VADO, N.M. (Jan 7) — A new year and a new-look crew didn’t dull Jonathan Davenport’s momentum.
Making his 2023 debut just over one month since closing out a historic $2 million ’22 season, the 39-year-old superstar from Blairsville, Ga., continued his winning ways with a victory in Saturday night’s 40-lap Rio Grande Waste Services Wild West Shootout opener at Vado Speedway Park.
Anyone who wondered whether Davenport might need some time to find his rhythm working with two new Double L Motorsports crew members saw a driver already firing on all cylinders. He grabbed the lead for good from Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., following a lap-26 caution and never looked back en route to clinching the $10,000 first-place prize by 1.052 seconds over Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.
“I think that right there closed any doubts in any minds,” Davenport said confidently when asked about his quick return to victory lane with newcomers Cory Fostvedt (crew chief) and Michael Bixby (tire specialist) joining returning race engineer Vinny Guliani.
Davenport wasn’t seriously threatened after wrestling the lead from the 26-year-old Pierce, who paced all but one of the race’s first 26 laps — he was nosed out at the line by Davenport on lap 19 — before ceding the position to the eventual winner and then spinning out of contention on lap 30 while running second. Pierce slid high in turn two, scraped the outside wall and twirled, bringing out the second and final caution flag of the A-main.
Sheppard — like Pierce, debuting a new Longhorn car — inherited the runner-up spot with Pierce’s miscue and stayed there for the remainder of the distance. Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, ran third for the final 10 laps in his Sniper Chassis while Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., placed fourth in his Black Diamond mount and NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., completed the top five in the K&L Rumley Enterprises Longhorn machine.
Davenport flashed vintage form in his first-ever start at the 3/8-mile Vado oval, racing patiently into contention during the race’s first half before seizing control.
“It was kind of a gamble on tires,” Davenport said. “Thanks to Hoosier Tire for finally listening to us, all the racers and all the crews and car owners. They kind of put us on a little bit different tire rule that’s gonna be all the way across the country now and they give us some choices tonight and we picked right.
“I just kept managing the racetrack, trying to manage my tires. I knew I was a little harder (on compound choice) than they was and I didn’t want to burn the edges off early. I thought I might catch (Pierce) in (lapped) traffic and I did one time (to peak ahead on lap 19) and Don (Shaw) come down … it just worked out for Bobby there. Then on that (lap-26) restart it kind of cleaned up right there around the top so I got me a big run there and just tried to slide him clean (to assume command at lap 27) and set a good pace from there.”
A winner 24 times in 2022, Davenport dived into the new campaign with Jason Durham, his crew chief for the past five years, gone to work with Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M. But he showed no signs of a letdown as he logged his first victory much quicker than he did a year ago, when he finally broke through on April 23 in his 16th start of the season.
Davenport shined driving a fresh Lance Landers-owned No. 49 that seemed to fit him very well.
“This is one of (Longhorn’s) new race cars,” Davenport said. “They build a phenomenal piece. We almost had one-two-three (Longhorn finish) … I don’t know what happened to Bobby (Pierce) there.”
Davenport’s checkered flag also gives him a shot at the big prize of the miniseries: the $300,000 Penske Racing Shocks Paydirt Jackpot bonus for sweeping all six scheduled features. He can also pocket $100,000 for winning five times and $25,000 for capturing four races.
“You can’t win ‘em all if you don’t win the first one,” Davenport said with a smile.
Sheppard, who turns 30 on Jan. 27, climbed forward from the seventh starting spot to net a solid second-place finish in his first start in a Longhorn car for his newly-formed Sheppard Riggs Racing.
“I’m tickled to death man,” Sheppard said. “The team’s been doing a phenomenal job. We’ve been working our tails off on this thing and getting this operation put together.
“I can’t say enough about this car. This Longhorn Chassis was awesome. I could put it wherever I wanted to.”
Weiss, 34, was satisfied with claiming the final podium spot after starting fifth.
“We were just trying to learn a little bit,” said Weiss, who won a World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series feature at Vado in January 2021. “It’s not really my style to go up and tear the fence down. We learned a lot tonight. I hope we can get a couple spots better and keep thanking all our sponsors this week.”
The feature ran uninterrupted until lap 26 when Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., spun in turn two to trigger a caution flag.
Garrett Alberson of Las Cruces, N.M., ran second for the race’s first 14 circuits before slapping the outside wall in turns one and two, inflicting right-rear bodywork damage to his Roberts Motorsports car that ultimately caused him to slip to ninth in the final finishing order.
(12 laps; top four transfer)
First consolation: Morgan Bagley, Don Shaw, Rodney Sanders, Tad Pospisil, Collen Winebarger, Cole Wells, Jimmy Whisler, Justin Mills, Brandon Brzozowski, Jason Strand, Steve Stultz, Dillon McCowan, Eston Whisler, Josh Cain, Terry Carter, Jon Kirby.
Second consolation: Dustin Sorenson, Kyle Beard, Rusty Schlenk, Clayton Stuckey, Dustin Walker Glen Powell, Chris Hawkins, Kent Rosevear, Dallas Caldwell, Mercedes Abercrombie, Thomas Hunziker. Scratched: Devan Smith, Bill Leighton Jr., Trenton Jensen.
Pro Power Dash finish: Collen Winebarger, Cole Wells, Jim Whisler, Chris Hawkins, Justin Mills, Ken Rosevear, Brandon Brzozowski, Glen Powell, Dallas Caldwell, Dustin Walker.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Jonathan Davenport, Ricky Weiss, Mike Marlar, Stormy Scott, Don Shaw, Dillon McCowen, Collen Winebarger, Eston Whisler, Jason Strand, Cole Wells, Justin Mills, Steve Stultz.
Second heat: Garrett Alberson, Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb, Chris Simpson, Tad Pospisil, Rodney Sanders, Morgan Bagley, Jimmy Whisler, Josh Cain, Terry Carter, Jon Kirby, Brandon Brzozowski.
Third heat: Bobby Pierce, Johnny Scott, Cade Dillard, Jake Timm, Dustin Sorenson, Kyle Beard, Dustin Walker, Jeff Schildmeyer, Clayton Stuckey, Trenton Jessen, Kent Rosevear, Dallas Caldwell.
Fourth heat: Kyle Larson, Terry Phillips, Billy Moyer, Justin Duty, Rusty Schlenk, Chris Hawkins, Thomas Hunziker, Glen Powell, Devan Smith, Walton Kyle Jr., Bill Leighton Jr., Mercedes Abercrombie.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 14.722
Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.752
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 14.773
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 14.794
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.841
Jimmy Whisler (28w), Olis, Ore., 14.890
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.941
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 14.979
Dillon McCowan (8), Urbana, Mo., 14.985
Tad Pospisil (04), Norfolk, Neb., 14.985
Eston Whisler (82), Otis, Ore., 15.036
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 15.067
Don Shaw (42S), Ham Lake, Minn., 15.072
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.111
Collen Winebarger (14s), Corbett, Ore., 15.133
Jon Kirby (11), Russellville, Ark., 15.296
Cole Wells (7c) Aurora, Mo., 15.312
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 15.381
Jason Strand (E85), Portland, N.D., 15.436
Brandon Brzozowski (10-4), LaVernia, Texas, 15.467
Justin Mills (38m), Pineville, Mo., 15.595
Terry Carter (6T), Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, 15.626
Steve Stultz (78s), Peoria, Ariz., 16.191
Josh Cain (3J), Rio Rancho, N.M., no time
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.718
Kyle Larson (6), Elk Grove, Calif., 14.887
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.945
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 15.000
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 15.059
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.063
Clayton Stuckey (15s), Shreveport, La., 15.193
Justin Duty (15), Molalla, Ore., 15.226
Chris Hawkins (USA1), Neosho, Mo., 15.263
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 15.263
Dustin Sorenson (28), Rochester, Minn., 15.305
Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio, 15.333
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 15.391
Bill Leighton Jr. (24), La Vista, Neb., 15.393
Dustin Walker (14w), Polk, Mo., 15.437
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 15.657
Jeff Schildmeyer (19), Las Vegas, Nev., 15.708
Devan Smith (01), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.745
Kent Rosevear (02), Yuma, Ariz., 15.848
Mercedes Abercrombie (29), Deming, N.M., 15.884
Dallas Caldwell (51c), Tucson, Ariz., 16.570
Glen Powell (26), Nixa, Mo., 16.587
Trenton Jessen (89J), Pineville, Mo., 16.590
Walton Kyle Jr. (250), Las Cruces, N.M., no time
(All times local)
12 p.m.: Pits open
2 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
3 p.m.: Grandstands open
Hot laps (by heat races)
- Super Late Models hot laps/time trials
4:55 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
5 p.m.: Heat races
- X-mods (8 laps)
- Modifieds (8 to 10 laps, dependent on car count)
- Super Late Models (8 laps)
- X-mods (10 laps)
- Modifieds (12 laps)
- Super Late Models (12 laps)
Pro Power Dash
- Super Late Models (laps TBA)
- Super Late Models (40 laps)
- X-mods (25 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)