No. 2 Lanigan edges close to Richards in poll
Two straight World of Outlaws Late Model Series victories for Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., has tightened up the battle for No. 1 in DirtonDirt.com’s Top 25 power rankings presented by JRi Shocks.
The second-ranked Lanigan, who swept the tour’s two-race swing through Canada, pulled within 10 points in the polling of top-ranked Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who has held the No. 1 spot in all but one regular-season poll.
Richards stayed on top by the virtue of nine first-place votes, but Lanigan received six first-place votes in moving up one spot. Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., who dropped to No. 3 from No. 2, and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., earned three first-place votes apiece.
The top 10 is split evening with four World of Outlaws regulars, four Lucas Oil regulars and two independent drivers.
The driver making the biggest jump in the poll was Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who extended a personal three-race winning streak with a Lucas Oil Series victory at his home-state Cherokee Speedway. He’s up to No. 19 in the rankings after rising four spots.
The Nos. 23-25 drivers were poll newcomers with 23rd-ranked Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals points leader, joining the poll for the first time. Back in the rankings were No. 24 Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday’s Lucas Oil winner at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., and No. 25 Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., Sunday’s Summernationals winner at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich.
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: A few 10th-place outings on WoO’s Northeast swing allows Clanton, Lanigan to tighten up points chase. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 1st (nc)
2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
Comment: Leaning on crew chief Jason Jameson, sweeps a pair of Canadian races with the World of Outlaws at Brighton and Cornwall. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 3rd (+1)
3. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Still in control on Lucas Oil Series, but he’s not better than eighth during three-race swing in the South. Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 2nd (-1)
4. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.
Comment: Grabs fourth Lucas Oil victory at Swainsboro; three victories in last seven starts, and third or better five times. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 5th (+1)
5. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.
Comment: Not quite in the mix during WoO’s Northeast swing, manages to steady the ship with pair of fifth-place runs. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 4th (-1)
6. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: After a pair of fourth-place finishes, flat tire knocks him out of contention at Wythe; slips to fourth in points. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 6th (nc)
7. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.
Comment: Improves each night on Lucas Oil swing, but misses a repeat at Wythe when Pearson overtakes him late. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 8th (+1)
8. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
Comment: Fonda victory starts WoO’s Northeast swing on a high note, but broken driveshaft leading at Cornwall stings. Series points: 6th (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 9th (+1)
9. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Elects to end full-time run on Lucas Oil circuit after more than four seasons; he’ll be back for richest races, no doubt. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 7th (-2)
10. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
Comment: Continues stretch of top-three runs on Summernationals. Third at Tri-City and second at Fairbury after leading. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 10th (nc)
11. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
Comment: Three straight top-five finishes on Lucas Oil’s Southern swing moves him to third in series points. Series points: 3rd (Lucas Oil). Last week's ranking: 11th (nc)
12. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.
Comment: Mechanical failures cost him strong Lucas Oil finishes, including knocking him out of the lead at Wythe. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 12th (nc)
13. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Comment: Untimely asthma attack forces him to scratch at Tri-City and skip Summernationals race at Fairbury. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 13th (nc)
14. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: Opens WoO’s Northeast swing with top-five finish, but slips to sixth and eighth at ensuing Canadian events. Series points: 4th (World of Outlaws). Last week's ranking: 14th (nc)
15. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.
Comment: Taking a break after his $20,000 Magnolia victory, he’ll aim for big money at Lernerville’s Firecracker 100. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 15th (nc)
16. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.
Comment: After impressive runner-up finish in Tri-City Summernationals action, misses a top-10 finish at Fairbury. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 18th (+2)
17. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: Scores fifth place in Lucas Oil action at Cherokee, but gets squeezed on Wythe restart to sustain a flat tire. Series points: None. Last week's ranking: 17th (nc)
18. Steve Casebolt, Richmond, Ind.
Comment: After a rare weekend off, Casebolt will tackle four straight SRRS races during the Summer Showdown. Series points: 1st (Spring Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 16th (-2)
19. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.
Comment: Extends personal win streak to three with Lucas Oil victory at Cherokee, his first on the series since 2009. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 23rd (+4)
20. Chris Simpson, Oxford, Iowa
Comment: First Summernationals triumph pays $10,000 at Tri-City, but he’s back to earth with 10th at Fairbury. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 20th (+1)
21. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.
Comment: Gets pair of sixth-place finishes at Swainsboro and Wythe during Lucas Oil tour’s Southern swing. Series points: 8th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 19th (-1)
22. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.
Comment: Tangle at Tri-City knocks him out of top five; rebounds with fourth place Summernationals finish at Fairbury. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 20th (-2)
23. Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill.
Comment: Building consistency with six top-five finishes in eight Summernationals starts, including back-to-back victories. Series points. 1st (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: Unranked
24. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: Lucas Oil’s Southern swing successful with runner-up finish at Swainsboro and late rally for victory at Wythe. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: Unranked
25. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.
Comment: After mostly rallying from mid-pack in Summernationals, he leads flag-to-flag for victory at Michigan’s I-96 Speedway. Series points: 2nd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: Unranked
Dropped out: Doug Drown, Matt Miller, Casey Roberts.
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.