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Poll shuffle continues as Lanigan tops Richards

September 24, 2013, 6:54 am
By Andy Savary
DirtonDirt.com

For the fourth consecutive week, there has been a change atop DirtonDirt.com's Top 25 power rankings presented by JRi Shocks. Reigning World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., has overtaken current World of Outlaws points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., atop the weekly poll, following his second straight victory in the Keyser Manufacturing Down & Dirty 75 presented by NAPA at dirt-covered Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich.

In one of the tightest races for the No. 1 spot in the poll's history, Lanigan (pictured) and Richards each collected a 11 out of a possible 23 first-place votes, with Lanigan's 557 total points narrowly besting Richards' 555 points and securing him the top spot for the second time this season.

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., earned the final first-place vote and climbed one spot to No. 3 in the rankings, while World 100 winner John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va, and soon-to-be Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., rounded out the top five.

Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., was the biggest mover of the week, rising five spots to No. 9 after winning his fourth Jackson 100 at the famed Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway. Oakwood, Ill., driver Bobby Pierce also made a notable move up the rankings, climbing three spots before landing at No. 7 in part thanks to a pair of $2,000 victories at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill. Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., rejoined the rankings at No. 25 following a one-week absence, while Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., and Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., are among drivers who just came up short and wait on the outside looking in.

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. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: Not even Mother Nature can keep him from visiting victory lane again in dirt-covered Berlin's Down & Dirty 75. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 2nd (+1)

2. Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.

Comment: Set to make his return to Knoxville this weekend following another top-five finish in WoO action at Berlin. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 1st (-1)

3. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: Not many crown jewel races are left standing on his checklist; can he add his first mark next to Knoxville this weekend? Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 4th (+1)

4. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Oddly has never faired better than 13th in three previous Knoxville Nationals starts; that seems likely to change this weekend. Series points: 3rd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 3rd (-1)

5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Amazes with a gritty 23rd-to-fifth rally following a painful heat race flight, an ambulance ride and a hospital visit at Brownstown. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 6th (+1)

6. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Will we see the 2008 Knoxville Nationals champion back at the historic Iowa half-mile this weekend? Series points: 5th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 5th (-1)

7. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.

Comment: Youngster sweeps a pair of victories at Tri-City to raise his 2013 season win total into double digits. Series points: 2nd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 10th (+3)

8. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.

Comment: Gave it all he had on the high side at Berlin, but ultimately came up short of snapping his near four-month WoO winless drought. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 9th (+1)

9. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: Turns in a vintage Don O'Neal performance at Brownstown and adds a fourth Jackson 100 victory to his resume. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 14th (+5)

10. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Remains the only driver to ever sweep all three nights of Knoxville Nationals action, a feat that could stand for a long time. Series points: 1st (NDRL). Last week’s ranking: 7th (-3)

11. Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill.

Comment: UMP Summernationals champ is headed down the homestretch as the favorite to also claim the UMP weekly points title. Series points: 1st (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 8th (-3)

12. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: Will return as somewhat of a stranger to Knoxville, but did record a top-five finish during his only Knoxville Nationals start in 2005. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 11th (-1)

13. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: The only two-time winner of the Knoxville Nationals is always excited to return to what he notes as his favorite racetrack. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 15th (+2)

14. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: Flying a bit under the radar this season, but not much separates him from being deep in the thick of the WoO championship chase. Series points: 4th (World of Outlaws). Last week’s ranking: 14th (nc)

15. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: Seems due to put on a show at some point this weekend at Knoxville after a mostly forgettable September thus far. Series points: 3rd (Summernationals). Last week’s ranking: 12th (-3)

16. Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.

Comment: Slated to be back in a Late Model at Knoxville after racing his modifieds with the USTMS last weekend at Deer Creek. Series points: 3rd (MLRA). Last week's ranking: 16th (nc)

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

Comment: Off to EAMS for the Alabama State Championship Race, which will feature a doubleheader of $4,000-to-win events for the first time. Series points: 3rd (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 17th (nc)

18. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Is there any driver as beloved at a track as Birky is at Knoxville? The inaugural race winner hopes fans will cheer him to a second victory. Series points: 5th (NDRL). Last week’s ranking: 18th (nc)

19. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.

Comment: Finished 12th in his first Knoxville Nationals appearance last season and will look to better that effort this weekend. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 19th (nc)

20. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.

Comment: Will enter Roaring Knob's Big Kahuna following a pair of top-four finishes in rain-shuffled Winchester 200 action. Series points: 1st (AMS). Last week's ranking: 22nd (+2)

21. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: Any guesses as to which will be his preferred line around Knoxville's high-speed, half-mile oval this weekend? Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: 20th (-1)

22. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.

Comment: Has not found much success at Knoxville since making the switch to Longhorn Chassis before the 2010 season. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Last week’s ranking: 24th (+2)

23. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.

Comment: Plans to enter both his Super Late Model and Crate Late Model in this weekend's Alabama State Championship Race action at EAMS. Series points: 1st (Southern Nationals). Last week’s ranking: 21st (-2)

24. Tony Jackson Jr., Lebanon, Mo.

Comment: Wraps up his first MARS title with more consistency at Salina; likely to be crowned MLRA champion next weekend, as well. Series points: 1st (MARS and MLRA). Last week’s ranking: 23rd (-1)

25. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.

Comment: Impressed last year by winning Knoxville's Friday preliminary feature and backing it up with a sixth-place run in Saturday's finale. Series points: None. Last week’s ranking: Unranked

Dropped out: Ray Cook

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. Darrell Lanigan (557) (11)
2. Josh Richards (555) (11)
3. Jimmy Owens (508) (1)
4. John Blankenship (507)
5. Steve Francis (480)
6. Tim McCreadie (423)
7. Bobby Pierce (382)
8. Shane Clanton (379)
9. Don O'Neal (375)
10. Billy Moyer (374)
11. Brandon Sheppard (353)
12. Dale McDowell (269)
13. Scott Bloomquist (256)
14. Rick Eckert (231)
15. Shannon Babb (214)
16. Terry Phillips (194)
17. Chris Madden (189)
18. Brian Birkhofer (174)
19. Dennis Erb Jr. (155)
20. Gregg Satterlee (124)
21. Jason Feger (112)
22. Earl Pearson Jr. (103)
23. Jonathan Davenport (102)
24. Tony Jackson Jr. (98)
25. Mike Marlar (76)
Others receiving votes: Ray Cook (63), Jackie Boggs (45), Eddie Carrier Jr. (44), Dennis Franklin (26), Matt Miller (23), Jesse Stovall (18), Steve Shaver (11), Doug Drown (9), Chad Simpson (8), Max Blair (7), Chris Simpson (7), Dustin Linville (6), Dan Stone (6), Brady Smith (5), Casey Roberts (3), Rob Blair (1), Greg Johnson (1), Jimmy Mars (1), J.T. Spence (1).
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