Three-time Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model champion Jonathan Davenport survived an onslaught of sliders on the final restart and to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the main event of the Camping World SRX Series season finale on Thursday night at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., while Ryan Newman secured the summer short track series championship in the opening heat.
Davenport was joined on the podium by Brad Keselowski and Kenny Schrader but the driver that gave him the biggest challenge on the night was Clint Bowyer. Much of the 90-lap main event featured Davenport and Bowyer running nose-to-tail, three seconds ahead of the field, simply waiting for the figurative pay window to open before implementing the moves that would decide the race.
Bowyer made multiple attempts at the lead, one bump into Turn 1 on lap 74, and an epic slider into Turn 1 on a restart with 10 laps remaining. Contact between the No. 99 of Ernie Francis Jr. and the No. 6 of Keselowski set up Bowyer taking the bottom as opposed to the outside that he had chosen for much of the night. The slider was thrown in vain, though, as Davenport threw one right back and drove away to a multi-car lead.
“I really didn’t think he could slide all the way across there and get in front of me, but he did a good job not going out of the park and I just barely hit him enough to get him messed up, so I could get a run going back the other way,” related Davenport. “Then everybody was on his tail in (Turns) 3 and 4, so I don’t know if we were three- or four-wide coming off there, but it was definitely fun.
“I’m sure the fans enjoyed it. We’re out here to have fun — they don’t want nobody just ruining the show. We had a great car, the guys did an excellent job on it from the tore-up stuff they had last week. I figured a caution would come late but we were ready for it. This is something I’ll definitely remember for a long time; hopefully they’ll invite me back some time.”
Newman celebrated his championship alongside the podium trio, having clinched the title based on the results of the first heat.
“It’s really special, racing against the greatest drivers in the world, in my opinion… then to win the championship in equal cars says something — it’s a feather in my cap I guess you could say,” said Newman. “The (SRX) guys slaved six days for six weeks in a row getting everything ready to do what we’re doing. (It’s) just an honor to be a part of it, to be a champion.
“Ending up fourth was pretty special in itself — I never finished outside of the top 4 in a feature in all six races. Consistency was obviously very important. I wish we could’ve had the original Stafford, the rain-shortened one, I think that was going to be a really special start to the season, then to back it up the next week. Either way, like I said, proud to be part of it — so many great people and friends. I’m no youngster, so a lot of people that have been around and to be apart of this, it’s unique and a lot of fun. If they’ll have me next year, I’ll be here.”
Although the final standings show Newman winning the championship by 45 points over Keselowski and Marco Andretti, Tony Stewart — who wound up fourth, 48 points back — was the only other driver championship-eligible entering the night, but was eliminated with a 10th-place finish in the opening heat.
Main event results:
Jonathan Davenport #49 (0)
Brad Keselowski #6 (+6)
Ken Schrader #52 (+3)
Ryan Newman #39 (+5)
Clint Bowyer #07 (-3)
Marco Andretti #1 (-3)
Tony Stewart #14 (+4)
Kenny Wallace #36 (-3)
Helio Castroneves #06 (+3)
Hailie Deegan #5 (0)
Ernie Francis Jr #99 (-4)
Bobby Labonte #18 (-8)