Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals

The Headline(s)

Mother Nature and a tricky track surface still couldn’t keep Jonathan Davenport from another huge win, his first Late Model Knoxville Nationals triumph.

How it Happened

2022 Late Model Knoxville Nationals (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series)
Where: Knoxville Raceway – Knoxville, Iowa (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $50,000 (Sunrday)

While on paper the Late Model Knoxville Nationals will go down as another Jonathan Davenport crown jewel win, Sunday’s (Sept. 18) rain-delayed feature was a radical departure from so many major super late model races. This time, the driver known as “Superman” had to come from behind, prevailing for second after an intense battle with Earl Pearson Jr., then erasing a one-second lead in three laps to blow by leader Tyler Bruening with the race-winning pass two laps from the finish.

Davenport led the opening eight laps of the feature before Bobby Pierce became the first driver in recent memory to pass Davenport in feature competition, pouncing on Davenport’s tight-handling car as the field caught lapped traffic for the first time.

Pierce’s run up front was short-lived, with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion forced to park his car with an issue under the hood after a lap 10 caution. That handed the lead to Bruening, who ran away with much of the feature race while both Davenport and Pearson waged a fierce back and forth for second place.

2022 LATE MODEL KNOXVILLE NATIONALS RACE RESULTS

Sunday’s race and the mechanical woes that accompanied it extended to the LOLMDS points battle as well, with defending champion and current points leader Tim McCreadie forced to park his car on lap 14 after smoking heavily under the hood. That, coupled with a top-five finish by Brandon Sheppard, marked the first major swing in a title chase that McCreadie has had a stranglehold on.

Sunday’s feature was shortened from 75 to 50 laps due to high temperatures, concerns over tire wear in daylight conditions and forecasted severe weather expected in Knoxville Sunday night.

Shane Clanton and Pierce scored $7,000 preliminary feature wins on Thursday and Friday night, respectively.

Success Stories

It’s hard to say Davenport needed this win, seeing as how it was his 21st of the season, but for his No. 49 car to battle side-by-side and run down a race leader from behind in the closing laps makes his dominance when running out front in clean air a lot less significant in amassing his statistics. Make no mistake, no matter how good the car Davenport the driver won Sunday’s Late Model Knoxville Nationals.

The Skyline Motorsports team had as strong a showing as they’ve had in 2022. Clanton scored his first LOLMDS victory since leaving the tour to return to full-time World of Outlaws competition in Thursday night’s prelim, then finished seventh in Sunday’s feature, while Bruening led the most laps Sunday (37) and came within two circuits of the biggest race win of his career. 

Sheppard almost sliced McCreadie’s points lead in half with a third-place run on the same day as McCreadie suffering his first mechanical DNF in a long time. The chances of Sheppard scoring a fourth consecutive national touring championship in his last season driving the Rocket Chassis house car aren’t snuffed yet.

LOLMDS Rookie of the Year contender Daulton Wilson grabbed hard charger honors Sunday, improving from 29th to 16th in the final running order.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Veteran Billy Moyer blew an engine while running a transfer spot during his heat race Thursday. His team had no backup engine, and as such Moyer didn’t contest another lap during the weekend’s Late Model Knoxville Nationals.

Hudson O’Neal had no shortage of issues in Knoxville, breaking while running second during Thursday’s preliminary feature, then having to park early Sunday after slapping the wall and bringing out a lap 10 yellow when he got stuck in the mud trying to exit the racetrack.

Tyler Erb failed to back up his 2021 performance that saw him win both prelim features at Knoxville, missing the show Thursday night and then making contact with the wall early in Friday’s feature. Erb finished 13th Sunday after winning the B-main by a country mile.

It wasn’t dirty, but it was certainly aggressive, as the block Ricky Weiss threw on Sheppard to win Friday’s second B-main earned him a one-fingered salute post-race.

 

Fanning the Flames

MAVTV commentator Bob Dillner observed that Sunday’s rain-delayed Knoxville Late Model Nationals feature was the first day race for the Lucas Oil tour in several years. After seeing the results (four lead changes in 50 laps, comers and goers up front and mechanical malady mixing up the running order) maybe the LOLMDS shouldn’t wait so long to play in daylight again. It’s not boring watching Davenport win if he has to charge through traffic like he did Sunday.

While I stand by my comments that I applaud the XR Super Series for experimenting with removing the droop rule for this week’s upcoming Kokomo Nationals, after seeing how Sunday’s race at Knoxville played out I’d rather see dirt late model racing experiment with day racing rather than deviating away from a unified rulebook. 

See also
Dirty (Half) Dozen: Less Knoxville Is More and Kokomo Drops Droop

Back to Davenport for a second, I will admit that in between seeing Davenport run off with the lead from a front-row start and Pierce actually passing him on track for said lead, all I could think to myself is why any track would run two preliminary nights and not start the two prelim feature winners on the front row. Even after seeing the Late Model Knoxville Nationals prove a competitive race, I still think that makes more sense that points racing.

It’s rare that it happens, but Knoxville Raceway missed the mark with Thursday’s racing surface. That mistake was amplified by the track’s opting to run an invert format that stuck the evening’s fastest qualifiers towards the back of their respective heat races with little opportunity to pass. 

Veteran LOLMDS commentator Dave Argabright correctly noted that tracks set up their surfaces for the finish rather than for heats, but seeing the fast-time qualifier forced to a B-main on a narrow surface after the track spent all that time running qualifying makes no sense. Fortunately the track got that situation resolved for Friday.

There was a solid case to be made for both reasons that the Late Model Knoxville Nationals feature was shortened, but I can understand fan consternation over this. Here’s hoping for 2023 that any races with fuel stops just aren’t scheduled.

Yes, Sunday was rain-delayed, but between the sparse crowd for the weather-delayed feature and a Thursday night telecast that saw the track lighting in the frontstretch grandstand look like the facility was actually closed, the late models at Knoxville were giving off some NASCAR at the Brickyard vibes in terms of sparse attendance.

Numbers Game

48

Super late models entered for the Late Model Knoxville Nationals.

50

Laps the Late Model Knoxville Nationals A-main ended up being shortened over the last week.

68

Oldest age of a competitor in the Late Model Knoxville Nationals field (Al Humphrey).

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 Late Model Knoxville Nationals four draft brews served up at Dingus. Both prelim nights were a little underwhelming, but a truly unpredictable feature on Sunday that reinvigorated the LOLMDS title chase, coupled with a thrilling pass for the win ended this event on an upswing.

Up Next: A rare departure from the ranks of open-engine racecars this coming weekend has Thinkin’ Dirty heading to the Virginia Motor Speedway for the $50,000-to-win FASTRAK World Championship for its Pro Late Model division. Coverage can be found Friday and Saturday nights on Flo Racing.

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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