DJ: Keying on consistency at East Bay
From back home in Ohio, Dustin Jarrett’s daily recap of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, the Feb. 1-16 action at six tracks in the Peach and Sunshine States. Look for another edition the morning before each night’s action (complete Speedweeks coverage):
Consistency is key
One thing I’ve noticed so far is that there seems to be more consistency with the Speedweeks drivers than in years past. Five races into Speedweeks and several drivers have been really steady so far … possibly overshadowed somewhat by Tyler Erb’s hot start.
Thanks to help from DirtonDirt.com statistician Andy Savary, here are the four drivers who have been clicking off the most consistent finishes in Speedweeks:
Tyler Erb – 3 wins; hasn’t finished worse than fourth
Jonathan Davenport – 1 win; hasn’t finished worse than 11th
Earl Pearson Jr. – 1 win; hasn’t finished worse than 11th
Brandon Sheppard – 0 wins; hasn’t finished worse than 5th
Behind them are the four drivers I would rank in the second tier in terms of their finishes and their consistency:
Josh Richards – 3 top tens; hasn’t finished worse than 14th
Dennis Erb Jr. – 3 top tens; hasn’t finished worse than 15th
Tim McCreadie – 1 top ten; hasn’t finished worse than 15th
Devin Moran – 1 top ten; hasn’t finished worse than 15th
That’s eight drivers who have finished 15th or better in all five races so far. Given the rain delays at Golden Isles, the always-changing track conditions at East Bay, and the overall quality of competition at both tracks, this is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.
O’Neal’s early speed
Until engine woes sidelined him Wednesday night, Hudson O’Neal had made every feature during Speedweeks, but his finishes had been mediocre … clocking out between 10th and 18th every night. The Martinsville, Ind., youngster has had speed in every race and is simply trying to put it all together for an entire event.
“Tuesday night was the best I felt in the feature, but I just wasn’t aggressive enough early on and that cost me,” he told me via text. “But at the end of the race, I felt very good. … just needed some more laps.”
Like other drivers at East Bay, the challenging third-mile oval adds an element of difficulty for the 18-year old and his team. He admitted that he and his crew simply need more consistency throughout the night to be at the front when the checkered flag waves. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially at a track like East Bay.
“We have had speed (at different parts of) the night here at East Bay, we just have to put it all together,” he said. “The track is ever changing all night and the lines move around all night too. I saw that firsthand Monday night running up front, and then the lines changed.”
The former Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year will have at it again Thursday night, after engine issues kept him out of Wednesday’s feature for the first time during Speedweeks. He had an opportunity to unload the backup car and use a series provisional, but instead opted to forego starting the A-Main, citing there wasn’t enough time to unload the backup car and get it ready for the feature.
Staying up to Speed(weeks)
• My favorite James Essex line from last night: “If I were running (for President), my motto would be ‘Build That Cushion.’”
• Happy Birthday, Zack Dohm.
• Off topic but, I’m amazed that it’s early February and some tracks (and series) still don’t have their 2019 schedule out yet.
• The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series tweeted that several drivers were struggling with their deck height before time trials.
• The raw emotion of Colton Flinner after winning his heat was awesome. “This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid … starting on the pole of a big race like this!”
• Brian Shirley did something that no driver had done yet during Speedweeks: beat Tyler Erb in a heat race. Erb was undefeated in prelim action heading into Wednesday night.
• I have a feeling Tanner English is going to have a really good year.
• Is it possible to mail strawberry shortcake from Gibsonton, Fla., to St. Clairsville, Ohio? Asking for a friend.
• Colton Horner is a name we’re going to be hearing a lot more of in the coming years. If this young man gets some more seat time and some more opportunities to run with solid competition, he’s going to be good.
* The Kyle Bronson-Michael Lake battle early in the B-Main was entertaining.
* The aero push at East Bay last night was more noticeable than I’ve seen it all week.
• Jimmy Owens’ bad luck continues. And he took an unbelievably hard hit from Mike Benedum tonight. Tough break for both drivers.
• Is it me, or is the East Bay track surface changing more in the feature this year than it ever has? Just when you thought it was going to be a bottom feeder, the top came in. And just when you thought it was going to be a cushion rider, the bottom came back. Entertaining to watch!
• Three of the top six finishers started 18th or worse.
• Double Stuf Oreos consumed during tonight’s race: eight.
Full Speed(weeks) Ahead
Well, Jonathan Davenport broke the streak of No. 1’s winning last night. Does Terbo get back to victory lane on Thursday? Does Brandon Sheppard finally break through? What about someone like Josh Richards, Brian Shirley or Earl Pearson, Jr.? All are good choices, but I think JD stays hot and wins two in a row tonight.