ROSSBURG, Ohio – Jonathan Davenport further established himself as a heavy favorite and Dennis Erb Jr. emerged as another serious contender in the 21st annual Dirt Late Model Dream presented by Ferris Mowers with preliminary feature victories Friday night at Eldora Speedway.
Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Erb of Carpentersville, Ill., both scored impressive 25-lap triumphs at the historic half-mile oval, earning $5,000 apiece in the DIRTcar-sanctioned races. Friday’s results will be combined with finishes from Thursday’s first night of preliminary racing to determine drivers’ starting spots in heat races for Saturday’s $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream main event.
Davenport was nearly unstoppable in racing to his second prelim victory of the weekend. The current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader used a turn-two slidejob to overtake Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., on lap eight and quickly pulled away from the field.
Davenport’s only major obstacle came on lap 12 when he got into the back of a slower car while trying to avoid a tangle between Jared Landers and Wendell Wallace. The contact left Davenport’s machine with slight front-end damage, but it didn’t slow his pace. He cruised through the second half of the race, using the track’s high line to build a lead of 2.620 seconds by the finish.
“This thing was just excellent. It’s just such a pleasure to drive,” Davenport, who scored his fifth straight victory, said of his K&L Rumley Longhorn Chassis. “I was kind of worried when we got in that little wreck. It bent my hood up and I couldn’t turn quite as good getting into the corner. I had to back my corner entry up a little more, but it was still good.”
Casebolt settled for second, holding off Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., who finished third. Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., advanced from his 12th starting spot to finish fourth with Chad Simpson of Mount Vernon, Iowa, rounding out the top five.
The race was slowed by two cautions with the first coming for the lap-12 tangle between Landers and Wallace. The second yellow flag appeared when Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who was Thursday’s other prelim race winner, slowed from the fifth position.
Erb was just as impressive as Davenport in Friday’s second 25-lap feature, albeit using a different line around the racetrack. He rode the low side of the track from his fourth starting spot to overtake polesitter Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., on lap 13. Erb never looked back from there, pulling to a lead of 4.656 seconds by the end of the caution-free race.
“The car’s working pretty good,” Erb said of the Black Diamond Chassis he debuted at Eldora this weekend. “I think we made the right choice tonight on tires. Hopefully we can keep working on it and be good tomorrow.”
McCreadie, a former World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion, held off a late-race challenge from Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., for the second spot with 10th-starting Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., just behind in fourth. Defending Dirt Late Model Dream winner Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., rallied from the 12th starting spot to finish fifth.
At the conclusion of Friday’s racing, Davenport assisted in determining the invert number for Saturday’s Dream heat races using Eldora’s new Plinko board. Davenport dropped a chip on the number 3, setting up a three-car inversion for Saturday’s six 15-lap heats.
Preliminary notes and results:
Tim McCreadie felt much better about his racing fortunes after capturing the first heat. “When it’s like this, this is about when I shine — when you can can maneuver and keep your car in pitch,” McCreadie said of the Eldora track surface. “We struggled last night, but we went to work and this Sweeteners cars is a thousand times better than yesterday.” … Scott James’s homestretch spin after a scrape with Bobby Pierce on lap three of the fourth heat was the only caution flag that flew during the eight preliminaries. He ran into more trouble during the B-Main when he slapped the turn-three wall hard with his car’s right-rear. … Brandon Overton, who finished second in the fourth heat, reported that his father, Bo, who was hospitalized Wednesday night back home in the family’s home state of Georgia, was found to have suffered a mini-stroke. He’s resting comfortably at the hospital and “probably watching the pay-per-view” broadcast in his room, Overton said. … Matt Cochran scratched from the third heat with mechanical trouble.
Outside front-row starter Nick Latham led all the way to capture the 10-lap B-main. Behind him was a wild battle for second among Tim Lance, Riley Hickman, Austin Smith, Chris Simpson and Scott James while Latham controlled the race. Lance ermerged from a late restart for second while Hickman and Simpson got the other transfer spots. Three cautions slowed the action. Polesitter Andrew Reaume spun exiting turn two on the first lap, but somehow the field avoided a pileup. Sixth-starting Tyler Erb got into the wall in turn four on the fifth lap to draw another caution. Scott James shredded a right-rear tire for a lap-nine caution.
Finish (top five transfer): Nick Latham, Tim Lance, Riley Hickman, Chris Simpson, Austin Smith, Tim Manville, Kelly Guy, Mark Voigt, Matt Cochran, Dan Shepherd, Devin Gilpin, Brian Ligon, Dustin Nobbe, Bryan Dickinson, Tim Shaffer, Andrew Reaume, Scott James, Tyler Erb. Scratched: Benji Cole, Butch Kruckeberg.
(ten laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Andrew Reaume, Nick Latham
Row 2: Austin Smith, Riley Hickman
Row 3: Tim Lance, Tyler Erb
Row 4: Chris Simpson, Scott James
Row 5: Mark Voigt, Devin Gilpin
Row 6: Kelly Guy, Tim Manville
Row 7: Butch Kruckeberg, Dan Shepherd
Row 8: Matt Cochran, Tim Shaffer
Row 9: Bryant Dickinson, Dustin Nobbe
Row 10: Benji Cole, Brian Ligon
Polesitter Jason Feger led the entire eight-lap distance. Brandon Overton fought back challenges from Dale McDowell to finish second, with McDowell improving two spots to finish third. Steve Francis advanced three spots to run fourth, with Bobby Pierce grabbing the fifth and final transfer spot. A caution fell on the third lap when Scott James spun on the front stretch; he finish seventh.
Finish (top five transfer): Jason Feger, Brandon Overton, Dale McDowell, Steve Francis, Bobby Pierce, Riley Hickman, Scott James, Tim Manville, Tim Shaffer, Brian Ligon
Outside front row starter Frank Heckenast Jr. led all eight laps. Kent Robinson charged from the fifth starting spot to run as high as second, but slipped in the final laps to finish third to Matt Westfall. Rusty Schlenk finished fourth, with Eddie Carrier Jr. rounding out the top five.
Finish (top five transfer): Frank Heckenast Jr., Matt Westfall, Kent Robinson, Rusty Schlenk, Eddie Carrier Jr., Austin Smith, Chris Simpson, Kelly Guy. Scratched: Matt Cochran, Jeff Robertson
Illinois drivers Brian Shirley and Dennis Erb Jr. battled for the lead, with Erb edging Shirley at the checkers. Don O’Neal held on to the third place spot, with Chris Ferguson finishing fourth. Josh Richards grabbed the fifth and final transfer spot.
Finish (top five transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Shirley, Don O’Neal, Chris Ferguson, Josh Richards, Nick Latham, Tyler Erb, Devin Gilpin, Dan Shepherd, Dustin Nobbe. Scratched: Jerry Bowersock
Polesitter Tim McCreadie jumped to the lead at the drop of the green flag and led all eight laps. Matt Miller charged from his fifth starting spot to finish second, with Mike Marlar advancing one spot to finish third. John Blankenship slipped two spots to finish fourth with Billy Moyer rounding out the top five.
Finish (top five transfer): Tim McCreadie, Matt Miller, Mike Marlar, John Blankenship, Billy Moyer, Andrew Reaume, Tim Lance, Mark Voigt, Butch Kruckeberg, Bryant Dickinson. Scratched: Benji Cole
Matt Westfall continued his strong 2015 performance at Eldora in his first season with the Best Performance team, turning the overall fastest lap of the evening with his clocking of 15.374 seconds. “I told (crew chief) Randall (Edwards) before I went out that I was gonna try to be smart and hold it to the wood,” said Westfall, who will bid for his fourth top-five finish in as many feature starts at the half-mile oval this year. “I surprised myself when I saw it (fast time) on the board.” … Josh Richards, who failed to qualify on Thursday after his evening was sidetracked by a slap of the outside wall during his heat race, missed the invert in his heat-race group by one spot. … Sprint car star Tim Shaffer was the fastest qualifier in his heat-race group — and this time he weighed in legally at the scales, not duplicating the DQ he suffered for being light after qualifying on Thursday. … Jerry Bowersock was scheduled to compete in the second group but isn’t on hand because he’s running an open-wheel modified at Limaland Speedway in Lima, Ohio. He plans to return for Saturday night’s Dream finale. … Drivers who didn’t register qualifying laps were Benji Cole, whose car was sidelined by a broken brake line during hot laps, and Jeff Robertson.
Heat race lineups
(Eight laps; top five transfer)
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, John Blankenship
Row 2: Billy Moyer, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Matt Miller, Tim Lance
Row 4: Andrew Reaume, Mark Voigt
Row 5: Butch Kruckeburg, Bryant Dickinson
Row 6: Benji Cole
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Don O’Neal, Chris Ferguson
Row 3: Josh Richards, Devin Gilpin
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Dustin Nobbe
Row 5: Nick Latham, Dan Shepherd
Row 1: Rusty Schlenk, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 2: Eddie Carrier Jr., Matt Westfall
Row 3: Kent Robinson, Austin Smith
Row 4: Chris Simpson, Kelly Guy
Row 5: Matt Cochran
Row 1: Jason Feger, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Riley Hickman, Tim Shaffer
Row 3: Dale McDowell, Scott James
Row 4: Steve Francis, Bobby Pierce
Row 5: Tim Manville, Brian Ligon
Time trials (unofficial)
(Drivers qualifying and heat race in groups)
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.652
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.845
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 15.856
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.881
Matt Miller (3), Whitehouse, Ohio, 16.038
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 16.089
Andrew Reaume (88), Blenheim, Ontario, 16.139
Mark Voigt (30), Alhambra, Ill., 16.458
Butch Kruckeberg (76), Edwardsville, Ill., 17.694
Bryant Dickinson (5*), Ionia, Mich., 18.031
Benji Cole (121), Canon, Ga., No time
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 15.631
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.668
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.753
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 16.092
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.164
Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind., 16.212
Tyler Erb (91), Magnolia, Texas, 16.223
Dustin Nobbe (5), Batesville, Ind., 16.603
Nick Latham (31), Winchester, Ohio, 16.675
Dan Shepherd (68), Greeley, Colo., 16.771
Jerry Bowersock (95j), Wapakoneta, Ohio, No time
Matt Westfall (54), Pleasant Hill, Ohio, 15.374
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.734
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 15.847
Rusty Schlenk (11s), Weston, Ohio, 16.110
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind., 16.168
Austin Smith (11), Cedartown, Ga., 16.171
Chris Simpson (R5), Oxford, Iowa, 16.224
Kelly Guy (28G), Thomson, Ga., 16.664
Matt Cochran (16), Williamsport, Ind., 17.382
Jeff Robertson (P3), Defiance, Ohio, No time
Tim Shaffer (47), Aliquippa, Pa., 15.778
Riley Hickman (R1), Ooltewah, Tenn., 15.780
Brandon Overton (76), Appling, Ga., 15.862
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.892
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.928
Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., 15.931
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 15.941
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.964
Tim Manville (33), St. Jacob, Ill., 15.982
Brian Ligon (444), Augusta, Ga., 16.974
5 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m. - Hot laps (by groups) followed by time trials
7:40 p.m. - Pre-race ceremonies
8 p.m. - Racing begins
• Eight heat races (top four inverted by time; eight laps; top five transfer; first and second groups alternate)
• First B-main (10 laps; top four transfer)
• Second B-main (10 laps; top four transfer)
• First feature (25 laps; first two rows inverted by time)
• Second feature (25 laps; first two rows inverted by time)