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Richards holds fast to No. 1 spot in Top 25

July 23, 2013, 7:21 am
By Andy Savary
DirtonDirt.com

Despite taking a week off from racing, World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader Josh Richards of Shinston, W.Va., was once again voted No. 1 in DirtonDirt.com’s latest Top 25 power rankings presented by JRi Shocks.

Richards, who has had a stranglehold on the top spot of the rankings for all but one week the regular season, gathered 15 out of a possible 21 first-place votes. Fellow World of Outlaws stalwart Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., polled in second for the fifth consecutive week, while receiving one first-place vote.

On the heels of a $27,000 Silver Dollar Nationals victory at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb., two-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., garnered four first-place votes and jumped up one spot to No. 3 in the power rankings. Current Lucas Oil Series points leader John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., slipped down one notch to No. 4 and collected the final first-place vote, while Ashland, Ky., driver Steve Francis rose two positions to No. 5 after another strong week that included a pair of runner-up finishes.

Tony Jackson Jr. (pictured) of Lebanon, Mo., leapt up five spots to No. 18 with his runner-up finish in the Silver Dollar Nationals and was one of four drivers ascending at least four positions. Other drivers making notable jumps were Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who now sits at No. 19 after a five-spot surge, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., won rocketed up four notches to No. 11 following his first UMP DIRTcar Summernationals title, and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who is back at No. 12 this week after falling four spots to No. 16 in the previous polling.

Two previously unranked drivers made their return to the power rankings behind special event victories. Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, scored his first career Summernationals victory Friday at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park and surfaced at No. 22, while Bloomington, Ill., pilot Jason Feger won Wednesday’s Lucas Oil visit to Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City, Iowa, and appeared in the final spot at No. 25.

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: One of many World of Outlaws regulars who will make their first-ever appearance at Fairbury this weekend. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 1st (nc)

2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: In a role reversal, he spends his week off from WoO action turning wrenches for crew chief Jason Jameson. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 2nd (nc)

3. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Emerges from Silver Dollar Nationals chaos $27,000 richer and ends his near two-month winless drought. Series points: 3rd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 4th (+1)

4. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Ultra-consistent on Lucas Oil’s six-race Midwestern swing, scoring one win and five top-five finishes. Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 3rd (-1)

5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Arguably the fastest car at both Lakeside and Hamilton County but settles for a pair of runner-up finishes. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 7th (+2)

6. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Flying a bit under the radar on the WoO tour, he’ll look to make noise during his first trip to Fairbury. Series points: 5th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 5th (-1)

7. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.

Comment: Despite a relatively quiet July, he remains in the thick of WoO title chase, just 42 points back. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 3rd (-1)

8. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.

Comment: Will miss his home-state Prairie Dirt Classic in favor of Lucas Oil events at Roaring Knob and Hagerstown. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 7th (nc)

9. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Strong in I-80’s finale before a tangle with Jared Landers leaves him with a broken hand and a mangled race car. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 10th (+1)

10. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Makes an arousing late entrance during hot laps at Hamilton County, comes home sixth in the feature. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 9th (-1)

11. Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill.

Comment: 20-year-old holds on to pocket $25,000 and become the youngest champion in Summernationals history. Series points: 1st (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 15th (+4)

12. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Records perhaps his best week of 2013 in winning at Lakeside and charging from 19th to fifth at I-80. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 16th (+4)

13. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.

Comment: Finishes up strong on his first full Hell Tour, coming up only 15 points short of winning the crown. Series points: 2nd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 14th (+1)

14. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: Doesn’t make the trip to Ohio for the final three Summernationals events; finishes with series-high five wins. Series points: 3rd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 11th (-3)

15. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: Could be a sleeper pick at this weekend’s Prairie Dirt Classic following a strong Wild West Tour. Series points: 4th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 13th (-2)

16. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: Several close calls in Friday’s wild heat race action at I-80; survives and takes 11th in Saturday’s finale. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 12th (-4)

17. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.

Comment: Back-to-back wins at EAMS and Swainsboro have him in command on the rain-plagued Southern Nationals. Series points: 1st (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 17th (+1)

18. Tony Jackson Jr., Lebanon, Mo.

Comment: Steps up to the national stage once again and doesn’t disappoint with a Silver Dollar Nationals runner-up finish. Series points: 1st (MARS). Last week’s ranking: 23rd (+5)

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

Comment: Four races remain for him to overcome a nine-point deficit and bag a fifth Southern Nationals title. Series points: 2nd (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 24th (+5)

20. Chris Simpson, Oxford, Iowa

Comment: A popular darkhorse pick to win at I-80, but slows to draw a lap-32 caution in Saturday’s finale. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 19th (-1)

21. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: Pilots Rocket Chassis in Lucas Oil races with Bloomquist Race Car out of commission since Lernerville. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 17th (-4)

22. Doug Drown, Wooster, Ohio

Comment: Leads every lap at Attica for a $5,000 Summernationals victory, his 11th overall on the season. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: Unranked

23. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.

Comment: Roller coaster week on the Lucas Oil tour ends with a disappointing 18th-place Silver Dollar Nationals finish. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 21st (-2)

24. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.

Comment: Regrouping before hitting crown jewel events at Cedar Lake, Florence and Batesville in August. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 20th (-4)

25. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: His first visit to Hamilton County ends with his first Lucas Oil victory; flirts with backing it up at I-80. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: Unranked

Dropped out: Dale McDowell, Eddie Carrier Jr.

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 series points for Owens and Francis.

DirtonDirt Top 25

Driver (Pts.) (1st place)
1. Josh Richards (513) (15)
2. Darrell Lanigan (479) (1)
3. Jimmy Owens (468) (4)
4. John Blankenship (464) (1)
5. Steve Francis (386)
6. Tim McCreadie (383)
7. Shane Clanton (378)
8. Dennis Erb Jr. (328)
9. Brian Birkhofer (309)
10. Scott Bloomquist (302)
11. Brandon Sheppard (299)
12. Billy Moyer (296)
13. Bobby Pierce (249)
14. Shannon Babb (248)
15. Rick Eckert (243)
16. Don O'Neal (230)
17. Jonathan Davenport (193)
18. Tony Jackson Jr. (167)
19. Chris Madden (130)
20. Chris Simpson (97)
21. Mike Marlar (90)
22. Doug Drown (83)
23. Earl Pearson Jr. (69)
24. Brady Smith (56)
25. Jason Feger (55)
Others receiving votes: Matt Miller (49), Dale McDowell (40), Steve Casebolt (37), Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Ryan Gustin (25), Ryan Unzicker (22), Chad Simpson (17), Scott James (15), Casey Roberts (13), Ray Cook (11), Jimmy Mars (10), Eric Wells (8), Jimmy Mars (6), Vic Hill (6), Rob Blair (4), Tim Fuller (4), Brian Harris (4), Morgan Bagley (3), Jared Landers (2), Bub McCool (2), Chris Wall (2), Justin Kay (1), Billy Ogle Jr. (1)
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