KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Jonathan Davenport was faithful to the high side, and it paid off as he made a late race pass to cash in the $50,000-to-win 18th Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway Sunday.
It was his fourth career win at Knoxville, and his first Late Model Nationals victory.
Davenport led from outside row one in the 50-lap feature, ahead of pole-sitter Bobby Pierce, Tyler Bruening, Earl Pearson Jr. and Ricky Thornton Jr. Thornton moved by Bruening to take fourth on lap two.
Davenport entered lapped traffic by the eighth circuit. With most of it hanging low, he tried the high side, only to have Pierce shoot under him to take the point on lap nine.
Justin Zeitner stopped to bring caution at that point. Bruening hit the high side on the restart, challenging the leaders and taking the second spot in the process.
Shortly after, Pierce succumbed to possible ignition issues, and Hunter O’Neal slapped the turn one wall, retiring from the event.
Bruening assumed the lead at that point, setting a good pace. He was back into lappers by lap 19, but a slowing Ryan Gustin opened up the track for him again.
Pearson and Davenport put on a great battle behind the leader, with both ranging high and low on the half-mile oval.
The leaders were back in traffic with 16 to go. Davenport utilized a slide job in turns three and four with seven to go to capture second from Pearson, while Thornton followed him into third with four to go.
Davenport slowly reeled in Bruening and slid by him with two laps to go in turn one to execute the winning pass.
Davenport and Bruening were followed by Brandon Sheppard, who closed late to take third on the final lap.
“I just had to go up there (top groove),” said Davenport in victory lane. “I didn’t know if there was anything up there. I just had to go up there and clean it off. I kept inching further and further up before I found a little moisture and not crumbs. I made a mistake in lapped traffic early, and I made a mistake picking the wrong line on a restart. I could have fell back to fourth pretty easy. I just got up on the wheel, and we did everything we could. It just feels special to finally come to Knoxville and get one here.”
“I just got beat by the best in the world,” said Bruening of his near miss and $25,000 second place finish. “Just one too many laps. It’s a tough one to get beat, but the car was really good. I didn’t see my guys pointing to the top until it was too late, and I just didn’t know how high to get. I’m a small town boy from Iowa, and we’re racing with the big dogs. I hope we put on a hell of a race for the fans. It was fun up front for the while I was leading it there.”
Feature (50 Laps): 1. 49, Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, GA (2); 2. 16, Tyler Bruening, Decorah, IA (3); 3. 1, Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, IL (11); 4. 20RT, Ricky Thornton Jr., Chandler, AZ (4); 5. 46, Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, FL (5); 6. 7w, Ricky Weiss, Headingley, MB, Can. (14); 7. 25c, Shane Clanton, Zebulon, GA (7); 8. 11, Spencer Hughes, Meridian, MS (15); 9. 76, Brandon Overton, Evans, GA (8); 10. 8, Kyle Strickler, Mooresville, NC (12); 11. 58, Garrett Alberson, Las Cruces, NM (21); 12. 3s, Brian Shirley, Chatham, IL (20); 13. Tyler Erb (25); 14. 18J, Chase Junghans, Manhattan, KS (19); 15. 04, Tad Pospisil, Norfolk, NE (17); 16. Daulton Wilson (29); 17. Daniel Hilsabeck (26); 18. Ross Robinson (27); 19. Justin Duty (28); 20. 32s, Chris Simpson, Oxford, IA (6); 21. 157, Mike Marlar, Winfield, TN (22); 22. 19R, Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, IA (16); 23. 1x, Aaron Marrant, Richmond, MO (18); 24. 29D, Spencer Diercks, Davenport, IA (24); 25. 39, Tim McCreadie, Watertown, NY (9); 26. 32, Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, IL (1); 27. 71, Hudson O’Neal, Martinsville, IN (13); 28. Matt Furman (30); 29. 62, Justin Zeitner, Malvern, IA (23); 30. 20, Jimmy Owens, Newport, TN (10). Lap Leaders: Davenport 1-8, Pierce 9, Bruening 10-47, Davenport 48-50. Hard-charger: Wilson.