Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Landers hits it big with $1M payday

There’s an old auto racing adage: The check is nice, but racers do it for the trophy.

That may typically be the case, but for Batesville team owner Lance Landers, driver Jonathan Davenport and their team, Thursday night was different.

Davenport, of Blairsville, Ga., drove Landers’ dirt late model to victory in the Eldora Million at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, earning the richest winner’s purse in dirt racing history: $1,002,022.

“They don’t get much bigger than that,” Landers said Friday morning. “I guess Indy is … Daytona, too. But in our kind of racing, it’s big. Huge.”

The high-banked, half-mile oval hosted a $1 million-to-win late model race in 2001, which was won by Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio. Track owner Tony Stewart, the former NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar champion, brought the event back this season.

Such a purse is practically unheard of. To put it in perspective, Davenport won a preliminary feature earlier Thursday that paid $12,000 to win. That is considered a better than average winner’s purse for major events in late model racing.

“This is a life-changing moment, for sure,” Davenport, who is in his fifth season driving for Landers, said after the race. “I can’t even put it into words yet, and it probably ain’t going to sink in until we get that money in the bank account. But it’s definitely going to change my life, and hopefully my son’s.

“Me and Lance [are] going to take this million and make two with it.”

Davenport earned a starting spot on the outside of the front row through a prelim feature and qualifying heats earlier in the evening. But he nearly did not make it to the starting grid.

“We had to change out the transmission and the drive shaft late,” Landers said. “We almost cut it too short. But they got it done with about 10 minutes to spare.”

Davenport took the lead at the green flag and pulled away to a six-second advantage as the 101-lap race went caution-free for the first 83 laps. Four cautions in the closing laps put Davenport’s victory in jeopardy. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, NY, slipped past on restarts to lead laps 84 and 86, but each time Davenport powered back by to regain the top spot.

On the 99th lap, McCreadie slowed with a flat tire to bring out the caution for the final time. After the restart, Chris Madden of Gray Court, SC, moved past Davenport entering turn one and again in turn three on the next-to-last lap. But Davenport drove around Madden exiting both turns and pulled away on the final lap. His margin of victory over Madden was 0.878 seconds.

“Those late cautions made us all pretty nervous,” Landers said. “But JD is good about getting up on that wheel during those situations, and he did it again.”

Landers and his team stayed at Eldora for the rest of the weekend for the Dream, which is usually dirt late model racing’s richest event. This year it pays $128,000 to win.

“Heck yeah, we stayed,” Landers said. “We want as much we can get. Fuel prices are rough right now.”

Eldora Million results

ROSSBURG, Ohio — Thursday night’s feature race results from the Eldora Million late model event at Eldora Speedway with starting position in parentheses:

1.Jonathan Davenport (2), Blairsville, Ga., $1,002,022

2. Chris Madden (10), Gray Court, SC, $100,000

3. Devin Moran (3), Dresden, Ohio, $50,000

4. Tim McCreadie (9), Watertown, NY, $25,000

5. Chris Ferguson (6), Mount Holly, NC, $15,000

6. Dale McDowell (22), Chickamauga, Ga., $12,500

7. Mike Marlar (7), Winfield, Tenn., $10,000

8. Kyle Bronson (5), Brandon, Fla., $8,750

9. Brandon Sheppard (24), New Berlin, Ill., $7,500

10. Hudson O’Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., $7,000

11. Bobby Pierce (4), Oakwood, Ill., $6,500

12. Earl Pearson Jr. (10), Jacksonville, Fla., $6,000

13. Ricky Weiss (18), Headingley, Manitoba, $5,875

14. Spencer Hughes (14), Meridian, Miss., $5,850

15. Dennis Erb Jr. (16), Carpentersville, Ill., $5,822

16. Johnny Scott (15), Las Cruces, NM, $5,800

17. Gregg Satterlee (12), Indiana, Pa., $5,675

18. Darrell Lanigan (11), Union, Ky., $5,622

19. Jimmy Owens (21), Newport, Tenn., $5,600

20. Trent Ivey (17), Union, SC, $5,475

21. Shannon Babb (13), Moweaqua, Ill., $5,450

22. Ricky Thornton Jr. (8), Chandler, Ariz., $5,422

23. Nick Hoffman (23), Mooresville, NC, $5,400

24.Shane Clanton (20), Locust Grove, Ga., $5,022

Lap leaders Davenport 1-82, McCreadie 84, Davenport

85, McCreadie 86, Davenport 87-101.

Top qualifier Marlar, 15.584 seconds (115.503mph).

Heat winners Ferguson, Bronson, Pierce, Morgan, Davenport, O’Neil.

B-Main winners Owens, McDowell.

Preliminary feature winners Ferguson, Davenport.

Nonqualifying Arkansans Billy Moyer, Batesville; Tyler Stevens, Searcy.

NOTE Davenport drives for team owner Lance Landers of Batesville.

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