On January 4th I posted a piece titled “Wild West Shootout will answer important questions for top teams“. In that article it was pointed out that Jonathan Davenport’s longtime crew chief, Jason Durham, had surrendered that role with Cory Fostvedt stepping in to lead the No. 49 effort. Also, it was written that Brandon Sheppard had left the Rocket Chassis house car ride in favor of a joint venture of his family-owned team with Riggs Motorsports that would employ Longhorn Chassis. Further, Bobby Pierce had opted to move away from Bob Pierce Race Cars to drive Longhorns in the coming season.
The premise of the story was that each of those drivers and their teams had questions that needed to be answered during the six-race run at New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park. Well, each seems to be on the way toward answering those questions in a positive way.
Davenport changing crew chiefs seems to have little to no effect on the performance of his car as he has demonstrated by winning the first two features, collecting $10,000 from each. And both wins were quite impressive as last year’s winner of the Eldora Million had to track down and pass Bobby Pierce on the first night of competition then outrun Brandon Sheppard over the closing laps to secure the victory.
On the second night, Davenport found himself in the position of being the hunted as 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson threw multiple slide jobs at the three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion before the No. 49 eventually beat the pack to the checkered flag.
“I guess that right there closed any doubts in any minds,” Davenport insisted in his post-race interview with FloRacing.com on Saturday. “Thanks to Jason. He was the first over to there to congratulate me so we’re all still buddies. I tell you what, this feels good. You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first one.”
Any questions regarding whether or not Sheppard and his new team would be ready to run well were answered right away with finishes of second and fourth in his first two efforts in his new situation. And more, he had nothing but praise for the Longhorn Chassis he has driven at Vado.
After starting seventh on Saturday, he worked his way into contention ultimately finishing second in the main event. Sheppard won a heat race on Sunday night and ran as high as second in the feature before earning that fourth-place result.
“I’m tickled to death,” Sheppard declared after the main event on Saturday. “My team has been doing a phenomenal job, we’ve been working our tails off on this thing and getting this operation put together. I can’t say enough about this car. This Longhorn Chassis was awesome. I can’t say enough about it. I could put it wherever I wanted to.”
Pierce’s two finishes in the desert thus far do not truly tell the story of how well he has run. On Saturday night he took the checkered flag in the 13th spot which doesn’t sound so good. But a deeper look into the affair shows that the No. 32 machine won a heat race then went on to lead the feature until after the halfway mark. However, a late race spin relegated him to the tail of the field which led to the final finish.
On the second evening, Pierce again won a heat race. After running in the top-5 throughout the feature, he moved in to join the fray with Davenport and Larson as the final laps clicked off. He would eventually earn his first podium finish of 2023 after coming home in third.
While one weekend does not a season make, it is certainly better to get off to a good start and only have to refine things rather than get off to a poor start and have to completely regroup. These three drivers and their teams seem to have answered any questions observers might have been asking … at least so far.
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