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No. 1 margin tightens as Babb enters the top 10

July 30, 2013, 8:40 am
By Andy Savary
DirtonDirt.com

After dominating Friday’s event at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa., and regaining the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points lead, Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., has closed to the rear deck of Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., in DirtonDirt.com’s latest Top 25 power rankings presented by JRi Shocks.

Richards, who continues to head the World of Outlaws Late Model Series points, received 13 out of a possible 23 first-place votes to hold his ground atop the weekly poll, but Owens is now in hot pursuit. The two-time Lucas Oil Series champion accumulated nine first-place votes, jumped up one spot to No. 2, and edged within nine overall points of Richards atop the rankings.

Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., dropped one slot to third, while John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., and Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., completed the poll’s top five. Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., was voted sixth and received the final first-place vote

Fresh off a $20,000 payday on Saturday, Shannon Babb (pictured) of Moweaqua, Ill., vaulted up six spots to No. 8 this week and headlines the list of notable risers. Babb is joined by young gun Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who continued his parade up the rankings and ascended four more positions to No. 9 following his hair-raising battle with veterans Babb and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., during Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway’s tradition-rich Prairie Dirt Classic.

Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., also bounced up four notches this week, polling in at No. 13 as a result of his second Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals Series championship, while McDowell was the lone newcomer to the weekly power rankings at No. 20.

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: Recovers for sixth in the 100-lap Prairie Dirt Classic after needing a consolation race win to qualify. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 1st (nc)

2. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Runs away from the field at Roaring Knob and regains the Lucas Oil points lead in the process. Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 3rd (+1)

3. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: Defending USA Nationals champ hopes to get back on track after finishing two laps down at FALS. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 2nd (-1)

4. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Begrudgingly hands the orange spoiler back over to Owens following a tough night at Roaring Knob. Series points: 3rd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 4th (nc)

5. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Needs a provisional to get in the show, but rallies from 24th to fourth in the Prairie Dirt Classic. Series points: 5th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 6th (+1)

6. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Continues his best month of the season thus far with another steady night at Roaring Knob. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 5th (-1)

7. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.

Comment: One of only two WoO travelers to qualify for Fairbury’s Prairie Dirt Classic through heat races. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 7th (nc)

8. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: Turns in a vintage performance to capture his third Prairie Dirt Classic and a $20,000 payday. Series points: 3rd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 14th (+6)

9. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.

Comment: Third at Fairbury, but low-rider leaves thinking infield tires cost him a career-best victory. Series points: 2nd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 13th (+4)

10. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Broken hand from Silver Dollar Nationals keeps him out of action at FALS, but he’ll back at Cedar Lake. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 9th (-1)

11. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Parks his Late Models for a week in favor of Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Camping World Truck ride. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 10th (-1)

12. Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill.

Comment: Nearly claimed the Summernationals stop at Cedar Lake; will return for Aug. 1-3’s USA Nationals. Series points: 1st (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 11th (-1)

13. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.

Comment: Puts an exclamation point on his second Southern Nationals crown with a victory at Tazewell. Series points: 1st (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 17th (+4)

14. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Has five USA Nationals titles to his name, but none since 1993; he’ll chase number six this weekend. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 12th (-2)

15. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.

Comment: Shawano, Cedar Lake and Independence are on tap following an 11th-place run at Roaring Knob. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 8th (-7)

16. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: Looking to add a second USA Nationals trophy to his collection after struggling mightily at Fairbury. Series points: 4th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 15th (-1)

17. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment Cedar Lake-bound with the Moring Motorsports team; still looking for his first win since Speedweeks. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 16th (-1)

18. Tony Jackson Jr., Lebanon, Mo.

Comment: Continues his summer to remember with an MLRA win at L.A.; now leads both MARS and MLRA points. Series points: 1st (MARS and MLRA). Last week’s ranking: 18th (nc)

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

Comment: Likely won’t be sporting a Billy Ogle Jr. T-shirt anytime soon after their last-corner tangle Duck River. Series points: 3rd (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 19th (nc)

20. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: Nearly steals the Prairie Dirt Classic in the final laps after being shuffled back as far as ninth. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: Unranked

21. Chris Simpson, Oxford, Iowa

Comment: Rainouts give him a week off to prepare for WoO events at Shawano, Cedar Lake and Independence. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 20th (-1)

22. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: Taking some time off to regroup; likely will return to the track for Florence’s North-South 100. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 21st (-1)

23. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: Won’t be short on motivation at Cedar Lake, where he’ll enter his first WoO event since the Illini 100. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 25th (+2)

24. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.

Comment: Comes forward from 12th to fourth at Roaring Knob before Saturday’s rainout at Hagerstown. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 23rd (-1)

25. Doug Drown, Wooster, Ohio

Comment: Finds victory lane in weekly action at Wayne County, bumping his season win total to 12. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 22nd (-3)

Dropped out: Brady Smith

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.

DirtonDirt Top 25

Driver (Pts.) (1st place)
1. Josh Richards (565) (13)
2. Jimmy Owens (556) (9)
3. Darrell Lanigan (536)
4. John Blankenship (502)
5. Tim McCreadie (431)
6. Steve Francis (426) (1)
7. Shane Clanton (425)
8. Shannon Babb (394)
9. Bobby Pierce (329)
10. Brian Birkhofer (320)
11. Scott Bloomquist (310)
12. Brandon Sheppard (295)
13. Jonathan Davenport (281)
14. Billy Moyer (279)
15. Dennis Erb Jr. (277)
16. Rick Eckert (233)
17. Don O’Neal (221)
18. Tony Jackson Jr. (207)
19. Chris Madden (183)
20. Dale McDowell (111)
21. Chris Simpson (84)
22. Mike Marlar (79)
23. Jason Feger (76)
24. Earl Pearson Jr. (73)
25. Doug Drown (59)
Others receiving votes: Rob Blair (31), Brady Smith (31), Matt Miller (23), Steve Casebolt (18), Ryan Unzicker (16), Jimmy Mars (13), Eric Wells (11), Casey Roberts (10), Billy Ogle Jr. (9), Ryan Gustin (8), Vic Hill (8), Eddie Carrier Jr. (6), Chad Simpson (6), William Thomas (6), Ray Cook (5), Jamie Lathroum (5), Devin Moran (4), Morgan Bagley (3), Dan Stone (3), Chris Wall (3), Dave Hess Jr. (2), Tim Fuller (1), Mike Jewell (1)
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