Poll Position: Owens inches closer to Lanigan
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: Heads to Charlotte for a curtain call with second World of Outlaws title all but wrapped up. Series points: First (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)
2. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Continues late-season hot streak with a $15,000 Cotton Pickin’ 100 triumph at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Series points: First (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 3rd (+1)
3. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: Plans to return to Charlotte for the first time since 2008. Series points: Second (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 3rd (nc)
4. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Comment: Wraps up his 16-win season with a runner-up finish at Magnolia. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 4th (nc)
5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
Comment: Will finish out his comeback season at Charlotte and Phenix City’s National 100. Series points: Fourth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (nc)
6. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Rallies to finish fourth at Magnolia after a flat tire early in the 100-lapper. Series points: Third (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)
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: 7th (nc)
8. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: Heads back to Charlotte, where he kicked off his late-season surge in early October. Series points: Second (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 8th (nc)
9. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: Looking for redemption at Charlotte after suspension issues knocked him from the lead of the track’s Oct. 4 WoO event. 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: Will wrap up his stellar season with a trip to Charlotte. Series points: Fourth (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 11th (nc)
12. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.
Comment: Can’t catch Owens late at Magnolia. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 15th (+3)
13. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.
Comment: Ready to kick off a busy November with events at Charlotte, East Alabama, Cleveland and Cherokee. Series points: First (Southern Nationals). Last week's ranking: 12th (-1)
14. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.
Comment: Still has Charlotte and East Alabama on his scheduled to conclude 2012. Series points: Third (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 13th (-1)
15. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.
Comment: Ends 2012 with eight victories, all of which came August or later. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 14th (-1)
16. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.
Comment: Winless since early August, he’ll look to end the year strong at Charlotte. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 16th (nc)
17. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.
Comment: Aims to back up his impressive season regionally with a solid showing at Charlotte. Series points: First (Three State Flyers). Last week's ranking: 17th (nc)
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: 18th (nc)
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 (nc)
20. Billy Ogle Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.
Comment: Regional standout could head to Charlotte to face national touring foes or stay close to home for the SRRS finale at Smoky Mountain. Series points: Fourth (Southern All Stars). Last week's ranking: 19th (11)
21. Jamie Lathroum, Mechanicsville, Md.
Comment: Was scheduled to start 16th in Hagerstown’s Brawl in the Fall main event that was washed out on Sunday. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 21st (nc)
22. Jesse Stovall, Galena, Mo.
Comment: Impressive season concludes with MARS championship and runner-up in MLRA standings. Series points: First (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 22nd (nc)
23. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.
Comment: Plans to take upcoming weekend off before heading to Phenix City and Duck River. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 23rd (nc)
24. Randy Weaver, Crossville, Tenn.
Comment: Fades from outside pole at Magnolia, but still has big races coming up at East Alabama, Cleveland and Cherokee. Series points: First (Southern All Stars). Last week’s ranking: 24th (+1).
25. 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)
Dropped out: none
Outside Looking In: Jackie Boggs, Bub McCool, Dennis Franklin, Clint Smith
Michael Rigsby’s comments: I had Jimmy Owens No. 2 last week, so there’s no need for any changing at the top of my poll. … However, Mike Marlar’s continued success in 2012, with a near-miss victory at Magnolia vaults him up to No. 12. … My scenario for a Jimmy Owens takeover of the top spot is pretty simple. A sweep this weekend at the PEAK World Finals, and we’ll have a serious debate, but if Lanigan gets the nod, or at least one win, it will be hard for me to put anyone ahead of the 2012 World of Outlaws champion … Look for changes to the DirtonDirt.com Top 25 in 2013, as the voting panel will be expanded, including some drivers.
Todd Turner’s comments: Owens (my No. 2) steps up a notch with his victory at Magnolia, his third of the month. ... After breaking down Driver of the Year qualifications, I’m virtually settled on Lanigan. An Owens sweep at Charlotte could make for some interesting fodder, but Lanigan’s edge is pretty clear, even with him skipping three major events of the season (North-South 100, Knoxville and DTWC). ... Very little movement otherwise, although Marlar (third at Magnolia after challenging Owens late) is up to No. 11 with some solid performances in lucrative late-season events.
Joshua Joiner’s comments:It appears I’m alone in doing so, but I moved Owens ahead of Lanigan at the top of my poll. This doesn’t mean I’m endorsing Owens for Driver of the Year, but this is a poll that’s based on who’s the hottest right now, and Owens has by far been the best driver in the country over the past month. … As far as the Driver of the Year debate, I’m leaning heavily toward Lanigan simply due to Owens’ missing both the Dream and World lineups. Realistically, it will likely take a terrible performance by Lanigan at Charlotte and a sweep by Owens or perhaps O’Neal for me to consider changing my mind.