Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80

The Headline(s)

Jonathan Davenport bested Tim McCreadie at his own game late to win the Silver Dollar Nationals as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series said goodbye to I-80 Speedway.

How it Happened

2022 Silver Dollar Nationals (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series)
Where: I-80 Speedway – Greenwood, Neb. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $53,000 (Saturday)

Sunday night (July 24) marked a case of role reversal in dirt late model racing. With Tim McCreadie leading the opening 73 laps of the Silver Dollar Nationals, he this time found himself the victim of a late hard charger. Jonathan Davenport, last month’s Eldora Million champion, battled back to take the lead with seven laps to go, driving away to the $53,000 win, his third in the crown jewel event.

McCreadie went uncontested for much of the race early on, leading the first 49 laps by a wide margin as the feature went green early. Dealing with restarts on laps 48 and 59, McCreadie proved able to stymie challenges from Bobby Pierce and Mike Marlar. In the closing laps though, McCreadie’s No. 39 was visibly seen struggling with corner exit, allowing Davenport to steal the win.

The race was bittersweet for the Lucas Oil tour, as while it was announced on Sunday night that the Silver Dollar Nationals will continue in 2023, the event is expected to be moved from I-80 Speedway, which is expected to be sold for non-racing purposes after the conclusion of the 2022 season.

McCreadie’s runner-up finish did allow him to extend his lead in the LOLMDS points standings, as current series runner-up Brandon Sheppard finished sixth. 

2022 SILVER DOLLAR NATIONALS RESULTS

Success Stories

Jonathan Davenport’s victory lane interview gave a lot of insight into how both he and Tim McCreadie are de facto teammates, both longtime friends that campaign Longhorn Chassis as their racecars that share info. The duo led all 80 laps of Sunday’s Silver Dollar Nationals. It may have been in Nebraska, but horns up this Sunday.

It’s hard not to laugh at the irony that Mike Marlar was critical of the double heat, passing points format utilized by the Silver Dollar Nationals during pre-race activities on Friday night, then proceeded to top the standings by night’s end and earn the pole for Sunday’s feature. 

Marlar finished fourth, marking his 16th consecutive top-five finish in a super late model A-main.

Devin Moran won hard charger honors on the night, going from 13th to third in Sunday’s feature.

Iowa’s Ryan Gustin won the non-qualifiers race and turned down a payday to start 33rd in the 34-car field for Sunday’s feature. Absolutely the right decision.

It was a bipolar weekend for Davenport’s primary competition in 2022, Bristol Dirt Nationals and Colossal 100 champion Chris Madden. Madden, who busted out his Eldora car for the first time since the Dream weekend in June, dominated Thursday night’s opening feature at I-80. But…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Fast forward to Friday and Madden’s indomitable form went out the window. After struggling in his first heat race on the evening, Madden made an uncharacteristic mistake on the opening lap of his second heat, running over polesitter Dusty Leonard entering turn 1 and triggering the late model equivalent of a Big One that also collected Chase Junghans, Tyler Bruening and Mike Collins.

Though Madden and some of the rest of the field noted that Leonard appeared to lift early headed into turn 1, from the video replays available it certainly seemed that Madden had tried to force his car into a tight spot in initiating the crash. 

The No. 44 team withdrew from the remainder of the Silver Dollar Nationals weekend, immediately bringing their wrecked machine to the Rocket Chassis shop for repair.

Defending Silver Dollar Nationals champion Kyle Bronson never contended for a repeat title over this weekend. Though Bronson was the only driver with the speed on Thursday night to break the “big three” hegemony of Davenport, Madden and Marlar up front, a blown tire took him from contention. 

Fast forward to Sunday, a day that saw Bronson forced into a B-main, the Florida driver earned a “Villain” designation when he chopped Stormy Scott battling for the third B-main lead, sending Scott spinning. Bronson did win his B-main and transferred into the main event.

World of Outlaws late model series regular Boom Briggs saw his car break while he was leading the second B-main on Sunday, costing him a transfer spot into the main event. Regulars from the WoO tour ran mid-pack, with Shane Clanton the best-finishing regular from the tour in 15th.

Fanning the Flames

Yes, it was awesome seeing 61 cars entered for the Silver Dollar Nationals, and for a race that paid $5,300 to start a strong car count should have been a given. But there was no stronger indicator than the entry list that I-80 Speedway is likely done for good after this season. Nothing boosts car counts like impending closures… just ask East Bay Raceway Park.

While yes, it’s good news that a high-dollar late model event will not disappear in 2023, even if I-80 Speedway is likely to, the announcement made Sunday night during the pace laps that the Silver Dollar Nationals will return next year elicited what sounded like a muted response from the crowd on hand. 

And who can blame them for that? Announcing a race without a location (the track that will host the Nationals in 2023 is not yet known) means that fans have no way of knowing whether they can actually attend. And in the case of a fanbase that knows their home track is on the way out, I could see the announcement being even more painful, knowing that another facility will host their crown jewel event. Making this announcement on the pace laps seems on reflection like a misfire.

Call me a traditionalist, but I’m not a fan of a race format where the heat races are longer than the B-mains. And I hate passing points. But I love non-qualifiers races where the winner gets a choice between a paycheck and a starting spot in the A-main. What can I say, the Silver Dollar Nationals were a real coin toss for me.

It’s been eight years since I attended a race at I-80 Speedway, and I have to admit I don’t remember the tradition of fans “taking a drink” whenever the field can’t log a lap after a restart. But I like the idea. Race programs can drone on even for the most dedicated of fans, and coming up with a way for the PA announcers to engage the crowd in the event of caution flags that extend a program is fun and a means to re-orient a potentially distracted crowd into what’s happening on track.

On that same note, the repeated reminders by the I-80 PA booth for fans not to empty their ice buckets from the grandstands onto the concourse below brought out a classic James Essex quip, pondering if social media’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” from several years back originated at the Nebraska short track. 

I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the modified support class racing on Sunday at I-80, but I did notice one of the modifieds included decals for the 2023 IMCA Winter Nationals, a historically pay-per-view event on IMCA TV. Seeing as how those weekday races are the only dirt racing in the country in the early January gap between the Tulsa Shootout and the Chili Bowl Nationals, I’d strongly advocate for Flo Racing to make that their next acquisition.

Numbers Game

34 – cars that started Sunday’s Silver Dollar Nationals feature.

61- super late models entered for the Silver Dollar Nationals this weekend.

$5,300 – pay to start Sunday night’s Silver Dollar Nationals A-main.

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 Silver Dollar Nationals a full six icy cold Bud Lights to commemorate both Davenport and the ice buckets in the I-80 grandstands. The feature proved very racy up front, even if fans had to wait till Sunday after a Saturday rainout. James Essex didn’t make it one heat this weekend without saying “I-80 we love you, we’re going to miss you.” Indeed.

Up Next: Thinkin’ Dirty sticks with the late models, but it’s back to the World of Outlaws ranks this coming weekend, with the annual Prairie Dirt Classic going off for $50,000 to win at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois. Coverage can be found on DirtVision.

About the author

Senior Commentator at Frontstretch

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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