ROSSBURG, Ohio — David Gravel had his hands full through much of Thursday night’s inaugural Jokers Wild at Eldora Speedway, but the 24-year-old driver held tough and scored his fourth World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series victory of the season.
“It’s awesome. It’s pretty friggin’ surreal,” Gravel said in victory lane.
The 24-year-old driver kicked off his dominant run by powering past Donny Schatz in the Dash to take the feature pole position.
Through the opening laps of the 30-lap main event, Gravel pulled out to a steady lead over second place Brian Brown. Through early cautions the field tightened back up.
NASCAR Truck Series stand out and two-time World of Outlaws winner Christopher Bell, who started fourth, powered forward, slipped back and then again made the charge to the front. He had taken over the second spot with the leader in his sights when the caution flew and Bell was forced to the pits with a mechanical issue.
On the restart, Gravel had his hands full with Schatz who looked for a way around the No. 5 Big Game Treestands car. Schatz slid through turns one and two but Gravel held him off. Through three and four, Schatz again slid through the corner and the two crossed each other down the front. Gravel still held the lead.
Through the middle of the feature, the fight for third and fourth heated up as Kerry Madsen worked to hold on to the final podium position and Logan Schuchart and Rico Abreu fought to take it away. Schuchart looked to have a chance but Abreu powered forward on a late restart and with a slider, took over third.
As the laps ticked away, the leaders, Gravel, Schatz and Abreu spread out. That did not last long though as Gravel worked his way through traffic in the final 10 laps, Schatz closed the distance and began looking for a line around.
“Lapped traffic really slowed me down,” Gravel said. “I just tried to keep my pace up. I slid (Randy) Hannagan and I know I lost all my speed there.”
Schatz continued the assault through the remaining six laps, getting his No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance car side-by-side with Gravel but Gravel held on.
On lap 28, as the white flag flew signaling the final lap, Schatz gave it one last chance. Staying close off of turn two, Schatz slid Gravel through three and four and nearly got around him, but Gravel powered his CJB Motorsports car across the line. Just .03 seconds separated first and second.
“Donny made me get my elbows up there,” Gravel said. “I had to run the top of three and four there and keep my speed up. We got a power steering leak – the power steering was going away and I was getting tired there at the end with my power steering going away.
“I can’t thank my team enough – Derek, Barry and Austin. Chad and Jenn Clemens put me in this car. It’s been a great season – we’ve had three bad nights all year. We were good here last time, we tried something a little different and won here tonight. Hopefully we can carry that on all weekend.”
Schatz said he thought he had his opportunity at the end of the feature.
“That last corner there I thought we would be able to clear (Gravel) but I didn’t use him up – I tried to do the right thing coming to the checkered.”
“These guys did an awesome job – it’s consistent, it’s balanced, so the next couple of nights we’ll have a chance.”
For Abreu, Eldora has been a place of consistent improvement for him and his No. 24 Abreu Vineyards team. Abreu said the momentum and the seat time would help as they went through the Kings Royal weekend and the upcoming NASCAR truck series race.
“It’s good, you’ve got to keep plugging away. We’re right there. It’s just one position, one restart away from winning. Really good restarts, really good racecars,” Abreu said. “We’ve got a lot of racing with two more and then the truck race and this track is already badass.”
Greg Wilson was the night’s KSE Racing Hard Charger, advancing 14 positions to finish in 10th. Kerry Madsen picked up his first quick time award of the season after turning a lap of 13.488 seconds.
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series returns to Eldora Speedway Friday night for the Knight Before the Kings Royal. For more information and to learn how to purchase tickets, visit WoOSprint.com/Knight-Before-the-Kings-Royal.
Follow the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series on Twitter at Twitter.com/WorldofOutlaws, like it on Facebook atFacebook.com/WorldofOutlaws, or check out the latest videos on YouTube at YouTube.com/WorldofOutlaws.
– World of Outlaws Press Release. Photo credit: Paul Arch