STOCKTON, Calif. (March 22, 2015) – Joey Saldana had a third place finish at the Stockton Dirt Track last night and was in the heat of the battle but he wanted more. Tonight he hoped to be a little bit better as the World of Outlaws West Coast Swing hit its halfway mark.
But the evening began to develop challenges early on. Saldana was the 20th qualifier tonight in the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M, a very unusual spot for the veteran driver who had more No. 1 qualifying efforts last year than any other driver and had qualified no worse than ninth this season.
The Brownsburg Bullet had his work cut out for him. His qualifying position seeded him fifth in the final heat. When the green flag dropped, Saldana was on his toes and advanced to the third position but had Terry McCarl on his bumper. The Bullet was able to protect his position. At the checkered flag it was front row starter Kerry Madsen with the win, polesitter Trey Starks second and Saldana third. Though the Bullet solidified a starting position in the A Main, it was the first time this season he wouldn’t be one of the elite eight in the dash.
It was notable that last night’s winner and second-place finisher, Donny Schatz and Shane Stewart, had to transfer through the B Main.
Saldana would start deep in the field, 19th of 25 competitors, for the start of the 30-lap A Main. When the field went green, Saldana began to pick his way forward, advancing four positions in four laps to 15th. Terry McCarl was the race leader but was overtaken by Brad Sweet on lap 10. The caution came out with 11 laps complete for leader Sweet who drove over the cushion and stopped on the track with a flat tire. On the restart the running order was Terry McCarl, Daryn Pittman, Jason Johnson, and Rico Abreu. Saldana restarted 15th. Three laps down and the red stopped racing action when Daryn Pittman clipped the cushion and flipped. Re-rack the field: Jason Johnson, McCarl, Gravel and Abreu. Saldana was 14th on the restart. Back to green with McCarl getting the advantage and leading the way, Johnson second, Gravel third. Saldana was 14th. From the you-can’t-make-this-up department, at the halfway point, Jason Sides got upside down, drove away and the caution never came out!
With 16 laps complete Saldana stopped on the track with a flat tire, resulting from debris on the racing surface. He went to the work area and was out quickly, but with no guaranteed time for repairs past the halfway point, Saldana was just beginning to return to the field when the caution went out so he missed the start. However, on the restart, two cars flipped causing a red flag. (Drivers were okay) This was a break for the 71M team as Saldana rejoined the back of the field without being penalized another lap. On the restart it was McCarl on the point, Abreu and Gravel. Saldana started 24th but began to pick his way forward. With 21 laps complete Abreu passed McCarl and took the lead. Saldana advanced to 19th which is where he finished. Abreu won, McCarl was second and Paul McMahan was third.
“It was a disappointing night for our team,” said team owner Dan Motter. “But on the bright side, we did gain one position in the point standings. We are now fifth. Joey and the team did their jobs. We have a few days to dust ourselves off and catch our breath before next weekend. We will rebound. I know this team.”
Next on the schedule for the World of Outlaws is Chico, Calif. Saturday, March 28 and Antioch, Calif. March 29.
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