Superman goes where he’s needed and with his cap flying stiffly behind him in the 18th running of the Knoxville Late Model Nationals, Jonathan Davenport scored a $50k win over Iowa’s Tyler Bruening on the half-mile Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.
It was the ninth Lucas Oil Late Model win of the season in his 29th start – a statistic that includes a remarkable six consecutive wins from July 24th through August 26th. Davenport also has four World of Outlaws Late Model victories and a half-dozen wins in other major series this season for a total of 21 overall.
Even with all that success, this was a bucket list win for man called Superman. It is his first at Knoxville – a track famed for spring car racing that is becoming a staple of late models as well.
Davenport led the 50-lap affair early, but gave it up to Bobby Pierce on Lap 9 as the field returned to green after a caution. Two laps later, Bruening commanded the top spot and held it for the next 37 laps.
In the closing laps, Bruening stretched his advantage to two seconds until Davenport found the high side. With Lap 45 in the books, Davenport closed the gap and was on Bruening’s back bumper by Lap 47. Davenport dove to the bottom groove in Turn 1, pulled alongside and took the lead on the following circuit, denying Bruening the first Lucas Oil Late Model win of his career.
“I wish I could have said that I was planning for that,” Davenport said in a press release. “I was just too tight there. I didn’t have the best race car by far. I made a mistake first in lapped traffic I thought I might get rolled on the outside and let Bobby [Pierce] around me so I chose the bottom and let Tyler around me.
“I was trying to race Earl [Pearson Jr.] as clean as I could there, but I knew I had to get by him. I got a big run on Tyler there one time getting into one. I could have blasted on him, but I knew this could be his first crown jewel, so I didn’t want to take it away from him like that.”
For Bruening, the disappointment was bitter. In 40 combined starts this season with the Outlaws and Lucas Oil, he’s earned seven top-10s, but the closest he came to winning was a pair of fourth-place results at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D. and Boone Speedway in his native Iowa.
“I needed two less laps I guess to hold him off,” Bruening said. “I don’t know. When you are out front for all those laps it’s pretty tough to move out of your line that’s worked the whole race.
“I didn’t know how close he was until it was too late there getting off of four. I didn’t know how high I could go if all the way up there would do it. It was fun to run up front. We just got beat by the best in the world right now.”
Brandon Sheppard scored his 25th top-five of the season and rounded out the podium.
After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.
Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.
Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.
Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.
Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.
After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.
The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.
Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.
It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.
Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.
Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.
Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.
Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
Max Anstie – E
Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
Haiden Deegan – E
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Jeremy Martin – E
Tom Vialle – E
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
Chance Hymas – E
Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
Max Vohland – W
Cullin Park – E
Chris Blose – E
Derek Kelley – W
Enzo Lopes – W
Pierce Brown – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.