Davenport Breaks Through At East Bay

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Jonathan Davenport (49) raced to victory in Wednesday's Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at East Bay Raceway Park. (Al Steinberg photo)

GIBSONTON, Fla. — Defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Jonathan Davenport survived a torrid battle with Brandon Sheppard to register his first victory of the season Wednesday night at East Bay Raceway Park.

Davenport took the lead from Sheppard on lap 26 and then held off Tyler Erb to win the Wrisco Industries Winternationals presented by Lucas Oil. It was Davenport’s fifth win at the “Clay by the Bay” and the 37th Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of his career.

Erb’s Best Performance Motorsports, Rocket entered the event winning three of the first four events of the season and was looking for his third straight victory at East Bay.

Josh Richards came from the 23rd starting spot in the Clint Bowyer Racing, Peak Antifreeze and Coolant, Rocket to place third. Brandon Overton finished fourth after starting 18th. Sheppard rounded out the top five.

Colton Flinner earned the first PFC Brakes Pole Award of his career and led the first eight laps of the main event before yielding to Brian Shirley on the ninth circuit.

Davenport started fifth and kept pace with the leaders before charging to the point on the twelfth circuit. Davenport held the lead until Sheppard move ahead on lap 24. Davenport quickly fought back, passing Sheppard on lap 26 to take the lead for the final time.

“I definitely wanted to see that last caution,” said Davenport. “I was getting into lapped traffic and everybody was on the bottom going into one and two. Everybody out there earned their paycheck tonight. This is the slickest place in the world. When I went into three and four, I just put it on the floor. I can’t thank my crew enough. We all put our heads together. We went back through our notes to see what we were missing on the set-up and their hard work paid off.”

Jonathan Davenport (Jim DenHamer photo)

Erb maintained his solid start to the season with a second-place finish.

“Not winning that heat race and starting eighth probably hurt us tonight,” Erb said. “Those restarts were wild. I was on the outside every time and I didn’t want to be there. We had a good race going. I hated to see that caution once I got past Sheppard. I could tell that JD’s [Jonathan Davenport’s] crew was telling him to run down the middle. It was a really great night. Good job to JD, Josh [Richards], and Sheppy [Sheppard]. It was a crazy and exciting race for sure.”

Richards overcame issues in his heat race and rebounded with a strong third-place run.

“We had a long night,” he said. “The motor hadn’t been running right. We have had some fuel problems the last few days. I told the crew something wasn’t right. We made a change right before the feature and I was just going to ride around there and it started going pretty good. We had a shot at the lead, but I’m happy to finish third.”

The finish:

Jonathan Davenport, Tyler Erb, Josh Richards, Brandon Overton, Brandon Sheppard, Kyle Bronson, Earl Pearson Jr., Brian Shirley, Don O’Neal, Devin Moran, Gregg Satterlee, Morgan Bagley, Billy Moyer Jr., Dennis Erb Jr., Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer, Colton Horner, Jeff Mathews, Colton Flinner, Scott Bloomquist, Ryan King, Jimmy Owens, Mike Benedum, Tanner English, Stormy Scott, Matt Cosner.