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Jonathan Davenport Rules, Bobby Pierce Runner-Up in 30th Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora




ROSSBURG, OH (June 8, 2024) – For the tenth time in his career, Jonathan Davenport has conquered Eldora Speedway.

 

Davenport, 40, of Blairsville, GA, led the 30th running of the Dirt Late Model Dream green-to-checkered Saturday night to capture his third event crown. The $100,030 triumph brings him up to 10 major event wins at the famed half-mile oval, counting the 2022 Eldora Million, the 2020 Intercontinental Classic, five World 100 globes and now his third Dream trophy.

 

Scattered throughout the rest of the field were several DIRTcar standouts, led by the five-time DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion, Bobby Pierce. The defending World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series champion from Oakwood, IL, crossed the stripe second only to Davenport, marking a big recovery for his team after suffering mechanical failure while leading his prelim Feature on Thursday night.

 

“I didn’t know exactly how our night was gonna go,” Pierce said. “I kinda was not really doubting how our finish would be, but I thought if we can get a top-five, that would be really good for us. So, to come home second is great.”

 

Pierce was 12 laps from a $25,000 preliminary Feature win Thursday night when the oil cooler cover that was mistakenly left in the car suddenly caused internal failure under the hood, knocking him out of the race and leaving him with a hill to climb to get into the main event on Saturday. However, the crew was able to make the engine change and ready the car for Saturday, where he transferred into the main event with a fifth-to-second charge in his Heat Race.

 

Starting ninth in the 100-lap Feature, Pierce initially slipped back as deep as 12th in the opening laps. Once he grabbed hold of his preferred line around the top of the track, however, he began to surge through the top-10.

 

“I was kinda feeling out my stuff there for the longest time, and I knew I couldn’t knock the spoiler off early in the race or you’ll just kill your tires,” Pierce said. “I was completely worn out, just focusing so hard every time going in the corner, picking up a little push here and you’re inches from the wall.”

 

By the halfway point, Pierce was battling Thursday prelim winner Ricky Thornton Jr. for fifth. A caution on Lap 55 set up a restart where Pierce was able to get around Thornton for good and begin his quest to catch the leaders.

 

After getting by Hudson O’Neal for third on Lap 61, Pierce set his sights on Brandon Overton running second. Still full-throttle on the cushion against the wall, Pierce tried to reel-in the Wells Motorsports No. 76 but was unable to get close enough until the final laps.

 

“I just had to say to myself, ‘Don’t be stupid and knock the front-end out of this thing running second or third,’” Pierce said. “I think with 12 laps to go there I turned it on at the end. I was like, ‘Well, there isn’t going to be any cautions it seems like, so I’m just going to go for it and see if we can get second.’ Luckily, we got there in time.”

 

Pierce cracked the whip on the top lane, and with two-to-go, caught Overton and passed him with a slide job in Turns 1-2. From there, he held on to bank second and his best career finish in the Dream main event.

 

For the first 75 laps, fellow Summer Nationals champion Brandon Sheppard had been riding around 10th, 11th and 12th place. But come Lap 76, he pinned the throttle on the top side around the half-mile and began rapidly advancing position, moving up five spots in 15 laps to get to seventh place, where he finished.

 

“I think it was about 30-to-go, I really started picking the pace up and started sliding them guys and really picking some guys off,” Sheppard said. “Then with about 15-to-go, I knocked the deck the rest of the way out and I was kind of a sitting duck after that. Then, I was just sparking off the wall, trying to maintain and hang on as long as I could.”

 

Sheppard, the four-time World of Outlaws champion from New Berlin, IL, won the 2019 Dream by racing the top lane around Eldora’s sweeping corners, but said his timing could have been better in deciding when to make his charge.

 

“I didn’t want to knock the deck out too early,” Sheppard said. “I knew I was a little bit tight. I was really hoping for a late caution there, but that didn’t happen. I definitely waited too long.”

 

Another fellow DIRTcar Late Model national points champion in Brian Shirley also made his presence felt in the main event, taking home a 13th-place finish. While the Chatham, IL-racer said he would have been happier staying inside the top-five, where he raced for a few laps after an early restart, he was still pleased with his performance overall.

 

“My confidence is a lot higher leaving tonight even though I know I was 13th,” Shirley said. “I’ve been pretty beat-up this year, and Friday really put the Debbie Downer in the dumps on how bad we were. I start to think maybe a little bit of it was me, not sure. But tonight definitely put a little bit of pep back in our step to get eager to come back like I was last year.”

 

Shirley’s bright spot in the night came before the main event began, when he charged from seventh on the starting grid up to finish second in his Heat Race, setting him up with a ninth-place spot on the starting grid.

 

“The tough part about Eldora is you’ve gotta be good but you’ve gotta have some good breaks too,” Shirley said. “Tonight in that Heat Race, our car was good and we were lucky to get a couple breaks on a couple guys having bad breaks, and put ourselves in the right position to make the race.”

 

Two-time DIRTcar Late Model national points champion Dennis Erb Jr. qualified for the main event via Last Chance Showdown, starting the 100-lapper from 23rd position. Staying patient throughout the race, Erb was able to climb up to a 17th-place finish.

 

Four-time Summer Nationals champion Shannon Babb endured his struggles throughout the program, grabbing the final transfer spot in a Last Chance race and being scored as the first car to retire from the event in 26th-place.

 

Current World of Outlaws points leader Nick Hoffman was maintaining a mid-pack run in 14th position when gears broke in the car’s rear-end, forcing him to retire 54 laps in, scored 23rd.

 

ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)

 

30th Dirt Late Model Dream (100 Laps): 1. 49-Jonathan Davenport[1]; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce[9]; 3. 76-Brandon Overton[6]; 4. 71-Hudson O'Neal[2]; 5. 44-Chris Madden[4]; 6. 17M-Dale McDowell[19]; 7. B5-Brandon Sheppard[11]; 8. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[7]; 9. 2S-Stormy Scott[8]; 10. 111-Max Blair[21]; 11. 1G-Devin Gilpin[22]; 12. 99-Devin Moran[5]; 13. 3S-Brian Shirley[10]; 14. 1-Tim McCreadie[13]; 15. 1T-Tyler Erb[3]; 16. G4-Trent Ivey[16]; 17. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[23]; 18. 7-Ricky Weiss[24]; 19. 97C-Cody Overton[14]; 20. 12W-Ashton Winger[17]; 21. 40B-Kyle Bronson[12]; 22. 18D-Daulton Wilson[26]; 23. 9-Nick Hoffman[15]; 24. 11R-Josh Rice[20]; 25. 25-Shane Clanton[18]; 26. 18-Shannon Babb[25]

 

Photo credit – Tyler Carr

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