David Gravel dominated I-94 Speedway on Saturday night and fought off the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series stars breathing down his neck for his first victory of the season and the second of his career.
Gravel started on the pole for the series’ inaugural 30-lap feature at I-94 Speedway. He quickly jumped to the lead and tried to run away, but a caution on Lap 15 reset the field, with championship leader Daryn Pittman restarting alongside Gravel on the outside. Again Gravel got a big jump and powered back to the front, navigated traffic on the cushion and put his Wright Process Systems/FireTextResponse.com car in victory lane, just a few hours before his 21st birthday.
Pittman mounted a charge on lap 20, but still could not complete the pass as Gravel simply had lapped cars to navigate for the final laps. Sammy Swindell wound up third with Craig Dollansky and Kraig Kinser rounding out the top five.
In a showcase of the competitiveness of the top-four, their best laps were a mere .008 seconds different with Pittman running the quickest lap of 13.987.
“We’ve been struggling here lately, and had some bad luck last night (at River Cities),” said Gravel, of Watertown, Conn. “To get a win on my 21 st birthday is really awesome. Lapped traffic really stayed out of the way and the top was wide open and it made it a lot easier for me. I was pretty much flat out the whole time I had a lot of open track and I was really fortunate when the lapped cars came. Everything just fell our way. It’s a young man’s weekend. Cody won, then I won so, you know, it’s cool to put the older guys down”
It was a great show of sportsmanship in victory lane, too, as several drivers offered congratulations to the young Gravel on his first win of the season.
Pittman’s fast time in qualifying of 13.004, a track record in the Kasey Kahne Racing Great Clips car, would not help in running down Gravel, but was good enough for the runner-up position, which helped him strengthen his advantage atop the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship standings.
“I think we were good, we hung with him pretty much the whole time, he pulled five or six car lengths and I felt like we could maintain that, but that’s all we had,” said Pittman, of Owasso, Okla. “There are good seconds and bad seconds, and I’m happy with that. Sometimes you just leave everything out on the track and you get beat and that’s just how it goes. He made 30 really good laps. I knew I was going to need him to make a mistake either in traffic or on his own and he didn’t, he made 30 good laps.”
Big Game Motorsports teammates Swindell and Dollansky battled hard to settle the final spot on the podium. Dollansky threw several slide jobs at Swindell, but the legend never wavered.
“Tonight everything kind of went our direction, I mean we were close and we learned a lot tonight, but sometimes track position just takes it away,” said Swindell, of Germantown, Tenn. “We’ve had quite a few of these thirds and some fourths. Some nights we’ve just had little things happen, but it’s all coming together.”
Dollansky would settle for a fourth place finish while Kraig Kinser would eventually secure the fifth spot. The younger Kinser had to hold off charges from father, Steve, and Donny Schatz.
It was another strong night for the King of the Outlaws, Steve Kinser. The elder Kinser picked up the KSE Hard Charger award and finished one spot outside the top five ahead of second in points, Schatz.
In the championship standings, Pittman still holds a commanding lead of 134 points over Schatz with Paul McMahan now in third 18 points behind the five-time champion.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series returns to action on Friday to kick off a triple-header weekend.Friday night the series invades to LaSalle (Ill.) Speedway for the first time since 2010, then goes north on Saturday night to Beaver Dam (Wis.) Raceway, and then finishes the weekend at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.