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Poll Position: Owens tops preseason rankings

February 5, 2013, 10:06 am
From staff reports

Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., gearing up for a run at a third straight Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship, is ranked No. 1 in DirtonDirt.com’s Preseason Top 25 power rankings. Owens received 20 of 23 first-place votes on the website’s new expanded poll presented by JRi Shocks.

Following Owens in the rankings was reigning World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., the only other driver receiving first-place votes. The rest of the top five were Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.

Owens led five Lucas Oil Series drivers in the Top 25 — three of them among the top four — while Lanigan topped six regulars with the World of Outlaws, which had four drivers among the top 10.

No. 10 Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who tentatively plans a full-time season of dirt racing after primarily focusing on the NASCAR Nationwide Series last season, is the youngest driver in the poll at at 24. He’s one of just three drivers under 30 along with 24th-ranked Jonathan Davenport and 25th-ranked Gregg Satterlee.

After restricting poll voting to staffers the last two seasons, DirtonDirt.com invited more than 30 media members and drivers along with track and series representatives to vote in 2013’s rankings. Twenty-three submitted ballots and others are expected to join when DirtonDirt.com’s regular-season polling begins Feb. 26 following Georgia-Florida Speedweeks.

1. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Two-time and reigning Lucas Oil Series champion gunning for his third series title. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: After record-setting 15-victory WoO season, he faces eight series races at Speedweeks. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

3. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: MasterSbilt house car team shelves familiar yellow scheme for red-and-black design in 2013. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

4. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Ready to launch 2013 season after Barry Wright house car team combines with Clint Bowyer Racing. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

5. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Has win under his belt in Tucson, Ariz., but could Speedweeks king skip Georgia-Florida action? Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

6. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Hall of Fame driver and chassis builder hasn’t cracked victory lane since June 2012. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

7. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.

Comment: Kennedy Motorsports drivers builds early momentum with $10,000 victory in Tucson. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

8. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: After crew-chiefing for Chris Simpson in Arizona, Birky plans to open season in March. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

9. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: WoO runner-up has added Fatheadz Eyewear to his list of sponsors. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

10. Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.

Comment: With NASCAR hopes on hold, Richards refocuses on World of Outlaws Late Model Series. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

11. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: Ready to tackle 2013 after solid late-season runs with Bryson Motorsports. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

12. Brian Shirley, Chatham, Ill.

Comment: Reigning UMP weekly and Summernationals will try to back up best-ever season. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

13. Tim Fuller, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Two Arizona victories jump-start his first full season with Kennedy Motorsports. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

14. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.

Comment: After a sub-par 2012, the former Dirt Track World Champion looks to rebound. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

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

Comment: Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals champ plans on opening season at Waycross, Ga. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

16. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: Busy mentor, instructor and driver plans to compete at Screven and Volusia. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

17. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Sticks with World of Outlaws after his up-and-down 2012 season. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

18. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Three-race winner on Lucas Oil Series in 2012 takes aim at national tour again. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

19. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: UMP DIRTcar Summernationals runner-up planning to open season at Volusia. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

20. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: Plans to skip Speedweeks and prepare for big-money races in the Midwest. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

21. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.

Comment: Driver-series promoter will get behind the wheel for Speedweeks action at Screven. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

22. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.

Comment: He’ll try to maintain last year’s late-season momentum at Ocala and Volusia. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

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

Comment: Heads to Speedweeks after heel surgery kept him out of East Bay action in 2012. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

24. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.

Comment: Set to make Super Late Model debut for AES Racing in Bloomquist Race Car. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

25. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.

Comment: Coming off 12-victory season, he’s planned busy Speedweeks at Screven, Ocala and Volusia. Series points: —. Last week's ranking:

Editor’s note: The top 25 drivers are determined by a points system with 25 points for a first-place vote, 24 points for a second-place vote and so on through a single point for a 25th-place vote. The voting panel is made up of media members, drivers, and track and series representatives.

DirtonDirt Top 25

Driver (points) (1st-place)
1. Jimmy Owens (572) (20)
2. Darrell Lanigan (543) (3)
3. Don O'Neal (511)
4. Steve Francis (487)
5. Billy Moyer (473)
6. Scott Bloomquist (463)
7. Shane Clanton (377)
8. Brian Birkhofer (348)
9. Rick Eckert (347)
10. Josh Richards (338)
11. Mike Marlar (293)
12. Brian Shirley (250)
13. Tim Fuller (200)
14. Jimmy Mars (180)
15. Chris Madden (175)
16. Dale McDowell (159)
17. Tim McCreadie (146)
18. John Blankenship (143)
19. Shannon Babb (138)
20. Jason Feger (127)
21. Ray Cook (116)
22. Brady Smith (109)
23. Eddie Carrier Jr. (106)
24. Jonathan Davenport (84)
25. Gregg Satterlee (68)
Others receiving votes: Dennis Erb Jr. (66), Jesse Stovall (64), Randy Weaver (62), Billy Ogle Jr. (61), Terry Phillips (57), Chris Simpson (48), Chub Frank (30), Morgan Bagley (26), Will Vaught (25), Earl Pearson Jr. (24), Jared Landers (21), Jamie Lathroum (15), R.C. Whitwell (14), Billy Moyer Jr. (14), Bub McCool (12), Brandon Sheppard (11), Tyler Reddick (11), Jason Covert (10), Casey Roberts (10), John Anderson (9), Ronny Lee Hollingsworth (9), Eric Wells (7), Ronnie Johnson (7), Kent Robinson (7), Don Shaw (7), Steve Shaver (7), Ross Martin (6), John Kaanta (4), Justin Kay (3), Kyle Berck (3), Vic Hill (2), Luke Roffers (2), Pat Doar (2), Chad Simpson (1), Jackie Boggs (1), Dane Dacus (1).
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