Jonathan Davenport felt numb standing on Eldora Speedway’s victory lane stage late Saturday night as a record crowd cheered him.
Winning the World 100 for the third time in five years will leave any driver – even one nicknamed ‘Superman’ – feeling a little dazed. But it was driving the last 70 laps of the 100-lap race without power steering that left the ‘Man of Steel’ feeling like he had arms of lead.
“I can’t even feel my arms and my fingers right now. I didn’t have power steering from lap 30,” said Davenport, who for the final 35 miles wrestled his 3,400-pound late model around Eldora’s half-mile track. “I almost pulled in (to the pits).”
Instead of pulling in, the Georgia driver pulled away. Davenport led the final 33 laps to win his third World 100 title (2015, 2017) in front of a crowd that approached 30,000 spectators. Davenport – who collected $52,000 for his win – wasn’t the only one feeling a bit jittery Saturday night.
One of those spectators took home a track record $80,489 in the 50/50 drawing. That topped the previous mark by nearly $20,000, which had been set at the Kings Royal earlier this season.
Davenport took the lead on lap 62. He dropped back to was sitting third on lap 64. He then stormed past Bobby Pierce and Ricky Weiss on lap 67 and maintained his lead despite his handling problems. Davenport said the majority of the race he used both hands to grip the right side of the steering wheel to keep his No. 49 late model from turning left, which produced a wicked chatter with the tires.
“I found that line where I could use the brake pedal to turn left,” Davenport said. “I could hold it on the right side of the steering wheel with both of my arms.”
Davenport’s final challenge came when a caution forced a double-file restart with nine laps remaining. Davenport put distance between the field when Weiss, running second, tagged the wall to slow his momentum. That allowed Owen to slide into second.
“It was a little nerve wracking for sure,” Davenport said, “for me, and for me not to wreck the field.”
It was an effort that would have made Brewster Baker proud. Drivers often unveil new paint schemes or wraps at the World 100, considered by many dirt late model racing’s most prestigious event. Davenport fixed up his late model to look like Baker’s ride from the Kenny Rogers’ movie “Six Pack.”
That seemed even more appropriate Saturday night. Davenport likely celebrated with a six pack or two after his World 100 victory.
“I always knew I wanted to drive a race car for a living,” Davenport said. “I always thought I was going to go down a different path. I was going to concentrate on asphalt. It just never did work out for me. … My mom and my dad sacrificed everything they ever had to try and get me going in that direction. We just didn’t have the funds behind us to do it. My grandpa gave me the opportunity to drive for his dirt late model and we’ve built on that ever since.”
Jimmy Owens, Weiss, Stormy Scott and Chris Madden finished among the top five. Scott Bloomquist, Chad Simpson, Dale McDowell, Tim McCreadie and Shanon Buckingham rounded out the top 10.
“I gotta thank all the fans for coming out. I love this place,” Davenport said. “Thank you Tony Stewart for doing what you have. Of course, thanks to Earl and the Baltes family for everything they’ve done here. This is an amazing place to come here.”
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