KNOXVILLE, Iowa — official release — C.D. Nelson photo — Jonathan Davenport led from start to finish in dominant fashion during Thursday night’s Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals opener at Knoxville Raceway.
Davenport started second and survived an early battle with Brian Birkhofer to score his first victory at the legendary half-mile dirt track in the 25-lap preliminary feature.
Darrell Lanigan passed Birkhofer on lap nine for second, but never got close enough to challenge Davenport. Birkhofer came home third, followed by Earl Pearson Jr. and 22nd-starting Brandon Sheppard.
“It feels great to win at such a prestigious place as Knoxville Raceway. I have to thank Kevin and Leroy Rumley. What a car we had tonight,” Davenport said. “I felt so comfortable out there. This Longhorn Chassis has been fast all year. Hopefully we can get three wins here this weekend.”
Davenport sprinted to the lead at the drop of the green flag and was challenged by Birkhofer for just a few laps before pulling away for his 21st victory of the season.
“This track fits my driving style,” Davenport said. “It’s wide-open, no doubt! I just kept it glued to the top for most of the race.”
Lanigan, the defending winner of the event, followed up his big victory a year ago with a runner-up finish on the opening night this year.
“We had a good car tonight,” Lanigan said. “We had a really good battle with Brian [Birkhofer] there for a while. Once we got by him, he [Davenport] was so far out in front and with only 25 laps tonight, I wasn’t going to be able to catch him. It’s a good start for the weekend. We will make some adjustments and come out Friday night ready to go.”
Birkhofer started the weekend off on a positive note after a disappointing run in 2013.
“After last year, this is just tremendous to be to come out tonight and get a podium finish,” Birkhofer explained. “We just got this Vic Hill Racing Engine this week and it gives us a confidence boost heading into Friday and Saturday night. It looked like a really good crowd tonight and I hope we put on a good show for everyone.”
Dale McDowell set the overall Miller Welders Fast Time (Group A) among the 79 entrants, with a lap of 17.635 seconds.