By Susan Arnold
JACKSONVILLE, Ill. (May 7, 2014) – The World of Outlaws made their first ever appearance at Jacksonville Speedway in front of a capacity crowd. Grandstand seats were sold out weeks before the event but fans continued to pour into the pits to find a place to watch 40 drivers try their luck on the high-banked quarter-mile oval.
The Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop team was called into action early in the evening when driver Joey Saldana encountered problems during hot laps. Saldana bicycled going into turn 2. He got the car settled down but then caught the outside wall and flipped end over end. The car was towed back to the pits. After assessing the damage it was decided to bring the backup car out of the trailer. The team worked quickly and in concert to ready the new 71M GF1 chassis for a timely appearance in the time trial order.
Without the benefit of a full complement of hot laps, Saldana turned a best time of 12.147 seconds to qualify 20th, translating to a pole position start in the fifth heat.
The fifth heat was loaded with marquee drivers and with the battles that ensued; announcer Johnny Gibson credited it as one of the best heat races of the year.
When the green flag waved, Saldana took the lead followed by Cody Darrah and Paul McMahan. With one lap complete, Steve Kinser cartwheeled after making contact with the infield tire marker between turns 1 and 2 while battling with Brian Brown for fourth. This brought out the caution. On the restart, Saldana and Darrah went wheel to wheel but Darrah won the lead with a wicked slide job off turn 4. Saldana, running second, was challenged by Brian Brown. The two traded second with the Brownsburg Bullet prevailing. Next to the party for a four-way battle for Saldana’s position were Paul McMahan and then Steve Kinser. Saldana was able to protect second place to cross the finish line behind Darrah. Saldana would start 17th in the A-Main.
Track conditions were tricky tonight. It was very slick in the middle of the track and rough and heavy up against the wall. Many of the A-list drivers had weathered incidences during competition tonight and the 40-lap feature was sure to be flag to flag, edge of your seat excitement.
When the field took the green flag, polesitter Christopher Bell assumed the lead, followed by Pittman and Wayne Johnson. Johnson was soon overtaken by Donny Schatz. With five laps complete, the competition was slowed when an incident between Jac Haudenschild and Paul McMahan brought out the yellow. McMahan pulled to the work area to try to fix a flat tire and some mechanical problems with his back suspension, but was unable to make repairs within the allotted two-minute time limit. This was noteworthy because after qualifying, McMahan had earned one point to pull even with Saldana as World of Outlaws point leaders.
Saldana restarted 14th and through two more cautions was able to slowly pick his way forward to 12th where he finished.
Christopher Bell won his first World of Outlaws event in fine fashion with a wire-to-wire victory. Daryn Pittman was second and would take the point lead. Donny Schatz took the final position on the podium.
“Track position was critical on this narrow bullring,” said team owner Dan Motter. “We were trying hard for the top 10, but didn’t quite make it.
“Joey really likes the chassis that got damaged tonight and the team is going to work hard to get it back on the track Friday for the event at Wilmot, Wis. It will take some work, but I know the men on this team will put in as many hours as it takes to get it back in racing form.”