By Susan Arnold
KNOXVILLE, Iowa (Aug. 10, 2013)–The Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear 71M team and driver Joey Saldana celebrated their Thursday Knoxville Nationals pole qualifying effort well into the wee hours of Friday morning. On Friday the Saldana family participated in fund-raising activities for Smoke’s Kick-It For Cancer kickball fundraiser while the team began preparing and strategizing for the most prestigious race on the World of Outlaws schedule.
“I am so excited about winning the pole, but it would be easier to be racing every day rather than sitting and waiting,” said Saldana. “To be in position to win this race you have to drive smart and you have to be able to challenge at the end. You have to make all the right decisions as a team.”
Finally the long day of waiting was over. It was after 10 p.m. when Saldana brought the field down for the green to start the $150,000-to-win feature. He got a good start and jumped into the lead, but the red came out right away when Stevie Smith got up over the cushion, and caught the fence in turn one flipping multiple times. On the restart, Brian Brown grabbed the lead followed by Shane Stewart and Saldana. The yellow flew with two laps complete for Cody Darrah who lost control and spun in turn two. Back to green with Brown leading and Saldana in second. Yellow again with four laps complete when Steve Kinser made contact with Daryn Pittman. Pittman had left front wheel and tire damage but was able to get it repaired and rejoin the field. Back to green with Brown leading, Saldana running a solid second, Shane Stewart third and Justin Henderson trailing Stewart. Brown began to pull away but with 16 laps complete he began to encounter traffic which allowed Saldana to begin to narrow the gap. With 19 laps in the books, Ian Madsen slowed on the track with nose wing damage, bringing out the yellow. Back to green with Brown and Saldana running one-two. With 24 laps complete there was an Outlaws competition red flag to allow teams to refuel their cars and make adjustments. It was notable that Donny Schatz had made dramatic progress bumping into the feature from the B-Main, started 21st in the feature and was now riding in fifth position.
At the single file restart following the competition red flag, it was Brown and Saldana one and two. Henderson was third trying to hold off a hard-charging Schatz to no avail. Schatz moved to third challenging Saldana. Schatz got a run off the bottom and was able to pass the Motter 71M. Now riding in fourth, Saldana was under pressure from Henderson. Henderson smacked the wall, but recovered and made another run at Saldana and was able to get by. Schatz took the lead on lap 41 and held on for the win, followed by second place Brian Brown. Justin Henderson was third. Saldana finished in seventh position.
“We really thought this was going to be our year,” said a disappointed Saldana. “We had some good momentum coming into the A-Main tonight and if the race had been 40 laps we would have been on the podium. During the five-minute red flag period we should have made more aggressive changes.
The track really changed in the last half of the race and it took rubber, became abrasive, and started to grind the tire. We had no traction coming out of the corners, the tires just spun. At the end of the race we had no tread on the right rear. But we did learn a lot about this car tonight.”
“To put everything in perspective, it was really a great week with a brand new car,” said team owner Dan Motter. “To win the pole out of 100 cars and finish seventh with this level of competition is still a great accomplishment.”
Next on the agenda for the Motter team is McCool Junction, Nebraska, Tuesday, Aug. 13.