By T.J. Buffenbarger
After two nights of racing with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series during the 36th Annual Kings Royal weekend here are a handful of takeaways from the Thursday program:
• With two races in the books Brad Sweet, Donny Schatz, and Logan Schuchart have positioned themselves as the three favorites to win the $175,000 Kings Royal finale on Saturday. All three have been up front all weekend. Thursday may have ended up being a three-car race for the win as Schuchart was running in third position running down the leaders before his car didn’t take off during a restart, dropping him out of contention. There is a lot of discussion centered around Schatz and Sweet based on them competing head to head for Kings Royal and Knoxville Nationals titles last year, but Schuchart has been just as strong all weekend.
• If Eldora holds a cushion or top line as dominant as Thursday’s program Brad Sweet will likely be the favorite to win. Some people were questioning after last night if Sweet would be able to compete with Schatz if the track goes as slick as it did on Wednesday. My thoughts on that are yes based on Sweet’s late run to nearly catch Schatz during the 2018 Kings Royal. With all the races Wednesday through Friday being shorter distances than Saturday’s 40-lap finale I’m not sure if we have seen yet who may be the best during those final 10 circuits.
• Joey Saldana and Jac Haudenschild electrified Eldora’s large crowd on Thursday with both drivers winning heat races putting them in the dashes and contention for the win. Saldana’s night did not have a happy ending retiring from the main event after his second engine problem of the night in Ed Neumeister’s 12N car. Haudenschild was able to stay up front and scored a sixth place finish. When either or both Saldana and Haudenschild run well you can literally feel the electricity in the air at the Big E.
• If you ever need reason to come to the Kings Royal check out the replay of the fourth heat race from Thursday night. When Dirtvision posts an entire heat race moments after it happens to social media for the world to see you know it was a good race.
• Another drive that stole the spotlight early in the night was 21-year-old Sye Lynch. The son of Ed Lynch Jr. put his car in one of the two dashes in only his second start at the Big E. Having watched his Dad turn hundreds of laps around Eldora. Lynch made that transition from watching to doing with a race team that decided to come to Eldora last Thursday. While Lynch’s main event performance did not match the earlier success, his performance in the preliminaries was eye opening. Look for a longer feature on the website about Lynch tomorrow.