GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 12) — Jonathan Davenport relentlessly chased Scott Bloomquist from the drop of the green flag in Friday night’s 50-lap Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Winternationals A-Main at East Bay Raceway Park.
Finally, on lap 40, the defending Lucas Oil Series champion saw an almost imperceptible opening and seized it. Charging off the outside of turn four, Davenport squeezed between Bloomquist and the homestretch to grab the lead and march off to a $10,000 triumph.
Davenport, 31, of Blairsville, Ga., beat Mooresburg, Tenn.’s Bloomquist to the finish line by 1.042 seconds to register his second victory of the 2016 Winternationals. The driver of the K&L Rumley Longhorn Race Car had never won at East Bay before capturing Wednesday night’s 35-lap feature.
Friday night’s outcome was a reversal of the previous evening’s non-points 45-lap headliner, which the 52-year-old Bloomquist won over Davenport after leading all but the race’s first lap. Bloomquist appeared primed to duplicate his Thursday effort — he started from the pole position for the second consecutive night, this time with Davenport alongside him — but had to settle for a runner-up placing in his Sweet-Bloomquist car after leading laps 1-39.
Two straight nights with Davenport and Bloomquist deciding the top prize amongst themselves just might signal a trend for the 2016 campaign. Davenport certainly is ready for more battles with his Hall of Fame rival.
“That guy’s awful good and to have my name mentioned anywhere up close next to his is a real honor,” Davenport said of Bloomquist. “He’s great to race with — he races me tough, I race him tough, but for the most part we’re pretty clean. It’s gonna be a fun season.”
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished third in NASCAR standout Clint Bowyer’s Club 29 Race Car. He started fifth and raced within striking distance midway through the feature but lost contact with the leaders in the late stages, finishing over three seconds behind Davenport.
Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., chased his Clint Bowyer Racing teammate under the checkered flag, finishing fourth after starting in the same spot with his Club 29 mount. Seventh-starter Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., completed the top five in Carl Myers’s Sweeteners Plus Longhorn machine.
After failing to find a way by Bloomquist in Thursday night’s feature, Davenport was determined to not let another opportunity slip through his fingers. He used equal parts patience and talent to get the job done.
Davenport briefly slipped to fourth place in the early laps, but by lap 10 he was in control of second place. He then settled in to play the long game — a strategy that was actually helped by a mechanical problem that materialized in his car’s engine and ultimately kept him from pushing too hard, leaving him sufficient equipment and rubber to make his move on Bloomquist as the race wound down.
“I went to the top (groove) earlier and I knew it was there, but I didn’t want to kill my tires so I just got back in line,” Davenport said. “We got an electrical issue for some reason and we’re not real sure what it is, but I couldn’t run wide-open. Once I’d get past three-quarter throttle it would just start missing. I guess that helped save my tires because it looks great .. I just kept riding, kept riding, and before that last caution come out (on lap 36) I got back to the top when Scott got hung in lapped traffic and I knew it was still there and knew it was good.
“I showed the nose to Scott a couple times and he got slowing up more and hugging the bottom more and more, so then I knew that was my opportunity to go to the outside.”
Davenport soared past Bloomquist to assume command on lap 40. He wasn’t seriously threatened for the remainder of the distance, but he did have to worry about his misfiring powerplant.
“Once I would go full-throttle it would just break up real bad,” Davenport said. “(Car owner and engine builder) Lee Roy (Rumley) told me if it was skipping too bad to just pull it on in, but I only ran the last five laps with it skipping so I just won’t tell him.”
Davenport’s only response to a question asking him about how he’s simply continued the historic success he enjoyed in 2015 was to praise his cars and crew chief Kevin Rumley.
“It’s just this race car,” said Davenport, who grabbed the Lucas Oil Series points lead with his third tour win of 2016 and the 19th of his career. “Kevin Rumley, he’s got this thing working great. With a lot of the stuff that’s been going on (with the circuit’s ’16 rules changes largely brought on by the novel left-rear suspension on Davenport’s cars), I think we’re just as good as we was (last year) … if not a little better.”
Bloomquist admitted afterward that a tire-prep miscalculation likely cost him dearly in his latest showdown with Davenport.
“I think everything went pretty good — until the end,” Bloomquist said. “Last night we tore up tires a little more and I thought tonight it would tear ‘em up, but actually the black (lane) got kind of icy … and I was just looking at the (right-rear) tire, and we elected not to groove it and sipe it as much (as Thursday night) and it polished up. It just didn’t refire after that last restart. I was spinning them harder to get ‘em going, but (Davenport) just got too good of a jump.
“I went in (the corners) and got a little bit free, so I was being a little bit more conservative hoping I could just wait and let it come back to me. But … I asked (Davenport in victory lane) and he checked his stuff (tires), and he cut his up a little more.
“But he was good tonight, that’s all. We’re both running good. I think I’ve learned enough so we’ll hopefully know what we want to do tomorrow. We’ll have a couple different combinations of right-rear tires ready for tomorrow.”
Bloomquist also had a message for the fans about Saturday night’s $12,000-to-win Winternationals finale: “Tomorrow’s gonna be a barnburner. You better bring a friend.”
Seven caution flags slowed the event, including four in the first three laps. A turn-two tangle involving Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, and Sonny Conley of New Martinsville, W.Va., called back the original, and then Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, spun between turns one and two with one lap completed; Justin Rattliff of Campbellsville, Ky., ended up sitting backwards on the backstretch with a crushed rear deck on lap two; and Freddie Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va., stopped between turns one and two on lap three.
Additional cautions were needed on lap 19 for Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. (stopped in turn two), lap 23 for Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa. (hit the wall between turns one and two running seventh) and lap 36 for Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. (stopped on homestretch with a cut left-rear tire and pitted while running inside the top 10).
Friday night’s program was the first Lucas Oil Series points race of the Winternationals. Saturday evening’s 60-lap finale will also offer points. … Third-starter Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., briefly held second place early in the feature before his “motor started laying,” causing him to flip ignition boxes, lose his rhythm and fall to an ultimate finish of seventh. … Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., failed to record a qualifying time after slapping the wall between turns three and four and spun on the backstretch during his heat, but after using a provisional spot to start 23rd he steadily worked his way forward to an eighth-place finish. He said his team found some unseen problems with their Barry Wright Race Car while repairing the damage from time trials and correcting those ills helped him make the car feel “better than it’s been since the first night” of the Winternationals when he finished second. … Devin Moran recovered from his lap-one spin — a twirl he called “driver error” — to salvage a ninth-place finish. … Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., was running inside the top 10 when he retired on lap 42 with a broken axle. … David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., limped Leon Henderson’s Billy Moyer Victory Race Car into the pit area with its rear deck mangled after he clipped Rattliff’s spun car on the backstretch on lap two.
Preliminary results and notes:
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash results
Finish (8 laps): Austin Kirkpatrick, Nick Davis, Chad Hollenbeck, John Gardner Jr., Alex Ferree, Colton Flinner, Allen Murray, James Rice.
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash lineup
Row 1: Austin Kirkpatrick, Nick Davis
Row 2: James Rice, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 3: John Gardner Jr., Allen Murray
Row 4: Alex Ferree, Bob Gardner
Row 5: Colton Flinner
David Breazeale cruised to a flag-to-flag victory, beating Justin Rattliff by 1.059 seconds. Freddie Carpenter slipped into third place early in the last-chance event and finished third to transfer to the feature
Finish (top three transfer): David Breazeale, Justin Rattliff, Freddie Carpenter, Allen Murray, John Gardner Jr., Bob Gardner, Alex Ferree, Chad Hollenbeck (DNS) Jimmy Owens.
Mason Zeigler ran away from the field, leading from flag-to-flag to win by 4.291 seconds over Ricky Weiss, who slipped past Sonny Conley on the final lap to finish second.
Finish (top three transfer): Mason Zeigler, Ricky Weiss, Sonny Conley, James Rice, Colton Flinner, Nick Davis, Austin Kirkpatrick (DNS) Bobby Pierce, Eddie Carrier Jr., Chuck Julien.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Sonny Conley, Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Colton Flinner, James Rice
Row 3: Nick Davis, Austin Kirkpatrick
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 5: Bobby Pierce, Chuck Julien
Row 1: David Breazeale, John Gardner Jr.
Row 2: Justin Rattliff, Allen Murray
Row 3: Freddie Carpenter, Bob Gardner
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Alex Ferree
Row 5: Jimmy Owens
Don O'Neal dominated the action, leading all the way without facing a single serious challenge. Tim Dohm finished 1.642 seconds behind in the runner-up spot, just ahead of Devin Moran. Mark Whitener was well back in fourth place.
Finish (top four transfer): Don O'Neal, Tim Dohm, Devin Moran, Mark Whitener, John Gardner Jr., Allen Murray, Bob Gardner, Alex Ferree.
Jonathan Davenport gave himself a scare on lap five when he got hung up in the mud berm in front of the wall between turns three and four, but he emerged from the encounter unscathed and went on to win by 1.573 seconds over Randy Weaver. Earl Pearson Jr. and Dennis Erb Jr. completed the top four. Jimmy Owens's struggles continued when he spun on the backstretch on lap seven while running eighth, bringing out the race's only caution flag.
Finish (top four transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Randy Weaver, Earl Pearson Jr., Dennis Erb Jr., David Breazeale, Justin Rattliff, Freddie Carpenter, Chad Hollenbeck, Jimmy Owens.
Jared Landers led the race from flag-to-flag, turning back a mid-race threat from Gregg Satterlee and late challenge from Tim McCreadie. Satterlee finished third and Steve Francis was fourth. The race's lone caution flag flew on lap seven for Eddie Carrier Jr., who stopped on the backstretch after a wild tangle moments earlier with Mason Zeigler. The two drivers were racing for third place when they slid high in tandem between turns three and four; Zeigler slapped the outside wall while Carrier was clipped by the passing McCreadie, who surged into third place and overtook Satterlee for second on the restart. Zeigler finished fifth, missing a transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Jared Landers, Tim McCreadie, Gregg Satterlee, Steve Francis, Mason Zeigler, James Rice, Austin Kirkpatrick, Eddie Carrier Jr., Chuck Julien.
Scott Bloomquist led all the way off the pole to take the win by 1.438 seconds over Darrell Lanigan; the only time his edge was in doubt was when he slipped high in turn two on the second lap. Brandon Sheppard held off Kyle Bronson to finish third. Caution flags flew on the first lap for debris (a piece of the wooden fence behind the backstretch wall fell onto the track) and lap five for a backstretch tangle involving Bobby Pierce and Ricky Weiss.
Finish (top four transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Darrell Lanigan, Brandon Sheppard, Kyle Bronson, Sonny Conley, Colton Flinner, Nick Davis, Ricky Weiss, Bobby Pierce.
Going out last in time trials didn’t hamper Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who waited until the end of the session to rip off the evening’s overall fastest lap. His circuit of 14.819 seconds best Group 1 quick-timer Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., but less than tenth of a second.
Davenport was the fastest overall qualifier for the second consecutive night.
Davenport, Bloomquist, Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., and Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., will start from the pole position in heat races.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., continued to experience trouble. He didn’t record a qualifying time after sliding into the wall between turns three and four, damaging the right-front suspension of his machine.
The weather keeps getting better — with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, Friday’s conditions are the best of the week. … A field of 35 cars is signed in for action. Austin Kirkpatrick of Ocala, Fla., is back after skipping Thursday’s program; not in competition, meanwhile, is Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., who decided to take a night off to regroup. Drivers apparently done for the week are Greg Oakes of Franklinville, N.Y., who pulled out of the pit area late in the afternoon in hopes of beating a winter storm forecast for the Northeast later in the weekend; Jake Davis of Hackett, Ark., who headed home earlier today; and James McKeown of Stanton, Mich. … Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., nearly started his trip back to the Midwest early after experiencing a rough Thursday night during which he hurt a motor on the last lap of his heat (an oil belt broke off) and then discovered that the second car he ran in the feature (he started the race with a fast-time provisional) had a loose oil line. There didn’t appear to be any damage done to the powerplant in the second car, however, so his team decided to stick around — though with the knowledge that they will have to use their less-powerful 406 cubic inch engine. “We’re going from a small (420 motor) to smaller,” said Pierce’s father Bob. … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., has returned to the seat of the Longhorn Race Car he wrecked while bidding for the lead on the last lap of Wednesday night’s feature. “Matt (Langston) from Longhorn and Kevin Rumley (Jonathan Davenport’s crew chief and a Longhorn tech advisor) looked at and think (the frame) looks OK,” said McCreadie, who had feared the car would need a new front clip. He took the nosepiece off the Longhorn mount he debuted Thursday night and put it on the battle-tested machine, which also needed a new right-front suspension and other assorted fixes. … The Barry Wright Race Car that Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., damaged in a Thursday heat-race scrape was taken to a friend’s nearby shop for repairs, so he plans to enter tonight’s program in the vehicle he crashed last Sunday at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga., and has since fixed. … Alex Ferree of Saxonburg, Pa., and his crew put in some long hours patching up their Bucky Johnson-owned Club 29 Race Car after it sustained significant damage when he slapped the turn-three wall from contact with Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, while battling for fifth on the last lap of a Thursday-night heat. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., also had some work to do today after bending his Best Performance Motorsports Rocket when he got into the wall during time trials on Thursday night. The right-front suspension took the brunt of the hit. … Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., registered his first top-10 finish of the week (seventh place) on Thursday night after switching to the Black Diamond car he ran last weekend at Golden Isles. The Dunn-Benson Racing car that Pearson drove in East Bay’s first three nights of competition will serve as the cutaway car for the television broadcast of Friday’s racing program.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series runs the fifth round of the 40th annual Winternationals on Friday night with a 50-lap feature paying $10,000-to-win topping the card. After four non-points events, the Friday and Saturday shows will offer full points toward the Lucas Oil Series championship.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., registered his first East Bay victory since 2013 on Thursday evening, staying ahead of Blairsville, Ga.’s Jonathan Davenport in the final circuits to top the 45-lap feature.
Friday’s program is made up of hot laps, time trials, heat races, consolations, the DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash and the 50-lap main event.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Ricky Weiss
Row 4: Sonny Conley, Colton Flinner
Row 5: Nick Davis
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Jared Landers
Row 2: Gregg Satterlee, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Steve Francis
Row 4: Austin Kirkpatrick, James Rice
Row 5: Chuck Julien
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Randy Weaver
Row 2: David Breazeale, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Freddie Carpenter
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Justin Rattliff
Row 5: Jimmy Owens
Row 1: Tim Dohm, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Devin Moran, John Gardner
Row 3: Mark Whitener, Allen Murray
Row 4: Bob Gardner, Alex Ferree
Time trial results (unofficial)
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.829
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.058
Darrell Lanigan (15L), Union, Ky., 15.151
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.244
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.254
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.318
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.433
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.459
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.479
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.664
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingly, Manitoba, 15.679
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 15.784
Sonny Conley (1x1), New Martinsville, W.Va., 15.869
Austin Kirkpatrick (11K), Ocala, Fla., 16.005
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 16.121
James Rice (11R), Verona, Ky., 16.313
Nick Davis (92), Delmar, Del., 16.436
Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla., 17.41
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 14.819
Tim Dohm (6T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 15.044
Randy Weaver (116), Crossville, Tenn., 15.188
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.207
David Breazeale (10), Four Corners, Miss., 15.325
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 15.433
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.471
John Gardner (38C), Germantown Hills, Ill., 15.496
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.563
Mark Whitener (5W), Middleburg, Fla., 15.699
Freddie Carpenter (K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.723
Allen Murray (2M), San Antonio, Texas, 15.823
Chad Hollenbeck (4Ds), Kingsley, Pa., 15.838
Bob Gardner (4G), Washington, Ill., 15.875
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 15.914
Alex Ferree (47), Saxonburg, Pa., 16.595
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., NT