Jason Sides was aiming for his first victory of the season on Friday night at Dodge City Raceway Park, but Donny Schatz caught him coming off of the final corner and the two raced side-by-side to the checkered flag with Schatz surging ahead just enough to earn his eighth World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series win this season.
Changing conditions throughout the opening night of the Boot Hill Showdown, with stiff winds kicking up during the A-main, added challenges to drivers and crews when choosing tire compounds, and then how to manage them. Chad Kemenah ran out to a quick lead over the first five laps before Sides moved to the top spot and took control.
Sides led until a restart with 27 laps complete gave Schatz one final chance in his STP/Armor All J&J, and he took advantage. With Sides’ right rear tire wearing down, Schatz was able to hold his line on the bottom and when Sides drifted up the track just enough in turn four, he forced the drag race to the finish where Schatz earned the victory as Sides, Kraig Kinser, Kemenah and Daryn Pittman rounded out the top five.
“I gave it everything I had and it worked, it was just enough to get the win,” said five-time series champion Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. “You hope somebody gets tight enough they get out of the grove and that’s what happened with Jason out of four on the last lap. You never know what to expect, but you’ve got to be there in order to get the win. You’ve got to be smart and save your tire through the first half of the race. We just saved and saved and saved and were patient and obviously it paid off for us. Tonight we got the win,tomorrow might be a different story.”
Sides was hanging on as best he could in the Wetherington Tractor Service Maxim, but in a race slowed by seven cautions he eventually couldn’t hold off Schatz any longer as his right rear went down just past the finish line.
“The last couple of restarts, the tire was shaking really bad,” said Sides, of Bartlett, Tenn. “And the last corner coming to the checkered, it really eased up and wouldn’t stay where I wanted it and Donny got by. He’s one of the best out here so when he gets by you, there’s no shame in it.”
The winner of the third heat race, Kraig Kinser, worked the top early in the A-main to move up to second after starting fifth, and eventually settled for third in his Mesilla Valley Transportation Maxim.
“I dove up there and I knew the bottom would get cleaned off eventually, and I just didn’t expect it to go that early,” said the third generation driver from Bloomington, Ind. “I just stayed up there too long and gave it back to Donny. I stayed up there and got around him the hard way, and he got back around us on the bottom and he hung around there and got the win.”
Kemenah, who won the second heat race of the night, fell off of the podium and into the fourth sport. Championship leader and the night’s number one qualifier, Daryn Pittman salvaged a fifth-place finish to minimize the ding in the championship standings by Schatz.
Pittman maintains a 139-point lead in the season-long championship battle. Paul McMahan is second, 19 points ahead of Schatz.