By Linda Mansfield
PEVELY, Mo., April 27 — Shark Racing’s Jacob Allen earned the KSE Hard Charger Award and got a big dose of confidence after he came from the 22nd starting position to finish tenth in the 40-lap World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series feature Saturday night at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.
Allen, of Hanover, Pa., was as high as fourth at one point in the wild race, the headline event in the Spring Classic Presented by GM Sapaugh Country.
It was the best finish in WoO competition ever for Allen, who like his teammate, Logan Schuchart, also of Hanover, Pa., is a contender for the series’ Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by ButlerBuilt. Allen was 0.757 of a second behind the driver who finished ninth, 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser, at the checkered flag.
Schuchart, who started 17th, was as high as ninth in the feature and finished 15th in the 24-car field.
Earlier in the evening Schuchart and Allen finished first and second, respectively, in the 12-lap Last-Chance Showdown to earn their starting spots in the feature while representing their sponsors. They include Your Auto Source NAPA Autocare Center, Pell’s Tire Service, Marty Thompson, Don Ott Racing Engines, Rich Fogle Custom Pole Buildings, Newman’s Towing & Recovery, CnB Mushroom Farms, Brenneman Painting, Speedway 94, Dirt: The Game, Silpada Jewelry, Lebo Skin Care, DMI, Penske Shocks, ButlerBuilt Seats, Tony Stewart Racing and SR Lubricant Solutions.
Allen had only made one other appearance at this particular one-third-mile oval in the past, but he didn’t qualify for the feature when he was here last year. One of the richest WoO races on the schedule will be held at this track, which is promoted by Ray Marler and NASCAR star Kenny Schrader, when the series returns here for the Ironman 55 race Aug. 1-2.
Allen ran near the back of the field for the first seven laps of the A main Saturday night but he was up to 18th by lap eight. He moved up two more spots after the fourth-place driver, Kerry Madsen, flipped and collected the sixth-place driver, Brian Brown, with 12 laps down. Allen passed two more cars on the restart to move into 14th place, and with 15 laps down he was up to 11th. He broke into the top-10 to move right behind Schuchart, who was ninth, with 17 laps down. There was a pause in the action at that point, as the yellow flew with 18 laps down when Brown slowed on the frontstretch.
Allen got a great restart to move into eighth on lap 19, passing Schuchart and Paul McMahan. He passed defending champion Daryn Pittman and Steve Kinser next and at the halfway point he was sixth, trailing only Kraig Kinser, Joey Saldana, Danny Lasoski, Sammy Swindell and Donny Schatz.
He was still in sixth with 21 laps down when the red flag waved again when Jason Johnson flipped, collecting Cody Darrah.
Allen passed Saldana and Schatz for an instant after that restart to move into fourth place, but Saldana got him back on the next lap to push him back to fifth. Working well in the low groove, he remained in fifth until Schatz passed him back with 27 laps down, right before another yellow flew when Joey Moughan rolled to a stop.
David Gravel and Steve Kinser passed him on the restart to push him back to eighth, and he slipped two more spots on lap 34 to settle back into tenth position. He dropped one more spot with 36 laps down but he regained tenth on the next lap to finish in that position four laps later.
Meanwhile, Schuchart had worked his way up to run in ninth place from laps 13 through 18, but he slipped to 11th on the restart with 18 laps down and eventually placed 15th.
Swindell won the race over Saldana, Schatz, Gravel and Pittman.
“It was a lot of fun, really,” Allen said of his night’s work. “I’d never even run in the top 15 before, so this was a big boost to my confidence.”
When asked what made the difference, he said it was a combination of factors.
“The bottom [of the track] stayed really good all night, and the way my car was set up, even with a slick track my car didn’t spin wheels,” he said. “I had a really good car, and it just all played into my favor at the right time.”
Allen said he learned the most on the double-file restart with 18 laps down, when he was right beside his teammate. “I restarted outside of Logan, but I knew I was fast. I knew that the way my car was set up, if I was on the inside row I could run it in hard through the second turn and it would carry momentum into the straightaway.
“It was really fun when I went around Pittman and Schatz and a lot of the other big names,” he added. “I could see the leaders clear as day. I screwed up a little on the last restart or I think I could have won. I just know it’s a lot more fun to see the leaders that way than to see them when they’re lapping you. It’s crazy; it seemed like magic, but everything just played into my favor, and it really helped my confidence level.
“A lot of drivers came up afterwards and said I did good, which really means a lot,” he noted. “Daryn Pittman and his crew chief and everybody that works on Brad Sweet’s car said I did a good job. That’s a pretty big moment for a 19-year-old kid.”
Schuchart was just glad that the mechanical difficulty that plagued his car at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas April 18-19 seemed to have been solved.
“We had a hose in the fuel tank that was shutting off at Devil’s Bowl, but at Salina and I-55 we were fine,” he said. “At Salina [the Salina Highbanks in Salina, Okla., which hosted the WoO on Friday night] the track just rubbered up, and I got a hole in my tire so I pulled in. At I-55 I got as high as eighth I think, but I just stayed on the bottom too long. The track conditions changed a little and I just made some wrong decisions at the end.”
Both Schuchart and Allen had to work hard in the Last-Chance Showdown to make the field for the feature. Schuchart started second in that 12-lap race, got the lead from A.J. Bruns to lead lap one, and then ran in second place until he regained the lead from Bruns with eight laps down.
Allen took the green flag in eighth position but he was already fifth by the end of lap two. He got fourth by passing Jimmy Bridgeman on lap five. With only two laps remaining he passed both Bruns and Joey Moughan to take second. Allen was 2.528 seconds behind his teammate at the checkered.
Both of the Shark Racing drivers were in heat two. They just missed qualifying for the feature that way, as Schuchart finished seventh and Allen placed eighth but only the top six qualified.
Schuchart was 17th and Allen was 26th in time trials out of 31 drivers.
The team is headed home to do some work with engine builder Don Ott and go over their cars with a fine-tooth comb before it is back on the road and headed to the next two races, which are May 2-3 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
The team, Schuchart and Allen have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and Schuchart has a Web site at Shark1s.com.
Free audio coverage of all WoO races is available on Dirtvision.com, as well as pay-per-view coverage of selected events. The series’ Web site is at woosprint.com.