ROME, Ga. — You can take the boy out of Georgia. But you can't take Georgia victories out of the boy.
Jonathan Davenport, the 37-year-old superstar from Blairsville, Ga., who now lives in Pelzer, S.C., led the last 13 laps Sunday at Rome Speedway to conclude a Georgia weekend sweep in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series worth $25,000.
After leading all 50 laps Saturday at Woodstock's Dixie Speedway to earn $15,000, Davenport outmuscled polesitter and race-long leader Jimmy Owens on the 28th lap at Rome and led the rest of the 40-lapper for a $10,000 payday and his series-leading eighth victory of the season.
"Just a little cat-and-mouse, a little game of chess there, but this time it worked out for us and maybe we can do it again," Davenport said of the battle with Owens before looking ahead to next weekend's season-ending $100,000 Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park. "We've got one more this year. That's the one we want."
Davenport took the checkers 1.730 seconds ahead of Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., who got a runner-up finish for the second night in a row despite his car's front wheels not pointing the right direction.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. — who knew before the green flag dropped that he'd clinched his first Lucas Oil championship — was third while Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., lost two spots late and settled for fourth. Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., improved six positions to finish fifth in his debut at the 4/10-mile oval while 17th-starting Austin Horton of Newnan, Ga., rallied to sixth.
Owens, who ended up seventh, looked strong the first half of the race, but Davenport got rolling on the high side after lap-27 restart and wrestled the lead away from Owens just before another caution appeared.
"His car was really good at first there, and I was trying to figure out a line getting into turn three. I never could figure that out until later," Davenport said. "He's so good and I had to mess up his rhythm; (that was) the only way I was going to pass him if it wasn't in lapped traffic. I just tried to stay patient at the first and tried not to run the top too early and maybe get a flat. I just hope I cleared him getting into (turn) one every time I slid him. ...
"I'm sure Jimmy had (crew members) showing him that I was running the top, so I just got on helluva run off (turn) four here, and I wanted to just go in there and try to slide him. But I bottomed out really bad as soon as I turned left, so I just stayed in the gas and slid too far again and let him get back to me. He slid me back down here, and then I guess he thought I was going to get another run and he turned back to the bottom and I was able to go by him on the outside."
From there, Davenport kept his pursuers in check, including Bronson, who started ninth and held the second spot from laps 31-34 before slipping back on the final restart. Overton regained the second spot and said he was fortunate to finish.
"It got in the wall right there and toed her out," the runner-up said. "I was just, like on them starts, I didn't want to run into 'em or crash 'em or nothing. I was just doing whatever I could do to finish. They kept pulling up beside me telling me it was toed out, and I was like, 'I ain't going to pull in.' So it is what it is."
McCreadie, no longer having to worry about his title hopes unraveling in the season's final stages, was pleased with a solid Georgia trip.
"I was trying tonight, believe me. I was trying last night," McCreadie said. "When I first came down here, I'd be in the B-main or I wouldn't make the show, so it's cool. These places are different than where I'm from, so to be competitive and put our car near the front, we'll take it."
At Rome, "I just made a bunch of mistakes driving and on one restart got in there and bottomed out and lost three or four spots. We had to claw," he said, thanking his team and supporters. "It's been a real amazing year for me to do this and be this competitive all the time. I've spent a lot of years where we might win two or three big ones and turn around and run 15th a lot. So maybe we don't have as many wins as we'd want, but when you leave out of here knowing you can race with these guys that we're with tonight and be competitive, it's a good feeling."
Six cautions slowed the action, mostly for single-car incidents. The first appeared on the 17th lap for Christian Hanger's flat tire. (Chris Madden also had a right-rear tire go flat during the slowdown and headed to the infield pit for fresh rubber.). The second yellow appeared on the 20th lap for Earl Pearson Jr.'s flat right-rear and again on lap 25 for Hudson O'Neal's retirement.
A lap-28 yellow appeared for Shane Clanton's and Madden slowed for a lap-30 caution and retired. The final caution appeared on the 34th lap for an incident involving Pearson and Cla Knight.
Notes: Davenport has six career Lucas Oil victories in Georgia, three of them at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick. ... In thanking his supporters in victory lane, Davenport made mention of the team missing crew chief Jason Durham, who has struggled in a battle with Covid-19. ... Seventeen drivers finished on the lead lap with five home-state drivers among the top 11 finishers.