GREENWOOD, Neb. (July 18) — Thursday evening’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Malvern Bank Go 50 at I-80 Speedway came down to a battle between the two top-ranked Dirt Late Model drivers in the nation.
The winner of this round? Lucas Oil Series points leader Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who passed World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series dominator Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., for the lead on lap 34 and held on the remainder of the distance for a $12,000 triumph on opening night of the ninth annual Imperial Tire Silver Dollar Nationals.
Davenport, 35, survived a scary run-in with a lapped car on lap 48 to steer his Lance Landers-owned Longhorn Race Car under the checkered flag 1.506 seconds ahead of the 26-year-old Sheppard’s Rocket Chassis house car. It was Davenport’s series-leading 10th victory of the season and marked the second straight year that he captured the lead-in race to the 4/10-mile oval’s $53,000-to-win finale.
Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, charged forward from the 19th starting spot to finish third in the Dunn Benson Racing XR1 Rocket after overtaking Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., on the final lap. Zeigler, who started from the outside pole and led laps 8-20, settled for a fourth-place finish in his family-owned XR1 Rocket while seventh-starter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., completed the top five also driving an XR1 Rocket.
The race’s prime combatants started close together — Sheppard eighth, Davenport ninth — and by lap 12 were running second and third, respectively, behind Zeigler, who had grabbed the lead from Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, on lap eight. Sheppard reached the front of the pack first when he overtook Zeigler for the top spot on lap 21 before Davenport slipped past Zeigler one circuit later to set up the clash of 2019’s titans.
As the season’s biggest winners on the sport’s pair of national series settled into a race for the 12-grand prize, however, neither admitted to feeling any special incentive to emerge triumphant for bragging rights.
“Nah, it’s just a blue race car out there is all I know,” Davenport said when asked if racing Sheppard pushed him any harder. “We all weigh the same, we all look the same once we’re in these race cars, so I just try to keep my head down and do the best job that I can and get our best finish possible.”
“I try not to think about that stuff too much, but it’s definitely cool to have both of us up there battling it out,” Sheppard commented on the topic. “Any time you can have me and J.D. up there … he’s a lot of fun to race with. He usually races pretty clean.”
Davenport drew within striking distance of Sheppard by lap 32. Soon after, on lap 34, Davenport dived to the inside of Sheppard going down the backstretch and, when Sheppard lost him momentum on the outside behind the lapped Shanon Buckingham of Morristown, Tenn., sailed into the lead in what was ultimately the race’s deciding move.
“Once I got to third, I think Mason was leading (with Sheppard second) and I could run around the cushion better than both of them,” Davenport said. “I could make time there (through turns three and four), but I didn’t really know where to be down here (in one and two) yet. I kept moving around, and on that restart (on lap 21) I got to second. Then I was following Sheppard and he was kind of running the same line I was gonna try to run and I just couldn’t turn down as good as he could.
“Right before we got to lapped traffic, we was probably six, eight car lengths behind him, and I moved around some just to try a different line and I lost a lot of ground to him there. So then I moved back around, and while we was in lapped I kind of found a few more things that helped me down here on this end (one and two) and I got passed him in traffic.
“It was just something I found before he did,” he added. “I guess that’s just the luxury of running second sometimes.”
Davenport effectively controlled the remaining circuits, building a nearly 3-second edge before he experienced a near-miss on the homestretch on lap 48 while lapping Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa. Contact with Bruening around the flagstand caused Davenport to slow dramatically for a moment, allowing Sheppard to close in and make the final two laps much closer than it appeared they were destined to be.
“He didn’t know I was there, but I thought I had a good enough run I could clear him,” Davenport said of Bruening, who started from the pole position and led the race’s first lap but faded to a 16th-place finish. “Once I got beside him I seen that he was gonna keep on coming so I just locked down the brakes. I was just lucky enough that I had a good enough lead on Brandon because I just killed all my momentum. My car sat down and I pushed over here (in turns one and two). It took me all the way to turn three to get my momentum back up again.”
Sheppard was unable to take advantage of Davenport’s slip, but his hopes for a first career win at I-80 had actually been dashed earlier when he ceded the lead to the eventual winner.
“I felt like our cars were fairly even,” Sheppard said. “I messed up in lapped traffic getting into three over there. Buckingham was broke and I didn’t know he was broke, and I entered in too close to him and that was when he started to stop and (eventually) pulled the caution (on lap 35. I was trying to turn down underneath him and it just had me messed up. That’s where we lost it.”
Davenport’s success stamped him as a good bet to join Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who finished seventh, as a back-to-back winner of the Silver Dollar Nationals. His confidence in his chances of a third victory in four years was also high thanks to the track surface he mastered on Thursday and his overall strength entering this year’s event compared to a year ago.
“I’m glad they didn’t go out there and farm (the surface) up any (before the feature),” Davenport said. “That gives us a little bit better read for towards the end of the feature tomorrow.”
Added Davenport, “We feel like we got a better race car coming in this year. We definitely got a better motor package because we know it now (he was experimenting with a Cornett Chevy powerplant at last year’s SDN). We know our race car a little better too because we made ‘em better from last year. We’ve got more wins, we’re running more consistent than last year. Everything’s going our way, but you just never know. We can win tonight and run dead last in both heats tomorrow. It’s just the great thing about dirt track racing.”
Finishing behind Davenport and Sheppard was Moran, who earned race hard-charger status with his advance to third place. He said a poor qualifying effort forced him into running a B-main to transfer, but his car was much better than he showed early in the program.
Moran, 24, made his move on Zeigler to gain a podium finishing position in dramatic fashion.
“I had him set up the lap before and I just slid too hard,” Moran said. “That last lap I hit the bottom of one and two perfect and got a good run. I cleared him on the backstretch, but I knew he was gonna pull a slider (in three and four) so I tried to block it … but he went even lower than that, so it was one of them deals. We just barely got it.”
Before his final-circuit pass, Moran spent several mid-race laps in a slider-swapping battle for fourth place with his good buddy Tyler Erb.
“Big sliders,” Moran said with a smile of his tussle with Erb. “It was cool. We were throwing some haymakers at each other. We got into each other, he got into my left-side door coming down the frontstretch, but it was just one of them deals where we were both racing hard. I knew once I cleared him I could check out.”
Erb, who led laps 2-7, saw his hopes for a solid finish go south when he went spinning in turn on a lap-35 restart. He relinquished fifth place due to the twirl, which he appeared to blame on Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind.; Erb pulled up alongside O’Neal under caution and again in the pit area after the feature, which O’Neal finished in the 10th spot while Erb was 15th.
The race’s other three caution flags were triggered by Buckingham, who backed into the inside wall on lap two; slowed with a flat right-rear tire on lap 21; and fell off the pace on lap 35.
Notes: Davenport’s 45th career Lucas Oil Series victory tied him with Don O'Neal for third on the tour's all-time win list. … The day’s extreme conditions — high temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees with a heat index approaching 110 degrees — were felt by every competitor, including Davenport. “Obviously I haven’t dealt with it good enough because this was probably the most tired I’ve ever been after a race,” Davenport said. “I tried to stay hydrated. Every time I walked by the refrigerator I’d grab me a water or Gatorade, so I’ve got to do something a little different tomorrow.” … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., started fifth and briefly got as high as fourth before sliding to the back half of the top 10. He ultimately pitted on lap 35 to change a tire and finished 13th. … Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., was the feature’s first retiree; a broken driveshaft eliminated him on lap two. … Californian Cody Laney qualified through a B-main in his first-ever Dirt Late Model start at I-80 driving a Longhorn car fielded by New Jersey native and current California resident Pete Van Iderstine. He was credited with a 22nd-place finish after completing 18 laps. … The Silver Dollar Nationals weekend continues Friday night with two rounds of qualifying heats to set the lineup for Saturday’s 80-lap A-main and last-chance race.
Tyler Bruening slid in front of polesitter Jonathan Davenport on the opening lap of the first heat to grab the lead and went on to win the prelim for the pole position in the 50-lap feature, putting him in position for a career-best Lucas Oil Series outing. He also won a Malvern Bank Super Late Model Series heat race in his other car later in the program. … Billy Moyer Jr. is hoping his triumph in the second heat will lead to a feature run that turns around his struggle-filled season on the Lucas Oil Series. His best tour finish to date is seventh, on Feb. 8 at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., and April 6 at North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth, Ga. … Mike Marlar’s weekend at I-80 has apparently come to a quick conclusion. After he slipped high in turn two on lap one of the second heat and Chad Simpson’s inside bid for the position resulted in contact that caused Marlar to bounce off the outside wall, Marlar immediately fell back and retired several circuits later. He said the incident bent the rear clip of his car — and, with his motor also about lapped out, he would be heading home. … Hudson O’Neal overtook Dennis Erb Jr. rounding the final corner of Heat 4 to finish third, but contact between the two left O’Neal’s right-rear bodywork crunched and prompted Erb to pull alongside the teenager during the cool-down lap. … Canadian Ricky Weiss pulled off the track during the first heat after his car developed a severe vibration. He thought it might have been caused by his tires so he changed them and ran the B-main to see if the problem was fixed; he ended up in a lap-one scramble that caused him to spin backwards into the homestretch’s inside without sustaining serious damage.
Row 1: Tyler Bruening, Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Billy Moyer Jr., Tyler Erb
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Shannon Babb, Brandon Sheppard
Row 5: Jonathan Davenport, Chris Simpson
Row 6: Scott Bloomquist, Hudson O’Neal
Row 7: Chase Junghans, Terry Phillips
Row 8: Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 9: Chris Madden, Dale McDowell
Row 10: Devin Moran, Shanon Buckingham
Row 11: Cody Laney, Kyle Bronson
Row 12: Earl Pearson Jr., Stormy Scott
Row 13: Michael Norris
First B-main finish (12 laps; top 3 transfer): Chris Madden, Devin Moran, Cody Laney, Scott Ward, Earl Pearson Jr., Jake Timm, Dave Eckrich, Stormy Scott, Ricky Weiss, Allan Hopp, Junior Coover, Michael Norris, Jeremy Grady, J.C. Wyman.
Second B-main finish (12 laps; top 3 transfer): Dale McDowell, Shanon Buckingham, Kyle Bronson, Billy Moyer, Bobby Pierce, Brian Kosiski, Ben Schaller, Rece Vaught, Chad Simpson.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Devin Moran, Michael Norris
Row 2: Chris Madden, Scott Ward
Row 3: Cody Laney, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 4: Blair Nothdurft, Jake Timm
Row 5: Junior Coover, Stormy Scott
Row 6: Jeremy Grady, Allan Hopp
Row 7: Ricky Weiss, Dave Eckrich
Row 8: J.C. Wyman
Row 1: Chad Simpson, Jake Neal
Row 2: Josh Leonard, Dale McDowell
Row 3: Ben Schaller, Kyle Bronson
Row 4: Bobby Pierce, Shanon Buckingham
Row 5: Rece Vaught, Brian Kosiski
Row 6: Andrew Kosiski, Billy Moyer
Row 7: Mike Marlar, John Anderson
First heat finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer): Tyler Bruening, Tim McCreadie, Jonathan Davenport, Chase Junghans, Devin Moran, Chris Madden, Cody Laney, Blair Nothdurft, Junior Coover, Jeremy Grady, Ricky Weiss.
Second heat finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Shannon Babb, Scott Bloomquist, Josh Richards, Michael Norris, Scott Ward, Earl Pearson Jr., Jake Timm, Stormy Scott, Allan Hopp, Dave Eckrich.
Third heat finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer): Mason Zeigler, Jimmy Owens, Chris Simpson, Terry Phillips, Chad Simpson, Josh Leonard, Ben Schaller, Bobby Pierce, Rece Vaught, Andrew Kosiski, Mike Marlar.
Fourth heat finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer): Tyler Erb, Brandon Sheppard, Hudson O’Neal, Dennis Erb Jr., Jake Neal, Dale McDowell, Kyle Bronson, Shanon Buckingham, Brian Kosiski, Billy Moyer.
After last year’s Imperial Tire Silver Dollar Nationals weekend was contested under cooler-than-usual conditions (temperatures topping out in the 80s), the intense heat of past editions has returned. Temperatures have been pushing 100 degrees with the heat index even higher under bright, sunny skies. … Lucas Oil Series officials erected a pop-up tent in front of their command trailer to provide shade for pre-race technical inspection. A stiff breeze and a large fan churning away under the tent offered some relief from the heat. … Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., is set to make his first start in a second entry fielded by Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. It will mark Madden’s first-ever action at I-80 Speedway. … Scott Bloomquist Racing co-owner Cody Sommer said he ordered new number decals to put on Madden’s car that will better differentiate it from Bloomquist’s No. 0 but they hadn’t arrived at the track by the start of Thursday’s hot laps. … Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., is making his first appearance at I-80 since finishing second in the inaugural Silver Dollar Nationals in 2011. Previous to that, he won a Hav-A-Tampa/UDTRA Series event at the track on June 28, 2002, when it was known as Nebraska Raceway Park; the second night of that ’02 doubleheader was won by current Lucas Oil Series technical director Steve Francis. … Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., enters the weekend with two top-five finishes in his last four Lucas Oil Series starts, including a third-place run on Tuesday night at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen, S.D. I-80 is a track that he actually has raced at “quite a bit” in an open-wheel modified (his last Dirt Late Model start at the oval came in 2015), but he admitted that he hasn’t performed especially well here. “They usually put a lot of water down here,” he said, “and for some reason I struggle with mud.” … Chad Simpson of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, is entered driving the Larry Moring-owned Black Diamond No. 1. … Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa, is among the drivers pulling double-duty Thursday with entries in both the Lucas Oil and supporting Malvern Bank Super Late Model Series events. He won a Malvern Bank SLM feature at I-80 with his IMCA Late Model on May 31.
The ninth annual Imperial Tile Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway kicks off Thursday with the running of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Malvern Bank Go 50, a $10,000-to-win event. It’s the second consecutive year that a complete program for the national tour precedes the Silver Dollar Nationals.
Thursday’s action also includes a 35-lap feature paying $5,300 to win for the Nebraska-based Malvern Bank Super Late Model Series and an unsanctioned open-wheel modified card.
This evening’s competition leads into two rounds of heat races on Friday night and last-chance races and the 80-lap, $53,000-to-win Silver Dollar Nationals on Saturday evening.
The Thursday itinerary includes a drivers’ meeting at 6 p.m. CDT with racing scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. CDT.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Tyler Bruening
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Tim McCreadie
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Devin Moran
Row 4: Blair Nothdurft, Chris Madden
Row 5: Cody Laney, Jeremy Grady
Row 6: J.C. Wyman, Junior Coover
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Shannon Babb
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Michael Norris
Row 3: Earl Pearson Jr., Josh Richards
Row 4: Stormy Scott, Scott Ward
Row 5: Jake Timm, Dave Eckrich
Row 6: Allan Hopp
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Mike Marlar, Chris Simpson
Row 3: Terry Phillips, Josh Leonard
Row 4: Chad Simpson, Andrew Kosiski
Row 5: Ben Schaller, Bobby Pierce
Row 6: Rece Vaught
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Dale McDowell, Jake Neal
Row 3: Hudson O’Neal, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 4: Billy Moyer, Shanon Buckingham
Row 5: Kyle Bronson, Brian Kosiski
Row 6: John Anderson
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 16.789
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 16.987
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 17.036
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 17.054
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 17.066
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 17.095
Tim McCreadie (6M), Watertown, N.Y., 17.106
Michael Norris (5), Sarver, Pa., 17.119
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingly, Manitoba, 17.121
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.164
Devin Moran (1), Dresden, Ohio, 17.176
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 17.205
Blair Nothdurft (76), Sioux Falls, S.D., 17.266
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 17.28
Chris Madden (0m), Gray Court, S.C., 17.372
Scott Ward (37), Watertown, S.D., 17.465
Cody Laney (32B), Torrence, Calif., 17.523
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Neb., 17.558
Jeremy Grady (43), Story City, Iowa, 17.573
Dave Eckrich (58), Oxford, Iowa, 17.588
J.C. Wyman (4W), Griswold, Iowa, 17.677
Allan Hopp (80), Harlan, Iowa, 17.822
Junior Coover (10c), Norfolk, Neb., 18.058
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.875
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 16.953
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.987
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 17.029
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 17.077
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 17.125
Chris Simpson (32s), Oxford, Iowa, 17.145
Jake Neal (14J), Omaha, Neb., 17.312
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 17.341
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 17.349
Josh Leonard (1J), Gibbon, Neb., 17.424
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 17.473
Chad Simpson (1), Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 17.486
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 17.580
Andrew Kosiski (53), Omaha, Neb., 17.586
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 17.604
Ben Schaller (98), Omaha, Neb., 17.621
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 17.805
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 17.832
Brian Kosiski (52x), Omaha, Neb., 17.932
Rece Vaught (20v), Aurora, Neb., 18.131
John Anderson (21x), Omaha, Neb., no time