During the 2019 World of Outlaws Late Model Series season, Brandon Sheppard dominated the tour on a level that few have seen before. Shepperd tallied up nineteen series victories, adding in top-five and ten results on nearly a nightly basis and wrapping up the title months before the official end to the year. Though Brandon had to deal with a stiff group of full-time drivers on his way to a second championship in three years, including the 2018 title winner, Mike Marlar, the 2020 roster of competitors and teams is already looking like the strongest and deepest field the series has seen commit, in years.
Along with Brandon Sheppard returning to defend his 2019 crown, deliver his third drivers title and take the Rocket1 House Car to the top for an unprecedented sixth time, Scott Bloomquist Racing announced at the PRI Show in December that they too would join the tour, full-time, to take on Sheppard for the championship trophy. With Dryden Performance Products' backing, Scott Bloomquist and Chris Madden will shift from a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series focus to a World of Outlaws Late Model Series dominated schedule. This will be the first time that a Scott Bloomquist Racing House Car will go after the WoOLM title since Scott himself took home the crown in 2004, before focusing on other touring series, including three Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championships, which are tied with Jonathan Davenport's three for second all-time.
It's safe to say that Sheppard, Madden, and Bloomquist, even struggling with health issues, are the three favorite to take home the 2020 crown, but there is a list of others that could be worthy challengers to do the same. Coming off of strong 2019 outings, Ricky Weiss and Cade Dillard began the 2020 campaign over the weekend at Vado Speedway with their first and second career series victories, respectively, adding their names to the hat of possible future series champions. 2012 champion, Darrell Lanigan, and his Club29 team are also committed to taking on the tour, full-time, making Lanigan a worthy favorite to compete with the Big 3, race-in and race-out, along with contenders like Blake Spencer, Boom Briggs, Brent Larson, Chase Junghans, and Dennis Erb, Jr., rounding out the eleven full-time tour drivers.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has arguably dominated the popularity and prestige of national touring late model racing, since its inception in 2005, with a larger number of $20,000-to-win, or more, events and a deeper roster of full-time drivers, but that may come to an end and shift back in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series' favor in 2020. With Scott Bloomquist Racing's two superstars both returning to the WoOLM side of things, instead of defending their history in the LOLMDS, the competition has shifted, majorly. The World of Outlaws now have three superstars, two young guns, a past champion and five other drivers who have and are capable of winning on a nightly basis, with the entire Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series full-time roster chasing Jonathan Davenport, hoping to come in with even a fighters chance of upsetting the three-time champ of a third in-a-row and historic fourth overall.
Now, yes, Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards, Tyler Erb, Hudson O'Neal, Devin Moran, Jimmy Owens, Earl Pearson, Jr., and Kyle Bronson, among others, could drive into 2020, win a number of races and take home the title, every single one of them is talented enough to do so, but we also have to be honest with ourselves. Jonathan Davenport is the best late model driver in the world right now, hands down, no question about it and for one of the LOLMDS challengers to upset him, it is going to take a lot and something we haven't seen in the last number of years. No driver on the current full-time LOLMDS roster has beaten Davenport, straight up, for a championship since he joined the tour on a full-season basis in 2015, as JD did not compete in every event during Josh Richards 2017 title run. Scott Bloomquist is the only driver to beat Superman during his four seasons in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, and Bloomer is taking his juggernaut elsewhere in 2020.
With all of that being said, all signs point to the World of Outlaw Late Model Series championship battle between Sheppard, Scott Bloomquist, Chris Madden, and a long list of young guns, past champions, and contenders, to be more exciting than the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points battle. We could be completely wrong and both championships should undoubtedly be entertaining each week, but there is just something intriguing about the empires of Rocket Chassis and Scott Bloomquist Racing's #TeamZERO battling it out race-in and race-out, that will take the cake when it comes to popularity, intrigue, and entertainment.
- Terry Page Photo