There were some fist pumps and a couple of shouts; high fives and loud smiles. But the significant moment was a likely long, long exhale.
Ok, it’s not like Craig Dollansky was a team on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. But his World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series feature victory on Saturday at Thunderbowl Raceway was much needed in the tireless effort toward momentum.
Coming off arguably his most successful racing season, Dollansky struggled in the first seven races of this season. He entered Saturday ninth in the championship points standings, hadn’t led a feature lap and had only three top 10s and no top fives this season.
“It’s definitely not the start to the year we’d like to have,” he said. “It’s still fairly early in the year. It sure wasn’t like we were completely hanging our heads by any means. We know what we’re capable of.”
That all changed with 35 continuous laps led by Dollansky, who jumped to the lead from outside the front row on the start. With tricky track conditions favoring the bottom groove, Dollansky maintained the lead as polesitter Jonathan Allard tried a variety of racing lines in an effort to get the top position.
“I just wasn’t aggressive enough on the start and then I was too aggressive when we got to racing and hurt my tire pretty bad,” Allard said. “Once we got in there I felt better. I was sliding the car around a bit, which I got nervous about. We gained some speed on them and then the yellow came out.”
Seven cautions played into Dollansky’s hand as he never had to pass a car in traffic. While Allard tried high and low to get a shot at the lead, Dollansky hit his marks lap after lap in the clear track.
“Once we got the lead I was just trying to manage tires and manage fuel,” he said. “It was something I had to be aware of.”
Dollansky executed to earn his first career win with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series at Thunderbowl Raceway and it marked the 10th consecutive season that Dollansky has recorded at least one feature victory. He also moved up to fourth in the points standings.
Allard held off championship points leader Daryn Pittman for the runner-up position.
“I just ran a really slow pace,” Pittman said. “It was really hard to run that slow. It didn’t matter how hard we ran, if we didn’t make it to the 35 th lap it was all going to be a waste. I really figured the top two, as hard as they were running, might have tire issues. That’s the gamble we took and either way we came home third.”
Lucas Wolfe secured his first top five of the season with a four-place result and Paul McMahan ended fifth.
Last Chance Showdown winner Tim Kaeding, who claimed Friday’s feature at Thunderbowl Raceway, earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after driving from 16 th to sixth. Sammy Swindell placed seventh, Joey Saldana eighth, Kraig Kinser ninth and Jason Meyers rounded out the top 10.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series returns to action on Friday in the grand opening of Stockton 99 Dirt Track in Stockton, Calif.