Eight laps to go Saturday night at Eldora Speedway and a restart with Brian Brown and Donny Schatz on the front row had the crowd on its feet, but it was Daryn Pittman who took their breath away with a stunning slider past the leaders for his fourth World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season.
Brown, who stormed into the lead from the pole position, withstood several barrages by Brad Sweet and Schatz to maintain the top spot through the first 22 laps, but Pittman was too much on what was the final restart of the 30-lap conclusion to Outlaw Thunder weekend at Eldora.
Pittman started seventh in his Kasey Kahne Racing Great Clips GF1 at the Tony Stewart-owned high-speed half-mile oval and methodically worked his way forward. While everyone was watching Brown battle Sweet and Schatz, it was Pittman who was putting himself in position to pounce on the leader.
By lap 8, Sweet had closed the gap on Brown, and a lap later went to the bottom in turn three and drew even with the leader. Brown and Sweet drag raced down the front stretch, with Brown edging Sweet by just one-hundredth of a second. Sweet again would charge on lap 10, but still fell short.
The intense battle for the lead eased momentarily when Sam Hafertepe Jr. collided with the wall in turn one, bringing out a caution on lap 12. Brown then rolled to a stop on the front stretch, where he explained to series officials his belts had come loose. By rule, a safety-related issue allows the driver to maintain his track position, putting Brown back in front on the restart with Sweet.
Brown, Sweet and Schatz then went three wide in the battle for the lead, with Brown still holding off the challengers. Then for the second consecutive night, Sweet’s car sustained damage, forcing him out of the race. This time it set up a double-file restart with 14 laps complete.
Schatz charged Brown on the restart, and working the bottom in turn one, moved into lead but only for an instant as Brown again slid back to the front.
A determined Brown stretched his advantage until a caution on lap 22 when Sheldon Haudenschild spun in turn four. The crowd was eager to see if Schatz could make a slide job stick on this restart, but when the green flag flew it was Pittman with the dive bomb to the lead.
“I think I gained at least one spot if not two on every restart,” said Pittman, who extends his lead in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship standings with the victory. “It made all difference in the world. On those double file restarts, they’re tricky they either go for you or against you and luckily tonight they helped us.”
Brown in the Casey’s General Stores/FVP Maxim held off Schatz’s STP/Armor All J&J the rest of the way to finish second.
“I was thinking maybe I should go to the outside, but the bottom had worked pretty good the whole time,” said Brown, of Grain Valley, Mo. “You don’t want to say, ‘Well gosh, you ran the bottom the whole time on those restarts, why did you choose the top and get beat that way.’ The driver has to do his job for 30 laps, and I just had 28 good ones and a bad restart.”
Schatz finished third with Jac Haudenschild and Joey Saldana rounding out the top five.
“We had a good enough car I felt like to win at one point, but we just kind of faded a little bit,” said Schatz, a five-time World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series champion from Fargo, N.D.
Steve Kinser, making the 200th start of his career at Eldora, earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after starting 15th and finishing seventh in the Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider Maxim.
Next up, the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series invades Minnesota’s Elko Speedway for “FVP Outlaws at Elko” on Friday, May 10, and Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway for the “Mediacom Shootout” on Saturday, May 11.