It is very easy to say that it’s early in the season and a lot can still happen for both the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series competitors in terms of the accumulation of points toward a series championship is concerned. But at the same time, drivers who find themselves down in the standings following the early season Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks races have to be careful that they don’t fall too far behind, even at this early juncture.
Recent history has shown that those who get out front early in the standings of both national tours tend to stay out front for the duration of the season. Obviously, they would not be out front at any point in the season if they did not have good equipment, teams, and driving ability. Therefore, spotting them a big early lead can be very detrimental to one’s cause.
So far the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has completed a total of four points-paying events on two tracks- Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, GA and East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, FL. As it stands right now, two-time and defending series champion Jonathan Davenport holds a 40-point advantage over Tyler Erb and a 65-point lead over Earl Pearson, Jr.
The LOLMDS awards 200 points to race winners with the runner-up receiving 180 while third place gets 170, fourth receives 160 and then a five-point drop for every other position throughout the finishing order. While it sounds as if gaps can be quickly made up with spreads such as these, the past two years have shown that those who get out front early tend to stay there.
In 2018, Davenport held the Lucas Oil lead over Josh Richards, Pearson, Brandon Sheppard, and Kyle Bronson following the sixth race of the season at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, GA. As stated above, Davenport went on to claim last year’s title by beating out Richards, Scott Bloomquist, Pearson, and Jimmy Owens.
There was very little movement within the top-5 from the Boyd’s race to the final event especially when it is considered that Sheppard fell back in the standings when he returned to his full-time duties on the WoO Late Models tour and Bronson faded after a strong early start during his rookie campaign on the tracks in his home state that he had more familiarity with. Bloomquist and Owens had been just outside the top-5 after Boyd’s and moved up to claim those vacated positions.
The results of the 2017 LOLMDS season offer confirmation of that which was shown in 2018. After the sixth race that year at East Alabama Motor Speedway, Bloomquist led Richards and Tim McCreadie in a very tight battle. For the remainder of the campaign that battle remained tight as those three drivers ultimately distanced themselves from the rest of the pack.
Richards went on to grab the title in 2017 by just beating out McCreadie and Bloomquist. While the final order did shift, the same three drivers who came out of those early races with the top spots in the standings did indeed go on to settle the championship among themselves.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series has behaved much the same way as its national touring counterpart over the most recent two seasons. Those who got out front early tended to stay out front until the end of the year.
The WoO Late Models dole out 150 points to feature winners with second getting 146 and then a two-point drop off per position occurring throughout the remainder of the field.
Currently, the WoO Late Models have contested four points-paying events at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, GA and Volusia Speedway Park in Barbourville, FL with Sheppard holding 16 point lead over Shane Clanton with Chris Madden, Chase Junghans and Brian Shirley trailing close behind.
Following the sixth race of 2018 for the WoO Late Models at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, TN, Chris Madden was slightly ahead of Brandon Sheppard and Mike Marlar. Just as had been the case with the LOLMDS in 2017, that three-way fight remained close throughout the entirety of the season until Marlar narrowly claimed the crown following the final race at The Dirt Track in Charlotte over Sheppard and Madden.
Again, as had been the case with the Lucas Oil Series in 2017, the final order did change but the three who got ahead early in the close contest stayed ahead.
2017 for the WoO Late Models played out somewhat like the LOLMDS did in 2018. Following the sixth race that year at LoneStar Speedway in Kilgore, TX, Sheppard led Rick Eckert, Tyler Erb, Madden, and Eric Wells.
However, a significant difference in this case opposed to the others discussed here is that Sheppard went on to earn a dominant win in the final standings as he beat out Madden, Clanton, Devin Moran and Eckert. While there was some turnover within the top-5, the leader’s position was never seriously challenged during the second half of the season on the WoO Late Models tour in 2017.
The numbers haven’t lied over the past two seasons on both the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. While it may seem foolish to be thinking about a driver’s place in the series standings so early in the year and with so many races remaining on the schedule, those who have positioned themselves well early have gone on to win or at least contend late for two consecutive years.
If history is to be believed, these next few weekends are critical, especially for those who find themselves further back in the standings than they had hoped.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series swings back into action this weekend with a pair of races in the Midwestern part of the country. On Friday night the tour tackles the Atomic Speedway in Alma, OH then heads to Brownstown Speedway in Brownstown, IN on Saturday night.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series will next make up a pair of previously rained out events. Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, TN will play host to the series on March 22nd with the series then heading to the historic Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, TN on March 23rd.
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