Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s … 2015. Well, that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the song Prince sang in the 1990’s but that must have been what the atmosphere felt like this past weekend at the Eldora Speedway after Jonathan Davenport made his way to victory lane following a dominating flag-to-flag win in the prestigious World 100. And more than just the Blairsville, GA driver taking the checkered flag was the fact that the nostalgia from two years ago was added to by the reunification of Davenport with setup wizard Keven Rumley.
Unless you were kidnapped and being held in an basement without electricity and the internet in 2015 you probably know that Davenport and Rumley, along with Rumley’s father Leroy, put together what was likely the greatest season in Dirt Late Model racing history as their K&L Rumley team won the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship along with several of the lucrative crown jewel races, including both the World 100 and the Dirt Late Model Dream held at Eldora.
After what would still be considered a highly successful season in 2016 by most standards, Davenport and the Rumleys went their separate ways as that campaign drew toward its close. Davenport briefly re-unified with longtime chassis builder Barry Wright at beginning of the 2017 season but now races out of the stables of North Carolina driver/owner G.R. Smith.
Since joining forces with Smith, the pilot of the No. 49 has begun to look like the Jonathan Davenport of old as he has scored four victories, including the $25,000-to-win Hillbilly 100 and the previously mentioned $50,000-to-win World 100.
This reunion with Kevin Rumley in the Smith-owned Rocket Chassis which has resulted in big wins for Davenport has prompted some followers of the sport to wonder if this driver could be set for a return to dominating performances like those he turned in two years ago. In a season that has seen drivers such as Scott Bloomquist, Brandon Sheppard and Josh Richards grab the bulk of the limelight, could a fourth name be ready to join those three at the top of the year end headlines?
I recently took to Twitter to offer ask that very question. And not surprisingly, many of the respondents do in fact believe that Davenport is back in winning form. Particularly, I asked if fans think he is now the favorite for the remaining big events on the 2017 Dirt Late Model calendar.
I asked the question, “Is Jonathan Davenport now the favorite for the Knoxville Nationals and the Dirt Track World Championship?”
Of the 348 people who responded, 67% believe that Davenport should now be listed as the favorite for those two races. That’s a pretty impressive percentage for a driver who struggled throughout much of the first half of the season. Obviously, fans(at least those who responded in the pole) think the move to Smith’s car and the reunification with Rumley will provide the pieces to the puzzle that Davenport has needed up to this point in the current campaign.
The results will obviously tell the tale. But as of right now, it would seem worthwhile to be on the lookout for more impressive runs by the No. 49 of Jonathan Davenport.