PEVELY, Mo. (Aug. 8, 2015) – Joey Saldana and the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop team got off to a great start in preliminary action for the grueling Ironman 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.
Saldana was quickest of 32 cars in hot laps and trumped that by scoring his 12th quick time of the season with a blistering 10.641-second lap around the 1/3-mile track.
Saldana’s No. 1 qualifying position put him fourth on the starting grid of the first heat.
When the track went green, Kerry Madsen took the lead, followed by Christopher Bell, Rico Abreu and Saldana. A spirited battle ensued between Abreu and Saldana who traded a plethora of slide jobs. The net result at the checkered flag was that the top four finished the way they started. Saldana’s fourth place finish secured a spot in the dash.
The inversion draw did not favor the Motter team. In a straight up start for the dash, Saldana would have been the polesitter, but when the ‘six’ ping pong ball was pulled, it relegated the Brownsburg Bullet to the sixth starting position. Eight laps of racing determined the first eight starting positions of tonight’s 55-lap feature. At the start of the dash, Kerry Madsen was the leader, Daryn Pittman was second, Shane Stewart third, Donny Schatz fourth, Paul McMahan fifth and Saldana sixth. The finish order remained the same. Madsen earned the pole of the A-Main and Saldana would push off from the outside of the third row.
Prior to the start of the Ironman, the track was reworked and groomed. One of the biggest challenges for crew chiefs and drivers is the ability to adapt to unpredictable track conditions. At 55 laps, the Ironman is the longest race on the circuit and in order to be competitive at the end of the event, you must successfully predict how the track will change and adjust for it. Because of the track preparation prior to the A Main, the drivers and teams dealt with a different surface than they had raced on earlier that night.
There were three leaders during the Ironman 55 and five cautions. At the start of the race the lead went to Kerry Madsen. Saldana was fifth. Though there was some shuffling in the top five, for the first 32 laps it was Madsen leading, Schatz second and Shane Stewart and Paul McMahan trading third place. On lap 33, Schatz captured the lead and Madsen began to fall back. Stewart was second and Saldana maintained fifth place. A yellow on lap 44 morphed into a two minute open red flag period to allow teams to refuel.
Back to green and Shane Stewart got the advantage on the restart and assumed the lead on lap 45. Schatz was second and Rico Abreu worked his way up to third a few laps later. Six laps from the checkered flag, Abreu slid past Schatz to take second.
At the finish line it was Stewart with the victory, Abreu second and Schatz third. Saldana was a very respectable fifth.
Saldana, fourth in points, is also gaining on third place Madsen.
The Motter team will head to Knoxville to participate in the Capitani Classic tomorrow night to get a feel for the track before the Knoxville Nationals.
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