By Brian Walker
BRISTOL, TN – April 22, 2021 – History was made on Thursday night as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series ended a 20-year absence at Bristol Motor Speedway.
A full night of practice brought The Greatest Show on Dirt back to The Last Great Colosseum in preparation for this weekend’s highly-anticipated Bristol Throwdown. The event officially kicks off tomorrow with Hot Laps slated to open a full program of racing at 6:00pm ET. If you can’t be here, you can watch it all LIVE on DIRTVision.
For most drivers and teams, it was their first chance to hit the high banks in Thunder Valley. Three different sessions for a total of five rounds gave competitors several different looks at the surface with times to make changes and adjust to the .526-mile race track.
Round One – Donny Schatz (14.210)
Round Two- Gio Scelzi (14.575)
Round Three – David Gravel (14.533)
Round Four – David Gravel (14.742)
Round Five – Parker Price-Miller (15.059)
Donny Schatz, the 10-time Series champion, led the way with the single fastest lap of the night at 14.210 seconds in the opening set. That’s an average speed of 133 MPH aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, Ford Performance, Carquest #15.
For Schatz, a native of Fargo, ND, the World of Outlaws return to Bristol is a homecoming of sorts. He earned one of the biggest wins of his early career at the 1/2-mile on June 8, 2001. Now, two decades later, Schatz is still ruling the Outlaws and he’s back at Bristol with a chance to claim his milestone 300th career victory.
Whereas Schatz has previous experience to rely on, others like Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year contender Parker Price-Miller are walking in blind. Worried at first, PPM grew more comfortable by the lap and by the end of the night, he hit the fastest lap in the final session at 15.059 seconds.
“I feel a lot better leaving tonight than I did when the day started,” Price-Miller admitted. “The place is intimidating, especially for someone who hasn’t been here before, but I really enjoyed where the track ended up. Hopefully we get a track like this tomorrow.”
David Gravel made the most noise throughout the three-hour session, ending up as the only driver in the field to record a top-ten time in every single session. The Watertown, CT native also topped two different sessions aboard the Big Game Motorsports #2, the only driver to do that as well.
Although the 59-time World of Outlaws winner had never been to Bristol before, he does have the confidence of being a 1/2-mile stud. Since 2019, Gravel has won eight events on the biggest tracks the Outlaws face, second only to Schatz’s nine wins.
Knowing the World of Outlaws format which relies on qualifying and leads into straight-up heat races, Gravel is excited about the speed they found right out of the gates.
“It’s a huge confidence boost to roll out of the trailer and be that fast,” Gravel noted. “I’ve always loved racing on these bigger tracks and this place doesn’t disappoint. I hope we can get a track just like this when it comes to racing, but maybe get it out a little bit wider.”
In the fifth and final session of the night, a longer green flag run, Aaron Reutzel and his Roth Motorsports #83 clocked the best eight-lap average at 15.336 seconds. Another notable with a strong eight-lap average in the final session was Spencer Bayston of Lebanon, IN aboard the Indy Race Parts #71 at 15.383.
The biggest story of the night came when a special reveal stunned Jac Haudenschild and brought back to life one of the most iconic cars in the history of the World of Outlaws.
A deal months in the making, car owner Rico Abreu and businessman Frank Bolter surprised The Wild Child with a modern day version of the yellow Pennzoil #22 for his farewell season, which starts this weekend at the Bristol Throwdown.
Haudenschild’s historic relationship with the car dates back to the 1990’s when he drove Jack Elden’s #22 with Pennzoil sponsorship for more than a half-decade. Now, to end his legendary career, the 72-time World of Outlaws winner is reunited with the car he is most associated with.
A sixth-place runner at Bristol in 2000, Haudenschild is one of the five drivers this week that competed int the last event here 20 years ago. Also included in that list is Paul McMahan, making his season debut aboard the CJB Motorsports #23 this weekend.
“I don’t remember much of this place from back then, but it’s everything I expected it to be this week,” McMahan said. “As long as they get it wide and races, I think it’ll be totally fine. We had some great races back then, so I know we can do it again.”
Now that the entire field has laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, the stage is set to officially return to the Tennessee speed plant in Friday’s opener of the Bristol Throwdown. A $10,000-to-win program will lead into Saturday’s $25,000-to-win finale.
Fans who can’t make it to the track can catch all of the action on DIRTVision with the annual Platinum FAST PASS subscription for $299/year or the monthly FAST PASS subscription for $39/month.