Jonathan Davenport (photo by Jacy Norgaard)
NEW RICHMOND, Wis. — The 35th annual USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway will begin how the 34th ended.
Defending USA Nationals champion Jonathan Davenport roared into the lead from his second starting spot in Friday’s dash, leading all eight laps to secure the pole for Saturday’s 100-lap, $50,000-to-win finale.
Two rounds of the Heat Races for the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series locked down the top 16 drivers in the feature—while the top eight raced for a front row chance at the dash.
Drivers locked out were Jonathan Davenport, Chris Madden, Jake Timm, Tyler Erb, Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce, Tanner English, Ashton Winger, Frank Heckenast Jr., Ricky Weiss, Jimmy Owens, Shane Clanton, Kyle Strickler, Ryan Gustin, Max Blair and Chad Mahder.
Despite ending the night in a position to win Saturday, Davenport said he needs to improve to take home $50,000 this weekend.
“Really, I didn’t feel like a very good car,” Davenport said. “We’re stuck with the toughest Heat I’ve ever felt in the past. So, we had a lot of struggles, but we fought through it, and that was the easiest seven car lap I’ve had all year.
“We have more to do; I don’t think we’re good enough to win by any means, but I feel like we’re in contention.”
Although “Superman” has won the USA Nationals twice, he has never done it back-to-back. Saturday’s victory will only add to the Eldora Million winner’s career highlights.
“There was a lot of luck just getting to the Feature here because of the passing points and the way the course changed,” Davenport said. “I don’t think I’ve ever won a big event back-to-back that I can think of, so this is, I think, the first time for any event, so it’s going to be something special.”
Davenport has a familiar opponent starting alongside him for Saturday’s feature, as Chris Madden takes second.
The Gray Court, SC, driver has already won four $50,000-to-win events in 2022 and is confident he can add another to his resume this weekend.
“We love this place, and we’re hoping the weather doesn’t get to where it’s hammer down or a Baja the whole race,” Madden said. “If it goes back to what we had (Friday), we’re going to have a bunch of great racing, and I think we got a great car racing.
“Hopefully, we can stay out of trouble for a little bit and we’ll be there at the end. This race, sometimes the pace can be a little fast at the start. They do it again, and sometimes it can be very fast, so you have to know your limit and just stick with what you have and plan on racing there for the last 20 laps.
Jake Timm finished in third place narrowly holding off Tyler Erb, who earned the most passing points in 10 CASE Construction Equipment Heat Races.
Four-time and reigning series champion Brandon Sheppard rounded out the top five.
Another driver who gained momentum entering Saturday’s USA Nationals portion was Garrett Smith, who won the special standalone FANS Fund Dash worth $3,000.