By Susan Arnold
ELMA, Wash. (Sept. 2, 2013) – The World of Outlaws event at Grays Harbor Raceway was fraught with cautions, red flags, spins and collisions. After qualifying well and performing well in the heat and dash, Joey Saldana experienced a rollercoaster night in the A-Main. The determined driver of the Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear Beltline Body Shop 71M made a valiant effort to recover from a defensive move he was forced to make early in the feature and ultimately finished 17th.
In preliminary action, the Brownsburg Bullet circled the 3/8-mile oval in 12.425 seconds qualifying third out of 29 cars.
After applying the World of Outlaws mathematical formula, Saldana was slated to start fourth in heat three.
Before the heat races began, the Bullet joined several other Outlaws drivers who passed helmets in the grandstands to raise money for the children’s “Kick It For Cancer”
When the field assembled for the start of the heat race, it took Saldana only one lap to work his way up to third position behind leader Craig Dollansky and second place Cody Darrah. At the halfway mark, Saldana drove low maximizing his best opportunity to put a run on Darrah who was running the cushion. Despite a gallant effort by the Bullet, Darrah was able to maintain his position. At the end of the eight-lap heat, it was Dollansky with the victory, Darrah second and Saldana third.
Next on the racing agenda was the dash. After the inversion draw, Saldana rolled off in fourth place on the starting grid. The green flag signaled the start of a battle between front row contenders Donny Schatz and Daryn Pittman for first, and a second row dogfight between Saldana and Brad Sweet for third. Though positions were traded during the six-lap event, at the checkered flag the first two rows crossed the finish line in the same positions they started: Schatz was the winner, Pittman was second, Sweet was third and Saldana fourth.
They would all start the 30-lap A-Main in the order of the dash finish. When the green flew, there was a three-wide battle for the lead between Schatz, Pittman and Sweet, with Saldana in the mix. Before a lap could be completed, Sammy Swindell toppled over on his side to bring out the red. Swindell joined the back of the field after his team made repairs. On the restart, Schatz took the lead again, Pittman was second, Sweet was third and Saldana fourth. On the second lap Saldana passed Sweet. Sweet answered with a slide job on Saldana and Saldana had to slam on the brakes. As a result the car turned sideways collecting Paul McMahan and Cody Darrah. Saldana, McMahan and Darrah all went to the work area, made repairs and rejoined the back of the field. On the restart it was Schatz, Pittman and Sweet. Back to green. With 13 laps complete, Pittman wrestled the lead from Schatz. The caution came out on lap 17 when Darrah spun on the track directly in front of race leader Pittman. Pittman narrowly missed his teammate who suffered from a broken drive link.
Next restart order: Pittman, Schatz, S. Kinser, Sweet. Saldana was 16th. At the green, Kinser made contact with Pittman but both continued on. With five laps to go, the caution came out again for Rico Abreu who looped his car and spun to a stop. Re-rack the field: Schatz, Pittman, S. Kinser, Sweet.
On this restart, Kyle Larson got sideways and was tagged by Kraig Kinser. Larson suffered severe rear end and fuel tank damage and could not continue. Kinser’s nose wing was askew but he was able to continue. Once again the restart order was Schatz, Pittman and S. Kinser. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. hit a cone on the front stretch on the restart and was penalized two positions. Back to green. The caution came out again with two laps to go when something on Sweet’s car broke and caused him to make contact with the wall. At this point, Outlaws officials called a two-minute open red flag period to allow the teams an opportunity to add fuel to their cars. Saldana, who had been fighting his way through the field, was now 10th. Restart with two to go: Schatz, Pittman and S. Kinser. On the final lap, Saldana was forced to pull into the infield with a heavily smoking engine and was credited with finishing 17th.
“The car was really good tonight,” said Saldana, “and was probably the best it’s ever been. We were a contender and it’s a shame we had the set-backs.”
Schatz led the way to the checkered flag, Pittman was second and Steve Kinser rounded out the podium.
Tomorrow night the Outlaws will gather at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Oregon.