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Poll Position: Francis, Smith, Marlar gain spots

October 2, 2012, 8:14 am

Welcome to one of the newest DirtonDirt.com features, Poll Position, as DirtonDirt.com staffers Michael Rigsby, Todd Turner and Joshua Joiner rank the nation's top 25 Dirt Late Model racers by consensus. Future rankings will appear every Tuesday at DirtonDirt.com.

1. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: Nation’s top-ranked driver skips another crown jewel, but he gets a mention in press conference. Series points: First (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)

2. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Domination in Knoxville opener stirs thoughts of another sweep, but weekend ends with relative whimper. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 2nd (nc)

3. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Started on the front row of Knoxville finale but pedals home in a non-contending fifth. Series points: First (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 3rd (nc)

4. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: In Moring Motorsports entry, he salvages lackluster Knoxville weekend with 29th-to-seventh run in finale. Series points: Second (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 4th (nc)

5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: $47,000 weekend at Knoxville sees him improve every night with three top-three finishes. Series points: Fourth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 8th (+3)

6. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Among top contenders all weekend at Knoxville, but falls short of victory with third-place in finale. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)

7. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Never cracks the top three at Knoxville as he can’t hold on to edge provided by pole position in finale. Series points: Third (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (-2)

8. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: Taking weekend off after sweep in Winchester, Va., he heads back to Old Dominion for Natural Bridge’s Sunoco Fall Classic. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 7th (-1)

9. Brian Shirley, Chatham, Ill.

Comment: Engine woes knock him out of Knoxville finale while running in top five, but he wrapped up UMP weekly title without racing. Series points: First (Summernationals). Last week's ranking: 9th (nc)

10. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: Heads back into action with WoO event at Rolling Wheels and unsanctioned stop in Selinsgrove, Pa. Series points: Second (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 10th (nc)

11. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.

Comment: Brushcreek victory gives him a Harley-Davidson, but he quickly finds a buyer for his new motorcycle. Series points: Third (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 14th (+3)

12. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.

Comment: Sets fast time at East Alabama Motor Speedway’s State Championship, but rain postpones the event. Series points: First (Southern Nationals). Last week's ranking: 11th (-1)

13. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: Never finishes better than 10th in three nights at Knoxville as red-hot driver is cooled off a bit. Series points: Fourth (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 12th (-1)

14. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.

Comment: Backs up his recent WISSOTA domination with strong runs at Knoxville, including runner-up in finale after leading 58 laps. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 19th (+5)

15. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.

Comment: Series champ’s late charge at Roaring Knob’s Three State Flyers event is turned back by Jamie Lathroum. Series points: First (Three State Flyers). Last week's ranking: 15th (nc)

16. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.

Comment: Summernationals winner at Brushcreek can’t cash in at the Ohio track’s Epic weekend. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 13th (-3)

17. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: Hillbilly 100 winner concludes his solid September with semifeature victory at Knoxville, sixth in finale. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: None.

18. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: Knoxville weekend starts off with a runner-up finish in first semifeature, but it’s all downhill after that. Series points: Second (Summernationals). Last week's ranking: 16th (-2)

19. Billy Ogle Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.

Comment: Light stretch of racing ends with plans for Tri-County and Lucas Oil action at Rome and Dixie on the docket. Series points: Fourth (Southern All Stars). Last week's ranking: 18th (-1)

20. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Never in the mix at Knoxville as he finishes 13th in finale after ho-hum runs in semifeature action. Series points: Fifth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 17th (-3)

21. Jamie Lathroum, Mechanicsville, Md.

Comment: Wins at Roaring Knob for third special event victory at September, boosting month’s earnings to more than $32,000. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 22nd (+1)

22. Jesse Stovall, Galena, Mo.

Comment: After Muskogee rainout sends him to Knoxville, he doesn’t stack up well against national travelers. Series points: First (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 20th (-2)

23. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.

Comment: After hosting fellow racers as promoter at Tri-County, he’ll battle Lucas Oil drivers at Dixie and Rome. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 21st (-2)

24. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.

Comment: Nabs a top-five finish in opening semifeature at Knoxville, but he disappears for the rest of the weekend. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 24th (-1)

25. Chad Simpson, Mount Vernon, Iowa

Comment: Trailer and engine woes force a slow start at Knoxville, but he endures for respectable 28th-to-ninth run in finale. Series points: Corn Belt Clash (champion). Last week’s ranking: 25th (nc)

Dropped out: Steve Casebolt

Outside looking in: Jackie Boggs, Dennis Franklin, Clint Smith, Brandon Sheppard.

Michael Rigsby comments: Darrell Lanigan (my No. 1) holds on, but with a caveat. I haven’t penalized him yet for not attending both Florence ($50,000-to-win) and Knoxville (biggest race behind Eldora) yet, but a few more no-shows and I may consider moving someone else up before the season's over. I think he’s had the best year, but not attending these big events does leave a bad “ranking-taste” in my mouth. ... Francis (5) deserves a big boost after a 3-2-1 performance at Knoxville, and not to mention he gave me a hard time about the Top 25, which has to be worth a few spots alone ... I slide Brian Birkhofer (6) ahead of Scott Bloomquist (7) based on what I saw in Knoxville. ... Shane Clanton (10) rides a Harley into the top 10. ... Brady Smith (12) has been too hot, and a near-victory at Knoxville forces an elevation in my poll, as he’s been fantastic as of late … I swear — no, I promise — I will no longer disrespect Mike Marlar (18). A great Knoxville week including a victory vaults him back into my poll. Take a look at Marlar’s crown jewel runs this year. Very impressive.

Todd Turner’s comments: I like the thought of the rivalry brewing between Lanigan (my No. 1) and Moyer (2). ... Francis (5) gets a well-deserved boost while the winless streak Bloomquist (7) is becoming more obvious. ... Brady Smith (13) backed up his hot streak in WISSOTA action by being as consistent as anyone except Francis at Knoxville. ... Likewise Marlar (15) leapfrogs a bunch of drivers as, with the exception of his World 100 failure, he’s been dialed in for the past month. ... Jackie Boggs, Dennis Franklin and Chad Simpson are on the cusp of breaking into my Top 25.

Joshua Joiner comments: Darrell Lanigan remains at the top of my poll, although he keeps opening the door to be knocked down by skipping major events. ... Billy Moyer (2) moves up followed by Jimmy Owens and Don O'Neal, while Steve Francis jumps into the top five with an impressive weekend in Knoxville. ... Shane Clanton (12) moves up after dropping slightly over the past few weeks. He always seems to win at the right time to keep from sliding too far. ... Eddie Carrier Jr. (15) drops a few spots after middling performances at Brushcreek's Epic Weekend, an event he entered as a favorite. ... Jamie Lathroum (20) moves up with his Big Kahuna victory and Jackie Boggs (25) breaks in with an impressive victory at Brushcreek.

DirtonDirt Top 25

1. Darrell Lanigan (nc)
2. Billy Moyer (nc)
3. Jimmy Owens (nc)
4. Don O’Neal (nc)
5. Steve Francis (+3)
6. Brian Birkhofer (nc)
7. Scott Bloomquist (-2)
8. Dale McDowell (-1)
9. Brian Shirley (nc)
10. Rick Eckert (nc)
11. Shane Clanton (+3)
12. Chris Madden (-1)
13. Jason Feger (-1)
14. Brady Smith (+5)
15. Gregg Satterlee (nc)
16. Eddie Carrier Jr. (-3)
17. Mike Marlar (new)
18. Shannon Babb (-2)
19. Billy Ogle Jr. (-1)
20. John Blankenship (-3)
21. Jamie Lathroum (+1)
22. Jesse Stovall (-2)
23. Ray Cook (-2)
24. Jimmy Mars (-1)
25. Chad Simpson (nc)
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