Poll Position: Owens jumps Lanigan to No. 1
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. The season’s finale ranking appears next Tuesday at DirtonDirt.com and Driver of the Year will be revealed in December:
1. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Stretches win streak to four straight with a dominating sweep at Charlotte’s Peak World Finals on the WoO circuit. Series points: First (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 2nd (+1)
2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
Comment: In contention for both Charlotte features, but settles for pair of third-place finishes after wrapping up WoO crown. Series points: First (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (-1)
3. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: Scores a pair of top-10 finishes at Charlotte in another guest appearance for Louisiana-based Childress Racing. Series points: Second (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 3rd (nc)
4. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Comment: His 16-victory season complete, he’ll take a winter break before returning to action in Arizona come January. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 4th (nc)
5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
Comment: Barry Wright house car driver posts seventh- and eighth-place finishes at Charlotte; heads for National 100. Series points: Fourth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (nc)
6. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Relatively quiet Charlotte weekend with high-water mark a fourth-place finish; he’ll head to EAMS. Series points: Third (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)
7. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: After runner-up finish in Charlotte opener, engine woes spoil another top-five finish for WoO runner-up. Series points: Second (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 8th (+1)
8. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
Comment: He’s put the wraps on a season with six victories in 41 appearances and 19 top-five finishes. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 7th (-1)
9. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: A top-five finish and a DNF at Charlotte. He plans to enter the National 100 and Blue-Gray 100. 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: Closes his season with a pair of 12th-place finishes at Charlotte. Series points: Fourth (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 11th (nc)
12. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.
Comment: Generator woes on the team’s hauler cancels Charlotte trip, but he’s planning on EAMS and Duck River. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 12th (nc)
13. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.
Comment: Posts ninth- and fourth-place finishes at Charlotte. Busy month continues at Charlotte, East Alabama, Cleveland and Cherokee. Series points: First (Southern Nationals). Last week's ranking: 13th (nc)
14. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.
Comment: Forgettable weekend at Charlotte ends with hard wreck in finale. National 100 is up next. Series points: Third (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 14th (nc)
15. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.
Comment: His eight-victory season, with all of the wins coming in August or later, has come to an end. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 15th (nc)
16. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.
Comment: Posts 14th- and 15th-place finishes at Charlotte in putting the wraps on his 13-victory season. Series points: First (Three State Flyers). Last week's ranking: 15th (+1)
17. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.
Comment: Stumbles at Charlotte in failing to make either feature event as he wraps up a 10-victory season. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 16th (-1)
18. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.
Comment: With his dirt season complete, finishes 26th in NASCAR Nationwide Series start at Texas Motor Speedway. Series points: Fifth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 18th (nc)
19. Billy Ogle Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.
Comment: Finishes second in SRRS action at Smoky Mountain after teammate Tommy Kerr slip by on final lap. Series points: Fourth (Southern All Stars). Last week's ranking: 20th (+1)
20. Jesse Stovall, Galena, Mo.
Comment: Adds another victory to best career campaign at Springfield (Mo.) Raceway’s Larry Phillips Memorial. Series points: First (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 22nd (+2)
21. 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: 19th (-2)
22. Jamie Lathroum, Mechanicsville, Md.
Comment: With Hagerstown’s finale postponed until 2013, his season has apparently wrapped up. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 21st (-1)
23. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.
Comment: Finishes 13th in Charlotte finale after missing opening feature. EAMS and Duck River are up next. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 23rd (nc)
24. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.
Comment: Wrapped 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: 25th (+1)
25. Randy Weaver, Crossville, Tenn.
Comment: Idle for first weekend in November with plans to tackle National 100, Cleveland and Cherokee. Series points: First (Southern All Stars). Last week’s ranking: 24th (+1).
Dropped out: None
Outside Looking In: Jackie Boggs, Bub McCool, Clint Smith, Terry Phillips.
Michael Rigsby’s comments: All of those years I dogged the people in the BCS, and now I’m faced with a BCS-like scenario with Jimmy Owens (My No. 1) weekend sweep at Charlotte. ... While this may not be the way the Final Driver-of-the-year voting falls, Owens has supplanted Darrell Lanigan (2) this week for me. A National 100 victory likely puts the icing on the cake. ... A few spots of movement behind them, as the World Finals provides a spot for everyone to get together and race. ... Rick Eckert (9) gets a bump for his solid weekend, while Gregg Satterlee (16), Jason Feger (11) and others were all impressive in the Tar Heel State. ... Seriously, this poll is the death of me.
Todd Turner’s comments: Very little movement in my rankings, and that includes Lanigan (my No. 1) holding the top spot by the narrowest of margins over Owens (2). ... Is Owens the best driver at this moment? I think Charlotte answers that. But Lanigan’s body of work keeps him atop my rankings as Charlotte was the season’s first head-to-head matchup Owens clearly won (although Lanigan finished third in both races). ... Does the fact that Charlotte comes late in the season trump Lanigan’s $50,000 Cedar Lake victory (over Owens) in August, Lanigan’s top-four finishes at Eldora (when Owens failed to make the Dream and World 100 starting fields) or Lanigan's clear superiority over Owens at Volusia’s Florida Speedweeks events? I’d argue no.
Joshua Joiner’s comments: I had Owens No. 1 last week after he won Magnolia, so obviously I’m leaving him there after the way he dominated Charlotte. Once again, that doesn’t mean he’s my Driver of the Year pick. ... For me, Driver of the Year is still a tossup between Owens and Lanigan (my No. 2). Owens can certainly bolster his resume with a $20,000 National 100 victory to end the year, but even so, you can’t overlook the previous results when the two drivers went head-to-head. Those races lean heavily in Lanigan’s favor. ... Not much to discuss elsewhere in my poll. It seems like all the talk is about the top anyway.