Davenport wins Fayetteville for eighth straight Lucas Series triumphby Jason Beck June 19, 2015 0 comments
Racer Jonathan Davenport did something no one else at Fayetteville Motor Speedway could Thursday night. The Blairsville, Ga., driver utilized the outside lane on a mid-race restart to storm from third to first place and capture his eighth Lucas Oil Late Model Series victory in a row.
Davenport, who qualified fourth for the special mid-week show at the North Carolina racetrack, dropped to seventh early due to self-proclaimed driver error. But he refused to be denied, wresting the lead from former series champion Earl Pearson Jr. on lap 27 of 50.
“I messed up there on the first lap, and I just knew I needed to redeem myself,” said Davenport. “We’ve been running so good and the car has been running so good, I just wanted to crawl back up on the wheel and do my job.”
It is a job that has paid well of late. The victor claimed $10,000 for his efforts on the sticky June evening. With lightning in the distance, series officials decided to bypass the usual heat-race format and start the race based on time trial speeds. That put former NASCAR Xfinity Series winner Justin Labonte and Pearson on the front row.
Pearson passed Labonte on lap 5, looking unbeatable until a lap 27 caution for second-place running Scott Autry, who experienced mechanical failure. He knew the restart might cost him the win.
“I knew that was his only shot on that restart, and he made it work, that’s all there was to it,” said Pearson, who ended up second. “I was protecting the bottom and he just drove around us.”
On a normal Saturday night when the local races run, the outside groove is no-man’s land. Davenport said tougher competition and more experienced drivers led to a wider outside groove, influencing his decision to attempt the risky pass.
“There were enough good race car drivers here that the groove was going to widen out a little bit,” he said. “I knew it was going to have to be right after a caution because it was going to get too dirty up there.”
For the majority of the evening, the biggest battle for drivers and officials was against the race track itself. After a week of scorching triple-digit temperatures and a sudden downpour of rain only hours before the race, the clay surface quickly filled with ruts and divots that jarred teeth and broke suspension pieces. Big names including Scott Bloomquist, Donnie Moran, Don O’Neal and 2015 Fayetteville Motor Speedway World of Outlaws winner Chris Ferguson all retired early due to mechanical failure.
The track conditions caused many racers to stick close to the bottom groove, playing defense rather than offense.
“We started in ninth and were on the inside lane, that was just the place to be,” said third-place finisher Steve Francis. “(Davenport) has so much confidence right now, he got on the outside on that restart and got by me and Earl down there. Me and him were trying to stay on the bottom and avoid the bumps – it was kind of smooth and slick on the bottom, but if you got wide at all it got really rough.”
Davenport praised the quick work track crews performed between qualifying and the feature event, battling against geology and Mother Nature.
“They did what they could with the race track, and they did a good job,” he said. “I just tried to do a good job and be there at the end.”
Indiana’s Steve Casebolt, a World of Outlaws regular, finished fourth. South Carolina’s Ross Bailes rounded out the top five.