Poll Position: DTWC winner edges back to No. 2
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: He’ll take a curtain call in early November at Charlotte, where he’s all but wrapped up his second World of Outlaws title. Series points: First (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)
2. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Checks off another race on his career “to-do” list by dominating the 32nd annual Red Buck Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth. Series points: First (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 3rd (+1)
3. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: Posts a third-place finish at the DTWC in securing the second spot in the Lucas Oil Series points chase. Series points: Second (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 2nd (-1)
4. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Comment: While he has 15 victories, only three have come since the Fourth of July. He heads to Magnolia’s Cotton Pickin’ 100. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 4th (nc)
5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
Comment: Flat tire knocks him out of heat race victory at DTWC, but he salvages weekend by finishing seventh. Series points: Fourth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (nc)
6. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Tries to size up Owens at DTWC, but doesn’t have the racing room to make it happen in the late stages. Series points: Third (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 7th (+1)
7. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
Comment: Season ends ingloriously with a hard consolation wreck at DTWC that stings two fingers on his right hand. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 6th (-1)
8. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: Leads early in finale at Raye Vest Memorial, but settles for second as Winchester, Va., track honors his late car owner. Series points: Second (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 8th (nc)
9. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: Runs among the top five in the early stages at DTWC, but folded-under nosepiece forces him out. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 9th (nc)
10. Brian Shirley, Chatham, Ill.
Comment: The UMP Summernationals and weekly champion has called it a season with 12 victories. Series points: First (Summernationals). Last week's ranking: 10th (nc)
11. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.
Comment: Picks up a $2,000 victory at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., with Charlotte still on horizon. Series points: Fourth (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 11th (nc)
12. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.
Comment: Taking off the rest of October while gearing up for a busy November at Charlotte, East Alabama, Cleveland and Cherokee. Series points: First (Southern Nationals). Last week's ranking: 12th (nc)
13. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.
Comment: First car out of DTWC still has Magnolia, Charlotte and East Alabama on his scheduled to conclude 2012. Series points: Third (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 13th (nc)
14. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.
Comment: Advances more than 10 positions in DTWC before fading and eventually dropping out at Portsmouth. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 14th (nc)
15. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.
Comment: After a 10th-place finish at DTWC, he’ll head for Magnolia Motor Speedway’s Cotton Pickin’ 100. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 15th (nc)
16. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.
Comment: Ninth-place DTWC finish not up to Carrier’s Portsmouth standards; he’ll take a week off before Charlotte. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 16th (nc)
17. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.
Comment: Posts second- and third-place finishes during Winchester (Va.) Speedway’s Raye Vest Memorial weekend. Series points: First (Three State Flyers). Last week's ranking: 17th (+3)
18. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.
Comment: Dirt season ends with a whimper as he takes provisional at DTWC; he’ll wrap up season with three NASCAR Nationwide events. Series points: Fifth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 17th (-1)
19. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.
Comment: Runner-up on Summernationals tour has called it a season with six victories in all. Series points: Second (Summernationals). Last week's ranking: 18th (-1)
20. Billy Ogle Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.
Comment: Doesn’t capitalize on pole starting spot in DTWC heat race and fails to make the main event. Series points: Fourth (Southern All Stars). Last week's ranking: 19th (11)
21. Jamie Lathroum, Mechanicsville, Md.
Comment: Gunning for another Delaware State Championship, he finishes second to Ricky Elliott at DIS. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 21st (nc)
22. Jesse Stovall, Galena, Mo.
Comment: Picks up yet another victory against a modest field in the CLMA finale at Caney Valley Speedway. Series points: First (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 22nd (nc)
23. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.
Comment: Passes up $3,000 for winning non-qualifiers’ race at DTWC to start main, ends up with $2,450 for finishing 11th. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 23rd (nc)
24. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.
Comment: Wraps up his season with 15th-place finish at DTWC. Next stop will be Arizona’s racing in January. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 24th (-1)
25. Randy Weaver, Crossville, Tenn.
Comment: With eight victories in 27 starts, he’s got some big races coming up at Magnolia, East Alabama, Cleveland and Cherokee. Series points: First (Southern All Stars). Last week’s ranking: None.
Dropped out: Jackie Boggs
Outside Looking In: Jackie Boggs, Bub McCool, Dennis Franklin.
Michael Rigsby’s comments: Virtually no movement in my poll except swapping the second (Owens) and third (O’Neal) spots. ... No one else did enough to warrant a jump. ... With that said, I’ll give you my take on the top driver. Right now I’ve kept Lanigan first, but it is by the thinnest THINNEST margin you can imagine because Lanigan skipped most of the events he could’ve race against O’Neal and Owens the past two months. ... I considered Owens first, and O’Neal, but right now I’ll hold tight with Lanigan. If Owens were to get a victory at Charlotte, I’d have to put him on top. (And if O’Neal comes, the same). ... I also reserve the judgment to go back post-World Finals, review the season, and decide then. ... The point is, three drivers are capable of being our DirtonDirt.com Driver of the Year, in my opinion.
Todd Turner’s comments: The DTWC victory likely solidified Owens (my No. 3) among the top three in my year-end poll. Would one win (or two?) at Charlotte improve that? It would make a statement, certainly. ... Splitting hairs among the top four drivers (my list is Lanigan, O’Neal, Owens and Moyer) is tricky. It might all come down to Charlotte and reviewing the season-long quality of victories. ... Are Lanigan’s 15 WoO victories lesser than O’Neal’s 11 Lucas Oil victories because O’Neal faced higher-ranked drivers? That’s worthy of consideration. ... Otherwise the year-end slowdown means not a lot of movement in my rankings with runner-up performances for Satterlee (18) and Lathroum (20) keeping them steady. ... Randy Weaver (25) edges into my poll with a couple of more chances to move up in the season’s waning weeks.
Joshua Joiner’s comments: I left Darrell Lanigan atop of my poll for another week, but Jimmy Owens (my No. 2) and Don O'Neal (3) aren't far behind. ... The DTWC victory puts Owens firmly in the Driver of the Year discussion with Lanigan and O'Neal. For me, it's coming down to those three. They're dead even right now and who ever performs the best between now and the end of the season gets my vote. ... Not much movement elsewhere in my poll. Still hoping for someone to go on a late-season run to shake things up a bit.