From Susan Arnold
Barberville, FL — (February 16, 2014) — The final night of DIRTcar Nationals competition at Volusia Speedway Park, the world’s fastest half-mile dirt oval, promised to be another night of edge-of-your-seat, slide and dive World of Outlaws sprint car racing.
Joey Saldana, winner of Thursday’s All Star Circuit of Champions event, qualified second for tonight’s Volusia finale, with a lap of 13.058 seconds.
Saldana started fourth in the second heat and at the drop of the green he attacked the high side of the track to power the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M past Lucas Wolfe to squeeze into second position. The Brownsburg Bullet then set his sights on leader Steve Kinser. With three laps to go, Saldana was gaining on Kinser and the two drivers had a straightaway lead over the rest of the field. Though running nose to tail coming out of turn 4, Saldana couldn’t pass Kinser at the checker, but finished a very strong second. This stellar showing in the heat guaranteed Saldana a starting berth in the dash and the A-Main.
Outlaws drivers may not agree universally on a lot of subjects, but they all agree that earning a position in the dash is the key to a successful racing evening.
After the inversion draw, Saldana was assigned the No. 5 starting position in the dash.
With the track beginning to slick off, the inside groove was difficult to navigate and gain momentum. Saldana finished eighth in the dash and would start the A-Main on the outside of the fourth row.
On the first lap of green flag racing, Bronson Maeschen went for a wild ride, flipping in turn 4, bringing out the first red flag of the three-day event. Complete restart.
Pittman took the lead, Steve Kinser was second while Brad Sweet and Saldana traded fifth position for two laps. With four laps complete, Cody Darrah slowed to a stop on the track, bringing out the yellow.
Re-rack the field: Pittman, Steve Kinser, Paul McMahan, Donny Schatz. Saldana was seventh.
Back to green. Steve Kinser grabbed the lead with Pittman in pursuit. With eight laps to go, the yellow was displayed again, this time for Christopher Bell who spun.
Re-start: Kinser, Pittman, Schatz, McMahan with Saldana eighth. When the field got the green flag, the battle between Kinser and Pittman heated up. Pittman led lap 23 and Kinser took the lead back on lap 24 and drove hard to the checkered flag taking the win on his “Salute to the King” tour, his final season as a full-time Outlaws driver.
Pittman was second and the final position on the podium went to Donny Schatz.
Saldana matched last night’s finish in eighth place.
“The track was slick in the middle as it was last night,” said Saldana. “There wasn’t much traction on the bottom so everybody was riding the cushion. The restarts on the bottom hurt us. The best option to pass was on the restart so if you were on the outside, you had a chance to gain some ground.”
“I feel we really had a top 5 car tonight,” said team owner Dan Motter. “In the end, we had a much better outing this year at Volusia than we had last year. We are optimistic about a good showing in Las Vegas, the next stop on our tour.”
The Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M will compete in Las Vegas March 5-6.