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Biggest Gopher 50 ever to hit Deer Creek Speedway this week

After being canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 and last year’s event getting rained out, Deer Creek Speedway has cranked up one of the area’s more highly-anticipated events of the summer. For the

Bigelow Homes Gopher 50
World of Outlaws Late Models Series driver Brandon Sheppard races during the 2019 Gopher 50 at Deer Creek Speedway.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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It’s been three years since the Gopher 50 has taken place, but now it's back, bigger and better than ever.

After being canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 and last year’s event getting rained out, Deer Creek Speedway has cranked up one of the area’s more highly-anticipated events of the summer.

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For the first time, the Gopher 50 will be a three-night event featuring the best of the Lucas Oil Late Model Series — also for the first time — Thursday through Saturday.

On the third and final day, the late models go for a winner-takes-all $50,000 grand prize and the Gopher 50 championship. It’s the most money ever given out to a winner at Deer Creek. The late models will race for $5,000 on Thursday and Friday. The modified class goes for $1,000 on Thursday and Friday, before a $5,000 prize on the final night.

There will be other events too, including a bean bag tournament that will pay $500 to one of the first 24 duos to show up. There is no entry fee — players or teams just have to show their race ticket or pit pass. Tickets are still available for all three nights.

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Gates open at 3 p.m. each day, with hot laps starting at 6:30 p.m.

Here are some drivers to keep an eye on:

Brandon Sheppard

Sheppard is the current points leader for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. He has four wins this season with 20 top-10 finishes in 25 races. He also won the most recent Gopher 50 feature as a then 26-year-old in 2019.

Tim McCreadie

Another former winner of the Gopher 50, McCreadie is just behind Sheppard in the standings. The 2010 Gopher 50 champion and Watertown, N.Y., native just won $50,000 on June 25 at Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania for his third win of the season.

Jonathan Davenport

Davenport has history at Deer Creek Speedway, having won the North Star Nationals in May of 2018. He won the biggest race of the season back in early June, taking home $1.2 million for winning the 101-lap Eldora Million. The 38-year-old is the 2015, 2018 and 2019 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series national champion.

Ricky Thornton Jr.

Thornton Jr. is third in the points standings behind Sheppard and McCreadie, despite still searching for his first win of the season. The 31-year-old and Adel, Iowa, resident captured both the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year title, and the Dirt Track World Championship on the same night in 2021.

Chris Madden

The 2017 Gopher 50 champion won his most recent time out, winning $55,000 at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Tennessee. He has 10 feature wins with two of those coming in the Lucas Oil Series and placed second at the Eldora Million for a $100,000 payout.

Tyler Erb

Erb has two Lucas Oil Series feature wins this season and is fourth in the points standings. The 25-year-old Texan won his last time out at the Red Hill Raceway in what was his DIRTcar Summer Nationals debut.

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Devin Moran

The Mailman has had a great season, winning four Lucas Oil Late Model features and two more features for six victories. The 27-year-old and Dresden, Ohio resident also podiumed at the Eldora Million, taking home $50,000. He was the 2021 DIRTcar national champion as well.

Jimmy Owens

The three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Champion (2011-2013) has three Lucas Oil Late Model feature victories this season. The 50-year-old is 11th in the points standings.

Hudson O’Neal

The 21-year-old and Hope, Indiana, resident is sixth in the Lucas Oil Late Model points standings with 15 top-10 and seven top-five finishes. He finished second a season ago in the standings with 11 total feature victories in 73 starts.

Ashton Winger

The 2022 season’s top rookie so far is seventh in the Lucas Oil Late Model points standing. He’s still in search of his first series feature victory of the season and has 11 top-10 finishes in Lucas Oil races. The Georgia driver was the 2020 World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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