Fast Talk: How many globes can J.D. grab?
Our weekly roundtable considers Jonathan Davenport's victory in Eldora's 49th annual World 100 while peeking ahead to the 16th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals (edited for clarity and length):
What was the key moment in the World 100?
Kevin Kovac, DirtonDirt.com senior writer: I’d say it was when Jonathan Davenport decided to stick it out and stay in the race after losing his car’s power steering. He had just reached second place when the mechanical malfunction occurred, and during the lap-30 caution period he realized he was in trouble. As he said afterward, he suddenly had a “totally different race car,” and he seriously considered pulling off because he didn’t know if he would be able to drive it competitively for another 70 laps. But he remained on the track to see if he could figure out a way to compensate, and, slowly but surely, he did that. If he hadn’t, we would obviously be rehashing a very different outcome.
Alli Collis, DirtonDirt.com staff writer: It was on lap 67 that Jonathan Davenport, Ricky Weiss and Bobby Pierce were racing three-wide for the lead, with Davenport holding the advantage at the line. While a blown tire would knock Pierce out of contention, Davenport led from that point on. He might of had to battle his way to the front of the field, but once he took the lead, it really was his race to lose.
Robert Holman, DirtonDirt.com weekend editor: For me it was the lack of a key moment. I think the timing of the cautions really hurt Chris Madden. It was obvious that it took Madden a while to get going, but he still needed a caution here and there to help him close the gap, while at the same time giving him enough laps for a long run to the end. Instead he didn’t get the caution until lap 83, when he needed it closer to lap 50. That didn’t give him enough time to both get rolling and pass cars. Of course, if he ever caught Davenport, he’d still have had to pass him, right?
Dustin Jarrett, DirtonDirt.com staffer: I think the caution for early leader Bobby Pierce with 17 laps remaining did a couple things. First, it got current race leader Jonathan Davenport out of the lapped traffic that was both fast and difficult to pass for everyone. Second, it slowed the momentum of a hard-charging Chris Madden, who was rallying from his 21st starting spot. Madden admitted in the postrace interview that he felt like he could get to at least second place if not for the yellows. It didn’t matter, as that caution spoiled his momentum and put Davenport back out front in the all-important clean air.
Ben Shelton, DirtonDirt.com contributor: While Jonathan Davenport indicated to me that he didn’t feel threatened by it, I think Ricky Weiss driving past the eventual winner for the second spot on lap 65 was a key moment. From the infield, it looked like it ignited Davenport because a lap and a half later he drove past both Weiss and Pierce to take control of the lead for the final time. I’m not saying that Davenport wouldn’t have got back to the lead if Weiss hadn’t challenged him, but it sure seemed like it gave him some extra motivation to get to the top spot.
Only two other drivers (Moyer and Purvis) have three wins over a five-year World 100 stretch. What’s Davenport’s ceiling at Eldora?
Holman: Purvis’s three wins came in eight feature starts, which also included three runner-up finishes, while Davenport has three wins in seven feature starts, with eighth his best finish otherwise. While I’m nowhere near ready to compare J.D. to my childhood hero, I do think he will surpass Purvis and get a fourth globe eventually. Moyer’s six wins, though, well that’s another story. Consider this though, Moyer was 36 when he won his third and 52 when he won his sixth. There’s a lot of years in between, and I see no reason why Davenport, who is 35 now, can’t make a realistic run at it.
Jarrett: The 35-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down at Eldora or any other track. He’s right around the same age as guys like Moyer, Purvis, and Billy Moyer were when they rose to prominence at the famed half-mile Ohio track. In one sense, I could see J.D. rattling off another three World 100 wins with ease. On the other hand, this sport is so competitive and so humbling that you never truly know when your most recent win in a big race will be your last.
Shelton: From my perspective, the sky is the limit. When mechanical failures or random bad luck haven’t plagued him, he’s established himself as one of the lead favorites for any big race at Eldora over the past five or so years. In a sport where drivers can be competitive into their 60s, I could see a situation where Davenport could one day hold as many as eight or more globes. Only time will tell.
Collis: I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see Davenport in Eldora’s victory lane. He’s just too good there. If he starts up front in a 100-lapper there, he’s likely going to be a contender at the end. Will he tie or surpass Moyer’s World 100 victory total of six? That’s going to be a tough feat for any driver, especially when considering the competition level these days. But he’s just one win away from tying Scott Bloomquist’s World 100 count and I think he’ll get there.
Kovac: Man, it’s limitless really. He’s a supremely talented driver with the racing smarts to learn from his mistakes (witness how he’s become a patient long-distance racer and the way he corrected the lapse in that mindset that cost him a shot at winning June’s Dream). Plus, he absolutely loves Eldora. Sure, he wasn’t a fan of the World 100’s inversions format, but he also didn’t dwell on it so much that it got in his head and he overcame the handicaps he received from it. He also drives for a great team that is well backed by Lance Landers, so his future is certainly limitless as long as he stays in the that. But then again, he’s now won the World 100 with three different teams, so he obviously has a knack for Eldora — and thus look out, World 100 recordbook.
A final World 100 thought that struck you on the drive home?
Collis: My favorite moment of the weekend was Hudson O’Neal’s Thursday preliminary feature victory. To win a race on his birthday is special, but to win at Eldora, it doesn’t get much better than that. It was back in 2011 that Hudson joined his dad Don on the victory lane stage when he won the Dream. And on Thursday, it was Don joining his son in victory lane. It’s cool to be part of moments like that.
Shelton: I just couldn’t — and still can’t — get past the crowd that was on hand for the event. I’ve seen some massive crowds at the legendary oval, but this year’s World 100 turnout was nothing short of spectacular. In addition to turning out in huge numbers, the onlookers were very spirited and vocal, which added another level of awesomeness to an already great event. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for other tracks as they prepare for the late-season, special events.
Jarrett: I’d be booted from both the DirtonDirt and Eldora staffs if didn’t at least mention the record-setting 50-50, which saw the winner’s share go over $80,000. The crowd itself was as big and energetic as I have ever seen in my 10 years of calling that race — or any other race. Michael Rigsby and I discussed the amount of people — all three days — just up and about in the early afternoon was just insane, way above the norm. As for the race itself, I think most folks will likely remember Davenport pulling away the end, but I hope they don’t forget what a great show we saw throughout the middle stages of the event.
Holman: Actually I was kinda thinking about how Davenport stunk up the show, which reminded me of the first three World 100s I attended, beginning in 1991. I was thinking back trying to organize in my head the ones I’ve been to, and got to thinking about how the first three I went to weren’t terribly exciting either. In 1991, Billy Moyer led laps 17-100; in 1992, Donnie Moran led laps 36-100; and in 1993, Moyer led laps 28-100. I was there for all three and it’s a wonder I ever went back. What do they have in common? Obviously Moyer and Moran are World 100 royalty, and now Davenport is, too.
Kovac: A thought literally did strike me on my way home on several occasions — every time I saw another camper or car or Eldora/Dirt Late Model apparel-wearing fan on the highway, a rest stop or a food establishment. For hundreds of miles during my trip back to eastern Pennsylvania (a nearly nine-hour trip, by the way, that seems to get longer with every birthday I knock off), I saw evidence of the record crowd that attended Saturday’s World 100. There were tons of people at Eldora and they came from all over the map, which I was reminded of over and over. It really provides some perspective on how big the World 100 is.
What would you like to see that would make next year’s 50th World 100 special?
Jarrett: Everyone is clamoring for a big winner’s payday, and I totally get that, but we already have the huge payday with June’s Dirt Late Model Dream. As a guy who appreciates the tradition of the World 100 — adding $1,000 to the winner’s paycheck each year — I would love to see (as one message board post suggested) maybe adding $1,000 (or more) to every position, not just the winner. If it could be coordinated to have all of the past (living) World 100 winners in attendance and recognized, the history buff in me would be giddy. Adding more days or more races to the event doesn’t really appeal to me.
Kovac: I’m with Dustin — some sort of huge one-year boost in the winner’s purse doesn’t seem to be the most pressing thing for me. That $1,000-a-year increase for the winner is a neat tradition, and there’s inevitably a little bit of a letdown when a first-place payout goes back down the year after a bigger payoff. I’d like to see something with the former World 100 winners — not only a gathering of as many living victors as possible, but the production of a big, suitable-for-framing poster featuring all the winners (maybe hand-drawn by a talented artist?) that all of them could sign during an autograph session. I think that would be one awesome keepsake every Dirt Late Model person would want to hang in their home.
Shelton: That's a tough one. Roger Slack and the staff at Eldora Speedway are always forward-thinking, so they’ve already elevated the bar for what you come to expect from any big event at the Ohio oval. One idea that I have though, is I’d like to see several entries for the 50th World 100 replicate graphic schemes of previous winners. This would not only be really cool to see, but it would be a great tribute to the past winners of our sport’s biggest event.
Collis: I think what makes the World 100 so special is the traditions surrounding it, so I’m not really one for making changes to the purse or adding more days to the show. I do like the idea of drivers doing throwback wraps like those Kent Robinson and Josh Rice had this weekend. It adds a neat touch to the weekend without changing too much of what makes the World 100 what it is.
Holman: I’d really love to see how many former winners they could get to come back and take part in the celebration. I think it would be really cool to see as many former drivers as possible lined up there on the stage. I also like Ben’s idea of the throwback wraps. But how about this twist. Since we no longer do the best-appearing contest, maybe they could offer a bonus if you win the race and your car is wrapped like a former winner. Technically there are about a dozen drivers who could run a throwback wrap to their own previous World 100 triumph.
Dive into the Knoxville Nationals with a prediction, hot take or observation.
Shelton: Over the past few months, Tennessee’s Jimmy Owens has been gaining more and more momentum. While he might not have as many wins as he would’ve liked to show for his efforts, his consistency and speed is undeniable. Add this into the fact that he’s always been fast at Knoxville Raceway, and I think there’s a very real possibility that he could join Mike Marlar as the only drivers to win at Knoxville in back-to-back years.
Jarrett: Knoxville’s reputation for having a great surface that allows a driver to win from any starting position speaks for itself, but the event’s late-race dramatics shouldn’t be overlooked either. In four of the last six Knoxville Nationals, there has been a pass for the lead in the final 10 laps. In Saturday’s finale, I predict another pass for the win after lap 90, along with a podium finisher coming from 20th or deeper in the field.
Collis: Just last year, Jimmy Owens finished second in the World 100 and then went on to win at Knoxville the following weekend. Guess who finished second on Saturday at Eldora? Owens. I think he’s one of the guys to watch heading into the Knoxville Nationals weekend.
Kovac: Here’s one observation: there are going to be some worn-out race teams by the end of the weekend. Many crews are already dragging after an especially grueling summer of racing, the numerous three-day special shows they’ve had to deal with in recent weeks and, in the middle of it all, the extra preparation the always goes into the World 100. I talked to several crew members who were aware of the short turnaround from the taxing Eldora weekend to Knoxville. That being said, the Knoxville racing will almost certainly be spectacular. And for a prediction, I think Brandon Sheppard adds another win to his amazing season and gives Rocket Chassis house car owner Mark Richards his long-awaited first Knoxville Nationals victory after several near-misses.
Holman: It’s hard to bet again Mike Marlar if he does decide to make the long haul from Winfield, Tenn., to Iowa. Winner of two of the last three Knoxville Lucas Oil Nationals, Marlar has displayed more than enough speed this summer to get his third. I think Jimmy Owens would be a solid choice to repeat as well.