Dual interview: #49 driver Jonathan Davenport and car owner G.R. Smith
Jonathan Davenport is now driving for G.R. Smith. The #22 has been replaced by a #49. Smith has climbed out of the seat and put Davenport on the track.
It’s a new role for G.R. Smith. He’s never been the owner of a car that wasn’t driven by himself. However, an opportunity window opened and Smith took it. The combination is working. Right out of the box, Jonathan Davenport went to victory lane, twice.
Car Owner: G.R. Smith
G.R. Smith talks about his new role, “Now, it’s a different role. It’s taken the driving pressure off.”
He continued, “Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good time to drive the car. But if you can put somebody in of Jonathan’s talents it doesn’t make it a pressing, where I have to be there all the time. I still feel like we’re a strong team.”
Have you ever been exclusively a car owner before?
The Cornelius, North Carolina resident states, “No, this is the first time I’ve ever had a car that I didn’t drive. And it all came together so quick. Ryan our crew chief has a friendship with Jonathan. He needed something to drive and we feel like we have a really good piece and we just wanted to show it.”
But, he’s been in a transitional period, “I took a couple years off, the last couple of years to build my business in the auto industry. We’ve been getting our team and I’ve been coming along. Sometimes it’s demanding, the work side of it. You don’t get to play as much. That’s what comes first [business].”
“It just happened to be the right fitting and we’re enjoying it. We had good success the first week and everybody’s getting along, having a good time. It’s good fun right now.”
Are you racing at all?
G.R. Smith has collected over 100 dirt late model wins in his career, “I can drive. But right now we wanted to put our focus on Jonathan.” So you’ll get back to that eventually? “Yeah. But right now, it’s 100% focus on him. He’s won these races before. We feel that if we give him something competitive, we have a good shot to win. I can race anytime.
The way I gathered it originally, this was a loan. But the way you’re talking now, it sounds like it’s permanent. Is there an expiration date on the new driver?
Car owner G.R. Smith is still winning, now as a car owner, “No. It’s hard to stop something when you’re winning. We feel like we have the best car in the pit area. We feel like we have the best motor program in the pit area and we feel like we have the best driver in the pit area. So, when you put all 3 of those together.”
They are rolling with the current situation, “Whatever comes about. You know, I can’t predict the future. It’s like anything else, when you start something you see where it goes. If there’s opportunities that happen, then I’m not going to stand in his way. But we want to run as good as we can. To make the decision as difficult as possible if something else did happen.”
“It all came together so quick. We just went with it. We haven’t even been home since this all came about. He’s been putting 100% dedication into it, where he feels comfortable in it. Our deal is to put out a product where he can go win in it, anytime.”
Did this deal, in any way, come with help from Mark Richards?
I was thinking it might have been possible that Mark Richards supplied a bit of funding to make the deal happen. Possibly encouragement for G.R. Smith to help put Jonathan Davenport in a Rocket XR1. Or maybe some support on a smaller scale?
Tentatively, I sometimes read the comments. I noticed dirt racing fans were speculating the same thing I did.
G.R. Smith clears that up, “No. I don’t even think Mark knew about it. It just came from a couple guys talking. Obviously, he gave us their blessing. I mean we do a lot with Mark Richards, Steve Baker and Jack Cornett. When I let everybody know, everyone was 1000% supportive of it. It’s not everyday that you can put one of the best driver’s in the country in your car.”
I mean, it’s like Jimmie Johnson being out of a ride. G.R. Smith agrees, “Yeah. It’s a no-brainer. As long as he wants to sit in that seat, he can sit in it.”
Driver: Jonathan Davenport
Jonathan Davenport jumped in an unfamiliar car and started winning. Immediately, he won the first two races in his new role of driving for car owner G.R. Smith. Previously in 2017, he picked up a single win. That first win came in April while running crate late model class in a race hosted by Fastrak.
In the first weekend, he doubled his 2017 total win numbers, from the previous 8 months. So, I have to ask.
It is a relief? Jonathan Davenport states with a laugh, “Yeah. I guess so. Anytime you go into the unknown, you don’t know how you’re going to do. Definitely, a win fixes a lot of things.”
Who reached out to who? “Brian Liverman, his crew chief, used to work on my crew when I was with Kevin Rumley. We’ve remained friends for a long time. Whenever Brian heard what was going on there, he gave me a call.”
2 years ago, Jonathan Davenport drove the #6 fielded by Rumley. As news broke that Davenport split from BWRC, Rumley took to twitter. He posted a photo to twitter of the #6 coming down off the hauler. The caption read, “Hello car, it’s been awhile!!!”
That set off a firestorm of posts and questions from the dirt racing world. Would Davenport return to the #6? We would soon find out, the answer was no. However, it was still a very funny stunt by Rumley. Well played.
More recently, Jonathan Davenport was the driver of the Barry Wright house car. That deal was new for 2017.
What went wrong with the Barry Wright Race Cars ride? Davenport states, “We just never really could hit on anything.”
The #49 dirt late model driver continued, “We just decided to go our separate ways. You know, no hard feeling either way. I look up to Barry Wright like a father. I just didn’t want to ruin the relationship that we had, but sometimes you have to make business decisions that you’re not very fond of. And that’s what happened”
Author: Shane Walters
Jonathan Davenport Photos
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Barry Wright Race Cars
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