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DirtonDirt.com exclusive

Owens opens season atop preseason Top 25

February 4, 2014, 10:01 am
By Andy Savary

Three-time and defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion, Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., has been voted atop DirtonDirt.com’s Preseason Top 25 power rankings for the second consecutive season. Owens (pictured) collected a poll-high 14 out of a possible 28 first-place votes to secure the No. 1 spot in the rankings presented by JRi Shocks.

Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., received five first-place votes to rank second in the poll, while John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., garnered a pair of first-place votes and polled third. Veterans Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., and Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., rounded out the top five in the preseason rankings.

Despite a recent announcement that he would be sidelined by an undisclosed medical issue to begin the 2014 season, defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., received the final seven first-place votes. Richards ranks seventh overall in the rankings, one spot behind Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., who will pilot Mark Richards' No. 1 Rocket Chassis house car in Richards’ indefinite absence.

DirtonDirt.com invited more than 30 media members and drivers along with track and series representatives to vote in this season’s rankings. Twenty-eight submitted preseason ballots. Regular season voting will begin weekly following Speedweeks and continue through mid-November.

1. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.

Comment: His pursuit of a fourth consecutive Lucas Oil championship will begin at Golden Isles and East Bay. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.

Comment: Set to make his first laps in self-designed Club 29 Race Cars in World of Outlaws action at Ocala and Volusia. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

3. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.

Comment: Heads to Speedweeks with two victories, momentum from January action in Tucson and El Paso. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

4. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

Comment: Winningest driver in Speedweeks history plans to enter all six events at both East Bay and Volusia. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

5. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.

Comment: Among drivers with early intentions to follow both the Lucas Oil and NDRL circuits in 2014. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

6. Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill.

Comment: Will get another opportunity in the Rocket house car during Josh Richards’ indefinite absence. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

7. Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.

Comment: Defending World of Outlaws champ will be sidelined by undisclosed medical issues to start 2014. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

8. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Comment: Hall of Famer will venture to Golden Isles, East Bay and Volusia for his Speedweeks. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

9. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.

Comment: Reinvigorated by offseason switch back to Rocket Chassis; will start his 2014 at Golden Isles. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

10. Shane Clanton, Zebulon, Ga.

Comment: Amicably splits with car owner John Kennedy during offseason; starts own race team. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

11. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.

Comment: Leaves behind the MasterSbilt No. 71 in favor of the Clint Bowyer Racing No. 5 for 2014. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

12. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.

Comment: Can he build on his breakout 2013 season with an even more successful 2014 campaign? Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

13. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.

Comment: No driver was hotter to end 2013; he plans to follow the WoO circuit for an 11th straight season. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

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

Comment: Set for a quiet Speedweeks with only Lucas Oil events at Golden Isles on his schedule. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

15. Jason Feger, Bloomington, Ill.

Comment: Will forgo the trip south and begin his season with La Salle’s Thaw Brawl in late March. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

16. Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.

Comment: New MasterSbilt house car driver will follow the Lucas Oil tour for the first time since 2011.  Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

17. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa

Comment: Scales back his racing operation, makes switch to Rocket Chassis over the offseason. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

18. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.

Comment: New co-owner of Boyd’s Speedway will make his first laps of 2014 at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

19. Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.

Comment: Adds a pair of Rockets to his Victory Circle stable; will open his season sometime in March. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

20. Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.

Comment: Fast throughout January's action in the desert, hits pay dirt with victory in El Paso’s finale. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

21. Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.

Comment: Puts 2013 struggles behind him with a strong, consistent start in the desert. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

22. Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.

Comment: Skips preseason events out West, but plans to follow the NDRL campaign in 2014. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

23. Gregg Satterlee, Rochester Mills, Pa.

Comment: Will be among the busiest drivers at Speedweeks, with planned stops at Screven, East Bay, Ocala and Volusia. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

24. Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa

Comment: Hopping back in a modified for a bit after scoring a $10,000 victory in Tucson’s finale. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

25. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.

Comment: Sets nearly 100 dates for the 2014 season launching with Golden Isles, East Bay, Volusia and EAMS. Series points: — . Last week’s ranking: —

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 and series representatives.

DirtonDirt Top 25

Driver (pts.) (1st place)
1. Jimmy Owens (682) (14)
2. Darrell Lanigan (653) (5)
3. John Blankenship (624) (2)
4. Billy Moyer (562)
5. Steve Francis (544)
6. Brandon Sheppard (543)
7. Josh Richards (509) (7)
8. Scott Bloomquist (482)
9. Tim McCreadie (434)
10. Shane Clanton (414)
11. Don O’Neal (411)
12. Bobby Pierce (393)
13. Rick Eckert (336)
14. Chris Madden (233)
15. Jason Feger (215)
16. Ray Cook (199)
17. Brian Birkhofer (194)
18. Dale McDowell (183)
19. Shannon Babb (171)
20. Terry Phillips (160)
21. Jimmy Mars (155)
22. Jonathan Davenport (145)
23. Gregg Satterlee (118)
24. Ryan Gustin (100)
25. Dennis Erb Jr. (92)
Others receiving votes: Tony Jackson Jr. (80), Earl Pearson Jr. (57), Mike Marlar (55), Kent Robinson (44), Billy Moyer Jr. (42), Randy Weaver (34), Jackie Boggs (22), Brady Smith (22), Tim Fuller (20), Josh Putnam (20), Brian Shirley (20), Eddie Carrier Jr. (18), R.C. Whitwell (14), Chris Simpson (12), Bub McCool (11), Eric Wells (11), Chad Simpson (10), Dennis Franklin (9), Billy Ogle Jr. (9), A.J. Diemel (8), William Thomas (8), Matt Miller (6), J.T. Spence (4), Ricky Elliott (3), Max Blair (2), Zack Olger (2), Doug Drown (1), Vic Hill (1), Casey Roberts (1), Clint Smith (1), Mason Zeigler (1).
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