OCALA, Fla. (Feb. 11) — Jonathan Davenport steered clear of the mayhem behind him to capture Sunday night’s 50-lap Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at Bubba Raceway Park.
The 34-year-old star from Blairsville, Ga., grabbed the lead from Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, on lap five and then calmly stayed ahead of an array of trouble in his rearview mirror to score a $10,000 victory in the Lucas Oil Series’s Georgia-Florida Speedweeks finale. It was Davenport’s third win of the national tour’s young 2018 season and marked the second time in three years that he was triumphant at the 3/8-mile, D-shaped oval.
“This is just awesome,” said Davenport, who is just nine starts into his new deal driving Durham-powered Longhorn cars fielded by Lance Landers of Batesville, Ark. “Everybody’s working so hard. Everybody’s working so good together. It’s almost like we’ve been together awhile.”
Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., drew close in the final laps as Davenport fought a deflating, badly-worn tire but settled for second place, 0.945 of a second behind the victor in the caution-plagued race.
Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., finished third, giving him his first outing better than 11th place since his runner-up performance in the season-opening WoO event on Feb. 2 at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga. Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., climbed forward from the 11th starting spot to finish fourth and Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., who won his first-ever Lucas Oil A-main the previous night at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., nipped O’Neal’s father, Don, for fifth by inches at the checkered flag with a successful last-lap pass.
Starting third, Davenport went to work quickly to seize command of the race. He tossed his machine to the extreme outside of turns one and two on a lap-four restart and sailed around the 21-year-old Erb to take the lead as lap five was scored.
“When Tyler fired off really good I knew he had a 40 (compound tire) on,” Davenport analyzed. “I knew he was gonna fire on those (tire) edges, but I knew once we took off again (on the race’s first restart) then that’s when I needed to get the lead because I knew the rubber would be coming soon and I wanted to definitely control the pace of the race.”
Davenport did just that for most of the remaining circuits, turning back some brief early challenges from Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., before building a short edge by the A-main’s halfway point. But Davenport’s drive was hampered by a red flag that flew on a lap-31 restart for a multi-car tangle in turn two that that was triggered when Richards slid sideways between turns one and two as he raced on the inside of Pearson in a tight battle for second. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., had nowhere to go and hit the left-front corner of Richards’s car, which bounced into the air and clipped the right side of Pierce’s roof. Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, were also swept up in the tangle, with Briggs’s machine coming to rest perched on Lanigan’s nose.
“That red flag killed me,” Davenport related. “I had such a good rhythm going there and I felt like I was running some really good laps, being easy on my tires, and then that red come out.”
When the green flag returned following the crash cleanup, Davenport found his march toward victory had taken on a new paradigm.
“(The track surface) actually bled back a little bit and it got slimy,” Davenport said of the stoppage’s effect on the racetrack. “I don’t know if everybody spun their tires just a little bit, but then a couple laps later after the slime went it rubbered twice as hard and I got really, really tight.
“So then I started grinding on my right-front tire and it started chattering like an asphalt car would. I already blew one right-front tire out before so I didn’t want to do that, so then I just started laying on the right-rear and I was trying to manage both of them one lap to the next to try and get me to the end.”
Davenport made it — barely. His car’s right-rear tire was bald when he crossed the finish line just a couple car lengths in front of Pearson and went flat as he celebrated in victory lane, forcing his crew to bolt on a new tire to get the vehicle back to the pit area.
Pearson, 46, was actually in tire-conservation mode as well in the closing laps, preventing him from really launching a furious bid to overtake Davenport.
“Davenport, he was flat in victory lane out there. Mine was very close at the end too,” said Pearson, who started seventh in his Black Diamond house car. “That’s all we could do at the end, just ride around. I knew he was saving his, and I was saving mine. That’s all we could do in a rubbered-up situation.
“It was taking rubber probably on lap 15. It was getting blacker and blacker, and everybody was getting more single-file. The only time you could pass anybody was on them restarts and then you’d have to get right back down in line. Everybody fights for a position and goes from there.”
The 17-year-old O’Neal moved from the ninth starting spot to fifth by lap 12 in his SSI Motorsports Club 29 Race Car. He slipped past Owens for fourth on a lap-26 restart and reached third when Richards was forced to the rear of the field due to his involvement in the lap-31 tangle.
“What a relief,” O’Neal said after maintaining third place for the race’s final 19 circuits. “We struggled so much at East Bay, we didn’t even have a top-10 run over there … and last year we seemed like we couldn’t even get out of the top 10. It just feels really good to finally get this 71 back on the podium.
“I was sitting around there and it rubbered up and I was like, ‘Please don’t blow a tire!’” he added. “It just feels good to finally have any bad luck.”
Nine caution flags and one red flag slowed the marathon race, which took just over 1 hour to complete.
The event’s wild nature was evident early in the distance when outside polesitter Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., jumped out to the initial lead, lost it to Tyler Erb on lap three and then slowed to bring out a caution flag on lap four due to a flat left-rear tire — apparently the result of contact with Erb. Shortly thereafter, on lap seven, Erb also fell off the pace with a flat right-rear tire after briefly leading laps 3-4.
Notes: Davenport ended the Lucas Oil Series’s stretch of Speedweeks action leading the points standings by 50 points over Richards, who finished 16th after his Best Performance Motorsports crew patched his car together following the lap-31 incident. … Twenty-one of the feature’s 24 starters were running at the finish with every driver on the lead lap, including those involved in the lap-31 accident. … One of the race’s three retirees was Tyler Erb, who returned from a lap-seven tire change to spin with Jeff Mathews of Apollo Beach, Fla., on lap 16 and ultimately head pitside after completing 39 laps. … Also exiting early was 15-year-old Tyler Clem of St. Petersburg, Fla., who took two laps in Blake Spencer’s car because his heat-winning ride was sidelined by terminal engine trouble, and Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., who had just snagged seventh place when his Dream Racing No. 116 shot to the outside in turn four due to a flat right-front tire. … Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., pitted on laps seven and 10 but persevered to salvage a ninth-place finish after using a provisional to start 23rd. … Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., pitted on lap 28 after bringing out a caution but rallied to finish 10th. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., who won last year’s Lucas Oil event at BRP, sat seventh for the race’s final restart on lap 35 but slipped to 12th in the finishing order because his late-race attempts to make time around the outside of the track failed due to the rubbered inside lane. … Lucas Oil Series director Rick Schwallie made the call to impose single-file restarts due to the rubbered track condition following the red flag on lap 31.
Preliminary results and notes:
The feature took the green flag at 8:49 p.m. ... Polesitter Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, will try to improve on his only previous start at Ocala: a 16th-place finish in last year’s Lucas Oil Series A-main. … Outside polesitter Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., hasn’t cracked the top five in a Speedweeks feature to date. … With teenager Tyler Clem of St. Petersburg, Fla., unable to take his scheduled fourth starting spot in the feature due to his terminal motor problem as he won the fourth heat, the outside starters all move up a row in the lineup. That puts Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., into Clem’s fourth slot. … Clem will jump in Blake Spencer’s car to take the green flag at the rear of the field for his start money. … Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., finished last in his heat and eighth in the first B-main, forcing him to use a provisional to start 23rd in the A-main. He will have to hustle forward to avoid losing more ground in the Lucas Oil Series points chase; he enters the Speedweeks finale mired in 16th in the standings, already a hefty 340 points behind leader Josh Richards. … Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., made a gallant attempt to transfer to the feature from the ninth starting spot in the first B-main. He missed by one spot, falling just a half car length short of overtaking third-place Matt Cosner of Ridgeley, W.Va., at the finish line. … After stalling on the track during time trials because his car popped out of gear (though he did complete his qualifying laps after getting a push start), Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., was never a factor in heat or B-main action and didn’t qualify.
Row 1: Tyler Erb, Tim McCreadie
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Tyler Clem
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Josh Richards
Row 4: Earl Pearson Jr., Bobby Pierce
Row 5: Hudson O’Neal, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 6: Jimmy Owens, Darrell Lanigan
Row 7: Brandon Overton, Kyle Bronson
Row 8: Doug Drown, Morgan Bagley
Row 9: Jason Fitzgerald, Don O’Neal
Row 10: Jeff Mathews, Brandon Sheppard
Row 11: Matt Cosner, Chub Frank
Row 12: Scott Bloomquist, Gregg Satterlee
First B-main finish (12 laps; top 3 transfer): Jason Fitzgerald, Jeff Mathews, Matt Cosner, Mason Zeigler, Gregg Satterlee, Brent Larson, Blake Spencer, Mike Maresca, Trey Beene III, Mikey Kopka, Drake Meeks.
Second B-main finish (12 laps; top 3 transfer): Don O’Neal, Brandon Sheppard, Chub Frank, Mike Benedum, Joey Coulter, Jason Jameson, Ryan King, Scott Bloomquist, Dale McDowell, Coleby Frye.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Gregg Satterlee, Mike Maresca
Row 2: Jason Fitzgerald, Blake Spencer
Row 3: Jeff Mathews, Drake Meeks
Row 4: Matt Cosner, Trey Beene III
Row 5: Mason Zeigler, Mikey Kopka
Row 6: Brent Larson
Row 1: Don O’Neal, Chub Frank
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Joey Coulter
Row 3: Mike Benedum, Ryan King
Row 4: Jason Jameson, Dale McDowell
Row 5: Scott Bloomquist, Coleby Frye
Teenager Tyler Clem — the son of track owner Bubba Clem — was flawless in scoring a flag-to-flag victory, but his car showed smoke after the checkered flag and he stopped in turn two to await a push back to the pit area. After Clem weighed in at the scales, he reported that his car's motor had let go, dashing his hopes of starting fourth in the feature; he can start at the rear if he finds another car to run, however. Bobby Pierce finished 0.565 of a second behind Clem in second with Darrell Lanigan and Morgan Bagley completing the transfers.
Finish: Tyler Clem, Bobby Pierce, Darrell Lanigan, Morgan Bagley, Chub Frank, Joey Coulter, Ryan King, Dale McDowell, Coleby Frye.
Tim McCreadie rolled to an uplifting triumph, defeating Josh Richards by 0.820 of a second. Dennis Erb Jr. finished third while Kyle Bronson shot from seventh to fourth on the opening lap and finished there. Scott Bloomquist, meanwhile, fell from the sixth starting spot to last on the track on the opening circuit and finished at the back of the pack.
Finish: Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr., Kyle Bronson, Don O’Neal, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Benedum, Jason Jameson, Scott Bloomquist.
Jonathan raced unchallenged to the checkered flag, crossing the finish line 1.566 seconds in front of earl Pearson Jr. Jimmy Owens and Doug Drown finished alone in third and fourth, respectively.
Finish: Jonathan Davenport, Earl Pearson Jr., Jimmy Owens, Doug Drown, Mike Maresca, Blake Spencer, Matt Cosner, Trey Beene, Mikey Kopka.
Tyler Erb cruised to victory, leading the entire distance without facing a serious challenge. He beat Boom Briggs to the finish line by 1.967 seconds, with Hudson O’Neal third and Brandon Overton, who ran as high as second, settling for fourth. A caution flag flew on lap seven for Mason Zeigler, who spun in turn four while running second after appearing to slow the previous circuit.
Finish: Tyler Erb, Boom Briggs, Hudson O’Neal, Brandon Overton, Gregg Satterlee, Jason Fitzgerald, Jeff Mathews, Drake Meeks, Mason Zeigler (DNS) Brent Larson.
Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, turned the overall fastest lap in qualifying, clocking in at 14.250 seconds during the first group. He earned the pole position for the first of four heat races.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who has struggled throughout Speedweeks, got a morale boost with a 14.548-second lap that made him the quickest in Group 2. He will start from the pole in the third heat.
Other heat polesitters are Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and 15-year-old Tyler Clem of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., will start third in Heat 3 after hastily switching to his backup car before time trials. His primary machine was sidelined during hot laps by a broken crank trigger.
Bubba Raceway Park, which is owned by well-known radio show host Bubba (The Love Sponge) Clem, is the third track to host a Lucas Oil Series event during Georgia-Florida Speedweeks in 2018. … Bubba’s 15-year-old son, Tyler Clem, is competing in Lucas Oil Series action for the third consecutive year. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., won last year’s A-main at BRP in dramatic fashion, powering by Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., round the final turn on the last lap. He also captured a WoO feature at BRP in 2014 — his first-ever triumph during Speedweeks. … The Lucas Oil regular who has enjoyed the most success at BRP is Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who won at least one World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series or UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned feature at the track each year from 2010-15. … Other Lucas Oil Series travelers who have reached victory lane at BRP are points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va. (WoO A-mains in 2012, ’13 and ’15); Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga. (Lucas Oil in ’16); and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind. (’10 UMP). … Drivers making their first Speedweeks starts of ’18 include Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., and Joey Coulter of Troutman, N.C., and Mikey Kopka of Astor, Fla., a Florida Late Model Series racer who is making his Super Late Model debut. Jason Fitzgerald of Middleburg, Fla., meanwhile, is back in action after racing at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga. … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., spent the day at Ocala, Fla., veteran Ivedent Lloyd Jr.’s nearby shop stripping down the Sweeteners Plus-backed Longhorn car that was towed off the track after he smacked the outside wall during Saturday night’s Winternationals feature at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. The machine — a car that was driven in 2017 by Longhorn’s Justin Labonte and McCreadie and was brought down to East Bay at mid-week because T-Mac was struggling with the two cars he had in his trailer — will be reassembled at Lloyd’s on Monday (McCreadie plans to skip the opening night of DIRTcar Nationals competition at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.), so tonight the 43-year-old driver will be back behind the wheel of a car he piloted earlier during Speedweeks. … Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., had to put in some repair work to the front end of his Club 29 Race Car after hitting East Bay’s wall during Saturday night’s Strawberry Dash, but he’s ready to line up this evening. … First-time BRP visitor Matt Cosner of Ridgeley, W.Va., plans to head home after Sunday’s program.
After six nights of Wrisco Industries Winternationals racing at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., ended on Saturday night, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series shifts an hour-and-a-half to the northeast to close its Georgia-Florida Speedweeks action with a visit to Bubba Raceway Park. The 3/8-mile, D-shaped track hosted the Lucas Oil Series for the first time in 2016 after presenting World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series programs during Speedweeks for the previous four years.
Sunday’s program is made up of hot laps, time trials, heat races, consolations and a 50-lap main event.
Hot laps are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Tyler Erb, Brandon Overton
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Jason Fitzgerald
Row 3: Gregg Satterlee, Brent Larson
Row 4: Boom Briggs, Hudson O’Neal
Row 5: Jeff Mathews, Drake Meeks
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Jimmy Owens
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Matt Cosner
Row 3: Blake Spencer, Mike Maresca
Row 4: Doug Drown, Trey Beene III
Row 5: Mikey Kopka
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Josh Richards, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Jason Jameson, Scott Bloomquist
Row 4: Kyle Bronson, Mike Benedum
Row 5: Don O’Neal
Row 1: Tyler Clem, Morgan Bagley
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Darrell Lanigan
Row 3: Chub Frank, Ryan King
Row 4: Joey Coulter, Dale McDowell
Row 5: Coleby Frye
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 14.250
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.264
Brandon Overton (116), Evans, Ga., 14.270
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.362
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.462
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 14.577
Jason Fitzgerald (7F), Middleburg, Fla., 14.676
Matt Cosner (66), Ridgeley, W.Va., 14.766
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 14.827
Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., 14.859
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 14.869
Mike Maresca (7MM), Potsdam, N.Y., 14.991
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.076
Doug Drown (C02), Wooster, Ohio, 15.165
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 15.197
Trey Beene (115), Bossier City, La., 15.315
Jeff Mathews (33), Apollo Beach, Fla., 15.382
Mikey Kopka (1A), Astor, Fla., 15.448
Drake Meeks (01), Parkersburg, W.Va., 16.204
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.548
Tyler Clem (14T), St. Petersburg, Fla., 14.562
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.595
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 14.663
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.677
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.689
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 14.691
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 14.763
Jason Jameson (12J), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 14.807
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.818
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.847
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 14.865
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 14.903
Joey Coulter (2c), Troutman, N.C., 14.922
Mike Benedum (25), Salem, W.Va., 14.938
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.344
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.462
Coleby Frye (0F1), Dover, Pa., 15.572