Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Belleville Dirt Nationals Late Model Opener

The Headline(s)

The return of major-league super late models to the Belleville High Banks saw Jonathan Davenport again top Chris Madden for a big-money payday.

How it Happened

2022 Belleville Dirt Nationals (XR Super Series)
Where: Belleville High Banks Speedway – Belleville, Kan. (streamed on RaceXR)
Winner’s Purse: $20,000

Monday’s opening night of super late model competition at the Belleville Dirt Nationals was dominated by Eldora Million champion Jonathan Davenport, who led all 20 laps of Monday’s feature to score a comfortable second win of 2022 on the XR Super Series tour.


Davenport topped qualifying and won his heat race by a mile, leaving him to start from the pole and never face a challenge. Chris Madden, who made Davenport earn his million at Eldora last week, finished second again, though he was never able to seriously challenge for the race win.

The feature was cut from 25 laps to 20 after heat races were completed due to extreme temperatures in Belleville causing concerns with tire blisters and engine heat. Monday’s feature marked the first race in the history of the XR Super Series to go green with a short field.


Success Stories

What more can be said about Jonathan Davenport? Fresh off the Eldora Million, a win that he called life-changing speaking to RaceXR during pre-race Monday at Belleville, he shows up three days later, sweeps qualifying, his heat race and all 20 laps of a $20,000-to-win feature. He’s living up to the nickname “Superman” in every facet.

Behind Davenport and Madden’s apparently season-long battle for tops in the super late model ranks, home-state driver Chase Junghans finished a strong third in Monday’s feature, his best finish in a super late model since an MLRA race at 81 Speedway back in April. 

Omaha, Neb.’s Jake Neal won the race of the night by taking the SLMR support class feature on the inner quarter-mile track at Belleville (more on that later). And add Neal to the list of best beards in dirt racing alongside James McFadden and Gregg Satterlee. 

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Both Jimmy Owens in the XR class and Charlie McKenna in the SLMR class saw late-race slips in turn 4 cost them wins in their respective heat races, mistakes even more costly on a night where conditions put track position at a premium.

Shane Clanton nearly left the racetrack during his heat race when a right-front tire failure sent his No. 25 car violently into the turn 3 wall. That Clanton’s team managed to start the feature and eventually salvage an eighth-place finish was nothing short of a miracle.

Fanning the Flames

Monday’s Belleville Dirt Nationals marked the first feature on the XR Super Series’ inaugural tour in 2022 that ran on a track not featured on either the World of Outlaws or Lucas Oil late model tours. It’s about freaking time. And damn, was this place fast. The XR broadcast, through no fault of their own, really failed to capture just how quickly the supers were hauling the mail around this half-mile.

One not-so-great note watching the XR telecast is that it felt like their announcer’s booth was on a tape-delay. The second XR heat race saw Clanton nearly clear the turn 3 retaining wall after blowing a right-front tire and slamming the fence, yet it was a good 10-15 seconds before his issues were even acknowledged. Fast forward to the white-flag lap of the same heat, and Owens’s slip that cost him the heat win seemingly wasn’t acknowledged until Junghans took the checkers a lap later. DirtVision and MAVTV don’t have this issue.

I remain uber opposed to racetracks shortening features after they’ve sold tickets and put fans in the grandstands. Given the extreme heat that dogged Belleville Monday night (it was in the 90s even at 10 p.m. local time) and that Chris Madden even said in his heat-race interview that his car was overheating after eight laps, I’ll give XR and Belleville a pass for cutting the feature from 25 to 20 laps.

However, had they opted to follow through with a plan that the PA announcer thought they were, which was to throw a caution in the event 10 consecutive laps were run under green, I may have canceled my subscription on the spot. Take a lesson from the 2008 Brickyard 400, if the racecars can’t run 10 laps without stopping, stop the damn race.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Guess that’s why Chris Madden donned a cape after coming up just short to “Superman” Davenport in the Eldora Million last week.

Davenport and Madden finished 1-2 in Monday’s race and all they could talk about was concerns about tires and engine heat. There’s a simple solution to all of this. Put the XR Super Series cars on the Belleville quarter-mile oval instead. The support class SLMR race run on that shorter oval was objectively a better race, with green-flag passes for the lead and clean side-by-side racing. 

It’s been speculated that the return of the Eldora Million was in no small part motivated by the emergence of the XR Super Series and its decision to schedule right in Eldora’s wheelhouse. 

Fortunately for all involved, XR backed off on trying to run Belleville against the Dream. And there’s ample reasons to want to see the Belleville Dirt Nationals succeed as an event, but here’s hoping there’s some pride swallowed if this event returns for 2023. 

Running an event for a purse that, while very healthy, pales to what is offered at Eldora literally 48 hours after Eldora’s biggest late model weekend of the year is over in heat that a modern super late model apparently can’t take, translated into a parade of a feature race with a car count that was the most anemic seen for a $20,000 race since Cochran’s Gobbler last November. The XR guys have done a lot right for super late model racing in 2022. Here’s hoping they take an L on this one and instead focus on how to make the Belleville Dirt Nationals work.

Numbers Game

3 – drivers that attempted both the XR Super Series and SLMR late model support classes at the Belleville Dirt Nationals Monday night (Tad Pospisil, Charlie McKenna, Andrew Kosiski)

20 – super late models entered at Belleville Monday night.

$857 – winner’s share of Monday’s 50/50 at Belleville. 

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give the super late model opener of the Belleville Dirt Nationals three semi-chilled cans of whatever you were drinking over the weekend. Hair of the dog is what Monday’s feature felt like after an exhausting weekend residency at Eldora. Had the SLMR support class not had a barnburner of a feature this evening would have scored a lot lower. 

Up Next: The sprint car ranks continue to tear up Ohio, but Thinkin’ Dirty will be sticking with the late models, as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will be hitting the Smoky Mountain Speedway in Tennessee for another $50,000-to-win event Saturday night. Coverage can be found on MAVTV Plus. 

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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