GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 9) — Jonathan Davenport had a plan — and much to his satisfaction, it worked to perfection Friday night at East Bay Raceway Park.
After consciously saving up for a final, furious bid for victory, Davenport sailed around the outside of Josh Richards to gain command on lap 47 and outran the defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion the rest of the way to capture the national tour’s 50-lap Wrisco Industries Winternationals feature.
“I got by Josh (for the lead on lap 33) on the top (of the track) and I knew he was gonna slide me back, and he did (one lap later),” Davenport said after his $10,000 triumph. “But I looked at the scoreboard and and I said, ‘Well, I know it’s there and it’s fast enough, so I’m just gonna move back down, let ‘em throw some more stuff up there and when we catch lapped traffic again — if everything works out — then I can maybe make a move if he don’t move up before I get there.’
“I can go back and say that’s what was supposed to happen, but really, I just kept looking at the scoreboard and saving my tires. Then at the end I said, ‘The hell with it,’ and I just put ‘er on the mat.”
The strategy dramatically carried Davenport, 34, of Blairsville, Ga., to his second win of the 2018 Winternationals and second in seven overall starts of his debut season driving a Longhorn car for Lance Landers of Batesville, Ark. He beat Shinnston, W.Va.’s Richards, who led laps 1-5, 9-32 and 34-46, to the finish line by 0.726 of a second in Round 5 of the 42nd annual Winternationals.
Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., who started 10th, passed Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., for third shortly after a lap-32 restart and maintained the show position to the finish. Polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., who burst past Richards to lead laps 6-8, settled for a fourth-place finish after sitting sixth at the lap-32 caution.
Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., who won East Bay’s Winternationals finale in 2016, advanced from the 14th starting spot to complete the top five. He survived a freak mechanical malfunction — his car’s right-front upper-control arm became stuck on top of the shock — that developed one circuit after the lap-32 caution period and contributed to a broken rack and loss of power steering.
From virtually the start of the race, Davenport, who started sixth, was cognizant of the fact that the third-mile oval’s outside lane would eventually become a winning pathway but also had to be approached with care. It’s why he wanted to settle in and make laps circling the inside of the speedway after breaking into second place on a lap-11 restart.
“I knew from a couple nights ago — when I finally did move out (to the top) and got my head out of my ass — that it’s so wet, the crumbs we throw up there, it packs right back in,” Davenport related. “It was just too early to move up there, I thought, because you have to wheel-spin up there, and we’re running so fast so we’re hurting these tires anyway. I was just trying to bide my time and save my tires so they wouldn’t be so blistered up that, when it was time to go, I could turn the wick up a little bit.”
He paused, and then noted, “You gotta have confidence that you can get turned (running the outside). That’s the biggest thing — you have no steering wheel up there. The steering wheel is just to keep you out of the wall pretty much. It doesn’t turn left. If you have to turn left, the steering wheel don’t do it. The only thing you turn left with is the rear tires, so you really got to watch your entry, especially when it gets that shine getting in the corner.”
Davenport made his first tentative moves to the outside just after the race’s halfway point. It briefly cost him second place to Pearson on lap 30 while negotiating lapped traffic, but the top also propelled him back to the runner-up slot past Pearson on lap 32.
“Luckily I got back by him and the caution come back out (just as he nosed ahead on lap 32),” Davenport said, “so I was like, ‘Well, I know that it’s there.’”
Davenport stored up for a final assault, which he began with less than 10 laps remaining and completed on lap 47 when Richards followed a slower car on the inside of turns one and two and lost just enough momentum for Davenport to rocket around the leader on the outside.
“I could see that we was approaching lapped traffic then, so I went ahead and got another lap up there to start cleaning it off before I could get to (Richards),” Davenport commented. “I guess it was just time to get up there at the end.”
After Davenport’s explosion into the lead, he was left sweaty and breathing heavy in victory lane.
“That’s the hardest I drove for awhile,” Davenport admitted. “That’s as far up on the wheel as I can get right there. I drove the s— out of it for as long as I could for sure.”
Richards, 29, mourned afterward his failure to push his Best Performance Rocket car to the limit on the outside of the track like Davenport did. He felt being too conservative cost him a race that he seemed to control for a majority of the distance.
“We were so good early on that bottom and then there was a black streak coming right where the right-rear tire was,” said Richards, who started from the outside pole. “I was moving around and searching a little bit, trying to keep my speed up, and I should have just moved up and got on top and carried my speed. I knew better.
“I went up a few times, but I didn’t go all out and get my speed built up and just carry my momentum. (Davenport) did a great job and did what he needed to do. He got up there, and he’s an awesome racer and he keeps his speed up. Once he got up there he wasn’t gonna let me pass him back. I had my chance. I just didn’t do my job.”
Shaking his head, Richards continued, “We had a ton of tire left at the end to be able to make a charge, but I just didn’t make that charge.”
The near-miss didn’t leave Richards demoralized, however.
“But I’m happy with the night we had because I feel like I have a car I can race,” Richards said. “All week we’ve been OK but just not quite where I’m comfortable, so I am happy that we got the car better. I just wish I would’ve done my job better.”
Satterlee, meanwhile, was satisfied with his second third-place finish in the last three Winternationals nights.
“I kind of just rode around and made 50 conservative laps — uncharacteristically conservative for me,” Satterlee said. “I was just trying to be smart. I passed most of the cars when they’d make a mistake or bobble.
“I was racing wide on the racetrack at the beginning and then I just thought, I’m gonna slow down and just run this bottom. I clipped right on up there to fifth, fourth, third. Jonathan moved wide and I was watching him do it, but the rear tire was blistered so bad at that point and I had a comfortable lead on fourth so I was just trying to get a good finish. I was just trying to be smart and have a good points night, which we needed after Brunswick (Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway) where we crashed one night and ran like garbage the next night. I was trying to race like I have some sense and have done this for awhile.”
Satterlee, 33, credited Davenport with seizing the race.
“I mean, Davenport made it happen,” Satterlee said. “Davenport got wide, I think he got way up against the cushion. Congratulations to him … that’s just all him making it happen. I think Josh had a good car and Davenport had a good car, but when the time comes you say, ‘Make it happen,’ and he did.”
According to Davenport, he had some extra incentive to do what he did courtesy of Landers.
“He put some pressure on me today,” Davenport said of his car owner. “Steve Martin with (sponsor) Crop Productions Services, Lance said he ain’t talked to him all week (Martin hasn’t attended any Speedweeks events) but he sent him a text today and told him to pay attention tonight, it was our night. Then he said to me, ‘Now, it’s your turn to back that up.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna do all I can.’”
Davenport didn’t disappoint his boss. “He scared me a little bit, but I knew what he was gonna do,” Landers said of Davenport’s performance. “That’s getting up on the wheel.”
Notes: The fifth event of the Winternationals was the first to offer Lucas Oil Series points. Richards, who won the tour’s first two points races last weekend at Golden Isles, ended the night leading the standings by 80 markers over Davenport. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., started 21st for the second consecutive night, but unlike Thursday evening, he didn’t make it all the way to the front. He finished sixth, nipping the 23rd-starting Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., at the checkered flag. … Pearson had his promising run go south shortly after the lap-32 restart because his Black Diamond house car began popping out of gear. He spent the remaining circuits holding it in gear with one hand and fell to 10th in the final rundown. … Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., was running fourth on lap 11 when he slowed with a cut right-rear tire to bring out the race’s first caution flag. He returned after a pit stop but finished two laps down in 20th. … Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., brought out the race’s only other caution flag on lap 32 when he slowed and then retired. … Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., retired his Clint Bowyer Racing machine on lap 11 with a terminal engine problem.
Preliminary results and notes:
The 50-lap feature rolled off the homestretch to begin pace laps at about 10:35 p.m. ... Polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., will shoot for his first-ever victory at East Bay, a track at which his father, Billy, sits atop the all-time Winternationals win list with 27 triumphs. … After coming from the 21st starting spot to win Thursday night’s 40-lapper, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., will take the green flag in tonight’s 50-lap A-main from the same position. He will attempt to become the first driver to win three features in a single Winternationals since Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., in 2015. … Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., was forced to use a Lucas Oil points provisional to start the A-main after breaking a fuel pump during the first B-main. … Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., also relied on a provisional to start the feature after falling just short of claiming the final transfer spot in the second B-main.
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Josh Richards
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Kyle Bronson
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Jonathan Davenport
Row 4: Devin Moran, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 5: Tyler Erb, Gregg Satterlee
Row 6: Tim McCreadie, Darrell Lanigan
Row 7: Allen Murray, Mason Zeigler
Row 8: Boom Briggs, Scott Bloomquist
Row 9: Dustin Mitchell, Don O’Neal
Row 10: Chub Frank, Brandon Overton
Row 11: Brandon Sheppard, Jason Jameson
Row 12: Jimmy Owens, Hudson O’Neal
Row 13: Matt Cosner, Chase Junghans
Strawberry Dash results
Finish: Chase Junghans, Morgan Bagley, Tyler Millwood, Shanon Buckingham, Travis Stemler, Mike Maresca, Doug Drown, Brent Larson, Nick Davis, Ryan King, Mike Benedum, Jonathan Rowan.
Strawberry Dash lineup
Row 1: Shane Tankersley, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Morgan Bagley, Shanon Buckingham
Row 3: Jesse Stovall, Travis Stemler
Row 4: Brent Larson, Tim Dohm
Row 5: Mike Benedum, Ryan King
Row 6: Timothy Culp, Jonathan Rowan
Row 7: Coleby Frye, Nick Davis
Row 8: Doug Drown, Mike Maresca
First B-main finish (12 laps; top 2 transfer): Chub Frank, Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Millwood, Chase Junghans, Shanon Buckingham, Travis Stemler, Tim Dohm, Ryan King, Jonathan Rowan, Nick Davis, Shane Tankersley, Rance Garlock, Bob Gardner, Blake Spencer, Freddie Carpenter, Jimmy Owens (DNS) Austin Hubbard, Joey Moriarty.
Second B-main (12 laps; top 2 transfer): Brandon Overton, Jason Jameson, Hudson O’Neal, Morgan Bagley, Jesse Stovall, Brent Larson, Mike Benedum, Timothy Culp, Coleby Frye, Doug Drown, Mike Maresca, Rusty Schlenk, Jeff Mathews, Bob Geiger, Matt Cosner, Corey Conley, Craig Wolford (DNS) Drake Meeks.
(12 laps; top 2 transfer)
Row 1: Tyler Millwood, Chub Frank
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Travis Stemler
Row 3: Ryan King, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Shanon Buckingham, Chase Junghans
Row 5: Nick Davis, Rance Garlock
Row 6: Jonathan Rowan, Tim Dohm
Row 7: Freddie Carpenter, Joey Moriarty
Row 8: Shane Tankersley, Blake Spencer
Row 9: Austin Hubbard
Row 1: Brandon Overton, Jeff Mathews
Row 2: Timothy Culp, Jason Jameson
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Jesse Stovall
Row 4: Brent Larson, Doug Drown
Row 5: Matt Cosner, Hudson O’Neal
Row 6: Rusty Schlenk, Mike Benedum
Row 7: Mike Maresca, Coleby Frye
Row 8: Corey Conley, Craig Wolford
Row 9: Bob Geiger, Drake Meeks
Jonathan Davenport bolted from third to first on the opening lap and controlled the remainder of the distance, beating Darrell Lanigan to the finish line by 1.488 seconds. Lanigan’s Clint Bowyer Racing teammate, Don O’Neal, kept Timothy Culp at bay in the closing laps to finish third. Polesitter Matt Cosner slid backward to a sixth-place finish.
Finish: Jonathan Davenport, Darrell Lanigan, Don O’Neal, Timothy Culp, Jesse Stovall, Matt Cosner, Mike Benedum, Corey Conley, Drake Meeks.
Kyle Bronson continued his torrid heat-race performances, running away with his fourth prelim win in five nights. Gregg Satterlee turned back a furious challenge from Scott Bloomquist to finish second by a nose.
Finish: Kyle Bronson, Gregg Satterlee, Scott Bloomquist, Jeff Mathews, Morgan Bagley, Doug Drown, Rusty Schlenk, Coleby Frye, Bob Geiger.
Josh Richards dominated the action, leading all the way to defeat Dennis Erb Jr. by 1.979 seconds. Mason Zeigler was a close third-place finisher while Brandon Overton was well behind in fourth. Jason Jameson brought out a caution flag on the first lap when he spun in turn four and one circuit later was involved in a triple spin in two with Craig Wolford and Mike Maresca.
Finish: Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr., Mason Zeigler, Brandon Overton, Jason Jameson, Brent Larson, Hudson O’Neal, Mike Maresca, Craig Wolford.
Bobby Pierce scored a flag-to-flag win, but Tim McCreadie kept the young Illinois driver honest, finishing just 0.582 of a second behind in the runner-up spot. Dustin Mitchell finished third, turning back challenges from Brandon Sheppard to secure the final transfer spot.
Finish: Bobby Pierce, Tim McCreadie, Dustin Mitchell, Brandon Sheppard, Jimmy Owens, Nick Davis, Tim Dohm, Shane Tankersley, Bob Gardner.
Earl Pearson Jr. grabbed the lead from Tyler Erb on lap two and went on to defeat the young Texas by 1.189 seconds. Boom Briggs finished third, nipping his cousin Chub Frank for the position. Caution flags were needed on lap three when Austin Hubbard stopped on the homestretch on lap eight when Joey Moriarty failed to clear the backstretch after slowing with mechanical trouble.
Finish: Earl Pearson Jr., Tyler Erb, Boom Briggs, Chub Frank, Ryan King, Chase Junghans, Jonathan Rowan, Joey Moriarty, Austin Hubbard.
Billy Moyer Jr. overtook Devin Moran for the lead on lap two and marched on to a convincing full-straightaway victory, earning him the pole position for the 50-lap feature. Moran was a solid runner-up while Texan Allen Murray claimed the final transfer spot.
Finish: Billy Moyer Jr., Devin Moran, Allen Murray, Travis Stemler, Tyler Millwood, Shanon Buckingham, Rance Garlock, Freddie Carpenter, Blake Spencer.
Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., blazed to the evening’s fastest overall lap, circling the third-mile oval in 14.393 seconds in the 54-car field’s first group. He will start from the pole in the first of six heat races.
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was the final driver to qualify, but he ripped off a lap of 14.520 seconds to top the second qualifying group and earn the pole for the fourth heat.
Other polesitters include Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., and Matt Cosner of Ridgeley, W.Va.
Temperatures reached the mid-80s with party sunny skies for Winternationals Night 5, which has attracted a week-high 54-car field. … New to the East Bay pits on Friday is World of Outlaws rookie aspirant Tyler Millwood of Kingston, Ga., who tested Thursday at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga., after this weekend’s scheduled WoO doubleheader at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., was canceled early due to an unfavorable weather forecast. … Drivers who left East Bay following Thursday’s program were Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., Greg Oakes of Franklinville, N.Y., and 13-year-old Carder Miller of Salem, Va., who ran the first three nights of the Winternationals (he qualified for Tuesday’s feature) before age issues with the track’s insurance regulations stopped him from competing. … Seeking to turn around a rough Speedweeks, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and the Longhorn house car team had another car brought down from the chassis builder’s North Carolina shop for Friday’s action. The machine was run last season by Longhorn’s Justin Labonte and McCreadie, who drove it in Lernerville Speedway’s Firecracker 100, among other events. “We’ve been struggling,” Labonte said. “We’re just trying to figure something out.” … Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., had to repair the right-front suspension of his Longhorn Chassis after getting too high and slapping the wall in Thursday’s feature. He ran in the top five early in the event. … Tuesday-night winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., retired from Thursday’s feature on lap 10 due to a broken right-rear shock bolt. … Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., saw his Thursday feature hopes end on lap 15 due to nose damage sustained earlier in a scrape with Jason Jameson of Lawrenceburg, Ind. … Mike Maresca of Potsdam, N.Y., won a B-main Thursday in his first-ever start at East Bay, a track he found especially unique. “I’ve never been on anything quite like it,” said Maresca, a big-block modified racer whose Dirt Late Model equipment is maintained by former WoO Rookie of the Year Russ King of Bristolville, Ohio. “It’s so slippery … and the way the water came up out of the track (during the evening), I really didn’t expect that.”
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series runs the fifth round of the 42nd 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.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., was victorious in Thursday night’s 40-lap A-main, making him the first two-time winner of this year’s Winternationals. Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., have also triumphed.
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.
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Devin Moran
Row 2: Allen Murray, Travis Stemler
Row 3: Tyler Millwood, Rance Garlock
Row 4: Freddie Carpenter, Shanon Buckingham
Row 5: Blake Spencer
Row 1: Earl Pearson Jr., Tyler Erb
Row 2: Boom Briggs, Chase Junghans
Row 3: Ryan King, Jonathan Rowan
Row 4: Chub Frank, Austin Hubbard
Row 5: Joey Moriarty
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Tim McCreadie
Row 2: Jimmy Owens, Dustin Mitchell
Row 3: Brandon Sheppard, Nick Davis
Row 4: Shane Tankersley, Tim Dohm
Row 5: Bob Gardner
Row 1: Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Jason Jameson
Row 3: Craig Wolford, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Mike Maresca, Brent Larson
Row 5: Hudson O’Neal
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Jeff Mathews
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Gregg Satterlee
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Doug Drown
Row 4: Coleby Frye, Rusty Schlenk
Row 5: Bob Geiger
Row 1: Matt Cosner, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Mike Benedum, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Corey Conley, Don O’Neal
Row 4: Jesse Stovall, Timothy Culp
Row 5: Drake Meeks
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 14.393
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 14.661
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.705
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 14.782
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 14.798
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.820
Allen Murray (2M), San Antonio, Texas, 14.907
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.940
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.006
Travis Stemler (2s), Ionia, Mich., 15.032
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 15.052
Dustin Mitchell (d8), Pine Level, N.C., 15.062
Tyler Millwood (31), Kingston, Ga., 15.066
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 15.079
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 15.094
Rance Garlock (72), Three Springs, Pa., 15.116
Jonathan Rowan (56), Jackson, Tenn., 15.118
Nick Davis (92), Millsboro, Del., 15.132
Freddie Carpenter (0K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.183
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.227
Shane Tankersley (T31), Blue Ridge, Ga., 15.248
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.262
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 15.27
Tim Dohm (6T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 15.276
Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., 15.623
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 15.844
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., no time
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.520
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 14.525
Matt Cosner (66), Ridgeley, W.Va., 14.542
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.594
Jeff Mathews (33), Apollo Beach, Fla., 14.597
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 14.604
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.617
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.641
Mike Benedum (25), Salem, W.Va., 14.643
Jason Jameson (12J), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 14.695
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 14.708
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.783
Craig Wolford (36), Saint Louisville, Ohio, 14.794
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 14.822
Corey Conley (14), Wellsburg, W.Va., 14.835
Brandon Overton (116), Evans, Ga., 14.862
Doug Drown (C02), Wooster, Ohio, 14.896
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 14.924
Mike Maresca (7MM), Potsdam, N.Y., 14.967
Coleby Frye (0F1), Dover, Pa., 14.979
Jesse Stovall (00), Billings, Mo., 14.988
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 15.021
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio, 15.202
Timothy Culp (c8), Prattsville, Ark., 15.239
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 15.341
Bob Geiger (38), Laurel, Del., 16.890
Drake Meeks (01), Parkersburg, W.Va., 18.523