*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.
Did Jonathan Davenport and Chris Madden do the right thing by giving up their front row starting positions to go for a potential $25,000 bonus in Saturday’s Lucas Oil race at Deer Creek?
Richard: It was fitting that Jonathan Davenport and Chris Madden were the two competitors who had this option. They have clearly been the top-two drivers this season, and in my mind, would have been the only two who would have been justified in taking the gamble of giving up a front row starting position to move back to the sixth row for a possible $25,000 bonus on top of the $50,000-to-win purse. Both have already won so much money this year that it was worth a shot.
Had it been any other drivers given the option, I would have thought it was an unnecessary chance to take. As it turns out, Madden very nearly pulled it off as he got to second and had a shot at taking on Brandon Overton on a late race restart. Things did not go as well for Davenport as he was never able to pull himself into contention, but hey, he has already pocketed $1,000,000 this year so why not go for it?
Another thing that gave Davenport and Madden the flexibility to gamble is the fact that neither is racing for points so they did not have the concern of hurting themselves in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series standings. Had it been Brandon Sheppard or Tim McCreadie who was given the option, it would have been too big of a risk.
But to answer the question, I believe it was a worthwhile chance to take for Davenport and Madden given the circumstances.
Michael: This isn’t the first time Davenport has nearly cashed in on a bonus for foregoing a front row starting position. Back in the Tennessee Thunder DirtCar Series days, a local business was offering $10,000 to any driver that would give up the pole position to start in the back and win the race. Davenport was the one driver that nearly pulled that off. He had taken the lead at Tri-County Racetrack and looked to have the bonus coming his way until he broke a driveshaft with several laps to go.
I don’t blame either driver for taking the option. But it was obvious early on in the feature that the track for the main event was much different than it had been the previous two nights. I don’t know if either driver took that into consideration or if it caught them off guard. As you said, Davenport was no factor.
What driver or drivers on any level are having good seasons while staying a bit under the radar?
Richard: With Davenport and Madden being so much ahead of everyone else when it comes to winning the big money races on the national level, I have been keeping an eye on Mike Marlar in recent weeks. He has won a big race or two along the way but is still overshadowed a bit. But if you look closely, he is right there every weekend posting fast qualifying times and winning heat races. It seems as if he is just a break or two away from joining the two front runners at the top.
Another guy who seems to always have speed on a weekly basis but just can’t seem to consistently put a full night together is Ricky Thornton Jr. It always seems that one little hiccup in a heat race or in the feature keeps him from posting the final result that he seems to deserve.
On the local level, Jason Welshan has scored a couple of really nice wins without a lot of fanfare. This is a guy who those of us in the east Tennessee region used to see win 20 or more features each year but there simply aren’t enough races for anyone to do that now. Still, the Maryville, Tennessee native is having a really good season.
Michael: I don’t know how much on the radar he is, but Dennis Erb Jr. is having quite the season for himself. Not only has he been leading the points, but he’s also been winning races on a consistent basis. I think if he was running the Lucas Oil series, more people would take notice.
It just seems like there are a huge number of drivers that have the same win totals or are close to each other. There are only a handful of tracks in our area running on a weekly basis. Of those, Rusty Ballenger has won several races at Volunteer Speedway and Barry Goodman is usually the man to beat at Mountain View Raceway.
Name a track or an event that you have never been to that is on your bucket list.
Richard: There are so many things I could come up with here that I don’t think there is enough space on the internet for me to list them all so I will try to be as brief as I can.
First, although I have been there once for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, I have never been to either of the two big Dirt Late Model events at Eldora Speedway so my first thoughts on this question immediately go to the Dirt Late Model Dream and the World 100. I would think those races are on the bucket list of every dirt racing enthusiast who has never seen them.
Second, I very much hope that someday I can attend the two big races held at the Knoxville Raceway. Being a Late Model follower first and foremost, the Knoxville Late Model Nationals would be one race I would definitely like to see in person. Also, from the outside looking in, the atmosphere for the Sprint Car version of the Knoxville Nationals looks to be unmatched so that event is also one on my dream list.
The Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway is another race that looks to have an energized atmosphere that any racing fan would want to be a part of. And finally, a couple of tracks, that from the television perspective, appear to be top notch facilities that I would like to see in person are the Deer Creek Speedway in Minnesota and Huset’s Speedway in South Dakota.
I could come up with plenty more but those are the ones that quickly come to mind.
Michael: The first track on my list is on the top because it won’t be open much longer and that’s East Bay Raceway Park for the Winternationals. There are only a few more opportunities to go there for that week of racing.
FALS has been on my list for some time. The Prairie Dirt Classic is becoming one of the top 5 events in Dirt Late Model racing. It looks to have everything a person could want – great racing, tremendous crowds with great enthusiasm, and an atmosphere that few events have these days.
Please consider also reading: Are you not entertained?
Also, NASCAR and pavement racing fans can check out InsideCircleTrack.