By Susan Arnold
SALINA, Okla. (April 25, 2014) – The Motter Motorsports team spent yesterday touring sponsor HE&M Saw’s Pryor, Oklahoma facility and meeting their employee family. In return, the Motter Motorsports team afforded the HE&M Saw employees an opportunity to examine their 900-horsepower 1400-pound 71M sprint car and ask questions of driver Joey Saldana and the team. It was an enjoyable day for all.
Tonight it was hammer time and the team got down to business at the World of Outlaws event at Salina Highbanks Speedway, HE&M Saw’s hometown track. With Doug Harris, president and CEO, service manager Bob Foster and many of the HE&M Saw employees looking on, Saldana did what he excels at doing: qualifying in the No. 1 position. Saldana drove the HE&M Saw Motter Equipment Beltline Body Shop 71M to a quick time of 12.419 seconds, his ninth of the season. Saldana is on pace to shatter his career high 32 quick times set in 2002 ironically with the same crew chief. Davey Whitworth called the shots for Saldana in 2002 and reunited with the driver when Dan Motter formed this team last year. This is their sophomore season together under the Motter banner.
The No. 1 qualifying effort was just opening the salvo. The party was just getting started.
In heat one, Saldana started on the outside of the second row. At the green flag, Daryn Pittman assumed the lead with Kerry Madsen challenging. A slide job in turn 4 put Madsen in front of the pack. Saldana was running fifth. At the halfway point debris on the race track brought out the caution. When racing resumed Madsen continued to lead while Jacob Allen and Jason Johnson got by Saldana, pushing him back to seventh position. A motivated Brownsburg Bullet returned the pressure and won back the two positions, finishing fifth, transferring to the dash.
The ‘zero’ ping pong ball was picked in the inversion draw, indicating a straight up start with Saldana on the pole of the dash. The first start was called back when David Gravel got on the throttle too early. Saldana led the field back down to the green and led the pack after the green. Donny Schatz quickly moved into second place and began an assault on Saldana. Arguably the best battle on the Speedway, Schatz challenged from the high side, while Saldana kept the pressure on from the bottom of the track. Schatz got a run to pass Saldana with four laps complete but the two continued to battle to the checked flag. Schatz won the dash and the pole for the 30-lap feature and Saldana finished second and would start outside of the front row.
Prior to the 30-lap A-Main, crews went to work making wholesale changes to the racing surface in an effort to give the fans good side-by-side racing. The track work was monitored closely by the drivers and teams but it would still be a ‘best guess’ scenario for set up choices on a completely different racing surface than they had been competing on this evening.
Prior to the green, Outlaws officials gave the drivers a couple of laps at speed to get a feel for the reworked track. At the drop of the green, Saldana took the lead riding the high side of the track with Schatz in second. Saldana began to distance himself from Schatz. With five laps complete Madsen overpowered Schatz to take second place.
Madsen then began a cat and mouse chase with Saldana through traffic. Saldana had to get on the binders to maneuver through slower traffic while fending off Madsen. Saldana began to extend his lead once again but the caution came out with 13 laps complete for Jason Sides who slowed on the track. Schatz was also sent to the work area with a low right rear tire. During this yellow, Outlaws officials announced that they would shorten the A-Main to 25 laps because of track conditions.
On the restart, Saldana resumed his spot at the top of the leader board and began to pull away from second place Madsen. With seven laps to go, Madsen caught Saldana and the two nearly made contact. Madsen couldn’t make the pass and Saldana picked up the pace. When Wayne Johnson and Brad Loyet stopped on the track and brought out a caution, Outlaws officials called for one final circuit to call it a race at 24 laps.
It was a green, checkered shootout to the finish with Saldana taking a wire to wire victory, his second of the season. Kerry Madsen finished second and Kraig Kinser
took the final spot on the podium.
It was a Las Vegas-style high stakes night. No. 1 qualifier, wire to wire winner, and
for extra icing on the cake, Saldana shot to the top of the point standings!
When Saldana pulled to victory lane, there was nothing left of his right rear tire but there were HE&M Saw folks galore to help celebrate.
“I applaud them for putting the effort into reworking the track,” said Saldana. “For me it was being in the right place at the right time. I had to be patient in traffic and I almost gave it away there.
“It is nice to have Doug Harris and all the HE&M Saw employees here tonight. We enjoyed our day at their facility yesterday. It is a great company and we couldn’t do this without their support. We don’t have big budgets. We are working hard, everybody on our team gets along, and we have a great engine program.
“We are happy Dan (Motter, team owner) is back in the country following his business trip and is able to share this victory with us.”
Saldana and the HE&M Saw Motter Equipment Beltline Body Shop team didn’t have a lot of time to revel in the lime light or paint the town. They packed up and began the drive five hours north to Pevely, Mo. for tomorrow night’s event at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.
It’s the Outlaws life.