Wearing an ear-to-ear grin, Chad Kemenah hopped out of his car and went in for the hug on Donny Schatz.
Keep in mind, Kemenah had just finished second to Schatz in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series return to Kings Speedway on Friday night.
“That’s just what happens when you get a race track to race on wide enough,” Kemenah said. “These fans come out and just get a hell of a show. That was a lot of passing.
“I just want to thank all the fans for coming out here and Donny for such a good race. They got their money’s worth and we’re excited.”
Schatz was a bit more subdued in celebrating his first career victory at the 3/8-mile track, which has featured a different winner in each of the last seven World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series main events.
“It was fun to have a good enough car to go around the race track in perfect condition to be able to go on the top and the bottom all the way around the whole track,” Schatz said. “It was fun, but it was definitely not an easy win.”
Despite nine cautions that kept the leader out of traffic, the race showcased seven official lead changes and possibly twice as many actual ones. Schatz and polesitter Tim Kaeding swapped the lead five times in the first 10 laps before a flat right rear tire derailed Kaeding around the midpoint of the 35-lap feature.
But as Kaeding faded before eventually spinning off the track in turn two on Lap 20, Kemenah picked up the heat on Schatz and rocketed to the top spot exiting turn two on Lap 17. He held onto the lead until Schatz powered around him in turn two on Lap 22.
“You knew the track was going to change drastically and it was pretty slick when we started,” Schatz said. “We were able to maneuver on both ends.”
Kemenah stayed within striking distance as they hit traffic on Lap 28, but the ninth – and final – caution flag was waved one lap later as D.J. Netto collided with fourth-place running David Gravel in turn two. The crash popped Gravel’s left rear tire and forced him to pit. He returned to the race, but finished 12th.
Schatz got a clean restart and maintained the lead in the closing laps with Kemenah and third-running Sammy Swindell in tow.
“It was a fun race to watch,” Swindell said. “We weren’t any better than they were. It might have been different if I could have ever got to the front, but I don’t think we were strong enough to quite get there. It was fun to watch and be able to participate in it.”
Championship points leader Daryn Pittman, who dropped from 13th to last place after spinning on the opening lap, placed fourth to collect his series-leading ninth top five. Kraig Kinser drove from 12th to finish fifth.
Joey Saldana ended sixth, Craig Dollansky seventh, Paul McMahan eighth and Kyle Hirst charged from 20th to ninth to earn the KSE Hard Charger Award. Steve Kinser rounded out the top 10.
After driving from the back up to eighth following his caution, Kaeding slid off the track on the final lap and was credited with a 13th-place finish.