Ward
Row 12: Johnny Scott, Trevor Gundaker
(12 laps; top 4 transfer)
First consolation finish: Chris Simpson, Jared Landers, Chase Allen, Johnny Scott, Kyle Beard, Gunner Frank, Tim Lance, Jim Whisler, Tyler Reagle, Brian Bowman, James Webster (DNS) Larry Clawson, Terry Phillips, Steve Stultz, Brody Montgomery, Blair Nothdurft, Dustin Knight.
Second consolation finish: Rusty Schlenk, Chad Simpson, Scott Ward, Trevor Gundaker, Jake Timm, Eston Whisler, Steve Hucovski, Dennis Souza, Kent Rosevear, Brandon Lewis, Clayton Holland (DNS) Stormy Scott, Gordy Gundaker, Chad Olsen, Cliff Morrow, Dustin Knight.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
First heat finish: Jonathan Davenport, Rodney Sanders, Mitch McGrath, Dustin Sorensen, Jared Landers, Gunner Frank, Johnny Scott, Larry Clawson, Jim Whisler, Tyler Reagle, James Webster, Brody Montgomery, Kyle Beard.
Second heat finish: Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer, Tyler Erb, Tony Toste, Chris Simpson, Tim Lance, Chase Allen, Terry Phillips, Brian Bowman, Cody Cantonwine, Steve Stultz (DNS) Blair Nothdurft.
Third heat finish: Ricky Thornton Jr., Mike Marlar, Garrett Alberson, Jason Feger, Rusty Schlenk, Stormy Scott, Trevor Gundaker, Steve Hucovski, Jake Timm, Chad Olsen, Clayton Holland, Dustin Knight.
Fourth heat finish: Jimmy Mars, Bobby Pierce, Jason Papich, Donny Schatz, Chad Simpson, Scott Ward, Kent Rosevear, Eston Whisler, Dennis Souza, Cliff Morrow, Brandon Lewis (DNS) Gordy Gundaker.
The Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout closes its 2020 run at FK Rod Ends Speedway on perhaps the warmest day of the miniseries: afternoon highs nearing 80 under brilliant sunny skies. … Sunday’s Super Late Model car count has dipped to 49 for the finale — down a dozen entries from Saturday, but that number is still larger than the 2020 WWS’s top single-event turnout of 46 cars (on opening night). With less than 50 cars racing, the Super Late Models will run four heats for the first time during this year’s WWS.… A total of 150 cars are in the pit area, including 61 modifieds and 40 X-mods. … The major story of the night is the pursuit of a $35,000 windfall by Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, who, with two wins apiece, are eligible to add the $10,000 three-victory bonus on top of the $25,000 winner’s check posted for Sunday’s 50-lap feature. … During Sunday’s drivers’ meeting, Scott Ward of Jamestown, S.D., was awarded a $1,000 prize for winning the contest for the event’s best western-themed car wrap. His XR1 Rocket sports a western ghost town motif with his sponsors displayed on the outside of the buildings and his car number represented on the quarter-panels as “Old No. 37 Saloon.” … Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who won three WWS features in both 2017 and ’19, is winless in this odd-numbered year entering tonight’s finale. He will hit the track after bolting in his backup engine because he retired early from Saturday’s A-main with terminal motor trouble.
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 15.102
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 15.195
Dustin Sorenson (19), Rochester, Minn., 15.205
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.277
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 15.279
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.321
Johnny Scott (1ST), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.416
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.426
Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 15.479
Tony Toste (91T), Pismo Beach, Calif., 15.500
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.527
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 15.650
Gunner Frank (21F), Montrose, Iowa, 15.654
Steve Stultz (78s), Peoria, Ariz., 15.843
Jim Whisler (28W), Otis, Ore., 16.064
Chase Allen (130), Midlothian, Texas, 16.207
Larry Clawson (L88), Kansas City, Mo., 16.278
Brian Bowman (19x), Eaglepoint, Ore., 16.422
Tyler Reagle (21x), Valentine, Neb., 16.575
Cody Cantonwine (75), Fort Lupton, Colo., 16.980
James Webster (5AZ), Coolidge, Ariz., 17.083
Tim Lance Jr. (48L), Brimfield, Ill., 17.131
Brody Montgomery (3), Bandon, Ore., 23.756
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., no time
Blair Nothdurft (76), Sioux Falls, S.D., no time
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 15.088
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 15.250
Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio, 15.306
Jason Papich (91P), Nipomo, Calif., 15.322
Mike Marlar (57), Winfield, Tenn., 15.372
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 15.406
Garrett Alberson (59), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.511
Bobby Pierce (93), Oakwood, Ill., 15.542
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 15.579
Trevor Gundaker (11T), St. Charles, Mo., 15.614
Chad Simpson (25), Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 15.627
Chad Olsen (10C), Hendricks, Minn., 15.654
Scott Ward (37), Watertown, S.D., 15.669
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.718
Steve Hucovski (15H), Corcoran, Minn., 15.838
Kent Rosevear (02), Yuma, Ariz., 16.272
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 16.495
Eston Whisler (82), Otis, Ore., 16.519
Clayton Holland (71), Forney, Texas, 16.679
Cliff Morrow (99), Enid, Okla., 17.078
Dustin Knight (77), Central Point, Ore., 17.148
Dennis Souza (83), Pescadero, Calif., 17.225
Stormy Scott (2), Las Cruces, N.M., no time
Brandon Lewis (44), Denver, Colo., no time
(All times Mountain)
2:30 p.m. - Drivers' meeting
3:30 p.m. - Hot laps
- Late Models (time trials)
4:55 p.m. - National anthem
5 p.m. - Heat races
- X-mods (8 laps)
- Modifieds (8 or 10 laps)
- Late Models (8 laps)
- X-mods (10 laps)
- Modifieds (12 laps)
- Late Models (12 laps)
- Late Models (50 laps)
- X-mods (25 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)