Poll Position: Owens solidifies hold on 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. This is the season’s final ranking at DirtonDirt.com; Driver of the Year and other postseason awards will be revealed in December:
1. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Winning streak extended to five in a row after Owens earns $21,800 at East Alabama’s National 100. Series points: First (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)
2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
Comment: His record-setting World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship season is over with 16 victories overall. Series points: First (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 2nd (nc)
3. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: MasterSbilt house car driver’s 15-victory season is over. He’s expected to launch 2013 in Arizona. 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 finishes sixth at East Alabama Motor Speedway’s National 100. Series points: Fourth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (nc)
6. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Eight-time National 100 winner among contenders at East Alabama but settles for fourth-place finish. Series points: Third (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)
7. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: His Late Model season over, Eckert concludes 2012 with pair of K&N National SpeedSTR events at Path Valley Speedway Park. Series points: Second (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 7th (nc)
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: 8th (nc)
9. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: Finishes 18th at National 100; he plans to enter Blue-Gray 100, where last year he tangled with Jonathan Davenport. 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: He 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: Among top qualifiers at East Alabama’s National 100, track disqualified him for using illegal tires. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 12th (nc)
13. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.
Comment: Rebounds from tire penalty at East Alabama for fifth-place finish at 38th annual National 100. Series points: First (Southern Nationals). Last week's ranking: 13th (nc)
14. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.
Comment: Led most of East Alabama’s National 100 before settling for a third-place finish. 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: His 14th- and 15th-place finishes two weeks back at Charlotte put wraps on his 13-victory season. Series points: First (Three State Flyers). Last week's ranking: 16th (nc)
17. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.
Comment: Wraps up his 10-victory season with a runner-up finish in season finale at 201 Speedway in native Kentucky. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 17th (nc)
18. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.
Comment: With his dirt season complete, he’s 25th in NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Phoenix International Raceway. Series points: Fifth (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 18th (nc)
20. Jesse Stovall, Galena, Mo.
Comment: Idle after his Nov. 3 victory at Springfield, he may return to Missouri oval for season-ending Turkey Bowl. Series points: First (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 20th (+1)
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: 20th (+1)
22. Billy Ogle Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.
Comment: He’s expected to wrap up his season Saturday at Cleveland (Tenn.) Speedway’s SAS-sanctioned Gobbler. Series points: Fourth (Southern All Stars). Last week's ranking: 19th (-2)
23. 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: 22nd (-1)
24. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.
Comment: Among retirees at National 100 with 17th-place finish after transmission woes. He’ll tackle Deep Fried 75 at Duck River. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 23rd (-1)
25. Randy Weaver, Crossville, Tenn.
Comment: Alabama State Champion finishes 15th at National 100 in second visit to East Alabama Motor Speedway. Series points: First (Southern All Stars). Last week’s ranking: 25th (nc)
Dropped out: Jimmy Mars
Outside Looking In: Jimmy Mars, Bub McCool, Terry Phillips.
Michael Rigsby’s comments: We’ve come to the end of the long and winding Top 25 road, where no surprise, Jimmy Owens remains on top with his victory at East Alabama. ... It appeared EAMS would be the season-ender for Owens, but reports out of the No. 20 Camp are that Cleveland is a possibility. ... Keep in mind, he ends the year No. 1 in the poll, but that doesn’t mean he’s the Driver of the Year, a honor revealed in December. ... The only movement is Jackie Boggs (my No. 25), whose victory at 201 Speedway edged him up, an honor he’s earned with a good season. ... Look forward to some Top 25 changes next year, including an expanded roster of voters that include drivers, fellow media members and more.
Todd Turner’s comments: Is Jimmy Owens the 2012 Driver of the Year? We’ll determine that in December with our Best of 2012 coverage. ... Is Owens the best driver at this moment as we post our last Top 25 of the season? There’s no doubt after he’s left the competition in tatters over his last five races, and in seven major events over the last two months. ... Little movement otherwise although Shane Clanton (my No. 13) gets bumped up a few spots and Jackie Boggs (24) is back in my poll after a late-season victory. ... Now it’s time to digest the season and hammer out the Driver of the Year honors.
Joshua Joiner’s comments: With his National 100 victory, Jimmy Owens remains at the top of my poll for the third consecutive week while also stating his case even further for Driver of the Year honors. ... Owens’ season-ending streak is one of the most impressive runs I’ve ever seen. It would be easy to get caught in the moment and give the Driver of the Year nod to Owens over Lanigan, but that wouldn’t do justice to the body of work both drivers have compiled over the entire season. Conveniently, Driver of the Year isn’t announced for another month, so I’ll let things cool off a while before casting my vote. ... The only actual movement in my poll this week was Jackie Boggs reentering at No. 23.