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Poll Position: O'Neal creeps up to No. 2

October 16, 2012, 8:20 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: Forced to take a provisional in Charlotte, he rallies for a top-five finish; former winner skipping DTWC, just two hours from his shop. Series points: First (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)

2. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: Grabs victory for his third different team of season in new MasterSbilt for Louisiana-based Childress Racing at Whynot’s Fall Classic. Series points: Second (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 2nd (+2)

3. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Heads to Portsmouth Raceway Park’s Red Buck Dirt Track World Championship with his Lucas Oil title in his pocket. Series points: First (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 3rd (nc)

4. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Fades from pole start at Whynot’s Fall Classic for his second straight disappointing finish in a Mississippi special. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 2nd (-2)

5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Scores fifth-place finish at Whynot and heads to DTWC and Portsmouth, a track in the region where he first started racing. Series points: Fourth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (nc)

6. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Not a factor at Whynot, where he’s a two-time winner, but he’ll head to Portsmouth to try for a World 100-DTWC sweep. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)

7. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Heads for Portsmouth’s DTWC as he aims for his record-setting 21st straight feature start in the Carl Short-promoted event. Series points: Third (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 7th (nc)

8. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: Continues his October surprise with victories at Charlotte and Hesston; he’s got four victories in five starts this month. Series points: Second (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 8th (+2)

9. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: Led the first 12 laps last week at Charlotte, but ends up dropping out on lap 16. He’s heading for DTWC. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 8th (-1)

10. Brian Shirley, Chatham, Ill.

Comment: After a season with UMP DIRTcar weekly and Summernationals titles, he’s looking toward 2013. Series points: First (Summernationals). Last week's ranking: 9th (-1)

11. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: After a perfect weekend at Eldora, he fails to make the feature lineup at Whynot Motorsport Park’s Fall Classic. Series points: Fourth (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 11th (nc)

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

Comment: Flat tire costs him in Charlotte heat race, but he rebounds with second-place at East Alabama. He’ll hit both tracks again soon. Series points: First (Southern Nationals). Last week's ranking: 12th (+2)

13. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.

Comment: Not a factor at Whynot after winning heat; he and teammate Tim Fuller, a winner at Hesston, heading for DTWC: Series points: Third (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 12th (-1)

14. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.

Comment: The 2009 DTWC runner-up heads for Portsmouth as one of the country’s hottest drivers over the past six weeks. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 14th (nc)

15. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: Rallies for a solid second-place finish at Whynot; he’ll try to maintain his upswing at Portsmouth’s DTWC. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 18th (+3)

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

Comment: Scores third-place at Florence’s Fall 50, his best finish in a month; he’ll welcome invaders to Portsmouth. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 15th (-1)

17. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Plans to wrap up his dirt season at DTWC before three remaining NASCAR Nationwide events for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Series points: Fifth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 16th (-1)

18. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: Season winding down for the only driver with two DTWC victories over the past 10 seasons. Series points: Second (Summernationals). Last week's ranking: 18th (+1)

19. Billy Ogle Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.

Comment: Charlotte is first failure to make a feature lineup since February, but he rebounds with $4,000 victory at North Georgia. Series points: Fourth (Southern All Stars). Last week's ranking: 19th (+1)

20. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.

Comment: Can’t crack the top five in a pair of season-ending ULMS events at Hesston (Pa.) Speedway. Series points: First (Three State Flyers). Last week's ranking: 17th (-3)

21. Jamie Lathroum, Mechanicsville, Md.

Comment: Posts finishes of 10th and fourth at Hesston’s Ultimate weekend as the season winds down. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 21st (nc)

22. Jesse Stovall, Galena, Mo.

Comment: Newly crowned MARS champ makes guest showing in Larry Brown-owned car for a victory in Bakersfield, Calif. Series points: First (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 23rd (+1)

23. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.

Comment: In four weekend events over two divisions, he finishes no worse than third, including a Crate victory at North Georgia. Finishes third at EAMS. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 22nd (-1)

24. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.

Comment: He’ll wrap up his season at Portsmouth while trying to win his second DTWC over the past four seasons. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 24th (-1)

25. Jackie Boggs, Grayson, Ky.

Comment: After Lucas Oil victory and multiple weekly triumphs at Portsmouth, he’ll be among favorites at DTWC. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 25th (nc)

Dropped out: None.

Outside looking in: Randy Weaver, Bub McCool, Terry Phillips, Dennis Franklin, Clint Smith.

Michael Rigsby comments: Very little movement in my poll at all this weekend, as the racing action was relatively quiet. ... Don O’Neal (my No. 2) picked up an impressive Whynot victory that a lot of people may disregard, but don’t — it was as impressive as most series victories. ... Behind them very little shakeup for me as Billy Ogle Jr. (22) got a bump for his regional win, but not much else beyond that. ... I expect this weekend’s DTWC to provide some poll-shaking fireworks.

Todd Turner’s comments: It’s still tight up top, but Don O’Neal (my No. 2) wriggles up a few spots for his victory at Whynot in a car he’d never driven. ... Likewise, Moyer (4) gets docked a few spots for two straight lackluster weekends in Mississippi, especially considering his pole start at Whynot. ... Rick Eckert (7) is having an impressive October and continues to rise. ... Let’s hope the Dirt Track World Championship gives us some more insight among the top 10 as the season winds down. ... Marlar (13) rises a few spots as he’s been on his game in recent weeks. ... Alabama State Championship winner Randy Weaver is just outside my poll.

Joshua Joiner’s comments: Darrell Lanigan is still solidly atop my pole, but things shook up a bit behind him. ... Don O'Neal moves back up to No. 2 after an impressive Coors Light Fall Classic victory while Billy Moyer (my No. 4) drops a couple spots for a very disappointing performance from the pole at Whynot. ... Rick Eckert continues to impress. I've moved him up to No. 6 after impressive wins at Charlotte and Hesston. ... Not a lot of movement in the second half of my poll other than Randy Weaver moving back in at No. 22 after dominating the Alabama State Championship in his first-ever visit to EAMS.

DirtonDirt Top 25

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