ROSSBURG, OH – Thinking back to when he started his Dirt Late Model racing career, Jonathan Davenport said he couldn’t have imagined winning one World 100, let alone four in his career.
But that’s exactly what he accomplished Saturday night, taking the lead from Brandon Overton just past halfway and leading the final 45 laps to win the 50th World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
“To me, I couldn’t have ever dreamt it up like this,” Davenport, of Blairsville, GA, said. “We’re only as good as our last race – that’s the way I always feel. I didn’t win the last one, so I feel like I’ve got to win the next one.”
Superman now joins an elite class of Late Model drivers at Eldora, becoming only the fourth man in history to win the World 100 at least four times – a feat previously accomplished by Billy Moyer (6), Scott Bloomquist (4) and Donnie Moran (4).
The $53,000 winner’s check now makes it six events Davenport and the Double L Motorsports team have won with winner’s shares of $20,000 or higher this year. In short, they’ve been just plain dominant when the money, and prestige, are on the line.
“It’s been a hell of a year, for sure,” Davenport said. “It’s probably been the best I’ve ever had, if not, the best so far against this competition.”
While he was all smiles in Victory Lane, a look of determination was painted across his face on pit road as the engines fired to start the 100-lap showdown. Rolling off P6 after a win in Heat 1, Davenport let the field get away from him a tiny bit in the early going, dropping back as far as 10th at one point. But this was all part of his plan.
“We got to start sixth, so I thought I had a big enough buffer that I could fall back a little and run my pace,” Davenport said. “Probably 10-15 laps into that run, I never really changed my pace, and then everybody started coming back to me.”
Fifteen laps later, Davenport had cracked into the top-five and had his sights set on the leaders. Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce, Brandon Overton and Johnny Scott were all still ahead of him, but it didn’t take long for him to crack the whip.
While Davenport began to pick cars off one-by-one, Overton decided it was time to make a move for the lead and did so on Lap 42, getting around Scott on the backstretch. He led the field around the half-mile for the next 12 laps, until the caution was displayed on Lap 55.
Overton chose the top lane for the ensuing restart, and right to his inside was none other than Davenport. He had made the climb and knew it was his moment to pounce, and he did with a slide job into Turn 1 to take the lead.
“He chose the top on the restart, and I got a decent run on him, and then I just tried to clear him getting into Turn 1,” Davenport said. “I figured he would slide me back, but I was just wanting to dirty his air up, make him slide his tires or something, get him out of rhythm.”
“I should have been able to carry enough speed to block him, but I couldn’t,” Overton said. “It wouldn’t have mattered if [Davenport] would’ve passed me on that restart; he would’ve got me on one of ‘em.”
Getting the jump on that restart was critical, and Davenport made sure he did just that by anticipating Overton’s takeoff when the green was thrown.
“The way they’ve got us boxed-in now, the other guy knows exactly where you’re gonna take off, so there’s no way you can really get a true jump on him,” Davenport said. “That’s what happened with Brandon – I knew exactly where he was gonna take off, within a half-car-length or so.”
Now with the lead, Davenport set it on cruise control. Meanwhile, another driver was on a mission.
Mike Marlar was forced to get into the show via Last Chance Showdown after getting caught-up in a Heat Race incident. He made repairs during the break, went out onto the track and put on a passing clinic, advancing to third from 17th and getting the final transfer spot into the 50th World 100.
Marlar said that the wreck in the Heat actually gave him a chance to work on his car and fine-tune it a bit more before the Last Chance. This enabled him to become a passing machine over the next two races.
“My car had good lateral grip. When they would all go down in the corner and drift up the track, I could stick it in there and get ‘em,” Marlar said.
A third-place finish in the Last Chance put him 26th on the Feature starting grid. For the first half of the race, he passed even more cars, advancing all the way to fifth by Lap 53. One by one, Marlar picked off the cars in the top-five and was sitting second with just over a quarter of the race left.
Marlar held his spot until the final restart on Lap 92, where he had one chance to score his first globe after starting 26th. He gave Davenport a good race down the straightway, but the #49 was just too fast.
Davenport drove away in the final laps and took the win by over 1.7 seconds to claim his fourth World 100 title.
“I’m grateful for it,” Marlar said of his run from the back. “Tonight, to actually have a shot with five-to-go, me and Jonathan drag racing down the front straightaway, door-to-door… he barely got me, but I was really grateful to get to run good.”
Overton hung on for third after bagging his first globe on Thursday night. While he was one man to beat all weekend long and missed the setup for Saturday, he knew what he and the Wells Motorsports team accomplished at Eldora this season was still impressive, even if they came up short of another sweep in the end.
“Honestly, I just got a little too tight and couldn’t steer in there,” Overton said. “It’s bound to happen. You can’t win ‘em all.”
The week’s overall top point-getter, Tim McCreadie, came home fourth after a drive from 18th, while Chris Ferguson bagged his second-straight World 100 top-10 in fifth.
Polesitter Scott Bloomquist led the first 18 laps before fading back and eventually coming to pit road under yellow. The four-time globe winner was part of two more cautions, and eventually decided to call it quits on Lap 72.
Pierce, who started on the outside pole, ran up front for most of the race before fading late and bringing out the race’s final caution on Lap 92. He pulled into the pits and retired with an apparent internal issue.
50th World 100 Feature (100 Laps) 1. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 2. 157-Mike Marlar; 3. 76-Brandon Overton; 4. 39-Tim McCreadie; 5. 22F-Chris Ferguson; 6. 1-Brandon Sheppard; 7. 17M-Dale McDowell; 8. 44-Chris Madden; 9. 66-Kyle Bronson; 10. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 11. 25S-Chad Simpson; 12. 0E-Rick Eckert; 13. 14-Josh Richards; 14. 32-Bobby Pierce; 15. 8-Kyle Strickler; 16. 0-Scott Bloomquist; 17. 23-John Blankenship; 18. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 19. 11K-Austin Kirkpatrick; 20. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 21. 9-Devin Moran; 22. 7-Ricky Weiss; 23. 29-Darrell Lanigan; 24. 11H-Spencer Hughes; 25. 22-Gregg Satterlee; 26. 72-Mike Norris; 27. 6-Ashton Winger; 28. 0NH-Nick Hoffman