ROSSBURG, Ohio (June 10) — Jonathan Davenport has done more than enough to prove that he’s the modern master of Eldora Speedway.
He won last year’s Eldora Million. He owns five globed trophies, cementing his World 100 prowess. He won the 2020 Intercontinental Classic, the $50,000-to-win event that replaced the World 100 during the Covid-19 pandemic. And he won the 2015 Dream. So why would the Blairsville, Ga., driver think he still had any boxes left to check off at the Big E entering the 29th annual Dream?
Look back no further than June 6, 2015. Not to any near misses. Not to any should-have-beens. No, Davenport actually won his first biggie at the famed Tony Stewart-owned half-mile that day. But he inherited it, a gift so-to-speak, from Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who crossed the finish line first, only to weigh 25 pounds light at the scales afterwards. The Hall of Famer’s disqualification handed Davenport his first career triumph in an Eldora crown jewel.
Just because the record book says he won, however, to Davenport, the victory didn’t happen quite like he wanted. It’s not like he wasn’t fast. He won a pair of preliminary features that weekend. But nonetheless, he still trailed Bloomquist across the stripe in the one the mattered most.
Saturday, Davenport finally managed to make it to the finish first.
Taking the lead from Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., with an inside moved through turns three and four on lap 30, Davenport led the final 71 laps to win Dream XXIX, a triump worth $129,000 for the 39-year-old superstar. Once in the lead, Davenport was never threatened, though runner-up Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., did narrow the gap to 3/10ths of a second with less than five laps remaining.
Madden, who started ninth, had to settle for second for third straight time, while third-starting Pierce finished third after leading four laps. Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., climbed six positions to finish fourth and polesitter Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., led laps 1-25 before slipping to fifth.
“(It) just feels good to finally go and celebrate this victory instead of just the money,” said Davenport. “Last year I had four races circled that I still needed to win. I knocked two of them off last year and we just knocked one of them off here. So, if we come back here for the Dirt Track World Championship and win again, hell, me and (team owner) Lance (Landers) might sell all this (stuff) and buy us a boat.”
The victory gives Davenport his ninth career big-money payday at the historic track and brings his earnings to $1,539,022 just in those nine Eldora races. While he may still be smiling on the way to the bank Monday, he’s likely one of the few who left Eldora too giddy as Davenport’s dominance over the final half of the 100-lap affair was made much easier as the track developed a distinct preferred groove.
“It was just like racing at Cherokee (Speedway in South Carolina), me and Madden (finishing) one and two in the rubber, what do you know?” said Davenport in victory lane. “I’m sure that wasn't the best race y'all ever seen here, but it was definitely hectic from where I was. I couldn't go full speed because I couldn't get caught up behind those lapped cars.
“It was rubbered just enough down the straightaways, if you got too close I’d get an aero push and then I was afraid I'd miss the rubber getting in the corner. So I was trying to go fast enough down the straightaway and then back my corner up to let the lapped cars get a little bit ahead. I’m about out of breath. I think I held my breath last two laps there. Man (it) just feels good.”
Davenport, who started sixth, said he probably got to the lead just in time. As ho-hum as the race was over the final 70 laps, it was anything but in the first 30. While Zeigler jumped out to set the pace early, Pierce, Thornton, Davenport and eventually Madden put on a dandy show battling for second.
“I thought it may take rubber, but we haven't been on these tires all weekend yet,” Davenport said. “So I thought it may take a little longer to get there. I just was patient at the first and just tried not to burn my edges off (the tires) and just tried to take advantage of other people's mistakes and when somebody would slip, I’d try to go ahead and go. I guess I got to the lead right at the right point, I guess.
“But I mean, Madden followed us up through there and I don't know exactly when he got to second. So I was just biding my time. I was really just hoping it wouldn't rubber really. I kind of knew in the back of my mind it may rubber late. They said there may be a little problem with some (water) drainage (on the track) getting in to turn three or something. That’s the reason he had to keep (the track so) hard because the first night it was really rough and hard on equipment. I don't know.”
Madden wasn’t distraught over his runner-up finish and another $25,000 payday, but he was plenty disappointed that he didn’t get a real opportunity to race Davenport for the lead after running him down.
“Another second place for us,” said Madden. “(The track) just one-laned there and rubbered up right around the bottom. Just couldn't do anything. Couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. Before the rubber come I felt like we had the car to get it done tonight. I had an awesome race car and hats off to my guys. We've struggled this week, but we stayed together and kept working at it and finally found a balance right there today in the heat race.”
Unfortunately for Madden, he didn’t make it to the front in time to show how good his car was. By the time he caught Davenport, the track was already down to one dominant groove. He left with his sixth top-five finish in Dream competition.
“We had a great race car, just circumstances right there put us on one lane and all we could do is ride around like a freight train … follow the leader,” Madden said. “So it is what it is. We'll take it home and get ready to come back for the World (100 in September). Hopefully they can give us a better racetrack and get all these whoopty-doo’s cut out this thing and maybe we can use some of the racetrack. We can't use the racetrack because it’s so rough in the center of three and four. We’ll get us a win here one day. But second is, I guess better than third.”
Second is better than third — and paid $10,000 more — but Pierce was hardly complaining.
“By far (this is) my best finish in the Dream,” Pierce said. “We were pretty good there … just kind of like at the (Eldora) Million. I was right there with J.D. for a little and then they pulled away from me. But I was making the top work down there until it rubbered on the bottom. Hey, we'll take it man. The podium is awesome here at the Dream. By far my best finish.
“(It was a) great weekend with the second last night and third tonight. We'll build a notebook. That's what we got to do. First time running the Dream here with this Longhorn (Chassis). We’ll just build a notebook. We couldn't learn too much on the rubbered-up track there. Still, we kind of learned some before it rubbed up and I felt like we had a really good car. So we're looking forward to the next time we get to come to Eldora.”
Notes: After being elevated to the 2015 Dream win, Davenport’s best Dream finish was third (2018). He finished fourth three times (2016, ’21-’22) and seventh once (’21), but also had finishes of 23rd (’19) and 25th (’17). … Davenport praised his winning Longhorn Chassis, the same car that he’s used in other Eldora wins. “This old girl here,” he said. “We've won the Million in it. We won the World. We won the World the year before that.” … On Friday, Davenport said he didn’t think he was quite good enough to win the finale. He admitted in victory lane that he had a bit of good luck on Saturday. “I told it several people today that I just didn't have that warm and fuzzy feeling,” he said. “I just ain't felt good all weekend, even though we've ran good. We've been living right because we sure had a lot of luck on our side this whole weekend. Just from Shirley blowing the tire, getting the right lane on a restart, getting to draw the number three when the racetrack slowed down, getting in the right heat, just so many different things.” … Six former Dream winners made the 26-car starting field: Davenport, Brandon Sheppard, Dennis Erb Jr., Dale McDowell, Shane Clanton and Jimmy Owens. Other than Davenport, Clanton’s ninth-place finish was tops among the former race winners. … Jimmy Mars, the 1997 Dream winner, was represented in the starting field by first-time Dream starter Dustin Sorensen, who piloted the familiar yellow 28 of Mars and MB Customs.
Dream XXIX finish
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., Longhorn, $129,000
2. Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., Rocket, $25,000
3. Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., Longhorn, $15,000
4. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20RT), Chandler, Ariz., Longhorn, $12,500
5. Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., Rocket, $10,000
6. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket, $8,750
7. Hudson O'Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., Rocket, $7,500
8. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, Longhorn, $7,000
9. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., Capital, $6,500
10. Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., Longhorn, $6,000
11. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., Longhorn, $5,875
12. Carson Ferguson (93), Lincolnton, N.C., Longhorn, $5,850
13. Nick Hoffman (9), Mooresville, N.C., Longhorn, $5,829
14. Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., Team Zero, $5,800
15. Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., Rocket, $5,675
16. Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., Longhorn, $5,650
17. Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., Longhorn, $5,629
18. Tanner English (96v), Benton, Ky., Longhorn, $5,600
19. Josh Rice (11), Verona, Ky., Rocket, $5,475
20. Ryan Gustin (19), Marshalltown, Iowa, Rocket, $5,450
21. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Longhorn, $5,429
22. Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., Rocket, $5,400
23. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., Rocket, $5,229
24. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Rocket, $5,029
25. Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., Rocket, $5,029
26. Dustin Sorensen (28), Rochester, Minn., MB Customs, $5,029
Lap leaders: Zeigler 1-25; Pierce 26-29; Davenport 30-100.
Fast qualifier (among 96 cars): McCreadie, 15.317 seconds
Heat race winners: Davenport, O’Neal, Rice, Pierce, Moran, Zeigler
Consolation winners: Sheppard, Hoffman
Provisional starters: McCreadie, Owens
Lap 100: Davenport wins by 0.391 of a second over Madden.
Lap 95: Madden is hounding Davenport, Pierce still runs third.
Lap 70: With 30 to go, Davenport leads Madden, Pierce, Zeigler, Tyler Erb, Thornton, Devin Moran, O’Neal, Stormy Scott and Shane Clanton.
Lap 63: Madden goes by Pierce on the restart.
Lap 62: Josh Rice slows to draw the first caution, giving up the 11th position.
Lap 57: 23rd-starting Dale McDowell up to 14th,
Lap 52: Madden, Pierce, Thornton battle for second as Davenport leads.
Lap 50: Davenport leads Pierce by 1.322 seconds at the halfway mark; Tim McCreadie pulls to the pit area.
Lap 45: Jimmy Owens pulls into the pit area.
Lap 40: Davenport leads Pierce, Madden, Zeigler and Thornton
Lap 36: O'Neal nearly spins
Lap 30: Davenport drives by Pierce on the inside exiting turn four.
Lap 26: Pierce grabs the lead.
Lap 24: Pierce rolls around the outside of Zeigler.
Lap 18: Pierce looking under Zeigler as they race through traffic.
Lap 11: Zeigler catches the rear of field, leading, Bobby Pierce, Hudson O'Neal, Jonathan Davenport and Chris Madden.
10:55 p.m.: Green flag flies on the 29th annual Dream. Mason Zeigler leads the first lap
10:47 | Hall of Fame touch
For driver intros, track officials asked race cars to be driven to the track while the drivers assembled near the stage. Jimmy Mars realized he couldn’t provide that service for his MB Customs house car of Dustin Sorensen (“I can’t fit in the (bleeping) seat anymore,” Mars said), so Mars tapped a fellow Hall of Famer to help him out: Billy Moyer. Turns out Moyer fit in the seat, but he said he could barely see over the wheel in a cockpit set up for the lanky Sorensen, who is making his first Dream start in his first full-time season. Moyer scratched from action in his Tim Lance-owned car after Thursday’s preliminaries.
10:29 p.m. | Communications lockdown
Amid the track banning signal sticks and restricting where crew members can stand to communicate with drivers was discussion that clever teams may dabble with electronic communications.
Eldora plans to nip that in the bud for the 100-lapper. After introductions, the track plans to hand drivers 26 track-owned Raceceivers, forcing drivers to remove their personal one-way communication devices. Drivers will also be forced to give up smart watches or any other communication devices. Drivers can use their own earpieces.
“There’s all this technology out there where they can do all kinds of things,” said DIRTcar Racing director Sam Driggers. “If it’s plugged in and you can only see one wire, you’re good to go. If you can see more than one wire, it’s gotta come out of that car.”
The idea came from Eldora facilities manager Rob Platfoot, Driggers said, and officials discussed the possibility on Friday before executing it for Saturday’s main event.
The Raceceiver devices are set to a channel so they only hear race director Erik Grigsby and no one else, Driggers said.
“It’s locked,” he said. “They can’t change it.”
10:25 p.m. | Dream XXIX lineup
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Devin Moran
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Josh Rice
Row 3: Hudson O'Neal, Jonathan Davenport
Row 4: Daulton Wilson, Ashton Winger
Row 5: Chris Madden, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 6: Shane Clanton, Tyler Erb
Row 7: Carson Ferguson, Stormy Scott
Row 8: Kyle Strickler, Ryan Gustin
Row 9: Kyle Bronson, Mike Marlar
Row 10: Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Owens
Row 11: Brandon Sheppard, Nick Hoffman
Row 12: Dale McDowell, Tanner English
Row 13: Dennis Erb Jr., Dustin Sorensen
10:19 p.m. | McCreadie goes to backup
Thursday’s semifeature winner Tim McCreadie, a provisional starter for the 100-lap feature, has decided to go to a backup car. Scheduled to start 19th, he’ll now start on the tail of the field. McCreadie was involved in a heat-race scrape with Kyle Strickler and the team found cracks in the frame of his Longhorn Chassis house car.
10:09 p.m. | Stats from 26-car field
Four drivers are set to make their first starts in the Dream, led by Dustin Sorensen of Rochester, Minn., who made the dramatic pass at the checkers for the third and final transfer spot in final consolation race. Sorensen, who drives the MB Customs house car, is a first-time starter along with fellow consy transferee Tanner English of Benton, Ky., and heat race transferees Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., and Daulton Wilson of Fayetteville, N.C.
Longhorn Chassis has a dozen of 26 starters with 11 drivers in Rocket Chassis. Three other chassis manufacturers have single-car starters: MB Customs, Capital and Team Zero.
Among states, North Carolina and Georgia have four drivers apiece while Illinois has three starters. Two drivers represent Kentucky while single drivers represent Indiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and Minnesota.
9:57 p.m. | Hoffman takes second consolation
Finish (top three transfer): Nick Hoffman, Tanner English, Dustin Sorenson, Chris Ferguson, Johnny Scott, Daniel Hilsabeck, Camaron Marlar, Austin Kirkpatrick, Chad Simpson, Jason Jameson, Michael Brown, Freddie Carpenter, Mike Benedum, Doug Drown, Jordan Koehler, Tim Lance, Donald McIntosh, Trent Ivey, Kody Evans, Kent Robinson, Josh Putnam, Curtis Roberts, Jeep Van Wormer. Scratched: Adam Stricker.
9:37 p.m. | First consolation to B-Shepp
Finish (top three transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Dale McDowell, Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Shirley, Chase Junghans, Jason Feger, Spencer Hughes, Sam Seawright, Rod Conley, Kye Blight, Jason Riggs, Shannon Babb, Garrett Alberson, Dakotah Knuckles, Earl Pearson Jr., Cory Hedgecock, Tad Pospisil, Benji Hicks, Carson Hocevar, Ricky Weiss, Tyler Clem, Tyler Millwood, Zach Dohm. Scratched: Ricky Weiss, Mack McCarter.
9:19 p.m. | Missing his mark
The Hunt the Front team has video of almost everything the team does, so after Joseph Joiner’s turn-one accident in the second heat that collected Brandon Overton, team members checked the in-car video. It showed a random stray tearoff — the thin plastic sheets that often dance in the air above the racetrack — briefly get caught up in Joiner’s window bars and steering wheel as he goes down the frontstretch on the sixth lap.
Joiner said it was distracting, but he didn’t blame it for his demise.
The tearoff “caught my attention. I was coming off of turn four down the front straightaway there, and just a loose tearoff that flew and kind of came in right in my window bars, then kind of got hung up in my steering wheel, and it caught my attention enough that I missed my mark. You know what I mean? I just missed my mark,” Joiner said.
“I don’t blame nothing other than just missing my mark. I can’t sit here and blame the tearoff. I’m glad we got an in-car camera. It shows, like it stuck right there in the window bars and few right there in the steering wheel right about the time I went in the wall there. It’s just unfortunate.”
9:15 p.m. | Track prep
Eldora Speedway’s track-prep crew rolled onto the speedway after the sixth heat ended at 8:24 p.m. to rework the racing surface. The packer vehicles came off the track at 9:14 p.m. to set the stage for the start of the first of two 20-lap B-mains.
8:38 p.m. | Consolation lineups
(20 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Garrett Alberson
Row 2: Shannon Babb, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Dale McDowell, Cory Hedgecock
Row 4: Spencer Hughes, Chase Junghans
Row 5: Jason Feger, Tyler Clem
Row 6: Kye Blight, Sam Seawright
Row 7: Tyler Millwood, Rod Conley
Row 8: Zach Dohm, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 9: Benji Hicks, Carson Hocevar
Row 10: Brian Shirley, Dakotah Knuckles
Row 11: Ricky Weiss, Jason Riggs
Row 12: Tad Pospisil, Mack McCarter
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Dustin Sorenson
Row 2: Nick Hoffman, Trent Ivey
Row 3: Daniel Hilsabeck, Kent Robinson
Row 4: Johnny Scott, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 5: Josh Putnam, Jason Jameson
Row 6: Tanner English, Jordan Koehler
Row 7: Michael Brown, Austin Kirkpatrick
Row 8: Donald McIntosh, Tim Lance
Row 9: Chad Simpson, Freddie Carpenter
Row 10: Camaron Marlar, Kody Evans
Row 11: Curtis Roberts, Adam Stricker
Row 12: Mike Benedum, Doug Drown
8:30 p.m. | Zeigler rebounds
Making a long night and day of work to repair his car’s damage from a Friday feature wreck pay off, Mason Zeigler led all the way to win the sixth heat and secure the pole position for the 100-lap Dream.
“This has been one hell of a 24 hours,” said Zeigler, whose best finish in eight previous Dream feature starts is eighth (2019). “I can’t my crew enough … and Mark Richards and his house car crew and Cody Mallory. We couldn’t have (fixed the car) without their help.”
Tyler Erb advanced from the fifth starting spot to finish second, 1.828 seconds behind the victor. Mike Marlar claimed the final transfer spot.
8:26 p.m. | Zeigler tops sixth heat
Finish (top three transfer): Mason Zeigler, Tyler Erb, Mike Marlar, Nick Hoffman, Kent Robinson, Josh Putnam, Jordan Koehler, Donald McIntosh, Freddie Carpenter, Curtis Roberts, Doug Drown, Brad Dyer, Bryant Dickinson, Wil Herrington. Scratched: Vic Hill, Ross Bailes.
8:18 p.m. | Big Moran victory
Devin Moran dominated the fifth heat, rolling away to beat Shane Clanton by a convincing margin of 4.427 seconds with Kyle Bronson placing third.
“The track is real slick tonight so we’re gonna back and work on it,” said Moran, who has one top-10 finish (seventh in 2016) in seven previous Dream feature starts.
Runner-up Clanton, who drives a Capital Race Car, became the first driver to lock into the feature not running a Longhorn or Rocket Chassis.
8:15 p.m. | Moran the man in fifth heat
Finish (top three transfer): Devin Moran, Shane Clanton, Kyle Bronson, Dustin Sorenson, Daniel Hilsabeck, Jeep Van Wormer, Tanner English, Austin Kirkpatrick, Chad Simpson, Kody Evans, Jimmy Owens, Mike Benedum, Dustin Nobbe, Rob Anderzack, Dwight Falcon Jr., Mike Bargo.
8:13 p.m. | Pierce hangs on
Bobby Pierce experienced a very hairy final circuit on his way to a wire-to-wire win in the fourth heat, but he survived the circumstances to hold off Ricky Thornton Jr. with Ryan Gustin farther back in third.
“Three lapped cars in front of me was pretty crazy,” Pierce said, shaking his head at the heavy traffic he had to deal with rounding turns three and four for the final time.
The 26-year-old Pierce will start the Dream finale for the eighth time in his career but his best finish is a modest 10th, in his first feature appearance in 2016
8:08 p.m. | Rice cruises, T-Mac crashes
Enjoying his smoothest run of the weekend, Josh Rice scored a flag-to-flag victory in an eventful third heat. The 24-year-old beat Chris Madden to the finish line by 1.056 seconds with Kyle Strickler placing third.
Rice noted that he’s been battling an ill-handling race car in preliminary action, but after his team went through the Rocket Chassis following his early departure from Friday’s feature they “found a lot of stuff wrong and I can drive it now,” he said.
“I hope you race fans are ready for a show,” said Rice, who will start fourth as he seeks to improve upon his previous Dream finale finishes of sixth (2015) and eighth (2022).
Strickler grabbed the final transfer spot despite spinning on the opening lap in a tangle with Tim McCreadie between turns three and four. McCreadie slid sideways up the track after contact with Strickler and was hit by Ricky Weiss, who also backed into the outside wall. At least 10 cars were involved in the incident in all, including Carson Hocever and David McCoy.
McCreadie pulled off after one lap due to his car’s damage but will move on to the feature thanks to a provisional for his standings in the event points.
8:05 p.m. | Pierce turns back RTJ in fourth heat
Finish (top three transfer): Bobby Pierce, Ricky Thornton Jr., Ryan Gustin, Chris Ferguson, Trent Ivey, Johnny Scott, Jason Jameson, Michael Brown, Tim Lance, Camaron Marlar, Adam Stricker, Brandon Thirlby, Jerry Bowersock, Steven Roberts, Brandon Moore.
7:55 | Rice cruises in third heat
Finish (top three transfer): Josh Rice, Chris Madden, Kyle Strickler, Shannon Babb, Cory Hedgecock, Jason Feger, Sam Seawright, Zach Dohm Carson Hocevar, Ricky Weiss, Mack McCarter, David McCoy, Tim McCreadie, Robby Hensley, Forrest Trent, Terry Rushlow.
7:48 p.m. | Still a Rocket
Continuing his near-perfect week, Hudson O’Neal overtook Ashton Winger for the lead on lap seven and marched on to a runaway triumph in the second heat. The 22-year-old who enters Saturday’s action with a runner-up finish and victory in the two preliminary features beat Winger to the finish line by 3.479 seconds with Stormy Scott also advancing with a third-place finish.
O’Neal’s victory gave him the fifth starting spot in the 100-lapper and put a sense of calm over him.
“I stress more about these heat races on Saturday than I do the big race,” said O’Neal, who has a best finish of 10th (first 2021 race) in four previous Dream feature starts. “I just gotta try my hardest not to mess up here tonight.”
7:40 p.m. | Overton’s hopes end
The most miserable Eldora weekend of Brandon Overton’s career came to a car-crushing end on lap six of the second heat when Joshua Joiner caught the turn-one wall and Overton slammed hard into Joiner’s machine.
While Joiner’s heavily damaged car was towed back to the pit area, Overton limped to his trailer in the infield with significant right-side damage to the same Longhorn car that he crashed in nearly the same place during Friday’s heat action due to a blown right-front tire.
With only the drivers finishing 4-11 in the heats moving on to a B-main, Overton’s bid for a fourth consecutive Dream crown were dashed.
Joiner said he misjudged his entry to turn one because a plastic tearoff flying through the air landed against his car’s windshield bars, creating a glare in the sunlight that momentarily hampered his vision. The impact from Overton was severe enough that the Hunt the Front team will have to take the car to Longhorn for frame repairs.
7:39 p.m. | O’Neal grabs second heat
Finish (top three transfer): Hudson O’Neal, Ashton Winger, Stormy Scott, Garrett Alberson, Dale McDowell, Chase Junghans, Kye Blight, Rod Conley, Benji Hicks, Dakotah Knuckles, Tad Pospisil, Kaede Loudy, Joseph Joiner, Brandon Overton, Brad Eitniear. Scratched: Billy Moyer.
7:35 p.m. | More success for J.D.
Bolting past Brandon Sheppard for the lead on a lap-six restart after Brian Shirley relinquished the top spot to a blown left-rear tire, Jonathan Davenport gained command and never looked back to win the first heat. He turned back some mid-race pressure from Daulton Wilson to beat the Fayetteville, N.C., driver and another Tar Heel — Lincolnton, N.C.’s Carson Ferguson — to the finish line.
“We’ll go work on this thing some more,” Davenport said, “and wait for the track to get slick (in the 100-lapper).”
Davenport will start sixth in the headliner as he makes his 14th career start in the Dream finale. His only win came in 2015 when he crossed the finish line second but inherited the six-figure victory because apparent winner Scott Bloomquist weighed in light.
7:27 p.m. | Davenport wins first heat
Finish (top three transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Daulton Wilson, Carson Ferguson, Brandon Sheppard, Dennis Erb Jr., Spencer Hughes, Tyler Clem, Tyler Millwood, Earl Pearson Jr., Brian Shirley, Jason Riggs, Brenden Smith, Casey Noonan, Brent Vosbergen. Cory Workman, Chase Frohnapfel.
7:24 p.m. | Misery for Shirley
Brian Shirley led the first six laps of the first heat without facing a challenge, but then his car’s left-rear tire blew on the backstretch. He slowed to bring out a caution flag and headed pitside for a tire change.
What caused the blow-out on Shirley’s Bob Cullen-owned Team Zero car? It appeared Shirley received light contact from a car behind him on the initial start, bending the left-rear bodywork on Shirley’s car to the point that it likely cut the tire.
7:18 p.m. | Rice’s body shop
Josh Rice’s team has certainly received plenty of practice repairing sheet metal this weekend. The 24-year-old from Verona, Ky., has made sure of that with the most aggressive, wall-banging driving style of anyone in the Dream field.
“We’ve gone through two spoilers and two decks,” said Rice’s older brother, James, who is serving on Josh’s crew rather than competing himself this weekend.
James declined to comment when he was asked how many spoilers and decks the team brought along in anticipation of his sibling’s aggressiveness.
“I’m not gonna say,” James said with a laugh.
The younger Rice has mangled the rear bodywork of his Rocket Chassis in both preliminary features he’s run. It was pretty beat up after his fourth-place finish on Thursday, but it was even worse after Friday’s A-main that saw him retire early — with sheet metal flopping — following his lap-15 tangle with Mason Zeigler while racing for fourth place and another smack of the backstretch wall (causing a flat right-rear tire) one circuit later.
“It was mostly cosmetic,” James said of the damage to Josh’s car on Friday. “We finished fixing it around 2 (a.m.) or so and we went through everything on the car this afternoon.”
Josh starts from the pole position in tonight’s third heat.
7:02 p.m. | Keeping an eye on droop
World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series director Steve Francis, who is helping officiate the Dream weekend with officials from his tour and DIRTcar, said before the start of Saturday’s program that there wasn’t a single car that exceeded the 51-inch deck-height limit — aka the “droop rule” — over the first two nights of competition.
With the Dream running two weeks after Ricky Thornton Jr. lost a $50,000 victory in the Show-Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., because a broken droop-limiter chain caused his car’s deck height to measure 3/8-mile of an inch above the maximum, Francis agreed that it seems teams are being extra careful to make sure they don’t flirt too closely with the 51-inch figure (which includes a 1-inch tolerance).
“There actually haven’t been many that have measured over 50 inches,” Francis said.
6:44 p.m. | Putting in work
Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., only brought one car to Eldora, so he had no choice but to repair his Rocket Chassis after a tangle with Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., sent him backwards into the wall between turns one and two during Friday’s second 25-lap preliminary feature.
But repairing the significant damage the machine sustained wasn’t an easy task. Zeigler and his crew worked until nearly 3 a.m. after Friday’s program, caught a few hours of sleep and then got back on it by 7 a.m. They had to replace the rear end, driveshaft and multiple suspension pieces while also straightening many mangled body panels and using a Port-a-Power to shove over the bent rear clip.
Zeigler, who starts from the pole position in the sixth heat, and his crew chief, Bryan Liverman, were still putting rivets in their car’s nosepiece and massaging its right-front fender as hot laps were less than 90 minutes away.
6:28 p.m. | Patched up
On second thought, Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., will stick with the Longhorn car that he crashed into the turn-one wall after blowing a right-front tire while leading Friday’s third heat.
The 32-year-old star initially planned to pull out his backup car for this evening’s action after assessing the damage from the hard wreck, but he reconsidered once he saw the lineups for Saturday’s six 15-lap heat races. According to event rules, changing cars would have required him to relinquish his sixth starting spot in Heat 2 and start last in a scheduled 16-car field, so he decided to repair his primary machine and stay on the outside of the third row.
Overton said his car sustained frame damage to its front end in the bout with the concrete, but he is hopeful that a morning and afternoon spent working on the vehicle and replacing suspension parts will give him a better shot at making the 100-lap feature than coming from the rear.
“(Kevin) Rumley was here all morning measuring stuff on the front end with (Overton’s chief mechanic) Kent (Fegter),” Overton said. “It’s not gonna be perfect, but I feel like we have a better shot at getting in if we start sixth. And these heats could be crazy, so we figured it wouldn’t make sense to bring out the other car and risk tearing that one up too.”
Overton said his neck is extremely sore almost 24 hours after what he called the crash “the hardest I’ve ever hit anything in my whole entire life,” but he’s not giving up on winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive Dream. It’s even possible he could ultimately run his second car in the 100-lapper if he happens to earn a starting spot so deep in the field that forfeiting a few more positions to change vehicles and start last wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
“All we’d have to do (to the other car) is unload it, put four shocks on it and fuel it up,” he said.
5:58 p.m. | Done for the weekend
Three nights of Dream action can take a toll on racers and their machines, and this year is no different as several entrants have already withdrawn from competition prior to tonight’s heat races.
Among the scratches: Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., who was scheduled to start eighth in Heat 6 with Billy Hicks’s car; Vic Hill of Mosheim, Tenn., who was sidelined by terminal mechanical trouble but remains in attendance to assist teams using his engines; two-time Dream champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who loaded up his Tim Lance-owned car before Friday’s program due to a blown rearend on Thursday that produced too much residual damage for the team to immediately repair; and Robby Hensley of Walton, Ky., who has opted to lock up his trailer and spectate rather than start 14th in Heat 3.
5:41 p.m. | The night's schedule
While there was some discussion among Eldora officials about bypassing hot laps before the start of the Dream XXIX finale — an Eldora tradition for many years on the final day of crown jewel events before practice laps were added about a decade ago — teams will have an opportunity to hit the track at 6:30 p.m.
It’s expected that the Eldora track crew will do some farming of the surface following hot laps. Opening ceremonies are then scheduled to commence at 7:15 p.m. with the first heat slated to roll off about 7:30 p.m. Six heats will be followed by two consolation races and the 100-lap main event.
Drivers have already been busy on a warm (highs in the 80s) and sunny Saturday: they participated in a well-attended autograph session in Eldora’s spacious barn outside turns three and four from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Correction: Fixes spelling of Dustin Sorensen's last-name throughout.
Heat race lineups
(15 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Carson Ferguson
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Daulton Wilson
Row 4: Earl Pearson Jr., Spencer Hughes
Row 5: Tyler Clem, Casey Noonan
Row 6: Tyler Millwood, Brenden Smith
Row 7: Jason Riggs, Brent Vosbergen
Row 8: Cory Workman, Chase Frohnapfel
Row 1: Joseph Joiner, Ashton Winger
Row 2: Hudson O’Neal, Stormy Scott
Row 3: Dale McDowell, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Kye Blight, Benji Hicks
Row 5: Garrett Alberson, Chase Junghans
Row 6: Tad Pospisil, Rod Conley
Row 7: Kaede Loudy, Dakotah Knuckles
Row 8: Brad Eitniear, Billy Moyer
Row 1: Josh Rice, Kyle Strickler
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Chris Madden
Row 3: Carson Hocevar, Ricky Weiss
Row 4: Shannon Babb, Cory Hedgecock
Row 5: Jason Feger, Zack Dohm
Row 6: Mack McCarter, David McCoy
Row 7: Sam Seawright, Robby Hensley
Row 8: Terry Rushlow, Forrest Trent
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Chris Ferguson
Row 2: Ricky Thornton Jr., Trent Ivey
Row 3: Ryan Gustin, Johnny Scott
Row 4: Steven Roberts, Michael Brown
Row 5: Tim Lance, Adam Stricker
Row 6: Camaron Marlar, Jason Jameson
Row 7: Jerry Bowersock, Brandon Thirlby
Row 8: Brandon Moore, Devin Gipin
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Devin Moran
Row 2: Jimmy Owens, Tanner English
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Dustin Sorenson
Row 4: Chad Simpson, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 5: Mike Benedum, Dustin Nobbe
Row 6: Daniel Hilsabeck, Rob Anderzack
Row 7: Kody Evans, Austin Kirkpatrick
Row 8: Mike Bargo, Dwight Falcon
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Nick Hoffman
Row 2: Mike Marlar, Kent Robinson
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Jordan Koehler
Row 4: Donald McIntosh, Ross Bailes
Row 5: Wil Herrington, Josh Putnam
Row 6: Doug Drown, Curtis Roberts
Row 7: Freddie Carpenter, Brad Dyer
Row 8: Bryant Dickinson, Vic Hill
Driver (car no.), hometown
Brent Vosbergen (aus1), Perth, Australia
Cory Workman (W1), Gratiot, Ohio
Hudson O’Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind.
Vic Hill (1h), Mosheim, Tenn.
Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind.
Casey Noonan (1n), Sylvania, Ohio
Tyler Erb (1t), New Waverly, Texas
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M.
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M.
Tad Pospisil (04), Norforlk, Neb.
Bradley Eitniear (B4U), Definance, Ohio
Freddie Carpenter (c4), Parkersburg, W.Va.
Kody Evans (4G), Camden, Ohio
Dustin Nobbe (5), Batesville, Ind.
Bryant Dickinson (5*), Ionia, Mich.
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill.
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingley, Manitoba
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind.
Donald McIntosh (7m), Dawsonville, Ga.
Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C.
Rob Anderzack (8A), Swanton, Ohio
Brian Shirley (8s), Chatham, Ill.
Nick Hoffman (9), Mooresville, N.C.
Curtis Roberts (9r), Coleman, Mich.
Joseph Joiner (10), Milton, Fla.
Spencer Hughes (11h), Meridian, Miss.
Austin Kirkpatrick (11k), Concord, N.C.
Josh Rice (11r), Verona, Ky.
Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga.
Doug Drown (12d), Wooster, Ohio
Jason Jameson (12J), Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Sam Seawright (16), Rainsville, Ala.
Zack Dohm (17d), Cross Lanes, W.Va.
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga.
Brenden Smith (17ss), Dade City, Fla.
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill.
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan.
Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayeteville, N.C.
Wil Herrington (19m), Hawkinsville, Ga.
Ryan Gustin (19r), Marshalltown, Iowa
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn.
Brad Dyer (20d), Mohawk, Tenn.
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz.
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark.
Robby Hensley (21h), Walton, Ky.
Dakotah Knuckles (21k), Ewing, Va.
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C.
Daniel Hilsabeck (22h), Earlham, Iowa
Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn.
Michael Brown (24D), Pageland, S.C.
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga.
Mike Benedum (25b), Salem, W.Va.
Jason Feger (25f), Bloomington, Ill.
Chad Simpson (25s), Mount Vernon, Iowa
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa.
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill.
Dustin Sorensen (28s), Rochester, Minn.
Tyler Millwood (31), Kingston, Ga.
Kye Blight (31k), Katanning, Australia
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill.
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y.
Brandon Moore (39b), Pioneer, Ohio
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla.
Carson Hocevar (42), Portage, Mich.
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C.
Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla.
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill.
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga.
Mack McCarter (51), Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich.
Benji Hicks (55h), Mount Airy, N.C.
Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M.
Tyler Clem (58c), St. Petersburg, Fla.
Terry Rushlow (63), Holland, Ohio
Adam Stricker (68), Batavia, Ohio
Brandon Thirlby (69), Traverse City, Mich.
Rod Conley (71r), Wheelersburg, Ohio
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga.
Ross Bailes (79), Clover, S.C.
Jason Riggs (81), College Grove, Tenn.
Trent Ivey (88), Union, S.C.
Carson Ferguson (93), Lincolnton, N.C.
Jerry Bowersock (95), Wapakoneta, Ohio
Tanner English (96v), Benton, Ky.
Devin Moran (99), Dreden, Ohio
Camaron Marlar (99m), Winfield, Tenn.
Forrest Trent (101), Morristown, Tenn.
Steven Roberts (111), Sylvester, Ga.
Jordan Koehler (114), Mount Airy, N.C.
Kaede Loudy (126), Rogersville, Tenn.
Chase Frohnapfel (145), Canal Winchester, Ohio
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn.
David McCoy (187), Franklin, N.C.
Josh Putnam (212), Florence, Ala.
Mike Bargo (316), Corbin, Ky.
Manny Falcon (995), Pine Grove, La.
(All times local)
10 a.m.: Ticket office opens (ticket and pit pass sales)
11 a.m.: Grounds cleared and secured
Noon: All gates, suites and concessions open
3:30 p.m.: Driver autograph session (fan zone)
4:30 p.m.: Public drivers’ meeting (fan zone)
6:30 p.m.: Hot laps
7:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
- Late Model heats (15 laps)
- Late Model consolations (20 laps)
- Dream XXIX feature (100 laps)