PEVELY, Mo. — Neither rain nor restarts could dampen David Gravel’s Friday night as he dominated the Monroe Shocks and Struts Prelude to the Ironman at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 and scored his second straight and seventh overall World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series victory of the season.
Off-and-on light rain fell on the 1/3 mile, bullring in Pevely, Mo. throughout the feature, but Gravel was the class of the field in his No. 5 Big Game Treestands machine. Multiple restarts hit in the middle of the 35-lap main event, but Gravel held off the competition behind and cruised to the finish. He has led the last 75 laps of World of Outlaws competition.
“We’re really rolling right now,” Gravel said in victory lane. “It was a really fast race track around the top and the rain made the top even better and tighter as the race went on… We’ve won a rain-shortened race so you don’t want to get too many of those. You want to earn them. You needed that 35-lap workout because 55 laps tomorrow is going to be tough, for sure.”
Brad Sweet helped kick off the night by claiming his 10th quick time award, for being the fastest qualifier, this season. He and Joey Saldana are now tied for the most in 2016.
Gravel was the beneficiary of the Dash inversion draw and started on the Dash pole next to Jacob Allen. The two drivers finished first and second and started in the same positions in the feature.
When the green flag waved, Gravel quickly built up a lead as Allen held off Donny Schatz. When Gravel caught the tail end of the field, he had 1.5 second lead.
The first caution flag of the night flew on lap 9 as James McFadden spun through turns one and two. On the restart, Gravel jumped forward, but the next five positions behind jumbled up as Allen and Sweet made contact, opening the door for Donny Schatz and Daryn Pittman. Schatz quickly took over second as Pittman battled Allen side-by-side through turns one and two and took over third as they entered on to the back straight.
Through a spate of cautions in the middle of the feature, Daryn Pittman, who nearly lost third to his Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb teammate, Brad Sweet, battled past Schatz for second as Sweet and Schatz engaged in a multi-lap battle for the third position.
“Once Donny took a few slide jobs at me and I got my momentum going and cleared him,” Sweet said. “I’m sure he was right there with me, but there wasn’t much you could do with the lapped cars on the bottom.”
Sweet eventually took over the position in his No. 49 Ollies Bargain Outlet car.
Through the closing laps, Pittman tried to find a line around Gravel in his No. 9 Great Clips car but was only able to slightly lessen the gap.
Gravel, Pittman and Sweet all now have seven wins on the season. Gravel sits second in the championship standings, 235 points out of the lead.
“Just glad to hang on,” Gravel said. “I’ve got to thank (my crew) Barry, Derek and Austin, they do a great job, (my CJB Motorsports team owners) Chad and Jenn Clemens for this opportunity. It’s been an awesome season. Hopefully, we can keep doing what we’re doing.”
Pittman said the restarts were key throughout the night – for him the most consequential was the first one that helped him into the podium positions.
“We got a good restart there on Donny and we were lucky – we had a lot of breaks go our way tonight,” Pittmans said. “We had a restart where I started sixth and got to third on that one, so that helped a ton. I thought I actually had a shot on Gravel, but didn’t feel like I had him cleared so I had to leave him some room. Good effort by my guys and a good finish for us.”
Sweet said Schatz made it challenging through the middle portion of the race but once he got on the high line, he felt good about his position.
“There were a lot of restarts. It was just a matter of some worked for me and some didn’t,” Sweet said. “If we had anymore yellows or lapped traffic to get in the way of Daryn and David for us to have a shot at them – just a tricky, rough track. Glad we came out in third. We’ll come back tomorrow and hopefully run a good 55 laps.”
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series returns to action Saturday at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 for the $20,000-to-win, Federated Auto Parts Ironman 55 presented by Walker.
-World of Outlaws Press Release
-Photo Credit: World of Outlaws Twitter