Jonathan Davenport overcomes wacky finish to win SRX finale at Lucas Oil


WHEATLAND, MO — Camping World SRX saved some of its best for last on Thursday night as it ended its third campaign at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri.

Sure, Super Late Model superstar Jonathan Davenport dominated on his home turf, but it wasn’t without some late action and intrigue thanks to Clint Bowyer and Marco Andretti over the final couple of restarts on the 3/8-mile.

For much of the race, Bowyer simply hounded Davenport and it was clear that the NASCAR Cup Series veteran was waiting until the end to show his hand. However, Andretti was poised to deny him a chance to play his figurative cards.

On a restart with 20 laps to go, Andretti muscled past Bowyer but was unable to chase Davenport down. Instead, Bowyer just drove right back to Andretti, issued some retaliatory contact, and resumed the chase for the lead.

Then came a decisive caution with 10 laps to go, and an ensuing restart when Bowyer and Davenport traded sliders but doing little to change the outcome. Davenport bookended his debut SRX appearance with victories in the opening heat and main event respectively.

Wild and wacky SRX race

It was total bedlam, four-wide behind Davenport once he escaped with the lead, everyone else trying their best to race for second. All told, that’s what Thursday night in Wheatland was, a race for second place.

“I didn’t think he could slide all the way across there to get in front of me,” Davenport said of Bowyer after the race. “But he did a good job there of not going out of the park. I barely hit him enough to get him messed up and get a run and then everyone was on us. We might (have) been four-wide, but we were surely three-wide.”  

For his part, Bowyer knows he ultimately didn’t have enough to beat one of the greatest Super Late Model drivers of all-time but he wanted to go down swinging and say he tried.

“First, Marco nailed me,” Bowyer said. “It knocked the wheel out of my hand. I had the wheel knocked out of my hand a couple of times. JD was really good, and you knew he was going to be, because he just has a lot of laps, man.

“I was surprised I could run with him, hold pace with him but there was one lane right up on the outside, and I was waiting until the end for that last caution to come out. It was time to go and I just tried to slide him and it didn’t work out.

“He hit me so hard in the ass that it knocked the wheel out of my hand, and by time I gathered it back up, they were coming on both sides of me. I said ‘shit, here we go again,’ knowing I would have to slide them again and nearly slid off the race track.”

It was complete chaos and wackiness in all the ways SRX can be when its hitting on all cylinders.

After the race, series co-owner and inaugural champion Tony Stewart walked over to Bowyer to give him a big bear hug, expressing gratitude to his longtime friend for the quality of show he delivered to fans at Wheatland and watching on ESPN.

“I was watching that and I’m like, ‘I’ve seen this movie’ and I could have commentated it and said it a half second before it happened.”  

The Tony Stewart connection

SRX has sometimes been referred to as the Tony Stewart and Friends Series, and it is arguable this is part of the charm. Everyone who runs SRX ultimately has some connection to the three-time Cup Series champion or at least shares his pure love of the game.

It showed when Stewart and Schrader began literally talking to each other over the radio under green flag conditions, saving what would otherwise have been an uneventful 10 lap stretch where Davenport led by a significant margin.

Stewart congratulated Schrader on his really impressive Canadian Pinty’s Series victory over the week before the conversation turned to the woes of the series founder behind the wheel.

“I think this is what they call sucking,” Stewart opined.

This was before Stewart found some late speed and charged back through the field, running through another one of his best friends in Kenny Wallace to get there, something that resulted in no offense whatsoever either.

“It was a deal where I was holding him up and he said ‘screw up,’ and he didn’t see me, but I pointed down to pass because I could start to feel his temperament,” Wallace said. “I was running fourth or fifth. He was driving to the front and I was like ‘go’ because he already abused me once.”

He said it with a laugh, and this was moments after Wallace and Stewart also hugged and expressed their shared joy over racing each other in Thursday Night Thunder.

And that was the key phrase, especially after the race, in that Camping World SRX is about the joy of the competition amongst a variety of racers who may otherwise not get to compete against each other. To wit, in what other universe would Davenport take time away from his Super Late Model to race against the likes of Stewart, Schrader, Indianapolis 500 pole winner Andretti, Cup Series champions Bobby Labonte and Brad Keselowski or four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

That’s been the key takeaway over three years of SRX and it was the key takeaway from Davenport after his victory on Thursday night.

“This is something I will absolutely remember for a long time,” Davenport said. “And hopefully they’ll invite me back some time.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Newman closed out on the series championship by the end of the first stage, an expected formality after the lead he took into Wheatland over Stewart. Newman finished top-five every race and the triumph marks just the second touring championship he has ever won behind the 1999 USAC Silver Crown title.

“These are some of the greatest drivers in my opinion, in the world,” Newman said. “Just to be a part of it is special but then to win the championship in equal cars says something. It’s a feather in my cap, I guess you could say. Proud to be a part of it and racing for everyone who supports it.”

ESPN has already signed up for another season next year and the league has explored international races, expanded fields and an expanded campaign.

SRX Wheatland Results

  1. Jonathan Davenport
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Ken Schrader
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Clint Bowyer
  6. Marco Andretti
  7. Tony Stewart
  8. Kenny Wallace
  9. Helio Castroneves
  10. Hailie Deegan
  11. Ernie Francis
  12. Bobby Labonte

Final 2023 SRX Standings

  1. Ryan Newman
  2. Brad Keselowski- 167
  3. Marco Andretti – 167
  4. Tony Stewart -48
  5. Ken Schrader -62
  6. Bobby Labonte -67
  7. Hailie Deegan -72
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