CHICO, Calif. (March 23, 2013) –Joey Saldana and the Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear team pulled into the Silver Dollar Speedway running on about three hours of sleep, but with a positive attitude and eager to get the night’s World of Outlaws Mini Gold Cup competition underway.
After a late night of racing in Stockton that concluded after midnight, the team packed up and drove to Chico, making a stop at a car wash to clean the transporter and race cars.
They arrived at their hotel about 5 a.m., slept for three hours, and at 8 a.m. they went to work on the race cars. First they performed all the maintenance that needed to be done on the car they campaigned last night so that it was race-ready. That car went upstairs in the transporter to be used as the back-up car once again.
Then they went to work on the car in which the broken U-joint terrorized the internal components from the radiator to the fuel tank. Fueled by overindulgences of
Diet Mountain Dew, crew chief Davey Whitworth worked with the team to drop in a brand new bullet (engine), with a new radiator, motor plate, complete driveline, rear end and all the hardware to bolt it together.
Despite the challenges thrown at the team in Stockton, Saldana and the crew were in great moods with very positive attitudes when they arrived at Silver Dollar. Saldana was very pleased with the way the team rebounded last night after being gobsmacked in hot laps.
Now the 71M boys were looking for redemption.
Saldana, a six-time winner at Silver Dollar and the track record holder (10.918 seconds set in 2009), drew a high number for qualifying, putting him in the last dozen or so cars to make a timed run. Tonight Saldana turned his best lap in 12.195 seconds, making him a disappointing 30th in the qualifying order, seeding him toward the back of the heat race starting order. It would have been the night to have pulled an early qualifying number.
Starting eighth in the second heat with a fast track and little passing, Saldana was unable to advance his position. He was now going to have to try to progress to the A-Main by way of the Last Chance Showdown. He started 10th, next to 20-time Outlaws
champion Steve Kinser. Fighting for track position, Saldana was able to gain two spots to finish eighth, but only four transferred to the A-Main.
Owner Dan Motter and the team made the decision to use a provisional afforded Saldana as a 2012 top five platinum driver, so Saldana tagged the end of the field for the 40-lap A-Main starting in 25th position.
The Feature was filled with thrills and spills with the red flag flying three times for Rico Abreu, Donny Schatz and Craig Dollansky who all flipped in separate incidences and walked away.
The finish of the Mini Gold Cup was spectacular. As winner Paul McMahan crossed the finish line, second place driver Chad Kemenah started a series of flips. Again Kemenah climbed out of the car. Tony Stewart finished third and remarked that the finish tonight was like the last lap at Daytona. Saldana finished 17th.
“We struggled trying to find the right balance for the car tonight,” said Saldana. “We were too tight in qualifying and too loose in the heat race. We kept trying to adapt to the conditions.”
“We have the big track set-up pretty consistent right now, but we’re missing something on these short tracks,” said crew chief Whitworth. “We just needed to keep making laps tonight.
“When we return for the Gold Cup Race of Champions here Sept. 6-7, we are learning that there are some set-ups to stay away from. And that is still knowledge and data for the notebook.”
With over 90 events this season, it’s likely that most of the top platinum drivers will need to use provisionals at some point. In 2012, Donny Schatz used the five provisionals allotted him and still missed the final A-Main of the season in Charlotte because he didn’t qualify through the heat or Last Chance Showdown and still captured the championship.
“That’s part of this series today” said owner Dan Motter. “We race against a lot of good local competition everywhere we go, and the California teams have been giving all of the top Outlaw teams a run for their money”