The 2021 Wild West Shootout seemed to come and go quickly, almost a blur. This year’s edition saw three different winners at the Late Model ranks, with as many as 62 signed-in to compete, on any given night. In total, over 200 cars competed throughout the entire event, across all three divisions. Once the dust and gun smoke cleared, one man was left standing in victory lane.
Jonathan Davenport was just as you would suspect someone to be, who has the nickname of “Superman” .. unstoppable. The Blairsville, Georgia native racked up three wins throughout the 2021 Wild West Shootout, including the $25,000 finale, which included an additional $10,000 bonus, courtesy of Keyser Manufacturing. Even more impressive for JD, he never finished outside of the top-5 (his worst finish was third on Friday night) and he won all six heat races that he entered, along with securing one fastest qualifier award. No question that “Superman” appears to be back and ready to compete for wins throughout the entire 2021 race season.
In most years, Tyler Erb’s 2021 Wild West Shootout probably would’ve been enough for him to win the overall points championship. However, with Davenport’s dominance, “Terbo” was left as the bride’s maid in this year’s edition. With two $5,000 victories of his own, the New Waverly, Texas native also added two other top-5 finishes and never finished outside of the top-10, all week. Proving he didn’t need to start up front, Erb also added two hard charger awards, along with three heat race victories. The biggest difference for Erb, were his worst finishes of sixth and seventh, which he landed during the first weekend of competition, in Arizona.
Ricky Thornton Jr., originally from Chandler, Arizona, but now calling Adel, Iowa home, admitted he was in the best equipment of his entire career, wheeling the SSI Motorsports Longhorn Chassis during the 2021 Wild West Shootout. The results certainly reflected that, as Thornton Jr. was finally able to secure his first Wild West Shootout victory, in the Late Model division. On top of that, RTJ finished in the top-5 on four other occasions, along with earning two fastest qualifier awards, including the fastest overall qualifying time recorded throughout the entire event. Doing his best Jonathan Davenport impression, Ricky also won all six of the heat races that he entered, throughout the entire week. His only blemish came on Wednesday night, when he was relegated to finishing 22nd, after contact with Brian Shirley, while battling for second place that night. Overall though, an excellent start to the year for Thornton Jr., leading many of us to wonder how many times we will see him visit victory lane, throughout the 2021 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series schedule.
My favorite to win it all in the 2021 Wild West Shootout, Brian Shirley, was first among those who were unable to find victory lane, this year. The Chatham, Illinois driver secured three top-5 finishes, along with five top-10 finishes enroute to claiming fourth in overall points. “Squirrel” also added two heat race victories and one fastest qualifier award, throughout the entire week. His best finish was third on the first night, while his biggest downfall was a 17th place finish on Wednesday night after he and Ricky Thornton Jr. tangled while battling for second place. Certainly a disappointment for Shirley, after winning three events last year, but a solid start to his 2021 race season, nonetheless.
Quite possibly the most pleasant surprise of the 2021 Wild West Shootout, was Arroyo Grande, California’s Jason Papich. Papich switched to a Longhorn Chassis midway through last season, limiting the chance of any “growing pains” and allowing him to come out firing to start the year. Papich claimed fifth in overall points, with two top-5’s and five top-10 finishes, while also adding three heat race victories throughout the entire event. Papich’s best finish was third on Wednesday night, while his worst finish was 14th on Friday, after tangling with Davenport while running in the top-5 and suffering a flat tire. Overall, an excellent start to the season for this California native who expects to compete throughout the midwest for the majority of his 2021 race season.
Another driver likely somewhat disappointed with the start of his 2021 race season, is 2018 Wild West Shootout Champion, Mike Marlar. “The Winfield Warrior” scored two heat race victories throughout the entire 2021 edition, which led to two top-5’s and four top-10 finishes, on his way to securing sixth in the overall point standings. Marlar’s best recorded finish was third on the first Sunday night, but finishes of 24th on Friday and 17th during last Sunday’s finale, certainly did not help his cause. Still, a solid start to his season, especially considering the depth of talent at this year’s event.
Another pleasant surprise during the 2021 Wild West Shootout, Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Garrett Alberson made all six Late Model features and enjoyed four top-10 finishes and one heat race victory, on his way to finishing seventh in the overall point standings. Driving Rob Mayea’s Rocket Chassis, Garrett finished last (25th) on the first Sunday night, which marked his lowest finishing position for the entire event, only to follow that up with his best effort of sixth, on Wednesday night. Alberson confirmed this was just a one-off deal racing Mayea’s car and you can expect to see him teamed-up with Jeremiah Hurst again, for the entire MLRA season in 2021.
This Late Model Hall of Famer, who owns over 800+ career victories, really needs no introduction. “Mr. Smooth” returned to compete in the 2021 Wild West Shootout, after skipping the last three years. While I wouldn’t expect Billy Moyer Sr. to be thrilled with his effort in this year’s event, I would argue that he has nothing to hang his head about. First off, Moyer Sr. finished eighth in the overall point standings, making him the highest ranked driver who did not make all six Late Model features (he missed making Wednesday night’s show by one spot). On top of that, Moyer Sr. finished in the top-10 three times, with a best finish of sixth in last Sunday’s finale, along with earning the hard charger award on two of those nights. He may never be the “Mr. Smooth” of old, but he’s still a badass Late Model driver who can wheel it with the best of them.
Possibly the quietest and most-consistent driver throughout the entire event, Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Johnny Scott took ninth in the overall point standings during the 2021 Wild West Shootout. Scott made all six Late Model features and enjoyed his best finish of the entire event in last Sunday’s finale, when he advanced +15 positions and finished eighth. Not only was that Johnny’s first top-10 finish of the entire event, but it also secured him the hard charger award. You can tell J. Scott is steadily improving as a Late Model driver and I could easily see him contending for wins soon, as he gets more on-track experience.
If there was a “Hard Luck” award to be given in the 2021 Wild West Shootout, no doubt that Bobby Pierce would claim it. On the positive side, Pierce earned one fastest qualifier award, along with three top-5 finishes and three heat race victories, with a best feature finish of fourth on Friday night. On the other side of “lady luck”, the Oakwood, Illinois native finished 19th and last (24th) in the other three races. Even more frustrating, Pierce was running near the front when bad luck struck during those three nights. At least “The Smooth Operator” can sleep well knowing that he had speed throughout the entire event, but certainly not the results that anyone was expecting.
Statistical Breakdown by Chassis Manufacturer
Riding the cape of “Superman” Jonathan Davenport and first-time Wild West Shootout Late Model winner, Ricky Thornton Jr., Longhorn Chassis enjoyed a ton of success during the 2021 Wild West Shootout. In total, Longhorn Chassis scored four wins, 15 top-5’s and 19 top-10 finishes. They also secured 16 heat race victories, four fastest qualifier awards and they made 31 feature events, across the six drivers representing their brand. No doubt that Longhorn Chassis seems to be destined for a very successful season, after dominating in the desert.
Being led by “Terbo” Tyler Erb and “Squirrel” Brian Shirley, Rocket was the only other chassis brand to visit victory lane during the 2021 Wild West Shootout. In total, they earned two wins, nine top-5’s and 21 top-10 finishes throughout the entire event. Throw in eight heat race victories, one fastest qualifier award and three hard charger awards, Rocket Chassis owners made a total of 43 feature events, across nine drivers representing their brand. No surprise here, Rocket Chassis has always been a perennial contender for victories and strong finishes, across any Late Model event around the country.
While MB Customs drivers were unable to secure a victory during the 2021 Wild West Shootout, they still enjoyed a fair amount of success. This included three top-5’s, nine top-10’s and five heat race victories throughout the entire event. In total, MB Customs Chassis made 34 feature events, across nine drivers wheeling their chassis brand.
Pierce Platinum Race Cars
Obviously limited by their shear number of cars (just one with Bobby), Pierce Platinum Race Cars showed speed throughout the entire 2021 Wild West Shootout. Pierce’s numbers include three top-5 and three top-10 finishes, along with three heat race victories and one overall fastest qualifier award. Pierce was also able to make all six features that he entered.
Capital Race Cars
Being led by Billy Moyer Sr. and Jared Landers, who was wheeling Jason Rauen’s car, Capital Race Car Chassis enjoyed a fair amount of success throughout the entire 2021 Wild West Shootout. Their stats include five top-10 finishes, two heat race victories and two hard charger awards, throughout the entire event. In total, Capital Race Car Chassis owners qualified for 19 features, among the five drivers representing their brand.
Domination Race Cars
Another less-popular Chassis brand represented by only one driver (Rusty Schlenk) at this event, Domination Race Cars secured two top-10 finishes and qualified for five feature events across the entire 2021 Wild West Shootout.
Black Diamond Race Cars
Led by Mount Vernon, Iowa’s Chad Simpson, Black Diamond Race Cars had a challenging 2021 Wild West Shootout. In total, Black Diamond Chassis earned one top-10 finish, one hard charger award and they made eight features, across three different drivers representing their brand, throughout the entire event.
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Short track racing is my passion!