ELLISVILLE, Fla. — It took Jonathan Davenport more than a week to get it done, but finally, the three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion reached victory lane during this year’s Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. And none too soon. On the final night of the Lucas Oil Series’s eight-race Speedweeks stint, Davenport flashed the kind of speed that carried his Lance Landers-backed Double L Motorsports team to his second straight series title last season.
Taking the lead from Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, on lap 20, Davenport, of Blairsville, Ga., led the rest of the way to win Sunday’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series stop at All-Tech Raceway. Davenport stretched his lead over the final half of the 50-lap main event before winning ahead of eighth-starting Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., by 3.633 seconds.
The victory, which paid $10,000, was Davenport’s 47th career Lucas Oil Series win — he sits third on the tour’s all-time win list — but it was his first since an Aug. 31 2019 series triumph at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park. And his last victory, the 2019 World 100 at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, was on Sept. 7, more than five months ago. While that lengthy span only actually covered some 20 races, Davenport said it’s felt much longer since his last win.
“1980 maybe,” quipped Davenport when trying to remember his last victory. “I have no idea. I really don’t know. It feels like it’s been a long time. It feels like it’s been two months down here since we started. We felt like we was on the verge of getting a win, and you get knocked down and we’re just trying to build ourselves back up.
“I have a really good team. I have really good guys behind me. We all knew we was capable of winning. It’s just doing it. We had so much bad racing luck within one week, you feel like you can never overcome it. The last five, 10 laps, I was holding my breath. I was trying to be so perfect every lap I made that I was making little mistakes and I thought it was huge, but my guys told me after the race that I made really consistent laps.”
Consistent indeed, in a race slowed by five cautions — but none after lap 23 — Davenport stretched his advantage mightily in the waning circuits, finishing a full straightaway ahead of Marlar. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., the current series points leader and a three-time winner at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., last week, finished third after starting 10th, while Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who started 11th, improved seven positions to finish fourth. Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., marched forward from the 24th starting spot to finish fifth after taking a provisional to start the main event.
After one aborted start and another that resulted in a crash exiting turn two before a lap was completed, it was Moran who bolted into the lead when the feature officially went green. Davenport immediately went to second, before falling back a few positions over the next few laps. By lap 18, however, he had recovered and was again running second. A lap later, Davenport pulled even with Moran at the flagstand, beating him into turn one and controlling lap 20. With so many early cautions, Davenport said it took him awhile to get into a groove.
“It was definitely hard to find a rhythm,” he said. “This place is really technical when you pick up the gas, when you hit the brakes. That made it even harder to find a rhythm. At the first of the race, everybody was moving around because nobody knew where they needed to be. And the racetrack was changing so much. It was picking up grip, but you thought, like usually, when it picks up that grip it usually rubbers.
"It’s a really tricky surface. It’s almost a second East Bay ‘cause you just don’t know. It’s so weird that you don’t have the front tires to steer, then it’s like if you stay straight, your back tires have too much grip. But then if you get sideways, your right rear has no grip so you slide. It’s just unique, weird, technical, different … pretty awesome.”
Marlar was another driver happy to put his weeklong stay at East Bay behind him. After a crash on Saturday left his crew pulling an all-nighter to make necessary repairs, Marlar made the most of his opportunities. He cracked the top five on lap 18 and made his way to third on lap 27. On a lap-29 restart, he managed to get by Sheppard for second.
“This track is so racy. I just figured out a way to drive my car,” said Marlar. “We had a pretty rough week at East Bay, but this track fits me much better. This is way more of a normal racetrack than what we’ve been at all week. This here races like something that would be anywhere in the country you know, so it was more of a normal place.
“I just had a good car. In that heat I was really tight and couldn’t steer and I came in and worked on that. I was maneuverable. I was really too soft on the right rear tire. I had four 1300 (compound) and everybody else had a 40 (compound on the right rear). That actually hurt me because after a few laps the tire would give up. I had a better car than my tire I feel like.”
Sheppard, who earned Lucas Oil Series wins at East Bay on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, said he likely should’ve opted for a different line on the lap-29 restart in order to repel Marlar’s charge.
“I just chose the wrong line on that restart,” said Sheppard. “I got by Devin (Moran). He chose the top and I had to go to the bottom and I beat him there on that restart before so I thought I would … my guys told me to go to the bottom. So I thought, ‘OK, I’m gonna go to this bottom again,’ and then Mikey (Marlar) got a really good run. I knew I could restart good on the top. I probably should’ve done that.
“We had a really good car especially there early in the race we were able to pass some guys there on the top.”
Action was slowed on the first lap thanks to a tangle in turn two, the result of a cut tire that sent Floridian Jeff Mathews shooting across the track in front of oncoming competitors. After a complete restart, the field completed just two circuits before Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., slowed to draw a yellow.
Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., tagged the wall in turn two on lap 15 to bring out the third caution, while Colton Flinner of Allison Park, Pa., stopped on lap 18 for the fourth caution. The final yellow waved on lap 23, the result of Morristown, Tenn.’s Shanon Buckingham spinning on the backstretch.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is off until March 20, while Georgia-Florida Speedweeks competitors now turn their attention to the week-long grind at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., which kicks off Monday with a $7,000-to-win DIRTcar main event.
Preliminary notes and results
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Devin Moran
Row 2: Mark Whitener, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Brian Shirley, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Colton Flinner, Mike Marlar
Row 5: Michael Page, Brandon Sheppard
Row 6: Shane Clanton, Jesse Stovall
Row 7: Kyle Bronson, Logan Roberson
Row 8: Earl Pearson Jr., Tyler Erb
Row 9: Billy Moyer Jr., Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 10: G.R. Smith, Tanner English
Row 11: Stormy Scott, Jeff Mathews
Row 12: Josh Richards, Jimmy Owens
Row 13: Shanon Buckingham, Charles Powell
Tim McCreadie starts from the pole position as he chases his third win — at a third different track — of Speedweeks. He said the fast half-mile oval has “as much traction as you can ever want” in the prime groove and “then it’s icy-slick” just outside of it, and he wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with his car’s heat-race performance. “I was too tight on the gas, and we’re going to be in lapped traffic, so you gotta be maneuverable,” he said. “I think (Heat 3 winner) Devin (Moran) looks the most maneuverable.” … Tyler Bruening slipped high in the greasy turn four on the opening lap of the first heat, clipped the outside wall with his car’s right-rear and was clipped by Jimmy Owens and Josh Richards as he spun back into traffic. Bruening was a bit sore after the incident but his car was even worse; it sustained significant damage and he declined an emergency provisional to start the feature. … Both Owens and Richards pulled out backup cars to complete the night after their involvement in Bruening’s accident left them with right-side damage. Richards’s machine looked especially battered, but crewman Cody Duncan said the car had its fuel lines broken but otherwise sported mostly crushed sheet metal. … Earl Pearson Jr.’s miserable Speedweeks continued during the second heat when he finished fourth — the first time he’s qualified through a heat in eight Speedweeks starts — but stopped on the backstretch after the race concluded with a broken driveshaft. “At least my luck is changing — it broke after the checkered flag,” he sarcastically quipped.
(12 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Billy Moyer Jr., G.R. Smith, Stormy Scott, Brian Birkhofer, Josh Richards, Charles Powell, Joe Denby. Scratched: Jimmy Owens, Tyler Bruening.
Second consolation: Dennis Erb Jr., Tanner English, Jeff Mathews, Dan Stone, Tyler Millwood, Shanon Buckingham, Johnny Scott, Todd Brennan. Scratched: Jimmy Sharpe Jr.
Heat race recap
Tim McCreadie won the first heat, pulling away from an early battle with Brian Shirley to win comfortably. The race was slowed early when Tyler Bruening, Josh Richards and Jimmy Owens were involved in a turn-four crash on the first lap of the first heat when Bruening turned up the hill, hit the outside wall and then collected both Owens and Richards, who couldn’t avoid Bruening’s spinning machine. Richards’s car suffered significant body damage. … Mark Whitener dominated the second heat, winning easily ahead of Colton Flinner and Shane Clanton. … Devin Moran passed early leader Gregg Satteree on lap two pulled away to win the caution-free third heat. … In the fourth heat, Jonathan Davenport bypassed front row starters Mike Marlar and Jimmy Sharpe Jr. early. Sharpe made contact with the turn three wall to draw a caution a few laps later, while Davenport cruised to the win.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Tim McCreadie, Brian Shirley, Michael Page, Kyle Bronson, Billy Moyer Jr., Stormy Scott, Jimmy Owens, Tyler Bruening, Josh Richards.
Second heat: Mark Whitener, Colton Flinner, Shane Clanton, Earl Pearson Jr., Brian Birkhofer, G.R. Smith, Joe Denby, Charles Powell.
Third heat: Devin Moran, Gregg Satterlee, Brandon Sheppard, Logan Roberson, Dennis Erb Jr., Tanner English, Shanon Buckingham, Tyler Millwood, Johnny Scott.
Fourth heat: Jonathan Davenport, Mike Marlar, Jesse Stovall, Tyler Erb, Jeff Mathews, Dan Stone, Todd Brennan, Jimmy Sharpe Jr.
The Georgia-Florida Speedweeks finale for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series brings the tour to All-Tech Raceway for the first time. A half-mile oval that was formerly paved, the track hosted programs headlined by the Northeast’s big-block modifieds the last two nights. … With All-Tech new territory for virtually the entire field of 34 cars, drivers and crew members have kept a close eye on the racing surface throughout the lead up to Sunday’s program. The track appeared sloppy after being watered late in the afternoon, but it still appeared to be hard and black underneath; the consensus opinion seems to be that tire wear will be a major factor in the evening’s action and Lucas Oil Series officials said teams will have the option to use a hard 40-compound on the right-rear for the feature only. … The pit stall with the biggest crowd gathered around it during the pre-race hours has been that of Mark Whitener, a local favorite from Middleburg, Fla. One of the few entrants with prior experience at All-Tech, Whitener said he expects the speedway to turn slick and promote sliders, especially early in the night. … Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., and his crew were busy after unloading their Ronnie Delk-owned car in All-Tech’s pit area; they found that his slap of the backstretch wall early in Saturday night’s feature at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., produced more damage than they initially thought. Among the repairs they made: new four-bar plate, birdcage, j-bar and right-side suspension pieces. Marlar’s team is also unsure if they will head on to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.; they’re playing it “day-by-day,” said crewman Josh Davis, because a broken engine Tuesday night at East Bay has left them with only one operating powerplant (thought it was fresh earlier in the week). … Tyler Millwood of Kingston, Ga., is in the field after debuting a new XR1 Rocket car the last two nights at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. … Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., and Michael Page of Douglasville, Ga., also made the trip south after competing at Screven. … Jason Covert of York Haven, Pa., also is in All-Tech’s pit area after scoring a top-five finish at Screven, but he’s a spectator rather than a competitor. He drove down from Georgia because he’s attending a work conference in Tampa, Fla., starting on Monday. … Missing from All-Tech’s field is Lucas Oil regular Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who injured his left knee in a heat-race crash Saturday at East Bay. O’Neal was transported to a local hospital for evaluation and underwent precautionary x-rays; doctors recommended that he not race until returning home for further examination by a bone specialist.
Time trial results (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 17.892
Mark Whitener (5w), Middleburg, Fla., 17.967
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 17.969
Colton Flinner (48), Allison Park, Pa., 17.986
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 18.013
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga. 18.064
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 18.088
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 18.148
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 18.209
Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, 18.263
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 18.278
Charles Powell (94), Brookville, Pa., 18.295
Michael Page (18x), Douglasville, Ga., 18.967
G.R. Smith (89), Cornelius, N.C., 19.062
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 19.283
Joe Denby (27), Tullahoma, Tenn., 19.395
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 19.833
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 17.965
Jimmy Sharpe Jr. (26JR), Vidalia, Ga., 17.967
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 18.047
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 18.123
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 18.229
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 18.301
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 18.340
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 18.438
Logan Roberson (17), Waynesboro, Va., 18.623
Jesse Stovall (00), Billlings, Mo., 18.702
Dennis Erb Jr. (28E), Carpentersville, Ill., 18.799
Dan Stone (2D), Thompson, Pa., 18.878
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 18.917
Todd Brennan (20B), Zanesville, Ohio, 19.071
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M., 19.152
Jeff Mathews (33J), Brandon, Fla., 19.298
Tyler Millwood (31), Kingston, Ga., 19.452
After six straight nights at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series moves 170 miles north to All-Tech Raceway for its inaugural visit to the sprawling half-mile tri-oval located just west of I-75 near Ellisville.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., enters All-Tech after three victories at East Bay and sits atop the series points standings, even though the Rocket Chassis house car driver is not a series regular. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who won series races at Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway (Feb. 1) and East Bay (Feb. 5) is the only other driver with more than one tour victory through seven events. Other winners include Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, and Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa.
Sunday’s field will be split in half for time trials followed by four heat races, two consolation races and the $10,000-to-win, 50-lap main event. A modest 10 or so street stocks have signed in and will compete as the evening’s lone undercard division.
5:30 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m. - On-track action
-Super Late Model hot laps
-Street stock hot laps
-Super Late Model time trials
-Super Late Model heats (10 laps)
-Street stock heats (eight laps)
-Super Late Model consolation races (12 laps)
Intermission/track prep (as needed)
-Super Late Model feature (50 laps)
-Street stock feature (20 laps)