GREENWOOD, Neb. — A return to I-80 Speedway was just what Jonathan Davenport needed to turn around his recent slump on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., took the lead when Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., slowed with three laps remaining in Saturday night’s Silver Dollar Nationals main event at I-80 and pulled away through a green-white-checkered finish to complete a sweep of the 4/10-mile oval’s blockbuster weekend.
Saturday’s $53,000 victory, which followed Davenport’s $10,000 triumph in a tune-up event at I-80 on Thursday, marked Davenport’s eighth Lucas Oil Series win of the season and helped extend his lead in the series points standings after a series of sub-par performances allowed challengers to close the gap during much of the summer.
“What a race car. Like I said before, I got all the faith in the world in Jason and Kevin making changes on this thing,” said Davenport, who also won the Silver Dollar Nationals in 2016. “It was spot on for sure. After we hot lapped I knew we had a really good race car. I wanted to get to the front as early as I could so I could dictate my speed and try not to get in a wreck or get hung up in somebody else’s stuff because I knew we had a shot to win it.”
Pierce appeared to be headed toward a luck-changing victory after rallying from 28th to battle polesitter Scott Bloomquist for the lead just after the race’s halfway point.
Pierce was well in command after pulling ahead of Bloomquist for good on lap 50 until his car began to slow with five laps remaining. Pierce remained on the track, but his slowing machine was no match for the hard-charging Davenport.
Davenport raced ahead just after the leaders completed lap 77, and Pierce slowed to stop one lap later.
Davenport pulled away on the ensuing restart and drove his Lance Landers-owned Longhorn Chassis to a lead of 1.958 seconds at the finish.
Canadian Ricky Weiss came out on top of a dramatic battle for positions second through fifth, topping Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., for the $20,000 runner-up payday. Owens settled for third with Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., rounding out the top five.
Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., spent time out front on three different occasions during battles with Weiss and Pierce, but his car faded through the race’s second half. He finished sixth with Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., the final lead-lap car in seventh.
Starting from the 12th spot, Davenport charged to third by lap 10 then settled in behind Bloomquist and Weiss. As Pierce made his rally to the front, Davenport remained patient and saved his tires for race’s closing laps.
A lap-67 caution for Kyle Bronson’s run-in with the turn-two wall gave Davenport a chance to mount a final charge. He pulled away from Weiss and Bloomquist on the restart and put himself in position to take advantage of Pierce’s heartbreak.
“We just rode and rode,” Davenport said. “That’s probably the hardest job I’ve ever had to do is just ride for that long and let all of those guys get that far out on me. Ricky did a helluva job and Bobby must’ve been real good. But I just didn’t wanna go that fast that early. I knew the top would be there and that’s probably where the race would be won. I just kept patient. I just wanted to make sure I had the best tires the last 10 laps.
“I knew (Pierce) had been having engine problems. I hate it for him, I really do. That’s gotta be sickening for him and the whole Dunn-Benson team. I saw him start smoking and at that time I had really started picking the pace up anyway. I had got cleared of (Weiss) and I thought I might could reel him in, but I know he was really good on the cushion too. Everything just worked in our favor. His misfortune was our fortune.”
Feature Finish: (1) Jonathan Davenport, (2) Ricky Weiss, (3) Jimmy Owens, (4) Hudson O’Neal, (5) Earl Pearson Jr., (6) Scott Bloomquist, (7) Don O’Neal, (8) Tim McCreadie, (9) Gregg Satterlee, (10) Chris Simpson, (11) Chad Simpson, (12) Shannon Babb, (13) Billy Moyer, (14) Jared Landers, (15) Chase Junghans, (16) Darrell Lanigan, (17) Bobby Pierce, (18) Jason O’Brien, (19) Josh Richards, (20) Kyle Berck, (21) Kyle Bronson, (22) Matt Buller, (23) Corey Zeitner, (24) Dave Eckirch, (25) Tad Pospisil, (26) JC Wyman, (27) Kent Robinson, (28) Justin Zeitner, (29) Shane Clanton, (30) Scott Ward, (31) Mason Zeigler, (32) Dennis Erb Jr., (33) Brandon Sheppard.