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Top 25: Blankenship moves up to No. 11

May 21, 2013, 7:53 am
From staff reports

While the top 10 remained mostly steady today's DirtonDirt.com’s Top 25 power rankings, John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., crept within one spot of that mark by virtue of his $20,000 Bad Boy 98 victory at Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

Blankenship is ranked a season-high 11th in the polling presented by JRi Shocks while Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., idle over the weekend, maintained the top spot in securing 17 of 21 first-place votes. Richards, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader, has been atop the regular-season polling that started after Florida Speedweeks all but one week.

Positions No. 2 through No. 9 were stagnant with Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., second in the poll followed by Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., and Lucas Oil Series points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. Owens is the only other driver with first-place votes.

Besides Blankenship’s rise, Batesville runner-up Brady Smith of Solon Springs also advanced six positions to No. 19. Smith has a Lucas Oil Series victory (La Salle, Ill.) and second-place finish (Batesville, Ark.) since returning from knee surgery earlier in the spring.

One of the country’s hottest Dirt Late Model drivers, Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, makes his first appearance in the Top 25 at No. 22. He’s won five of his last six starts overall including a $12,000 payday at Southern Ohio Speedway’s Southern 100.

Returning to the poll is Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. His Batesville debut went south after a solid time trial, but he salvaged the weekend with a home-track victory at Vermilion County Speedway in Danville, Ill., his first on the Sunoco American Late Model Series.

After restricting poll voting to staffers the previous two seasons, DirtonDirt.com invited more than 30 media members and drivers along with track, series and manufacturer representatives to vote in 2013’s rankings. Twenty-one submitted ballots this week. Weekly polls continue through mid-November.

1. Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.

Comment: Idle in mid-May, he’ll head to WoO tripleheader while seeking his first career Late Model victory in home state. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)

2. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: Salvages eighth in Lucas Oil action at Batesville after a pit stop; Show-Me 100 up next in Wheatland, Mo. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 2nd (nc)

3. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: On streak of back-to-back runner-up finishes with the World of Outlaws while heading to Wayne (Ohio) and Tyler County (W.Va.) Speedways. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 3rd (nc)

4. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.

Comment: While he’s clicked off two WoO victories in last month, he has only three top-five finishes since Florida Speedweeks. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 4th (nc)

5. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Regains Lucas Oil points lead with fifth-place finish at Batesville’s Bad Boy 98; guns for third straight Show-Me 100. Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (nc)

6. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: After top-five at home track, three-time Show-Me 100 winner heads to Wheatland to end skid reaching back to ‘96. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)

7. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Third-place finish in Ultimate Series action at County Line, the first race he’s competed in and hasn’t led since April. Series points: 5th (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 7th (nc)

8. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.

Comment: After rain scraps his weekend, he plans a few Crate Late Model starts and a tuneup at Eldora looking toward Dream. Series points: 4th (Southern All Stars). Last week’s ranking: 8th (nc)

9. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.

Comment: Leads 67 of 98 laps at Batesville’s Bad Boy before his smoking machine forces him to the pits at Arkansas oval. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 9th (nc)

10. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Falls short of his second straight victory at Batesville, but posts a solid third-place finish at the Bad Boy 98. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 11th (+1)

11. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: His Bad Boy 98 victory at Batesville tightens Lucas Oil points chase and continues a stretch of solid series finishes. Series points: 3rd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 17th (+6)

12. Steve Casebolt, Richmond, Ind.

Comment: Wraps up Spring Nationals title despite rainout, then zips over to Cleveland, Tenn., for first Southern All Star triumph. Series points: 1st (Spring Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 14th (+2)

13. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Survives early tangle at Batesville with a sixth-place finish; took provisional after a flat tire in his heat race. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 12th (-1)

14. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Early-season momentum stalls as he fails to crack the starting field at Batesville’s Bad Boy 98; Show-Me 100 next. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 10th (-4)

15. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: Before WoO’s busy Memorial Day weekend, he guest-starred in Paul Crowl’s Rocket Chassis with Winchester, Va., victory. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 13th (-2)

16. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: Posts second-place finish on Ultimate Series at County Line Raceway; his schedule has him idle until $100,000-to-win Dream. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 15th (-1)

17. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.

Comment: Early retiree at Bad Boy 98 that was tough on MB Customs competitors; he’ll head to Wheatland’s Show-Me 100. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 16th (-1)

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

Comment: He’s 19th in Batesville debut at Bad Boy 98; ready for the busy weekend at Wheatland and Show-Me 100. Series points: 9th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 18th (nc)

19. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.

Comment: Fresh off his La Salle victory, he backs it up with a second-place run at Batesville’s Bad Boy 98. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 25th (+6)

20. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: He’ll run first national touring event in a month with plans to enter MLRA and Lucas Oil action in Wheatland, Mo. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 19th (-1)

21. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.

Comment: Sets fast time and earns pole at Lucas Oil’s Bad Boy 98, but slips back to seventh-place finish at Batesville. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 23rd (+2)

22. Doug Drown, Wooster, Ohio

Comment: Victories at Wayne County, Hilltop give the Weekley Racing driver five victories in his last six starts overall. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: Unranked

23. Scott James, Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Comment: He’ll head to WoO weekend at Ohio’s Wayne County and West Virginia’s Tyler County looking for first WoO top-10 finish since April 6. Series points: 7th-tie (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 20th (-3)

24. Chris Simpson, Oxford, Iowa

Comment: Early retiree at Batesville’s Bad Boy 98 will head back to the region for Wheatland’s Show-Me 100. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 24th (nc)

25. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.

Comment: Runs into trouble after a solid qualifying lap in Batesville debut; salvages weekend with hometown ALMS victory. Series points: 10th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: Unranked.

Dropped out: Eric Wells, Chad Simpson.

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, series and manufacturer representatives.

Correction: Fixes Lucas Oil points rankings for Owens and Carrier.

DirtonDirt Top 25

Driver (pts.) (1st place)
1. Josh Richards (521) (17)
2. Don O'Neal (472)
3. Darrell Lanigan (460)
4. Shane Clanton (445)
5. Jimmy Owens (432) (4)
6. Billy Moyer (399)
7. Tim McCreadie (362)
8. Jonathan Davenport (336)
9. Dennis Erb Jr. (335)
10. Steve Francis (315)
11. John Blankenship (302)
12. Steve Casebolt (288)
13. Scott Bloomquist (284)
14. Brian Birkhofer (264)
15. Rick Eckert (248)
16. Dale McDowell (213)
17. Jimmy Mars (181)
18. Eddie Carrier Jr. (146)
19. Brady Smith (126)
20. Mike Marlar (100)
21. Earl Pearson Jr. (94)
22. Doug Drown (77)
23. Scott James (76)
24. Chris Simpson (66)
25. Bobby Pierce (60)
Others receiving votes: Eric Wells (57), Chad Simpson (36), Jason Feger (34), Bub McCool (12), Randy Weaver (11), Chris Madden (11), Brian Shirley (10), Gregg Satterlee (8), Jeremy Hines (8), Shannon Babb (7), Terry Phillips (5), Billy Ogle Jr. (5), Jamie Lathroum (5), Vic Coffey (3), Ray Cook (2), Donnie Moran (2), Ray Guss Jr. (2), Kevin Weaver (2), Greg Johnson (1), Will Vaught (1), Dustin Linville (1).
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