Blankenship elevated to No. 3 in power rankings
By Andy SavaryDirtonDirt.com
After overtaking Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., atop the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Standings on Friday at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., and winning Saturday’s CMH Diamond Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., John Blankenship has ascended to No. 3 in DirtonDirt.com’s latest Top 25 power rankings presented by JRi Shocks.
The Williamson, W.Va., driver, who is up three spots from No. 6 this week, has begun to close the gap on top-ranked Josh Richards of Shinston, W.Va., and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., each of whom maintained their position from the previous polling.
Though his World of Outlaws Late Model Series points lead has begun to wane and he is no longer a unanimous No. 1, Richards remained atop the latest weekly rankings, receiving 19 out of a possible 23 first-place votes. The second-ranked Lanigan and newfound Lucas Oil points leader Blankenship each received two of the remaining four first-place votes and inched closer to Richards’ top spot.
For the second-consecutive week, UMP DIRTcar Summernationals pilots Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., were among drivers making the biggest moves. Pierce, who checks in at No. 14 in the poll, jumped five spots after recording two more Hell Tour victories and making a late-tour push in the point standings. Babb also notched a pair of Summernationals wins since the previous rankings were published, giving him a series-leading six victories on the 2013 campaign and lifting him up four spots to No. 11.
Fresh off his first Lucas Oil Series victory of 2013 Friday at Tri-City, veteran Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., matched Babb by climbing four spots up to No. 7 on a week where no new drivers entered the rankings.
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-three submitted ballots this week. Weekly polls continue through mid-November.
1. Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.
Comment: Finds victory lane in Wild West finale at Canada’s Red River, but no longer a unanimous No. 1. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 1st (nc)
2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
Comment: Never worse than third on the Wild West Tour, slides up to second in WoO points after Red River rally. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 2nd (nc)
3. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.
Comment: Makes statement with Diamond Nationals win, one night after gaining Lucas Oil points lead at Tri-City. Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil. Last week’s ranking: 6th (+3)
4. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Forfeits Lucas Oil points lead after tough luck doesn’t even allow him to take the green flag at Tri-City. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 5th (+1)
5. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
Comment: Makes long haul home easier by capping strong Wild West swing with runner-up finish in Canada. Series points: 5th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 4th (-1)
6. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.
Comment: Top-10 finishes every night on the Wild West Tour, but falls back to third in WoO point standings. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 3rd (-3)
7. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
Comment: Finally breaks the ice for his first Lucas Oil victory of 2013 at Tri-City, following spree of strong runs. Series points: 3rd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 11th (+4)
8. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.
Comment: Relatively quiet weekend at Tri-City and Wheatland to start off Lucas Oil’s Midwestern trip. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 7th (-1)
9. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Picks up where he left off 10 years back on the Summernationals in dominating Tuesday’s event at Florence. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 8th (-1)
10. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
Comment: Gets back in his comfort zone at Tri-City and 34; Lucas Oil events at Hamilton County and I-80 are up next. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 9th (-1)
11. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.
Comment: Triumph at Vermilion County moves him into tie with Billy Moyer atop the all-time Summernationals wins list. Series points: 3rd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 15th (+4)
12. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: 2011 Silver Dollar Nationals winner hopes to rekindle the magic and snap his long winless drought at I-80. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 10th (-2)
13. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: Breaks through for first WoO victory of the year at Gillette to highlight a successful Wild West stretch. Series points: 4th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 13th (nc)
14. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.
Comment: Collects two more $10,000 victories and continues his hellacious run to close out the Summernationals. Series points: 2nd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 19th (+5)
15. Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill.
Comment: Still leads the Summernationals standings as the tour winds down, but winless since June 27 at Clayhill. Series points: 1st (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 14th (-1)
16. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Comment: Despite a fifth-place finish, not his usual self at Tri-City; first to retire Saturday at Wheatland. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 12th (-4)
17. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.
Comment: After a little time off, he’ll hit upcoming Lucas Oil events at Lakeside, Hamilton County and I-80. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 16th (-1)
18. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.
Comment: Seeking his second Southern Nationals crown; begins 2013 chase with runner-up finish at Wythe. Series points: 2nd (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 18th (nc)
19. Chris Simpson, Oxford, Iowa
Comment: Builds momentum with a third-place run in Lucas Oil stop at Tri-City, fourth in Hell Tour visit to 34. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 22nd (+3)
20. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.
Comment: Plans to take time off, regroup before crown jewels after completing WoO’s Wild West Tour. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 17th (-3)
21. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: Program appears to be headed in the right direction after solid past month on the Lucas Oil Series. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 23rd (+2)
22. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: Sits out the beginning of July while teammate Austin Dillon makes a handful of starts on dirt. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 20th (-2)
23. Tony Jackson Jr., Lebanon, Mo.
Comment: Goes winless for the first week since mid-May, but still impresses with podium finish in Diamond Nationals. Series points: 1st (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 24th (+1)
24. Chris Madden, Gray Court, S.C.
Comment: Four-time Southern Nationals champ cruises in 2013 tour opener for series-leading 22nd career win. Series points: 1st (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 21st (-3)
25. Eddie Carrier Jr., Salt Rock, W.Va.
Comment: Looking to turn around midseason rough patch with strong runs on Lucas Oil’s trek through the Midwest. Series points: 8th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 25th (nc)
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.