Davenport Snares Wild West Shootout Opener

Davenport Snares
Jonathan Davenport (49) battles Ricky Thornton Jr. Saturday at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer photo)

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. – The green flag officially waved over the 15th annual Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly parts Saturday, featuring 171 total entries across three divisions.

Leading the way was Jonathan Davenport, who opened the headlining super late model portion of the event with the fourth Wild West Shootout win of his career.

Tony Toste of Pismo Beach, Calif., led the way in group qualifying for the Dirt Track Bank super late model division presented by Black Diamond Race Cars, speeding around the three-eighths-mile FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway in 15.114 seconds.

Toste earned the $100 SportTruck RV Fast Time Award presented by Screven Motor Speedway for his efforts and became eligible for the $1,000 Premier Waste Services Shock the Clock program, which will be awarded to the super late model driver who sets the quickest overall time throughout the entire event.

Unfortunately for Toste, that is where his good fortune ended, as he incurred damage and was unable to finish his heat race, before suffering mechanical problems in his B-main later in the evening that ended his night.

Bobby Pierce, Jason Feger, Tyler Erb, Davenport, Ricky Thornton Jr., and Garrett Alberson each earned victories in their respective heat races, setting themselves up for redraw positions and putting Alberson on the eventual pole.

Davenport secured the outside front row starting position and that was all he needed, firing off to lead the start of the main event by blazing around the top of FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, which proved to be the preferred line throughout the night.

Davenport set a blistering pace and began hitting lapped traffic by lap eight, with Thornton and Alberson in hot pursuit.

Thornton began cutting into Davenport’s lead as the race eclipsed the halfway mark, while Alberson remained in striking distance of both. However, the race experienced a rash of Midwest Sheet Metal caution flags, with Pierce slowing on lap 25 with a flat right rear tire.

Pierce was able to rejoin the field, only to suffer another flat right rear tire on lap 32, ending his night.

Two other Midwest Sheet Metal caution flags flew between Pierce’s incidents, as Rusty Schlenk spun at the entrance of turn one on the lap 26 restart, before 10-time World of Outlaws sprint car champion Donny Schatz spun in turn two on the lap 28 restart.

Up until Pierce’s second flat tire caused the fourth and final caution flag, Davenport continued to have his hands full with Thornton on each restart.

Thornton was able to get underneath Davenport on several occasions, trading the lead with him on lap 27, then leading lap 31 at the line by a nose. However, Thornton was unable to clear Davenport, allowing “Superman” to maintain the preferred high line.

As the saying goes, timing is everything, and Davenport appeared to be his strongest on the final restart with eight laps remaining.

Davenport completely checked out and ran away in the closing laps, gapping Thornton by 1.157 seconds at the finish and collecting the $5,000 prize.

Shirley kept pace with Davenport and Thornton, but just didn’t quite have enough to contend and settled for third place on Saturday, while Chris Simpson charged in the closing laps to claim fourth.

Cody Laney of Torrance, Calif., impressed many after finishing second in his heat race earlier in the evening, rounding out the top five in Saturday’s feature.

Making his debut in the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, Chad Simpson advanced the most positions on Saturday, finishing eighth after starting 22nd.

Simpson earned the $500 Premier Waste Service Hard Charger Award and took the early lead for most positions gained throughout the entire event, an honor which will pay $1,000 to the super late model driver who passes the most combined cars over the six-race miniseries.

Davenport’s triumph moved him out of a six-way tie for 10th place on the all-time event wins list and now into a six-way tie for fifth.

He is the only super late model driver who could possibly contend for the Keyser Manufacturing Quarter-Million Challenge, a feat that has never been accomplished and is only awarded if a driver could sweep the entire event, winning all six races.

In other action, the Mesilla Valley Transportation and Border Tire Modifieds presented by Arizona Differential found a familiar face in Hoker Trucking victory lane on Saturday, as defending division champion Dustin Strand picked up where he left off in 2020.

Strand led all 25 laps, securing the victory after a late battle through slower traffic with Lucas Schott and Shane Sabraski.

Schott was second in a photo finish with Sabraski for that position, with Rodney Sanders and Tyler Peterson filling out the top five.

A last-lap pass for the win in the RHRSwag.com X-Mod division saw Jory Berg best Brock Gronwold in a wild battle that saw the lead change hands twice on the final lap.

Berg eventually won out by .329 seconds at the line over Gronwold, Parker Hale, Sabraski – who was performing double duty Saturday – and Jake Smith.

The finish:

Super Late Model Feature (40 laps): 1. 49D-Jonathan Davenport [2]; 2. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr. [4]; 3. 3S-Brian Shirley [7]; 4. 32S-Chris Simpson [11]; 5. 32B-Cody Laney [12]; 6. 1-Tyler Erb [3]; 7. 91P-Jason Papich [10]; 8. 25-Chad Simpson[22]; 9. 59-Garrett Alberson [1]; 10. 157-Mike Marlar [8]; 11. 2S-Stormy Scott [20]; 12. 21-Billy Moyer Sr. [13]; 13. 98-Jared Landers [16]; 14. 1ST-Johnny Scott [15]; 15. 4G-Bob Gardner [24]; 16. 86-Kyle Beard [18]; 17. 37-Scott Ward [9]; 18. 25F-Jason Feger [5]; 19. 32-Bobby Pierce [6]; 20. 15-Donny Schatz [17]; 21. 91-Rusty Schlenk [14]; 22. 74-Mitch McGrath [25]; 23. 75T-Terry Phillips [19]; 24. 130-Chase Allen [23]; 25. 20-Rodney Sanders [21].