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Late-race pass gives Jonathan Davenport his first Knoxville Late Model Nationals win

Davenport Knoxville Nationals

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.”

More: Mike Marlar wins 2021 Knoxville Late Model Nationals

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.