(July 13, 2022) — The opening night of the 39th Kings Royal weekend is complete with David Gravel winning the Jokers Wild feature event on Wednesday night. Here are T.J.’s Takeaways from the first night of racing.
• When I saw Brian Brown turn a 12.931 lap around Eldora Speedway while leading his heat race, I didn’t have high expectations for seeing much passing in the main event. Eldora was hit by a pop-up rain shower right before the program was about to get started and took multiple hot lap sessions to get the surface worked in for cars to effectively hot lap and qualify.
The Eldora Speedway track crew was more optimistic than I was and kept working away at the surface and eventually produced a much wider racing surface for the main event. After the track crew took a lot of flak over conditions in the spring they managed to produce a good racing surface considering the situation they were dealt with the weather.
Sheldon Haudenschild charged from 25th starting position after having to take a provisional (more on this later). Some of the action from 10th on back during the first 10 laps of the main event was some of the craziest I’ve seen at Eldora in recent memory. I found myself not watching David Gravel working slower traffic to see the madness that was taking place.
• The World of Outlaws point standings have been a big story this season with the top five within 100 points going into Wednesday’s event at Eldora. The rain produced some potential for a shakeup at the top when David Gravel and Carson Macedo were able to stay near the front of their heat races while Brad Sweet and Sheldon Haudenschild had to hustle their way through the field.
Sweet managed run third after starting fourth in his heat race and salvaged an 8th place finish in the feature after staring 11th.
Haudenschild was not as lucky after timing in 17th in his qualifying flight and only moving up to eighth in his heat race from ninth starting position. After Haudenschild finished eighth in the B-Main, having to take a provisional, Haudenschild rallied for hard charger honors driving from 25th to 12th. As the season progresses this could be one of the key moments that kept Haudenschild’s title hopes alive.
Up front though Gravel and Macedo cut into Sweet’s lead as they are only 48 and 52 points behind Sweet for the lead.
We could see the trio of Sweet, Gravel, and Macedo separate themselves from the pack in the coming weeks. Snapping a winless streak, the way Gravel did on Wednesday often leads to more wins, and Macedo has shown speed at almost every track all season. They have a difficult task in front of them though as Sweet has evolved into a driver that rarely makes mistakes and has a crew that is tenacious with there efforts to keep Sweet’s car on track if and when trouble occurs.
Typically I’m more focused on big race wins than championship fights, but the race for the 2022 World of Outlaws title is starting to grab my attention.
• I don’t think we gained much insight into how teams may perform in the Historical Big One on Thursday and Kings Royal on Saturday due to the rain creating extremely fast conditions that we likely won’t see again this week unless another pop-up shower hits the racetrack again this week (based on the weather forecast that seems unlikely, but I thought the same thing about today).
Gravel and Macedo being fast was not surprising at all. The two performances I could take something away from were from Brian Brown and Justin Peck.
The Kings Royal has lent itself to drivers outside of the World of Outlaws regulars taking home the big prize. Brown brought a new car to Eldora this week and made mention post-race of work Charlie Garrett has done on their engine program to help his car take off. Brown has continually improved his performance at Eldora, but I felt he drove a solid race even though Brown remarked that mistakes he made adjusting inside the car contributed to not moving up further.
Peck has been close to winning a World of Outlaws race this season with two top five finishes so far this year. Peck’s performance on Wednesday was impressive before dropping back in the later stages of the main event.
Peck and Buch Motorsports have done well at building on performance this season. If they can build upon their fourth-place finish on Wednesday, I feel that they will make some noise all weekend.