VADO, N.M. — It’s only eight days into the new year and Jonathan Davenport appears on his way to another wallet-busting season, one that could very well again eclipse a million dollars by year’s end.
For the second straight night, the sport’s juggernaut from Blairsville, Ga., laid a smackdown on the competition at the Wild West Shootout, leading all 40 laps from the outside front row to pocket another $10,000 to begin 2023. Better yet, Davenport remains eligible for the $300,000 Penske Racing Shocks Paydirt Jackpot bonus should he sweep the week’s four remaining features.
Though Davenport never officially relinquished the lead, he had to turn back a bevy of sliders from Elk Grove, Calif.’s Kyle Larson, who gave Superman all he could handle down the stretch. Larson finished 1.840 seconds behind Davenport in second.
“He just wouldn’t give up. I’m like, dammit, just quit,” a smiling Davenport said of Larson in victory lane. “No, he did a good job. I couldn’t really tell where he was getting a run on me because he kept sliding me in different corners, so I kept changing my line up a little bit — how hard I’d run around the cushion.”
All told, Larson attempted five sliders on the pace-setting Davenport over Sunday’s final 19 laps. The last of those came with four laps to go, when the former NASCAR Cup champion drove Kevin Rumley’s Late Model hard into turn three and narrowly cleared Davenport rounding the front stretch.
Larson couldn’t maintain his momentum in that final effort, though, as Davenport regathered himself — and the lead — before the flag stand to nearly win by multiple seconds. Davenport and his new-look crew bolted on a softer tire than what they used in Saturday’s win, which added a wrinkle in Sunday’s winning strategy.
“It was kind of a different tire game tonight once again,” Davenport said. “The track was obviously totally different than what it was last night. … I just tried to save it so the last 10 to 15 laps I could burn it down.”
There weren’t many moments in the last half of Sunday’s feature where Davenport left the top of the racetrack. That was the place to be most of the night despite Larson mixing in the bottom groove in his attack to keep pace with the sport’s top-ranked driver.
“That was such a fun race. What an amazing racetrack,” Larson said. “We had a big cushion to lean on; had some moisture on the bottom early. My car was really good. A big thank you to Kevin Rumley and Longhorn, and everybody who helps out who tries to get me comfortable. We changed a lot of stuff the last few times we’ve had the car. I feel like maybe we are getting closer on something. Nice we get to race consecutive nights to build on the notebook. A blast racing there. I threw a handful of sliders, but I could never get squared up on exit how I needed to.”
Larson’s first slide job attempt came with 19 laps to go in turns three and four, an effort that started by cutting off the top of turn one and through the middle of turn two. The diamond maneuver happened to be inspired by Davenport, someone that Larson, needless to say, studies.
“He’s so good at doing that diamond line at almost every racetrack he runs. Trying to just match what he does because he’s the best,” Larson said. “I feel like there were times I got in there OK and could make a run on him. But most the time I feel like I wasted too much time.
“Once I got back to ripping the top, I could make up so much time through entry. … Just an awesome racetrack. Hats off to the crew. Hats off to everybody that puts on this event. Hopefully it’ll continue to get bigger and bigger after seeing all these great races here.”
Only two cautions slowed Sunday’s feature. The first yellow flag flew for Cade Dillard on lap 13, which erased Davenport’s two-second lead, while the second stoppage occurred on lap 16 for Don Shaw.
The last 24 laps set the stage for the thrilling finish between Davenport and Larson. Oakwood, Ill.’s Bobby Pierce briefly made it a three-way battle for the win with nine laps remaining, dislodging Larson from the runner-up position off bold slide job through turn one.
Larson regained second with seven laps to go, though, as Pierce couldn’t keep his new Longhorn Chassis off the wall when attempting another slider.
“You can’t ever count none of these guys out, no matter what, Bobby was out there lurking somewhere,” Davenport said. “There was a big cushion up there, so I knew he was going to be good. We just happened to get lucky and draw on the front row there and hang on. We’re keeping that dream alive so far.”
The dream Davenport speaks of is the potential $300,000 Paydirt Jackpot should he sweep the week’s remaining four features. If there’s anything else to gather from Sunday’s second night of the Wild West Shootout, it’s that Davenport doesn’t seem to be putting himself under too much pressure. His humor is evident.
“Man, I need to keep my fat butt off the couch and need to start doing something in the winter,” Davenport said through a laugh. “I was about wore out there. I just have thank my guys once again. They did an excellent job.”
Notes: Mercedes Abercrombie failed the droop rule during time trials. The Deming, N.M., driver's car was 2.5 inches too high. ... Davenport sits alone in third with seven career Wild West Shootout feature victories as he chases his third miniseries championship after winning the title in 2016 and ’21. Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. (13 wins) and Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo. (10 wins) are all-time Wild West Shootout feature winners. … Brandon Sheppard, racing a Longhorn Chassis as part of the newly-formed Sheppard Riggs Racing Team, finished fourth. … Wednesday’s third round of the Wild West Shootout features another $10,000-to-win main event for Super Late Models.
Row 1: Garrett Alberson, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Kyle Larson, Johnny Scott
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Tad Pospisil
Row 5: Rodney Sanders, Stormy Scott
Row 6: Terry Phillips, Cade Dillard
Row 7: Mike Marlar, Don Shaw
Row 8: Chris Simpson, Jake Timm
Row 9: Billy Moyer, Tyler Erb
Row 10: Jason Strand, Justin Duty
Row 11: Dustin Sorensen, Collen Winebarger
Row 12: Cole Wells, Jimmy Whisler
Row 13: Clayton Stuckey
(12 laps, top four transfer)
First consolation: Billy Moyer, Jason Strand, Dustin Sorensen, Cole Wells, Dillon McCowan, Brandon Brzozowski, Justin Mills, Josh Cain, Jeff Schildmeyer, Thomas Hunziker, Trenton Jessen, Rusty Schlenk, Glen Powell, Bill Leighton Jr., Greg Schildmeyer, Kyle Beard.
Second consolation: Tyler Erb, Justin Duty, Collen Winebarger, Jimmy Whisler, Clayton Stuckey, Dustin Walker, Eston Whisler, Jon Kirby, Steve Stultz, Terry Carter, Chris Hawkins, Mercedes Abercrombie, Devan Smith, Dallas Caldwell, Kent Rosevear. DNS: Morgan Bagley.
Pro Power Dash finish: Clayton Stuckey, Dillon McCowan, Steve Stultz, Jon Kirby, Josh Cain, Justin Mills, Brandon Brzozowski, Dustin Walker, Eston Whisler, Jeff Schildmeyer.
Heat race results
(Eight laps, top four transfer)
First heat: Garrett Alberson, Kyle Larson, Rodney Sanders, Mike Marlar, Billy Moyer, Dustin Sorensen, Dillon McCowen, Brandon Brzozowski, Thomas Hunziker, Jeff Schildmeyer, Glen Powell, Trenton Jessen.
Second heat: Jonathan Davenport, Ricky Weiss, Terry Phillips, Chris Simpson, Kyle Beard, Cole Wells, Justin Mills, Jason Strand, Josh Cain, Rusty Schlenk, Bill Leighton Jr., Greg Schildmeyer.
Third heat: Brandon Sheppard, Johnny Scott, Stormy Scott, Don Shaw, Collen Winebarger, Tyler Erb, Dustin Walker, Kent Rosevear, Steve Stultz, Chris Hawkins, Jimmy Whisler, Jon Kirby.
Fourth heat: Bobby Pierce, Tad Pospisil, Cade Dillard, Jake Timm, Clayton Stuckey, Justin Duty, Eston Whisler, Terry Carter, Mercedes Abercrombie, Devan Smith, Morgan Bagley, Dallas Caldwell.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
Kyle Larson (6), Elk Grove, Calif., 14.218
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.236
Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.291
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 14.358
Dustin Sorenson (28), Rochester, Minn., 14.415
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 14.450
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.525
Bill Leighton Jr. (24), La Vista, Neb., 14.552
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 14.568
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 14.578
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 14.612
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 14.680
Dillon McCowan (8), Urbana, Mo., 14.790
Cole Wells (7c) Aurora, Mo., 14.855
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 14.895
Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio , 14.960
Jeff Schildmeyer (19), Las Vegas, Nev., 14.965
Josh Cain (3J), Rio Rancho, N.M., 15.224
Brandon Brzozowski (10-4), LaVernia, Texas, 15.335
Jason Strand (E85), Portland, N.D., 15.773
Trenton Jessen (89J), Pineville, Mo., 16.581
Greg Schildmeyer (13), Las Vegas, Nev., 16.740
Glen Powell (26), Nixa, Mo., no time
Justin Mills (38m), Pineville, Mo., no time
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.286
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.416
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 14.498
Tad Pospisil (04), Norfolk, Neb., 14.530
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.531
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 14.541
Don Shaw (42S), Ham Lake, Minn., 14.543
Clayton Stuckey (15s), Shreveport, La., 14.596
Dustin Walker (14w), Polk, Mo., 14.650
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 14.676
Collen Winebarger (14s), Corbett, Ore., 14.679
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 14.694
Chris Hawkins (USA1), Neosho, Mo., 14.720
Eston Whisler (82), Otis, Ore., 14.722
Kent Rosevear (02), Yuma, Ariz., 14.775
Justin Duty (15), Molalla, Ore., 14.775
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 14.908
Devan Smith (01), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.941
Steve Stultz (78s), Peoria, Ariz., 15.154
Jimmy Whisler (28w), Olis, Ore., 15.444
Terry Carter (6T), Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, 15.705
Jon Kirby (11), Russellville, Ark., 16.116
Dallas Caldwell (51c), Tucson, Ariz., 17.119
Mercedes Abercrombie (29), Deming, N.M., DQ
(All times local)
1 p.m.: Pits open
2:30 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
3 p.m.: Grandstands open
3:30 p.m.: Hot laps (by heat races)
- Super Late Models hot laps/time trials
4:55 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
5 p.m.: Heat races
- X-mods (8 laps)
- Modifieds (8 laps)
- Super Late Models (8 laps)
- X-mods (10 laps)
- Modifieds (12 laps)
- Super Late Models (12 laps)
Pro Power Dash
- Super Late Models (laps TBA)
- Super Late Models (40 laps)
- X-mods (25 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)