A winless drought can cause doubt to form for even the strongest teams. Such was the case for Spencer Bayston, heading into the Ironman weekend with a winless streak dating back to June 2022.
The 2022 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year never lost faith. But doubt asked when, and if, a win would come again.
Confidence answered, Friday night at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 for the Night Before The Ironman.
While cut nine laps short due to an incident with the track fence, Bayston had already made himself untouchable in Feature. After taking the lead on Lap 5, he gapped the field by seconds, leading to he and CJB Motorsports’ first win of the season.
“You start to wonder if you can win again,” Bayston said. “You know, it’s been over a year. We have all the tools. We have great partners. Great members and a phenomenal car owner with Chad Clemens. There’re times you start to question yourself. Just to get his out of the way feels really, really good.”
When it came time for the Feature, Cole Macedo started pole with David Gravel – the championship points leader entering the night – to his outside. Macedo darted ahead of the field in the first corner while Gravel looked to have an anchored tied to him and fell to fourth on the opening lap.
Brad Sweet moved up to second and Bayston wasn’t far behind in third. “The Big Cat” bicycled on the second lap, allowing Bayston to dive underneath him and steal the spot.
Two laps later, Macedo had his own scare, hitting a rut and bouncing all four wheels off the track. Like the camo on his #5 car, Bayston then made the pass for the lead so quick Macedo couldn’t have even seen it coming.
Once the CJB machine was in clear air out front, it was in a class of its own. Behind it, Sweet and Giovanni Scelzi soared by Macedo before sparring for second. The two traded attacks lap after lap, eventually letting James McFadden join in on the fight.
“Hot Sauce” won the battle and soon after benefited from a caution on Lap 19, erasing the four second lead Bayston had over him.
When the race resumed, Bayston pulled ahead but Scelzi wasn’t letting him out of his sight. However, the brewing battle was halted when Corey Day flipped into the Turn 4 fence, bringing out the red flag. With the fence damage too severe to fix for the night, the race was deemed complete.
Bayston’s drought was finally over.
“It feels so good,” Bayston said about getting his fifth career World of Outlaws win. “I know that’s not the normal, conventional, way to do it, but I was certainly happy for that one to be over. But I was so confident with my car and with what [my CJB Motorsports team] did with it there before the Feature to give me a car that was versatile and could move around through traffic and could battle. I was confident if we ran that one out, I could keep cutting my laps and we’d be in good shape.”
Scelzi had to settle for second, his second top-five finish in a row and third podium of the season.
“Good call to end the race; smart call by the officials,” Scelzi said.
Sweet finished third, adding to his insane I-55 statistics. Now, in 16 starts at the 1/3-mile track, he has 14 podium finishes.
With Gravel finishing eighth, Sweet also reclaimed the points lead – making for the ninth lead change of the season. The Grass Valley, CA driver now leads Gravel by two-points going into Saturday’s Ironman 55.
While the $20,000-to-win, 55-lap, spectacle is one of the most grueling races of the year, there’s at least one driver entering with no doubtful questions. Only confident answers.
The Night’s Notebook:
The KSE Racing Hard Charger was Logan Schuchart.
The night’s Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award went to David Gravel for the eighth time in 2023 and the 105th time of his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat 1 went to Cole Macedo (first Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were claimed by James McFadden (43rd of career), Brad Sweet (229th of career), and Giovanni Scelzi (33rd of career).
Cole Macedo topped the Toyota Racing Dash.
Jamie Veal topped the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars take on the Ironman 55 finale at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 on Saturday, Aug. 5, with $20,000 going to the winner. The Xtreme Outlaw Midgets presented by Toyota will also be on the card vying for a $5,000 victory. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 5-Spencer Bayston; 2. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 3. 49-Brad Sweet; 4. 83-James McFadden; 5. 21T-Cole Macedo; 6. 11-Cory Eliason; 7. 20G-Noah Gass; 8. 2-David Gravel; 9. 15-Donny Schatz; 10. 45-Rusty Hickman; 11. 41-Carson Macedo; 12. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 13. 14-Corey Day; 14. 31-Zach Daum; 15. 51B-Joe B Miller; 16. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 17. 17AU-Jamie Veal; 18. 7S-Robbie Price; 19. 97-Scotty Milan; 20. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 21. 101-Cody Maroske; 22. 22-Riley Goodno; 23. 7A-Will Armitage; 24. (DNF) 1A-Jacob Allen; 25. (DNS) 17-Sheldon Haudenschild