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2016 Wild West Shootout – Weekday Recap & Results

Wednesay, January 13, 2016
Tucson, Arizona

Much to my delight, the weather in Tucson has been getting better, as the Wild West Shootout event has progressed. There was not a cloud in the sky on Wednesday and temperatures reached the upper 60’s, during the day. However, it has still been getting chilly at night, which helps to keep moisture in the racing surface. 53 Late Models and 34 Modifieds showed-up for battle on Wednesday, including some drivers racing in this year’s event for the first time! Having that many cars on the track, in one night, has proven to be taxing on the racing surface in the two previous nights. Unfortunately, Wednesday would be no different, as the inside line was already starting to show the “light black shine” following hot laps, as it began to take rubber.

Beautiful sunset & clear skies on Wednesday night, January 13th – Tucson, Arizona
The track has been getting smoother after each night of racing, which continued in the right direction on Wednesday. There was a large divot on the bottom-exit of turn 4, but several drivers described the track as being “smooth”. The overall consensus that I received is the bumps on the track, which were a large factor the first two nights, are no longer having an impact on the quality of racing. This was excellent to hear and largely expected, based on my conversations with several drivers, last weekend. One thing was certain, the number of crashes and caution flags has greatly reduced, compared to how many occurred on the first night, when the track surface was very rough. 
Modified B-main lined-up – notice very little moisture up near the wall
Heat racing action proved the outside line was the place to be and was the preferred groove, for making the best time. With many drivers running the high side in heat races, the cushion had pushed nearly all the way to the wall, on the exit of turn 2. However, the heat races still proved to be exciting and unpredictable!
“B-Shepp” Brandon Sheppard, Chris Simpson, “Right Foot Ronny” Lee Hollingsworth, Garrett Alberson and “The Georgia Bulldog” Shane Clanton were winners of the 5 Late Model heat races. Modifieds were split-up into only 3 heats on Wednesday, which were won by Jake Hartung, Cade Dillard and Matt Gilbertson. Here’s a recap of the racing action from Wednesday night, including results:

Late Models

Shane Clanton started on the pole position, with “Superman” Jonathan Davenport to his outside, resetting the fierce battle that those two waged in heat race 5, earlier in the night! Davenport fired-off from the outside lane and took the early lead, setting-sail by nearly a straightaway, at one point. Davenport was already starting to hit lapped traffic by lap 7, allowing Clanton to close back in, but the race was slowed by its first and only caution, when AJ Diemel lost a left rear tire on the front stretch, slowing into turn 1. It had appeared Clanton was set to be in “striking distance”, ready to give Davenport a run for his money, but “Superman” fired-off from the Delaware-style front row and ran away with the lead again! “The Bluegrass Bandit” Darrell Lanigan was able to sneak by Clanton on the restart, taking the 2nd position from him. Lanigan was able to close-in on Davenport, as he began to hit lapped traffic around lap 20. Lanigan appeared to have momentum and gave it all he had, but he was unable to get alongside Davenport. “Superman” was credited with leading all 30 laps, giving him his 2nd Wild West Shootout victory and another big check for $5,000! Lanigan and Clanton held their positions to finish 2nd and 3rd, while 2015 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Champion, Donny Schatz, made his 2016 Wild West Shootout debut, finishing a very solid 4th! 
“Superman” won his 2nd $5,000 30-lap feature on Wednesday night!
“The Bluegrass Bandit” Darrell Lanigan & “The Georgia Bulldog” Shane Clanton finish 2nd & 3rd
2015 WoO Sprint Car Champion, Donny Schatz, finished 4th on Wednesday
Donny started the main event in 9th, stuck primarily to the low groove and worked his way up to 4th, receiving little-to-no pressure from behind. Talking with Donny after the race, he confirmed that his previous best finish in the Late Model, in Arizona, was 9th. He also indicated that the last time he raced his Late Model was November, at The Dirt Track Finals, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Donny also said the track was “very smooth” and indicted that any bumps in the racing surface did not affect the quality of racing. Here’s a full list of the finishing order, from Wednesday’s Late Model race, including driver’s starting positions in parenthesis:

Late Model Results

1. Jonathan Davenport (2), 2. Darrell Lanigan (3), 3. Shane Clanton (1), 4. Donny Schatz (9), 5. Billy Moyer Jr (7), 6. Billy Moyer Sr (10), 7. Brandon Sheppard (11), 8. Ricky Thornton Jr (20), 9. Rodney Sanders (5), 10. Jason Krohn (4), 11. Garrett Alberson (6), 12. Chris Simpson (12), 13. Don O’Neal (17), 14. Ronny Lee Hollingsworth (13), 15. Hunter Rasdon (21), 16. Jimmy Mars (18), 17. Jason Papich (23), 18. Ricky Weiss (24), 19. Morgan Bagley (19), 20. Clay Daly (15), 21. Ray Moore (25), 22. Ryan Gustin (16), 23. Brad Looney (8), 24. Tyler Erb (14), 25. AJ Diemel (22)

Modifieds

“The Reaper” Ryan Gustin enjoyed starting from the outside-pole position on Wednesday, firing-off to the early lead. It was a very rough main event, as the race was slowed by 3 cautions, before a full lap was completed. Included in those first 3 cautions, overall points leader in the Modifieds, Cade Dillard pulled into the infield, ending his night early. Once the race got going, it was clear that no one had anything for Gustin. Philip Houston and Darron Fuqua both tried their hand at Gustin, with Fuqua nearly getting alongside him on the final lap, but “The Reaper” would not be beat on Wednesday, winning the $1,000 feature by leading flag-to-flag! Fuqua was a bit disappointed finishing 2nd, feeling like he should’ve been able to sneak by Gustin with his attempted last-lap pass, with Todd Shute and Matt Gilbertson finishing 3rd and 4th!
“The Reaper” Ryan Gustin led all 25 laps on Wednesday, winning $1,000!
Darron Fuqua came-up just short on Wednesday, finishing 2nd
Todd Shute & Matt Gilbertson had solid runs, finishing 3rd & 4th on Wednesday
Overall, the racing was fierce and action-packed on Wednesday. The 2016 edition was different than previous years, as there was no “wild card” winner and the track did not remain wet and heavy, as it usually does. Wednesday night’s racing proved the “cream will rise to the top”, as Ryan Gustin and Jonathan Davenport both dominated their main events, making it look relatively easy, in the process. Ricky Thornton Jr had an excellent run in the Late Models tonight, charging from 20th to 8th, after being out of a full-bodied race car in approximately 1 year. Todd Shute was the “man on the move” in Modifieds, charging from 17th to finish 3rd! Listed below are the full Modified results from Wednesday night, including the driver’s starting position in parenthesis:

Modified Results

1. Ryan Gustin (2), 2. Darron Fuqua (4), 3. Todd Shute (17), 4. Matt Gilbertson (1), 5. Jake Hartung (5), 6. Shawn Fletcher (23), 7. Philip Houston (9), 8. Kyle Beard (11), 9. Greg Jelvik (22), 10. Tim Thomas (18), 11. Travis Peery (20), 12. Bob Dalmon (24), 13. Danny Bayor (21), 14. Matt Leer (6), 15. Alex Stanford (7), 16. Ryan Mikkelson (14), 17. Justin Rexwrinkle (13), 18. Brad Dierks (8), 19. Chad Olsen (15), 20. Brent Dutanhoffer (16), 21. Daniel Anders (10), 22. Cade Dillard (3), 23. Travis Sauers (12), 24. Royal Jones (19)
Friday, January 15, 2016
Tucson, Arizona
Friday was a cloudy day in Tucson, Arizona and the sun remained dormant for a majority of it. I had aspirations that this would translate into a racing surface that retained moisture for nearly the entire night, but those hopes were dashed very early in the night. I arrived as the sun was setting and after taking some pictures when cars were in staging, for hot laps, I discovered the track was already starting to dry in the middle-to-lower lanes. There was still moisture up-high, which clearly indicated that would be the fast line in heat racing action. 
The sun was setting, as cars were staged for hot laps, when I arrived on Friday
Heat races were action-packed, but what little moisture there was did not last long, as the high-horsepower Modifieds and Late Models chewed it up! Racing was good though, allowing for passing options and guys to move forward, if they had a quicker car. 60 Late Models were split into 6 heat races, with “The Kentucky Colonel” Steve Francis, Donny Schatz, Dustin Strand, “Superman” Jonathan Davenport, “B-Shepp” Brandon Sheppard and “The Georgia Bulldog” Shane Clanton winning them. 42 Modifieds showed-up for battle on Friday night and were split into 5 heat races, which were won by Matt Leer, Shawn Fletcher, Danny Bayor, Todd Shute and Christy Georges-Barnett. 
Track was wide and mostly-dry on Friday, with only little moisture up near the wall
As a fan of Dirt Racing, I was hoping the track crew would consider putting a little more moisture on the outside lane, giving guys a chance to let their right rear hang-out and also allowing the opportunity for massive sliders! Unfortunately, the track was not worked and took rubber in the middle-to-low lines. Since the moisture was nearly gone, after heat racing action, this left the track rather narrow and only the bravest drivers attempted to run the high side. Here’s a recap of Friday’s racing action, including results:

Late Models

“Superman” Jonathan Davenport had charged his way from 7th, to win Late Model heat race 4, giving him the most passing points on the night. Davenport seemed destined to win on Friday, as he started from the pole position, with “The Real Deal” Don O’Neal starting to his outside. Much to my surprise, O’Neal rifled from the outside lane and took the early lead! All 30 laps were run under green and at no time, was Davenport ever more than a few car lengths behind O’Neal. The leaders started hitting lapped traffic around lap 10, with O’Neal slicing his way through, using the middle-to-high lines. The track was very slick in the middle, having taken rubber, so it was a game of managing tire spin, while trying to find the best drive-off the corners! Davenport seemed to have the upper-hand through turns 3 and 4, allowing him to close on O’Neal upon exit of turn 4. However, Davenport was unable to complete the pass on O’Neal. The two raced side-by-side for the final 5+ laps, cutting in and out of lapped traffic. Davenport actually beat O’Neal to the line on lap 28, marking the only lap that “The Real Deal” didn’t lead. O’Neal was able to put a couple car lengths on Davenport in the final 2 laps, picking-up his 2nd $5,000 payday during the 2016 Wild West Shootout! It was quite a show, watching two of the best Dirt Late Model drivers wage war, but doing so very cleanly, without touching. Davenport settled for 2nd place on Friday with Brandon Sheppard and Steve Francis finishing a distant 3rd and 4th!
“The Real Deal” Don O’Neal won his 2nd $5,000 feature on Friday night!
“Superman” Jonathan Davenport gave it all he had, but settled for 2nd place on Friday
“B-Shepp” Brandon Sheppard & “The Kentucky Colonel” Steve Francis finished 3rd & 4th
It was an amazing race, as all 30 laps were run under green. The pace slowed dramatically by race end, as tires were warm and grip was at a minimum. Talking with Brandon Sheppard after the race, as he is a driver who prefers running the high side, he confirmed there was just not much to hold on to, up high. “B-Shepp” explained “you could get your right rear up high and hug the cushion, but you couldn’t charge the cushion, or get sideways on it”. Sheppard pointed to his right rear spoiler, which had folded, after making contact with the wall, siting “it was very easy to jump the tiny cushion and the wall would be waiting for you”. Overall, it was a great show and general reaction was delight, after watching two “heavyweights” of the Dirt Late Model world do battle on the big 3/8th’s mile track! Here’s a list of the full results from Friday, including starting positions in parenthesis. Also listed are the current Late Model point standings, with 2 nights of racing left: 

Late Model Results

1. Don O’Neal (2), 2. Jonathan Davenport (1), 3. Brandon Sheppard (4), 4. Steve Francis (8), 5. AJ Diemel (5), 6. Ryan Gustin (16), 7. Rodney Sanders (6), 8. Donny Schatz (12), 9. RC Whitwell (7), 10. Dustin Strand (3), 11. Darrell Lanigan (14), 12. Jimmy Mars (11), 13. Shane Clanton (13), 14. Morgan Bagley (17), 15. Billy Moyer Jr (9), 16. Chris Simpson (21), 17. Jason Krohn (20), 18. Garrett Alberson (19), 19. Austin Siebert (18), 20. Rob Sanders (10), 21. Jason Papich (22), 22. Sean Bray (15), 23. Billy Franklin (24), 24. Terry Phillips (23)

Late Model Points

1. Jonathan Davenport – 262, 2. Don O’Neal – 226, 3. Shane Clanton – 208, 4. Darrell Lanigan – 202, 5. Steve Francis – 177, 6. AJ Diemel – 164, 7. Brandon Sheppard – 163, 8. Garrett Alberson – 151, 9. Jason Papich – 148, 10. Billy Moyer Sr – 144, 11. Chris Simpson – 139, 12. Jimmy Mars – 138, 13. Rodney Sanders – 123, 14. Morgan Bagley – 119, 15. Jason Krohn – 116, 16. Billy Moyer Jr – 114, 17. Donny Schatz – 104, 18. Ryan Gustin – 92, 19. Kyle Beard – 87, 20. Dustin Strand – 77

Modifieds

Friday night’s Modified feature was very similar to Wednesday’s feature. There were a couple of early cautions, slowing the pace and not allowing for drivers to get “in a groove”, but once they got rolling, they put on another great show! Much like the previous 3 nights of racing, the track was mostly dry on the bottom, with a little moisture up-high. There were only a few brave (crazy) souls who dared to run the top, which included 4th place starter, “The Reaper” Ryan Gustin! Cade Dillard also dared to run the top side, but confirmed the risks, when he clipped wall on exit of turn 4, shooting him nearly head-first into the front straightaway wall, ending his night and possibly his weekend. From what I saw, there was substantial damage to the rear end of the 97 Modified and his transporter left the pits at night’s end. After Dillard’s car was removed from the track on lap 12, the final 13 laps were run under green. After Dillard retired for the night, the only driver running the outside was Gustin and he was clearly the fastest car on track! However, it did come at a price, as “The Reaper” hopped the tiny cushion several times, slapping his right rear against the outside wall. That was not enough to slow Gustin down, however, as he went on to win his 2nd consecutive $1,000 payday, winning by nearly a full straightaway. Early race leader, Matt Leer and pole-sitter Brad Dierks, enjoyed solid runs, finishing 2nd and 3rd!
“The Reaper” Ryan Gustin won his 2nd consecutive Modified feature on Friday night!
Gustin’s biggest challenger was the wall, bouncing off of it multiple times on Friday
Early race leader, Matt Leer, enjoyed a solid 2nd place finish on Friday
Pole-sitter Brad Dierks kept his car up-front and finished 3rd on Friday
Overall, both series put-on great shows, proving once again that the best handling cars and the best drivers will usually prevail. Ryan Gustin had an excellent night, winning his 2nd Modified feature in as many nights, along with charging from 16th to 6th in his Late Model, again one of the few running the high line! Todd Shute had another solid run in his Modified on Friday, finishing 4th. Saturday and Sunday mark the final 2 nights of the 2016 Wild West Shootout. With Don O’Neal’s big win on Friday, no driver is eligible for the “Keyser Quarter Million” bonus, or the $100,000 bonus. If O’Neal or Jonathan Davenport can manage to win both of the final 2 races, they will earn a cool $50,000 bonus from Keyser! Listed below are the full Modified results from Friday, including the driver’s starting position in parenthesis. Also Listed below are the current Modified point standings, with 2 races remaining. Remember, if you can’t make it Tucson, Arizona for the last 2 nights, catch all the action online, via Dirt on Dirt!

Modified Results

1. Ryan Gustin (4), 2. Matt Leer (3), 3. Brad Dierks (1), 4. Todd Shute (12), 5. Stormy Scott (5), 6. Christy Geroges-Barnett (6), 7. Todd Sauers (11), 8. Shawn Fletcher (10), 9. Joe Duvall (14), 10. Darron Fuqua (23), 11. Danny Bayor (9), 12. Philip Houston (24), 13. Blake Jegtvig (21), 14. Chad Olsen (17), 15. Alex Stanford (16), 16. Matt Gilbertson (15), 17. Travis Peery (7), 18. Jimmy Ray (20), 19. Tim Thomas (13), 20. Cade Dillard (8), 21. Ryan Mikkelson (2), 22. Kent Arment (18), 23. Fito Gallardo (22), 24. Jacob Gallardo (19)

Modified Points

1. Matt Leer – 185, 2. Todd Shute – 179, 3. Cade Dillard – 178, 4. Darron Fuqua – 174, 5. Philip Houston – 171, 6. Matt Gilbertson – 171, 7. Brad Dierks – 160, 8. Ryan Gustin – 153, 9. Danny Bayor – 145, 10. Shawn Fletcher – 140, 11. Jake Hartung – 136, 12. Stormy Scott – 126, 13. Ryan Mikkelson – 112, 14. Blake Jegtvig – 105, 15. Ricky Thornton Jr – 98

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