Joey Saldana. - T.J. Buffenbarger Photo

Joey Saldana. - T.J. Buffenbarger Photo
Joey Saldana. – T.J. Buffenbarger Photo
From Susan Arnold

Tulare, CA — (March 15, 2014) — World of Outlaws cowboys saddled their steel horses for a final ride at Thunderbowl Raceway tonight.

Joey Saldana appeared to be on point to lock up another No. 1 qualifying effort in his Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M, but the last car out for time trials went to the head of the class and Saldana was second with an outstanding 13.127-second lap at Tulare.

Saldana started fourth in the second heat, and when the green flag flew, he gained one position. Logan Schuchart, who started on the outside of the front row, took the lead, followed by pole sitter Craig Stidham. Saldana protected his third place position from a hard-charging Donny Schatz and began to put distance between the two cars, extending his advantage by 10 car lengths. At the checkered flag it was Schuchart, Stidham, and Saldana. Schuchart and Saldana earned dash and A-Main starting positions.

On a night where track position was of utmost importance, a ‘0’ was pulled from the ping pong balls to determine the dash inversion. It was a straight-up start and Saldana would launch from the outside pole! There was little trading position once the green flag flew and for the most part, the field finished the way they started. Pole sitter Terry McCarl won the dash and would sit on the pole for the A-Main while Saldana finished second and would start on the outside of the front row in the feature.

The competitors saluted the fans with their traditional four-wide formation and the fans illuminated the sky with a cellphone light show indicating their appreciation while sending the competitors off for the 35-lap A-Main.

When the green waved, McCarl took the lead with Saldana in pursuit followed by Swindell and Abreu. Abreu was on the move, passing Swindell and the Brownsburg Bullet. With five laps complete, the leaders encountered traffic. A calculated slide job by Abreu to get by McCarl, won Abreu the lead. The red flag was displayed with 11 laps complete when Cody Darrah flipped. He was not injured. On the restart, Saldana was second but another red flag halted competition two laps later. Despite red and yellow flags that halted and paused competition, Saldana maintained second position until a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time threw him a curve ball. With five laps to go, Mike Faria hit the wall in turn 4 and Saldana spun to a stop trying to avoid contact. The Outlaws rules relegated Saldana to the back of the field for the restart. With few laps left to try to drive through the pack, Saldana finished 16th.

Rico Abreu scored his first World of Outlaws A-Main victory, Schuchart finished second and Terry McCarl third.

“This was a really unfortunate incident,” said team owner Dan Motter. “Joey had no recourse and was just caught with nowhere to go. It was a heart breaker for Joey and the whole team because we had such a great run going. It feels like we were mugged!

“Our team is tenacious. We will rebound and we will look forward to a good outing in Stockton, Calif. March 22.”