ROSSBURG, Ohio — Jonathan Davenport won the famed World 100 dirt late model race at Eldora Speedway for the third time in five years on Saturday night.
Driving Lance Landers’ No. 49 with a “Brewster Baker” paint scheme, Davenport raced from seventh on the grid before a capacity crowd at the half-mile track.
But as then-leader Bobby Pierce approached lap 30, Davenport noticed something in his car starting to fade. Davenport raced the final 70 laps without power steering.
“It was definitely tough. It might have made me better to where I didn’t have to move the wheel much, but I was turning left into the corner with the brake pedal, just trying to hold the wheel straight and exiting the corner using just my foot to accelerate,” Davenport said.
From lap 30 onward, Davenport continued to move forward without the aid of power steering, catching and passing polesitter John Blankenship for second on lap 27. A restart on lap 31 marked the beginning of Davenport’s battle with Pierce over the next 40 laps, buying time and track position for Ricky Weiss and his efforts to catch the leaders.
As Weiss closed in, the battle between the “Smooth Operator” and “Superman” began to heat up, Pierce on the high side and Davenport chomping at the bit down low. The two had battled this way in lapped traffic 20 laps earlier, but Davenport was only able to get a dive deep enough into the corner to clear Pierce on one occasion – lap 48, where he just barely nosed Pierce at the line on lap 48. Come lap 62, Davenport got enough momentum on the low side to nip Pierce at the line again before Pierce took it back one circuit later.
The two sparred for a few more laps before encountering Weiss, who found something on the topside to make the move on Davenport for second. But that didn’t last long, as “JD” got a great run in the low groove on lap 67, going underneath Weiss and Pierce to take the lead for the final time
“It was awesome racing between us,” Davenport said. “Ricky got up there racing with us in lapped traffic, and I just moved around and found a couple more lines – just got into a rhythm of what I needed to do to rive my racecar the way it was.”
Davenport turned on the jets and opened up an advantage of almost two full seconds over Weiss by the time a caution came out with 17 laps remaining for Pierce, who had slapped the turn one wall, ending his chances for glory.
Davenport opened up another 2.6-second advantage after the lap-84 restart before another caution waived, placing Weiss and Jimmy Owens right on his rear bumper. His arms were giving out and he was feeling the pressure, but Davenport prevailed, hanging on to lead the final circuits and collect his third World 100 trophy under three different car owners.
“Ricky got a really good jump on that second restart,” Davenport said. “He jumped me just a little bit, and I didn’t spin the tires, but I was trying to be really patient. I pulled back by him just a little bit at the flag stand, had to slide him down here, I’m sure it was very close. But it’s the World 100, you’ve got to do what you can.”
His 2015 win came aboard the Kevin & Leeroy Rumley-owned Longhorn Chassis No. 6, the same year he became the third driver in Eldora Speedway history to win the Dirt Late Model Dream and World 100 in the same year. 2017 saw a red and white No. 49 pull into Eldora Victory Lane, owned by North Carolinian G.R. Smith.
It’s been a terrific season for Davenport, who has 15 overall victories and leads the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series standings.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to win so many crown jewels this year,” Davenport said. “Either bad racing luck has happened to us or we’ve dolled ourselves out in the 100-lappers… I thought it was going to happen again whenever the power steering started acting up and went out.”
Owens also hung onto his runner-up spot from the lap 92 restart, battling with Weiss, Chris Madden and Stormy Scott in the final stages to bag a solid second-place in the World 100 finale.
“I was really worried about restarts the first time, but we took off in front of Madden, who’s had a great car all weekend,” Owens said. “I was happy with third and thought ‘man, we’re pretty good right here.’ But the longer we run, the further out those guys would get.”
Weiss wrapped up a podium finish in his very first World 100 start after running up front all weekend.
“It was a good race until that last restart, we just went for it,” Weiss said. “I mean, second or third… heck, I could’ve got a DNF with the way I drove it in there. But we also could’ve maybe won it, so it was worth it.”
Feature (100 Laps): 1. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 2. 20-Jimmy Owens; 3. 7W-Ricky Weiss; 4. 2S-Stormy Scott; 5. OM-Chris Madden; 6. O-Scott Bloomquist; 7. 1-Chad Simpson; 8. 17M-Dale McDowell; 9. 39-Tim McCreadie; 10. 50-Shanon Buckingham; 11. 71-Hudson O’Neal; 12. 23B-John Blankenship; 13. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 14. 1S-Brandon Sheppard; 15. 18-Shannon Babb; 16. 25Z-Mason Zeigler; 17. 25C-Shane Clanton; 18. 14-Josh Richards; 19. 28-Dennis Erb Jr.; 20. 22F-Chris Ferguson; 21. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 22. 71C-R.J. Conley; 23. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr.; 24. 32-Bobby Pierce; 25. 1T-Tyler Erb; 26. 29-Darrell Lanigan; 27. 157-Mike Marlar; 28. 18J-Chase Junghans; 29. 72-Michael Norris; 30. 3S-Brian Shirley