ROSSBURG, Ohio — Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., emerged from a wild, three-car battle for the lead midway through Thursday’s second 25-lapper, then landed in a familiar place — Eldora Speedway’s victory lane.
Winning his sixth race in his last nine starts at the Tony Stewart-owned oval, the sixth-starting Davenport picked up $5,000 by edging away from a flurry of late-race action and winning by 2.165 seconds over third-starting Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.
Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., who battled mid-race with Davenport and Richards, wasn’t around at the finish after blowing a right-rear tire on the frontstretch with five laps remaining. A charging Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill, pressured Richards for third, sideswiped Casebolt and was also done for the night.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., grabbed third while Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, was fourth for the best home-state run of the night. Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., poked his car’s nose into the mix in improving eight spots to round out the top five.
But in the end, it was all Davenport, who swept last year’s crown jewel events at Eldora, the Dream and World 100, while also frequently shining on preliminary nights of the three-day affairs.
“I tell you what, this is a good place to be, right here in victory lane,” Davenport said. “This thing drove awesome tonight. It was pretty hairy back there, being third, fourth in there, because it was so dusty to begin with, you couldn’t really see where the cushion was and where to run. I think I kind of surprised them a little bit. I got rolling there on the bottom pretty decent. I could at least keep up with them and that’s just what paid dividends for this win.
“The racing was great. I was worried about them restarts. That’s about how I lost $100,000 last year. I’ve done my homework on them. Maybe it was a little better. Everybody run a heck of a race there. I don’t know what happened to (Steve) Casebolt, but he was running up front for a while and we was throwing sliders back and forth. Me and Josh (Richards) was racing real tight.”
Richards mixed it up with Davenport and Casebolt mid-race but couldn’t quite keep up with the winner.
“We’ll definitely take it. We weren’t bad there,” Richards said. “Casebolt was pretty good and I couldn’t quite clear him and was trying to hold Jonathan off. He was just better, so congrats to those guys. We still have some work to do, but the car was pretty good tonight. It’s a head start from last year and we’ve got a whole other night tomorrow to work on it.
“It’s hard to take off on that bottom. The top guy, he can roll out through there and you just don’t know where guys are going to go into one. The car was pretty good, so thanks to the guys for working on it and we’ll try again.”
Casebolt took command at the outside with Richards and then Davenport going past outside front-row starter Chris Brown on the third and fourth laps. Richards took a shot at Casebolt in turn three on the sixth lap, but Casebolt edged back away as Brown continued to lose ground, brushing the outside wall in turns one and two.
Just past the midpoint, Davenport and Richards caught Casebolt, and they drove into turn two three-wide on the 14th lap. Swapping positions, Davenport pulled a turn four slide job to get under Casebolt, who tried to answer but as a few feet behind Davenport at the line on lap 15 as he took command.
Casebolt held second when his right-rear tire disintegrated and ended his race’s along with Pierce’s. Brown was done a lap later when he got into the turn-four wall as Owens, Henry and Marlar did their best on restarts to weave their way into the mix up front.
But no one could stop Davenport’s latest trip to victory lane while Richards settled for the second spot.
Three cautions slowed the feature, the first for a false start then on laps 20 and 21 for Casebolt and Brown.
Action resumes Friday at Eldora with another twin-feature program featuring $10,000-to-win 25-lappers. Drivers accrue points in prelims Thursday and Friday that will set the lineups for six heat races before Saturday’s $100,000-to-win 100-lap feature, the sport’s richest feature event.
Notes: Davenport won his 14th race overall of 2016. … It appeared Scott Bloomquist transferred to the main event, but a scoring review put him a lap down in the consolation race, costing him the chance to build points that will set Saturday’s heat race lineups in the track’s new format.
Editor's note: It was announced June 20 that five drivers (Scott Bloomquist, Brandon Sheppard, Jimmy Owens, Ricky Thornton Jr. and Gregg Satterlee were stripped of Dream weekend finishes and purses after tire samples failed to meet manufacturer benchmarks.
Duane Chamberlain took the lead at the drop of the green flag, nearly spinning in turn four to give Rodney Sanders the early advantage. Jason Feger and Don O’Neal collided on the backstretch to draw a caution on lap two, allowing Scott Bloomquist to catch up with the rear of the field after taking the track late. Dennis Erb Jr. edged ahead of Sanders to lead lap five, with a yellow flag waving one lap later. Erb pulled away, his car smoking heavily as he grabbed the consolation win. Charging from the tail, Bloomquist crossed the line second, but officials later ruled he was a lap down., Mike Benedum inherited second with Brandon Overton and Duane Chamberlain getting transfer spots, too.
Finish (top four transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Mike Benedum, Brandon Overton, Duane Chamberlain, Earl Pearson Jr., Rodney Sanders, Jay Johnson, Gavin Landers, Scott Bloomquist, Brian Ligon, Austin Rettig, T.J. Reaid, Jeep Van Wormer, Jason Feger, Don O'Neal
Even heat race notes
Jeep Van Wormer appeared headed to a transfer spot in the fourth heat when he hit the stopped car of Bryant Dickinson, who slapped the outside wall after being lapped. VanWormer’s crew replaced his car’s right-side door with a black piece of metal and used pink duct tape to put a No. 55 on it for the B-Main. … Kent Robinson had to make some nosepiece repairs after spinning into the inside of the backstretch wall during the fourth heat. “I got together with (Josh) Richards,” he said. “He was coming down and I was coming up, and I didn’t see him.”
Even B-main lineup
(12 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Duane Chamberlain, Rodney Sanders
Row 2: Jay Johnson, Brandon Overton
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Mike Benedum
Row 4: Gavin Landers, Scott Bloomquist
Row 5: Earl Pearson Jr., Jeep Van Wormer
Row 6: Don O’Neal, Brian Ligon
Row 7: Jason Feger, Bryant Dickinson
Row 8: T.J. Reaid, Austin Rettig
Slipping past polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. in turn two, fellow front row starter Darrell Lanigan charged to an early lead. Sliding ahead of Moyer coming out of turn four, Casebolt took the second-place spot in the early running. Lanigan led flag-to-flag to win the night’s final heat race, with Casebolt finishing second. John Henry slid ahead of Moyer to run third, with the second-generation driver finishing fourth. Mason Zeigler ran fifth to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top five transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Steve Casebolt, Jon Henry, Billy Moyer Jr., Mason Zeigler, Brandon Overton, Scott Bloomquist, Brian Ligon, Austin Rettig
Outside polesitter Jonathan Davenport jumped to the lead at the start, with fourth-starting Don O’Neal in tow. T.J. Reaid hit the turn four on the first lap, drawing a caution and retiring to the pits. A yellow flag waved on lap two when Kody Evans spun in turn two. Davenport began pulling away from the field, with second-running O’Neal hitting the turn-three wall and slowing in turn four to draw a caution on lap six. Davenport led the entire 10-lap distance, with Chris Brown sliding ahead of Chris Simpson on the final restart to take the second-place spot. With Simpson slowing, Evans pulled ahead to run third. Simpson ran fourth, with Chase Junghans grabbing the final transfer spot.
Finish (top five transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Chris Brown, Kody Evans, Chris Simpson, Chase Junghans, Jay Johnson, Gavin Landers, Don O'Neal, T.J. Reaid
With outside polesitter Steve Francis sliding past polesitter Chris Madden on the opening lap, Madden, Josh Richards and Kent Robinson went three wide exiting turn two. Making contact with Richards down the backstretch, Robinson spun to draw a caution, returning to the tail of the field. As the race went green, Francis pulled away. The laps clicking off, Jeep Van Wormer and Bobby Pierce battled for the fourth-place spot, with Bryant Dickinson spinning in turn four to draw a caution on lap eight. Fourth-running Van Wormer tagged Dickinson, retiring with a flat tire. Francis picked up the heat race win, with Richards running second. Pierce finished third, with Madden falling back on the final restart to run fourth. Robinson finished fifth to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top five transfer): Steve Francis, Josh Richards, Bobby Pierce, Chris Madden, Kent Robinson, Rodney Sanders, Mike Benedum, Jeep Van Wormer, Bryant Dickinson
Outside polesitter Mike Marlar charged to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, with fourth-starting Tim McCreadie shooting ahead to lead the first lap. Third-starting Jimmy Owens began reeling in Marlar for the runner-up spot at the halfway mark, but it wouldn’t be enough. McCreadie picked up the heat race winn, with Marlar crossing the line second. Owens finished third, with polesitter Wendell Wallace dropping back to run fourth. Nick Latham grabbed the final transfer spot. Marlar was docked two positions for jumping the start.
Finish (top five transfer): Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Owens, Wendell Wallace, Mike Marlar, Nick Latham, Duane Chamberlain, Dennis Erb Jr., Earl Pearson Jr., Jason Feger
Even pre-heat notes
Scott Bloomquist’s weekend got off to a rough start when he exploded a left-rear tire during hot laps, thoroughly tearing up his car’s bodywork and inflicting some suspension damage. Both Bloomquist and his long-time friend and chassis-building buddy Randy Sweet were seen scrambling to patch up the bodywork. They didn’t get the work done in time; Bloomquist reported too late to the staging area for his one lap at the end of the session, leaving him without a time and a scratch starting position in a heat. … Tim McCreadie might have been second-fastest overall in time trials, but he wasn’t satisfied with his car. “I felt like I could tip over,” he said. “It’s real rough out there.” … The Jonathan Davenport and Jimmy Owens crews were hard at work adjusting the right-front of their cars’ noses after time trials. … Bobby Pierce had right-front nose damage to repair after getting into the cushion during his qualifying circuits. He’ll start on the tail of a heat after going to a backup car. … Dennis Erb Jr. had a simple explanation for his subpar qualifying effort. “Just didn’t go fast enough I guess,” he said. … Chris Madden slowed on his second qualifying lap because he slid high between turns three and four. He didn’t make contact with the wall, however.
Even heat race lineups
(10 laps; top five transfer)
Row 1: Wendell Wallace, Mike Marlar
Row 2: Jimmy Owens, Tim McCreadie
Row 3: Jason Feger, Nick Latham
Row 4: Duane Chamberlain, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 5: Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 1: Chris Madden, Steve Francis
Row 2: Kent Robinson, Josh Richards
Row 3: Mike Benedum, Jeep VanWormer
Row 4: Bryant Dickinson, Rodney Sanders
Row 5: Bobby Pierce
Row 1: T.J. Reaid, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Chris Simpson, Don O’Neal
Row 3: Chris Brown, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Gavin Landers, Jay Johnson
Row 5: Kody Evans
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Steve Casebolt, Jon Henry
Row 3: Brandon Overton, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Austin Rettig, Brian Ligon
Row 5: Scott Bloomquist
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., topped 72 entries Thursday on the opening night of Eldora Speedway’s Dream XXII presented by Ferris Mowers with a 15.310-second lap at the historic half-mile oval.
The rest of the top five on the clock were Tim McCreadie (15.318) of Watertown, N.Y., Billy Moyer (15.341) of Batesville, Ark., Josh Richards (15.348) of Shinnston, W.Va., and Shane Clanton (15.349) of Zebulon, Ga.
Shirley drew a four-car inversion for heat race lineups, putting him outside the second row of his heat race.
The 72 entries is the fewest in race history; the previous low car count was 78 in 2014. … A new addition to Eldora: a digital readout posted about 30 feet above the pole on the scales. That way fans can see how much each car weighs when it rolls on the scales (2,300 pounds is the minimum). … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., spent the past week working at Eddie Burgess’s shop in Cincinnati, Ohio — about an hour-and-a-half from Eldora — but his Sweeteners Plus Racing hauler was the last rig to enter the pit area. He arrived at about 4:30 p.m. after highway traffic en route doubled his travel time. … Jeff Babcock of Wayne, Ohio, will make his first crown jewel start at Eldora since he registered the fastest overall lap in qualifying for the 2014 World 100 and finished 20th in the feature. He sat out Dirt Late Model competition last year due to a heavy work schedule but has reunited with Eric Brock’s St. Marys, Ohio-based Best Performance Motorsports team to run a Rocket car as a teammate to the operation’s primary driver, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. Babcock is coming off a runner-up finish in Eldora’s May 29 ALMS-sanctioned Johnny Appleseed Classic. … The back row of the pit area includes a virtual row of Capital Race Cars campaigners — six in all, including lead driver Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., a former Dream and World 100 winner; Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., who joined the Capital clan last month; Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan.; Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.; and T.J. Reaid of Acworth, Ga., a 26-year-old convert from Late Model racing who will make his Eldora debut in his second season of competition on dirt. … Shanon Buckingham of Morristown, Tenn., who started from the front row of both the Dream and World 100 in the late 2000s, is back at Eldora for the first time since 2010. “It feels good, but I’m a little nervous,” said Buckingham, who has made about a half-dozen starts with his Longhorn Race Car this season after being out of the cockpit for several years. … The two major players in last year’s Dream — winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who crossed the finish line first but was disqualified for weighing in light — are parked side-by-side in the fourth-turn end of the pit area. … Jason Jameson of Lawrenceburg, Ind., has his Lanigan Autosports machine in the field in hopes of cracking the starting lineup of an Eldora major for the first time in his career. The handful of Eldora starts he’s made in his career include a third-place finish in last year’s Labor Day weekend Earl Baltes Classic and a less-memorable accident that kept him out of the May 29 Johnny Appleseed Classic. … Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, said his left hand is still sore from the jolt it took in the cockpit two weeks ago during the Show-Me 100 weekend at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., but he fortunately didn’t fracture a bone and has just needed some for the deep bruise he suffered to heal. He had some discussions about driving a Childress Racing car this weekend but is behind the wheel of his familiar family-owned Longhorn machine. … Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, had a decision to make tonight: enter the Eldora action or the $6,000-to-win American Ethanol Late Model Tour opener at Merritt Speedway in Lake City, Mich. He plans to chase the championship of the new Michigan-based series, but the circuit’s rules allow drivers to drop one race so he opted for a Dream assault in the Mike Lawrence Motorsports Rocket that he runs exclusively at Eldora.
(Unofficial; the field will be halved by odd-even qualifiers; first, third fifth, etc., in first group; second, fourth, sixth, etc. in second group)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 15.310
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.318
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.341
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.348
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.349
Don O’Neal (5) Martinsville, Ind., 15.365
Matt Miller (3), Whitehouse, Ohio, 15.384
Jon Henry (15), Ada, Ohio, 15.443
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.452
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.478
Ricky Thornton Jr. (33x), Chandler, Ariz., 15.503
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 15.518
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 15.558
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.583
Jerry Bowersock (95j), Wapakoneta, Ohio, 15.592
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 15.596
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga. , 15.607
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.633
Robby Hensley (21H), Walton, Ky., 15.644
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 15.679
Jeff Babcock (7B), Wayne, Ohio, 15.698
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 15.724
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.738
Darrell Lanigan (15), Union, Ky., 15.744
Rusty Schlenk (11), McClure, Ohio, 15.746
Wendell Wallace (6m), Batesville, Ark., 15.748
Scott James (15), Bright, Ind., 15.779
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.779
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.780
T.J. Reaid (41), Acworth, Ga., 15.794
Michael Chilton (97), Salvisa, Ky., 15.811
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.822
Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 15.825
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.827
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 15.847
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind., 15.849
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.850
Chris Brown (21B), Spring, Texas, 15.851
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Ill., 15.856
Brandon Overton (76), Appling, Ga., 15.858
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.859
Nick Latham (31), Winchester, Ohio, 15.873
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.904
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 15.931
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 15.981
Kody Evans (4G), Camden, Ohio, 15.982
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.994
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 16.013
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.020
Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind., 16.034
Duane Chamberlain (20c), Richmond, Ind., 16.055
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 16.056
Mike Benedum (1B), Bristol, W.Va., 16.091
Austin Smith (11a), Cedartown, Ga., 16.134
Gavin Landers (77), Batesville, Ark., 16.223
Tim Manville (33), Highland, Ill., 16.269
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 16.290
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 16.360
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.364
Mike Mataragas (1m), Dekalb, Ill., 16.374
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 16.430
Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 16.484
Jay Johnson (93), West Burlington, Iowa, 16.528
Jason Noll (51), Peoria, Ariz., 16.548
Brian Ligon (4), Augusta, Ga., 16.952
Doug Sanders (42), McAdenville, N.C., 17.021
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.148
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Mo., 17.219
Bryant Dickerson (5*), Ionia, Mich., 17.232
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 17.855
G.R. Smith (22*), Cornelius, N.C., no time
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., no time
5 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m.: Hot laps
8 p.m.: Racing begins
• Eight alternating odd-even heat races (10 laps; top five transfer)
• Odd consolation race (12 laps; top four transfers)
• Even consolation race (12 laps; top four transfers)
• Odd main event (25 laps)
• Even main event (25 laps)
Thursday night party: Following the completion of racing in the Fan Zone