ROSSBURG, Ohio – When the smoke cleared after another dramatic World 100 in 2015, one driver and his two car owners hoisted the famed globe trophies on the Eldora victory stage.
Looking back, Jonathan Davenport remembers that win like it was yesterday.
“Thankful. I was just so thankful for Kevin and Leroy (Rumley) believing in me,” Davenport said, reflecting back on his emotional victory lane celebration with his car owners.
It was a whirlwind weekend for Davenport, one of the odds-on favorites heading into the 45th running of the prestigious race. Marred by wet weather, the traditional Saturday program became a double-header when Friday’s show had to be postponed.
“When we had to start in the back of our heat in that make-up race, I didn’t know how things would end up,” Davenport said. “But once we got rolling in that heat and started passing cars, I knew then we had a good (car) for the rest of the day.”
But when the regularly scheduled portion of Saturday’s program came around, Davenport found himself struggling in his heat.
“The heat race that night, there for a while I wasn’t even in a transfer spot,” Davenport recalled. “I had to stay patient.”
He eventually transferred into the World 100 and, starting 18th, it didn’t take long for the Blairsville, Georgia driver to find his rhythm.
“I remember in the feature, once we got started, it almost felt like everyone was in the way. Our car was that good,” Davenport said. “I wasn’t pushing the car all that hard, but I seemed to be passing cars pretty easily. And then when I started sliding (Jared) Landers for the lead, I knew it was really good.”
When the final checkered flag of the weekend waved, Davenport was the first to cross the line. And while it was his second Eldora crown jewel win of the season, the World 100 win had more meaning than his Dirt Late Model Dream victory three months earlier. Davenport and Scott Bloomquist had a thrilling battle for the lead with Bloomquist crossing the finish line first but disqualified at the scales awarding the $100,000 win to Davenport and the K & L Rumley team.
“To come back and prove I could really win an Eldora crown jewel, that was exactly what we wanted to do,” Davenport said. “After the way things went down at the Dream, it was really rewarding. This team is just a one-stop race team, really. Leroy builds the motors. Kevin does the shocks. Almost everything we do is in-house. It’s almost unheard of anymore.”
But if the driver known as Superman is going to win back-to-back World 100s, he will have to overcome a season of ups-and-downs, a slightly different rules package, and another strong contingent of hungry drivers.
“Nobody knows how this race is going to play out,” Davenport admitted. “With the new tire rules, it’s going to challenge everyone. Experience is what usually tells you how to run a hundred laps, but we don’t have any experience with this tire deal at Eldora, so it’s going to be pretty wide open.”
The parity of the sport and the changes to the cars and rules, he admits, is making this the most competitive World 100 to date – especially with the winner garnering $49,000 from a record purse of $389,800.
“An eighth of an inch now means more than a half an inch a few years ago,” Davenport suggested regarded adjustments to the car. “These cars are getting faster and the box we’re playing in is getting smaller. It makes everything we do to these cars just so crucial.”
If Davenport were to win the world’s most prestigious Dirt Late Model race again, he would become the first driver since Donnie Moran in 1996-1997 to win the World 100 in successive years.
CREDIT: Eldora Speedway