By Lyndal Scranton (Whatland, MO) -- The hottest driver on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series remained on a summer sizzle Saturday night.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Georgia, took the lead with 22 laps remaining and went on to capture the 15th annual CMH Diamond Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway. Davenport collected $15,000 and a diamond ring and continued cutting into the series points lead.
PHOTO CREDIT: GS Stanek Racing Photography
Davenport finished 1.4 seconds in front of runner-up Josh Richards in collecting his third Diamond Nationals triumph and sixth Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature victory of the season. He's won five features since June 17th with four of those LOLMDS triumphs.
"There's no doubt," Davenport said of hitting his stride at the right time. "We're going into a stretch with some big money."
Action got underway a couple of hours later after a drenching, late-afternoon rain soak the speedway. There were 34 Late Models in the pits for the action.
In the support divisions, Kyle Thompson picked up the Cedar Creek Beef Jerky feature win and James McMillin prevailed in the O'Reilly Auto Parts USRA Stock Cars.
Davenport started fourth in the 50-lap headliner and worked his way into second by lap 28. He had just made a pass of leader Jimmy Owens when Owens plowed into the back of Mason Oberkramer on the backstretch as Oberkramer suddenly slowed.
Third-place Shane Clanton also was involved in the mishap, running into Owens in a chain-reaction situation, knocking out two of the the top three from contention.
Owens started on the front row and led the first 28 laps as he chased a fifth Diamond Nationals win. But it was not to be for the veteran driver from Newport, Tennessee.
Davenport, who had been battling Owens through lapped traffic, emerged with the lead with Kyle Bronson second and Stormy Scott third.
"I don't know what happened to Jimmy there. Man, he's got the worst luck in the world," Davenport said of Owens. "I feel bad for him. He probably had the best car."
On the restart, eight cars piled up in turn four with Show-Me 100 winner Hudson O'Neal getting the worst of it and having to be pulled back to the pit area. Richards was one of those in the wreck, but was able to keep going.
Davenport opened a one-second lead by lap 36, but Bronson chopped into the lead and was within six-tenths of a second when the race went to another caution on lap 44 as Garrett Alberson, Tony Jackson Jr. and Tim McCreadie were involved in an turn-four incident. That trio was running in spots eight, nine and 10.
Davenport led the rest of the way as the action remained caution-free. It was his 56th career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory and sixth of the 2021 season.
"This place never did slow down at all," Davenport said of the track conditions. "I was figuring like maybe it would get a little black streak here and there, but it never did. You just had ot search around and it finally started getting a little bit choppy there about halfway on, so you had to move around just a little bit off the bottom.
"I was a little bit better right through the middle through three and four, but still you had to come back and hug the bottom off of two."
Richards, who started 16th, passed Bronson coming to the white flag and finished behind the winner. Scott finished fourth and Earl Pearson Jr. was fifth.
"We'll absolutely take it," Richards said of his runner-up finish. "This motor has a lot of laps on it. It felt a little bit off early and I didn't get a very good qualifying lap and that put us behind all night long."
Davenport said he was aware that Bronson and Richards were lurking right behind on the restart with eight to go. And Bronson was left to wonder about the outcome if not for the caution.
"We had a pretty good car, really, just kind of riding early," Bronson said. "We didn't want to use up our tires early. We started running down Jonathan with about 10 laps to go. That caution killed me, but them guys have been good. We should have run second."
Front-row starters Owens and Scott set the early pace, with Owens winning the jump and taking the lead. The top two were 1.4 seconds in front of third-place Davenport when a lap-five caution waved after Pearson took a spin in turn two.
By lap 13, the leaders again were breaking away and started to lap the back end of the field. Four laps later, the race's second caution was brought out when defending Diamond Nationals champ Chris Ferguson slowed with a flat tire.
Davenport capitalized on the restart to vault past Scott and into second on lap 18 with Clanton going around Scott the next time around to gain the third position. Owens, meanwhile, set the pace having led every lap until the accident on the 28th circuit.
Owens rallied to finish seventh, Clanton was ninth and Tim McCreadie came home in 12th to escape with his points lead intact, unofficially 70 clear of Davenport.
Lucas Oil MLRA points leader Tony Jackson Jr. of Lebanon, finished 13th.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is scheduled to kick off a string of five races in five nights on Tuesday, at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska for the Al Belt Custom Homes I-80 Nationals.
The Lucas Oil MLRA is back in action with a doubleheader at Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, Missouri, on Aug 13-14.
Thompson captures USRA Modified win: Kyle Thompson of Joplin regained command with five laps to go and held off Nic Bidinger to capture the Cedar Creek Beef Jerky USRA Modified feature.
"We've never won here before," Thompson said. "This is the first time. God is good."
Thompson got by Paden Phillips on lap three to take over the top spot and those two dueled nose-to-tail, with Bidinger right behind them, until a lap-12 caution bunched the field.
Bidinger had a terrific restart to grab the lead away from Thompson on lap 13, but Thompson came right back and regained the top spot two laps later.
"Once I could run out there in clean air, I could run a pretty good line," Thompson said. "It was put down my right foot and don't let off of it."
Thompson pulled away from there and won by 1.6 seconds over Bidinger. Jason Pursley finished third, points leader Dillon McCowan was fourth and Ryan Middaugh earned fifth.
USRA Stock Car win goes to McMillin: James McMillin of Warrensburg made a last-lap pass for the O'Reilly Auto Parts USRA Stock Cars feature win, as he slipped by Ed Griggs for his first Lucas Oil Speedway triumph.
"I was trying to find a smooth line," McMillin said of the final lap. "Let's just say that race track was challenging, at best. We worked our way through there and I found a place down there in three and fourth where I could drive through there straight and it worked out."
Darren Phillips grabbed the lead on lap three, after Griggs paced the opening two circuits. But Phillips’ pursuit of his first Lucas Oil Speedway victory ended when his car lost power entering turn two on lap six.
That boosted Griggs back to the front, followed by Hendrix and McMillin.
As Hendrix, McMillin and Dominic Thyfault battled behind him, Griggs was able to open a one-second lead by lap 15. But the cushion didn’t last long, with McMillin pulling alongside the leader with two laps remaining.
McMillin was able to make the winning move on turn two of the final lap and then held on, beating Griggs by .311 seconds. Hendrix wound up third with Derek Brown fourth and Thyfault fifth.