Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Eldora Million

The Headline(s)

Four-time World 100 champion Jonathan Davenport continued his Eldora dominance, prevailing on a green-white-checkered finish to win the second-ever Eldora Million.

How it Happened

2022 Eldora Million
Where: Eldora Speedway – New Weston, Ohio (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $1,002,222

On paper, Jonathan Davenport was absolutely dominant en route to victory in the Eldora Million, but the laps-led count doesn’t tell the whole story. The 101-lap feature was ultimately decided by a green-white-checkered finish after Tim McCreadie cut a tire down on the white-flag lap while running second. On that GWC, Davenport and Chris Madden traded sliders, with Superman coming out on top over the nation’s (previous) late model winnings leader in 2022.

The defining stretch of the feature, however, came early, with the first 83 laps of the race being run under green and leading to some phenomenal racing. Even though Davenport was untouched up front, the race had plenty of action going on, with Brandon Sheppard un-lapping himself on the track, McCreadie erasing a five-second lead up front and Madden charging from 19th into the top five.

McCreadie would take the lead briefly on lap 84 after the first yellow, with he and Davenport trading the lead several times until Davenport found a high-side line that worked on a lap 88 restart. Davenport was driving away from the field until McCreadie cut a tire down on the white-flag lap, setting Madden up for a final shot at Davenport.


Success Stories

Darrell Lanigan finished 18th in Thursday’s feature, but in doing so he now holds the distinction of being the only driver to start both Eldora Million A-mains.

Chris Ferguson finished fifth and never challenged for the Eldora Million win, but a top-five finish in the crown jewel race, his first start since his career-best Show-Me 100 win over Memorial Day, was a fitting continuation of a career year for the North Carolinian. Winning a preliminary feature earlier in the day as well as a heat race win preceding the Million, Ferguson has officially arrived on the national late model circuit.

Arguably the Cinderella story of the day was Union, S.C.’s Trent Ivey qualifying for the A-main event, thanks to not one, but two dramatic runs. First, Ivey pulled off arguably the pass of the day in the first B-main during the preliminary features Thursday afternoon.

Then, Ivey bested none other than defending World of Outlaws late model champion Brandon Sheppard in his Eldora Million heat race. Said the Flo Racing booth prior to the start of the Million, Ivey’s grin was so large that it barely fit in his helmet.

The entirety of the Eldora Million field deserve credit for conducting themselves as professional racecar drivers as opposed to NASCAR drivers and racing clean, even with the stakes as high as they’ll be all season long. 

But I’m going to give a specific shout-out to Mason Zeigler, who ended up missing the Eldora Million feature because he opted to race Nick Hoffman clean in the first B-main despite having a square shot at walling Hoffman to take the last transfer spot. It was a radical and welcome departure from the Zeigler that a year ago incurred the wrath of both Tyler Erb and Chase Junghans during the East Bay Winternationals.

Short of Ivey and Hoffman, Spencer Hughes was arguably the biggest surprise to make his way into the Eldora Million feature, though his speed was visible when he went from 17th to third in his preliminary B-main. Having said that, Hughes was a surprise…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

…because Hughes had a rocky road leading up to said feature. Hughes was one of a myriad of drivers that pounded the retaining wall during qualifying early in the day, the triggered one of the biggest wrecks of the day on the first lap of his preliminary heat race, getting out of shape on the initial start and turning into oncoming traffic, all but destroying Chris Simpson’s car and sending Brandon Overton airborne with damage.

Speaking of qualifying, Eldora proved very treacherous in time-trial mode. Scott James, Ricky Thornton Jr., Garrett Alberson and Dustin Linville all made heavy contact with the wall during the sessions.

Chris Madden finished second and Tim McCreadie fourth, and the two arguably were the fastest cars in the field, as they both had to climb through traffic while Davenport was controlling the race up front. Considering that Madden was buried in 19th at the start of the Eldora Million feature because of a heat-race incident with Tyler Erb, it really was a case of could-have-been for Madden, who entered Thursday’s race the leading money winner in dirt racing.

As for McCreadie, well, cutting a tire down while running second was a costly incident.

Scott Bloomquist came charging through his heat race, only to break a drive line while contending for a transfer position. 

Gregg Satterlee did something to upset the tire gods, because that lightning bolt struck him twice. The Pennsylvania ringer blew a tire in his preliminary feature coming to the white flag while running third, then blew another tire 14 laps short of the Eldora Million feature finish.

NASCAR Regulars

Cup Series regular Chase Briscoe made forward progress in his preliminary B-main, but not enough progress to qualify for a preliminary feature. Briscoe’s day didn’t get better, as he was involved in a heavy crash in his Million heat race that ended his night.

Fanning the Flames

Just like Volusia, all it took to fix the racing surface at Eldora was to rip the new clay off. Yes, I am firmly aware that dirt has to replaced on dirt racing surfaces, but surface replacement needs to follow Atlanta Motor Speedway rules – don’t fix it till you absolutely have to. Either way a shout-out to the Eldora crew for getting their act together as fast as they did.

For that success story, it’s hard not to feel bad for Josh Richards, who was unable to attempt the Eldora Million after suffering facial injuries from a mud clod that struck him during Eldora’s prior late model feature. Why didn’t Eldora do this for the Appleseed two weeks ago?

Yes, the Eldora Million will go down as a race of the year candidate. The second B-main between Sheppard and Dale McDowell that saw the two veterans battling tooth-and-nail for the win despite both being locked into the main event may be a candidate as well.

Inflation is real. So sayeth Kevin Swindell.

Now, having said that, it was a very welcome change to see a race for a million dollars where it actually felt like a purse that meant something to the drivers contesting for it (the NASCAR All-Star Race hasn’t felt like that in decades). 

And while on the note of NASCAR, their stable of hipster millionaires carrying on like professional wrestlers would do well to look at what the super late model racing community did at Eldora. With life-changing money on the line, they staged a race that featured an obscene car count, qualifying and preliminary features with real consequences and green-flag racing that was left to decide itself. And they did it without destroying countless dollars of equipment or throwing punches.

I’m a self-avowed late model supremacist that has a job covering dirt racing. And I forgot that Eldora’s annual Dream, one of the most prestigious races of the entire calendar, is being contested this weekend. The Eldora Million really was that big an event.

Numbers Game

124 – super late models entered into the Eldora Million.

$90,851 – winner’s share of the Eldora Million 50/50.

$900,000 – difference in payout between first and second place in Thursday’s Eldora Million.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): I’m going to give the Eldora Million a full six Toilet Waters, though I’m a little reluctant to do so. The Eldora racing surface was absolutely superb, and the 83-lap green-flag run that set up the eventual race finish was as good as stock car racing at any level gets. It’s just a shame the yellow flag came out. The opening 83 laps were a LOT better than the final 18.

Up Next: Now that I remember, the Dream is scheduled to start preliminary action today (Friday, June 10) at Eldora Speedway, culminating in a $128,000-to-win feature on Saturday night. Coverage can be found on Flo Racing.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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