BULLS GAP, Tenn. (Oct. 20) — With a $10,000 victory that clinched a $20,000 championship, Jonathan Davenport had a profitable night at Volunteer Speedway on Wednesday. But claiming the combined $30,000 payday was far from easy for the Dirt Late Model superstar from Blairsville, Ga.
Mastering a tricky track surface and surviving heavy lapped traffic, the fourth-starting Davenport used a bold turn-four slide job to take the lead from polesitter Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., on lap 27 of Wednesday’s 40-lap Castrol FloRacing Night in America feature at Volunteer’s high-banked third-mile oval and pulled away from Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., through the race’s closing circuits on his way to earning his 24th overall victory of the 2021 season. Davenport, who became the first-year tour’s first repeat winner in seven races, mathematically clinched the Castrol FloRacing tour’s championship with one race remaining on the schedule.
“This place is definitely elbows-up all the time,” Davenport said of the east Tennessee track. “Even though it is pretty slick, it’s still fast. There was just enough around one and two that I felt like that was pretty much where you had to be, right on that lip (around the top). I just got to move around a little bit behind Ross and find his weaknesses and where I was a little better than him. Then I just took advantage of it.”
Deftly navigating slower traffic in a race that was slowed by just one caution, Davenport’s Double L Motorsports Longhorn Chassis took the checkers 1.239 seconds ahead of fifth-starting Larson. Third-starting Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, finished just behind Larson with outside polesitter Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and 10th starting Cory Hedgecock of Loudon, Tenn., rounding out the top five. Bailes slide back to sixth at the finish.
Although Larson never got close enough to Davenport in the final 10 laps to make a serious challenge for the lead, his pressure was just enough to keep Davenport on his toes as the two superstar drivers both knifed their way through traffic.
“Man that was fun,” said Davenport, who made his first Volunteer appearance since 2017 and earned his first win at the track since 2016. “When I seen the six on the board, I knew Larson was coming. Through those lap cars, they give me plenty of room. You catch them so fast here, I was just trying pick where I could slide them and where I could pass them at.”
Davenport’s only real trouble during the race came on the opening lap, when he used a three-wide move to go from fourth to second on the back straightaway, then slipped up in turns three and four and nearly stopped in front of the field.
“I thought it was more hairy on the first lap,” Davenport said in comparing his opening-lap miscue to his run through traffic. “Hudson pushed down here (in turns one and two) and I made it three-wide (between O’Neal and Weiss down the back straightaway). Then I went down there and I hit the slime (entering turn three) and thought I was gonna push all the way across the track and take about half the field out. Everybody let off and gave me a break there.”
Larson, who entered the night second in tour standings 96 points behind Davenport, enjoyed his first-ever visit to Volunteer despite coming up short at the finish.
“I felt like I was really equal with Jonathan. He just did a really good the last eight laps in traffic and I got kind of stuck,” said Larson, the NASCAR Cup Series title contender who drives Kevin Rumley’s No. 6 Longhorn Chassis on a part-time basis. “It’s good to come here and be fast. This place is really cool. It’s slick and the lanes moved around quite a bit. You had to be aggressive against the wall in one and two. It was a lot of fun.”
Weiss, who dropped back as far as sixth before using the bottom groove to get back up to third, earned just his sixth podium finish off 2021 with his third-place result. The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series regular was looking for his first victory since winning a Crate Late Model race at Volunteer in November of last season.
“We were catching Davenport there,” Weiss said of his late charge. “Lap cars obviously were slowing him down a little bit. He might’ve been a little bit better, but I felt like we were real close with him. It’s good to be back up here on the podium and getting consistent runs. Hats off to my guys here and everybody working so hard back at the shop. I just can’t thank all the guys enough.”
Notes: Davenport’s previous series victory came in the season opener April 15 at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va. … Davenport’s victory was his first since his chief crew Jason Durham returned to the team after missing the first half of October while recovering from Covid-19. … Eighteen cars were running at the finish with 10 on the lead lap. … Making a guest appearance in Vic Hill’s No. 1 machine, Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., was set to start from the ninth spot, but elected to start from the tail of the field and pulled off after making one lap.
Row 1: Ross Bailes, Hudson O’Neal
Row 2: Ricky Weiss, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Kyle Larson, Mack McCarter
Row 4: Forrest Trent, Mike Marlar
Row 5: Bobby Pierce, Cory Hedgecock
Row 6: Shane Clanton, Ryan King
Row 7: Benjamin Cranford, Jensen Ford
Row 8: Travis Stickley, Jadon Frame
Row 9: Sam Seawright, Eli Beets
Row 10: Christian Hanger, Kaede Loudy
Row 11: Will Roland, Joe Denby
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
Finish: Christian Hanger, Kaede Loudy, Will Roland, Joe Denby, Jeff Neubert, Troy Eads, Aaron Guinn.
The first of the night’s three heat race was a rough one with three cautions slowing the pace. After Jeff Neubert slowed and brought out an early caution, Matt Tharp and Benjamin Cranford tangled for the second yellow and Cory Hedgecock’s slider took out Jadon Frame and caused the third caution. Only five of nine starters finished in an eight-lap prelim won by second-starting Ross Bailes over polesitter Jonathan Davenport. … The second heat ran caution free with Hudson O’Neal leading all eight laps from the outside pole. … Second-starting Ricky Weiss made it three-for-three for outside polesitters, winning the third and final heat over polesitter Mack McCarter. … Adam Yarbrough of Denver, N.C., didn’t record a lap time in qualifying after getting into the wall on his first lap.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top six transfer)
First heat: Ross Bailes, Jonathan Davenport, Forrest Trent, Cory Hedgecock, Benjamin Cranford, Jadon Frame, Aaron Guinn, Matt Tharp, Jeff Neubert.
Second heat: Hudson O’Neal, Kyle Larson, Mike Marlar, Shane Clanton, Jensen Ford, Sam Seawright, Kaede Loudy, Joe Denby.
Third heat: Ricky Weiss, Mack McCarter, Bobby Pierce, Ryan King, Travis Stickley, Eli Beets, Christian Hanger, Will Roland, Troy Eads.
Driver (car no.), hometown, Time
- Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 12.664
- Kyle Larson (6), Elk Grove, Calif., 12.683
- Mack McCarter (51), Gatlinburg, Tenn., 12.771
- Ross Bailes (58), Clover, S.C., 12.776
- Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 12.847
- Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 12.954
- Forrest Trent (101), Morristown, Tenn., 12.966
- Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 12.990
- Eli Beets (109), Knoxville, Tenn., 13.074
- Jadon Frame (J8), Decherd, Tenn., 13.279
- Jensen Ford (83), Johnson City, Tenn., 13.298
- Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.301
- Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., 13.303
- Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 13.339
- Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 13.472
- Jeff Neubert (86), Knoxville, Tenn., 13.543
- Adam Ahl (7A), Morristown, Tenn., 13.570
- Travis Stickley (32), Keyser, W.Va., 13.578
- Matt Tharp (35), Luttrell, Tenn., 13.589
- Sam Seawright (16), Rainsville, Ala., 13.650
- Christian Hanger (29), Winchester, Tenn., 13.652
- Aaron Guinn (97), Russellville, Tenn., 13.683
- Joe Denby (27), Tullahoma, Tenn., 13.735
- Will Roland (22), Jasper, Ga., 13.990
- Benjamin Cranford (93), Thomson, Ga., 14.009
- Kaede Loudy (126) Rogersville, Tenn., 14.160
- Troy Eads (52), Tazewell, Tenn., 14.306
- Adam Yarbrough (57), Denver, N.C., No time
(All time EDT)
6:30 p.m. - Hot laps
- Super Late Models
- Sportsman Late Model hot laps/time trials
- Street stock hot laps/time trials
- Super Late Model time trials
- Front-wheel drive hot laps/time trials
- Super Late Model heats (8 laps)
- Sportsman Late Model feature (20 laps)
- Super Late Model B-main (10 laps)
- Street stock feature (20 laps)
- Super Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Front-wheel drive feature (20 laps)