Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Jonathan Davenport Wins Lucas Oil Race at Bubba; Kyle Larson Struggles

Winning Moment: Jonathan Davenport went into overdrive exiting turn 2 with 12 laps to go, blowing past Dennis Erb Jr. and using a well-timed pick with the lapped car of Kyle Bronson to win Monday night’s (Jan. 30) Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.

The win is Davenport’s fourth super late model victory of 2023 and the 69th of his LOLMDS career.

Dramatic Moment: When race winner Davenport cleared the scales and headed to victory lane. The tech shed proved brutal at Bubba over the last two days, with Davenport being forced to the tail of his heat race Sunday night and four drivers losing results over the course of Monday’s racing program. Shane Clanton was so upset over losing his qualifying time that his Skyline Motorsports team withdrew from the race.

In a Nutshell: For all the challenges surrounding Bubba’s tech shed and a narrow racetrack, the battle between Davenport and Erb Jr. was still worth watching.

What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

In breaking news, it’s been announced that Weight Watchers will be hosting a morale boosting event at Bubba Raceway Park after the track’s scales continually kept finding racecars to be lighter than the rulebook required. In all seriousness, this seems to have been more a fluke than an issue with the track’s scales, as even with four teams coming up light 35 of 39 cars cleared the shed. That didn’t stop concerns from playing out in the pits though.

I doubt it’ll escalate any further, but Devin Moran’s post-race comments make it clear that he understands he was in the wrong turning Ricky Thornton Jr. late in Monday’s feature.

That incident snapped Thornton’s Speedweeks-long streak of top-five finishes.

See also
This Weekend in Dirt: Ricky Thornton Jr. Breaks Through After Golden Isles Heartbreak

Defending World of Outlaws champion Erb Jr. is a known catfisher and his commitment to running the bottom line around BRP proved instrumental in his catching Davenport for the race lead and detrimental when trouble lapping Bronson ultimately let Davenport get away for the victory. But Erb Jr.’s success on the extreme bottom simply highlighted how narrow the BRP surface remained even on a night with improved track prep. 

Which begs the question. Does Bubba’s LOLMDS format need to ditch the late models-only structure and add a second class of cars? It was a great thing to see Bubba’s feature race over by 9:30 local time on a weeknight and adding a crop of modifieds could easily mess with that by creating a wreck-fest, but running more laps could also help the groove come into play.

On a separate note about the same issue, Dr. Race Chaser (who is an excellent Twitter follow for happenings at dirt tracks) opted to skip Monday’s race at Bubba exactly because it was a one-division program.

Now, I will admit I don’t share his sentiments in this case. Had I been in Florida, attending a one-division program on a Monday night is a dream come true. But BRP’s racing product, while decent, definitely didn’t hold a candle to what went down at Golden Isles Speedway over the weekend. And grandstand admission to that program, which also included two full divisions of crate late models, cost less than Monday’s race at Bubba. And payed out more to the Lucas Oil guys. 

Getting away from Monday’s on-track events, let’s go back to Golden Isles Speedway one more time. I was highly complimentary of the track after my visit last Friday, and the track proved worthy of that shoutout with how they opted to handle a controversy that followed one of their support classes over the weekend. Taking ownership of a rulebook failure is standup conduct to be applauded.

Now that the dust has settled and the air is clear we would like to make an announcement. Friday night Cody Overton and…

Posted by Golden Isles Speedway on Monday, January 30, 2023

The XR Super Series schedule already looked radically different from how it did in 2022 and it underwent more changes today, with the tour delaying it’s scheduled race at All-Tech Raceway to October, upping the purse of said race and canceling the track’s initially scheduled trip to Las Vegas to end the campaign. 

This is likely going to end up a net positive for the series, as it means they won’t be relying on a Speedweeks-fatigued field to draw cars to All-Tech and won’t have to hold their breath hoping race teams haul 2,000 miles to Sin City for their $100,000 finale event. But this also comes off as even more contraction for a tour that’s already shed numerous significant events before 2023 has even started. XR is going to need their race at Volunteer Speedway in March to be an absolute home run.

The coming weekend already got a lot more boring, with both the Short Track Super Series and the All-Star Circuit of Champions canceling their respective weekend schedules at Lake View Motor Speedway and Senoia Raceway, respectively, due to heavy rainfall and bad weather forecasts. I can certainly vouch for how heavy the rain was, having driven through it Sunday coming home from Florida.

For those unfamiliar, get used to seeing this type of cancellation earlier and earlier. Fuel costs are climbing again and touring series events are major expenses for dirt tracks, meaning early cancelation can save significant travel and track prep costs. It may not be the bold play, but it’s the smart one.

Hero of the Day

Yes, Davenport snapping a two-week losing streak is hardly an underdog story. But considering just how off the No. 49 team was at Golden Isles over the weekend, watching Davenport lose the lead mid-race and ultimately use an epic power move to take it back was as much of a statement as a heavy hitter can make. Plus, it marked Davenport’s first win on the LOLMDS tour that he’ll be contesting as a full-timer this year.

Victim of the Day

Kyle Larson likely left Ocala wishing he hadn’t made the last-second addition to his schedule. After scraping into the field courtesy of the last transfer spot in a B-main, Larson’s feature lasted a little over a lap before he got caught up in a nasty multi-car crash not of his making.

The night went off track from the get-go, however, when Larson was penalized at the start of his heat race for supposedly jumping the restart, an offense that in 2023 results in a loss of row in LOLMDS competition. But, having seen the replay, it certainly looks like a case can be made that polesitter Tyler Erb spun his tires on the start. 

I’m not opposed to penalizing drivers for jumping starts. But if the case isn’t clear that they jumped, if the penalty’s automatic there needs to be more discretion utilized in assessing it. 

Numbers Game

1

Dirt track that ran oval track racing programs Monday night in the U.S.

4

Streak of consecutive LOLMDS heat race wins that Thornton Jr. had snapped Friday night.

6 

Provisionals taken to make the field for Monday’s feature at Bubba.

39

Nation’s largest car count Monday, the General Tire Winter Nationals at Bubba Raceway Park.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Wednesday morning (Feb. 1) with coverage of the UMP modified portion of the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park. 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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via