PORT ROYAL, Pa. – Clean air is always advantageous, but when Jonathan Davenport grabs hold of it, that typically leaves everyone else frantically attempting to keep pace.
That was the story Sunday night at Port Royal Speedway, as Davenport rolled to victory in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series River Valley 40 at the half-mile dirt oval. The three-time series champion earned the pole, scurried to the lead on the initial start, and set sail to lead all 40 laps for his nation-leading eighth late model win of the year.
It was Davenport’s first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory this season. He beat Shane Clanton to the checkered flag by .475 seconds, with Brandon Sheppard finishing third.
“It was a good night,” Davenport said. “It was a big deal to get the lead on Sheppard [on the start]. Clean air is huge here. It definitely makes it easier when you can lead like that.”
Despite going out last in the first group of qualifying, Davenport set the third-quickest time in his fleet with a lap of 18.307 seconds. Mike Marlar set quick time with a 18.147-second lap.
Davenport’s solid lap landed him on the outside of heat one, which turned out to be the preferred line on initial starts. He rolled to the heat win, putting him on the pole for the main event.
That’s when the 37-year-old started to formulate a game plan on how he’d defy the trend throughout the night: not letting the outside car beat the inside car on initial starts.
“As far as the start goes, just about everybody got the lead from the outside in the heat races,” Davenport said. “So I did what I thought the leader should have done to prevent that.”
Davenport sailed it into the opening corner and raced up the banking, gaining position on Sheppard to immediately take control of the top.
“That was definitely the key to the race,” Davenport said.
Davenport built a two-second lead over Sheppard by lap 20, but a caution for Colton Flinner reset the playing field. Clanton got by Sheppard on the ensuing restart and stayed in Davenport’s tracks for much of the second half of the race.
“Once we got to lapped cars the first time, I got through them pretty easily,” Davenport said. “Then once the caution came out, when we got back to them, I couldn’t really get by them as good as I could.”
Davenport never relented, though. He rarely got off the top, too, even though Clanton got close multiple times on the bottom in the late going.
“I thought the top was dying, but I didn’t really want to try the bottom to give Clanton a chance around the top and get a big run on me,” Davenport said. “I felt like if I messed up pretty bad he was going to get by. I just made sure to get a good run down each straightaway. That was the biggest thing. I didn’t want to kill my momentum.”
As he’s done for much of the year, Davenport kept his No. 49 Longhorn Chassis churning for his fourth win in the last seven races. He now sits seventh in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series standings, 145 points behind leader Tim McCreadie heading into Tri-City Speedway (Ill.) on Friday.
“We have a good package going,” Davenport said. “We’re going to ride this wave as far as it’ll take us.”
Jonathan Davenport, Shane Clanton, Brandon Sheppard, Chris Ferguson, Stormy Scott, Gregg Satterlee, Josh Richards, Jimmy Owens, Tim McCreadie, Mike Marlar, Kyle Bronson, Devin Moran, Ricky Thornton Jr., Tyler Erb, Hudson O’Neal, Michael Norris, Jeff Rine, Earl Pearson Jr., Andy Haus, Ross Robinson, Dylan Yoder, Gary Stuhler, Trever Feathers, Mason Zeigler, Colton Flinner.