If Jonathan Davenport has learned anything in his nearly three decades of stock car racing, it’s that patience is often times required to go fast.
“Patience is most of the time what determines the difference between winning a race or wrecking,” he said. “It just comes from experience and knowing what to do or what not to do.”
Davenport – nicknamed “Superman” – showed off his patience, poise and experience often in 2018, winning nine races on the Lucas Oil Late Model Series en route to his second series points championship.
Perhaps the most nerve-wracking of his nine victories came at Deer Creek Speedway, in the inaugural North Star Late Model Nationals. Davenport – who’s leading the Lucas Oil Series points standings again this season – will be back at Deer Creek on Saturday, looking to defend his title when the second annual North Star Nationals are held, with racing set to begin at 6 p.m.
“It’s just an awesome facility up there,” the Blairsville, Ga., native said of Deer Creek. “It’s a long drive for us, but the drive is worth it. I can’t wait to get back up there. (Last year) I was wondering why I’d never been there before.”
Davenport put on a show in his first visit to the 3/8-mile track that has hosted some of the top national touring series in dirt-track racing over the past decade. The Lucas Oil Series made its debut at the track last year, when Davenport battled Bobby Pierce for the lead for much of the second half of the feature race. Davenport held the lead going through Turn 3 on the final lap, but as the leaders went through the final turn, Pierce put a slide job on Davenport to take the lead.
That’s when Davenport’s poise and experience kicked in. He let Pierce slide up in front of him, then calmly waited for the exact correct moment to cross over underneath Pierce and gain more momentum than the challenge heading down the front straightaway for the final time. Davenport beat Pierce to the checkered flag by less than three-tenths of a second.
“I could have wrecked us both,” if he had moved to pass Pierce sooner, Davenport said, “but that’s what we like about being with the Lucas Oil Series. There are a lot of great drivers who race each other real clean. We’re all out here together and race with each other every week. We do it with sportsmanship.”
“It’s definitely memorable when you have a great finish like that,” Davenport added, “but what we really remember is the awesome facility up there and how great the fans were, it makes you feel really good. And that race wasn’t a yawner. There were guys making moves all over, it’s a real racy track.”
PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Though he won his second series championship last season – he also won the Lucas Oil title in 2015 – Davenport hasn’t taken his success for granted.
Going into this week’s races – the series stops at 34 Raceway in Burlington, Iowa, tonight and 300 Raceway in Farley, Iowa, on Friday before coming to Deer Creek – he has a 235-point lead over Earl Pearson Jr.
Lucas Oil Late Model Series rookies Tyler Erb (1,850 points) and Devin Moran (1,730) are in third and fourth places, while veteran Late Model racer Josh Richards – a multiple-time winner at Deer Creek with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series – is in fifth place, 440 points behind the leader.
Davenport’s season got off to a strong start at Speedweeks in Florida, the first two weeks of February. He won three of the first eight races on the LOLMS calendar and won three of the nine races the series held in March and April.
“That was really important to us,” he said of those early-season wins. “A good start like that, it really propels you through the whole season.”
Davenport, 35, has won some big races in his career, including the $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. But, he said, the season championships are equally important to him and his crew because it shows how consistently strong they ran over the course of the season.
“Last year, that season championship was our No. 1 goal,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure when it got down to the end. A lot of people had some remarks after we won our first one, about if we could do it again.
“So it was very satisfying to do it with a new team, a new car, a different motor… it meant a lot.”