LOCUST GROVE, Ark. — Heading toward a weekend sweep in the Bad Boy 98 at Batesville Motor Speedway, Jonathan Davenport had things well in hand through most of Saturday's 68-lap finale.
The $5,000 winner of Friday's opening night of Comp Cams Super Dirt Series action was cruising at the 3/8-mile oval on Saturday, building leads of more than four seconds after jumping out front from outside the front row. But those last 10 laps? It got a little dicey for the Blairsville, Ga., driver.
A revived Brian Rickman of Columbus, Miss., grabbed second from Timothy Culp on a lap-58 restart and did something no other driver was able to do Saturday: put pressure on the country's top-ranked driver. Rickman never quite pulled alongside Davenport, but he made him sweat in the race's late stages before Davenport held on to win by a 0.792-second margin to add another $12,000 to his weekend earnings.
Davenport admitted in victory lane that "it was almost the driver slipping up there at the end" in trying to rediscover the traction-filled rubber strip that Late Model tires laid down on the Mooney Starr-promoted oval during the lengthy main event.
"Rickman, he must've been pretty good there. I couldn't find the rubber there, after that caution. I had me a really good rhythm going before that last caution," said Davenport, No. 1 in DirtonDirt.com's Top 25 power rankings. "I guess we just rode around there so long (under caution) that (the track) bled back just a little bit, and I think the rubber actually moved down. The further down I moved, the little bit better we was.
"That's just racing in the rubber. Sometimes you're a sitting duck when you're out front. Like here in Arkansas you can't really see the rubber like down South where I'm from, it'll actually turn red so you can really see it pretty good."
Prattsville, Ark.'s Culp, who started 10th but held the second spot most of the race driving a new GRT Race Car, settled for third while hometown Hall of Famer Billy Moyer was fourth ahead of B.J. Robinson of Bossier City, La., Friday's runner-up. Logan Martin of West Plains, Mo., ran as high as third but slipped back to finish ninth after getting caught up in a mid-race scramble and lost the series points lead to Rickman.
Davenport's weekend success marked his first victories at Batesville and first on the Comp Cams circuit that's owned and operated by brothers Chris and Jack Sullivan (Jack's a four-time series champion).
"It took us a while to get (the track surface) run in (about a half hour before the green flag), but I guess it was pretty good. It was good from where I was sitting," Davenport said. "We were pretty good right around that top. We'll just put this in our notebook and hopefully we can finally come and knock off one of these Topless 100s (on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series scheduled for Aug. 29-21). ... I might as well make it a threepeat and come back and get that."
Davenport's victory gave him seven victories in his last 10 starts overall and his 12th victory of the season.
"We'll just ride this wave as long as we can," Davenport said. "Like I said, my guys have been working really hard and we're steadily trying to progress and get better and better. We actually made a lot of changes from last night, and I think we were really, really good there. But it just, it was almost the driver slipping up there at the end, couldn't find the rubber."
Rickman inched down into the middle of the track after the lap-58 caution to turn up the heat on Davenport.
"I was just trying to find the rubber. I got a little lower (in turns three and four) ... I moved down in the middle and it seemed to pick the car up better," said Rickman, who drove his brother Rick's car. "Me and Culp had a couple of slide jobs there for a minute. We had that last restart, I don't know if he couldn't steer, but I got a good run through the center. I think Moyer was on the bottom and (Culp) was on the outside. I think I might've slid him a little bit. ... "
Culp, who had been out of action since mid-March after becoming a father, rallied quickly into contention from the fifth row and first grabbed the second spot on lap 23.
"It felt good to be back. I was just a little rusty behind the wheel last night," Culp said, adding he was pleased overall. "We definitely didn't have nothing for J.D., but I feel like, if that last restart (didn't cost him a spot), we'd have probably ended up second. But congrats to Brian and them. Me and him had a pretty good race together coming up through there."
His new GRT Race Car "was in the powder-coat oven about a week ago. We just slammed it together. Really need a little more time to really work on it, but straight out of the box, she was pretty good," Culp added. "But I gotta thank all the guys at GRT. They basically let me come in there and build my own car. I think it's going to be good in the long run."
The race was slowed by four cautions, the most serious for a frontstretch pileup including Martin, Ashton Winger and Brayden Proctor.
First-half yellows appeared on the seventh lap for Kyle Beard and lap 33 for a slowing Jamie Elam while the final caution came out on the 58th lap when seventh-running Billy Moyer Jr. slowed on the frontstretch with a flat tire.
Notes: A dozen driver completed 68 laps. ... No former race winners of the event were in action; the race had previously been sanctioned by the Lucas Oil Series. ... The Bad Boy 98 (named thus because title sponsor Bad Boy Mowers was founded in 1998) was completed for the first time since 2017 after twice being rained out and getting cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic. ... In victory lane, Davenport made light of his car being sponsored by Spartan Mowers by winning the Bad Boy-sponsored event. "That's pretty cool," he said. ... Travis Ashley scratched from the feature lineup.
Correction: Updates points leader.