CHICO, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2015) – Before we go racing tonight we pause to remember lives lost on one of America’s darkest days, 14 years ago. Today a resilient nation remembers the past, but looks to the future.
Tonight was the opening night of World of Outlaws Gold Cup Race of Champions competition at Silver Dollar Raceway. With 44 cars signed in, qualifying was divided into two flights. Motter Motorsports’ driver Joey Saldana was in the second flight and blistered the quarter-mile high bank oval in 11.958 seconds. The driver of the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M Sprint Car was quickest in the second flight and quickest overall, racking up his 16th quick time of the season. He also held the distinction of being the only pilot in the 11-second category. Saldana, the current track record holder (10.918 seconds set in 2009), did a masterful job negotiating the rough, choppy race track terrain.
Because he was in the second flight of qualifying, Saldana was scheduled to start fourth in the third heat. The first attempt at a green flag start was called back when race officials determined outside front row starter David Gravel was on the throttle too soon.
Gravel was moved back one row as a penalty, and Saldana was moved forward to the outside of the front row, essentially swapping places with Gravel. The second green was good, and Saldana took the lead and never looked back, notching a flag to flag victory in his heat, transferring to the dash.
“This track is tricky, very, very tricky,” said Saldana. “It’s going to be interesting throughout the night and you just kind of have to hang on and hopefully you can hang on long enough and have a shot at winning this thing in the end.
“I’ve never seen the track like this but I think it’s extremely hot weather and you run four or five nights in a row on it, it’s hard to figure out dirt tracks. They are learning as they go. I thought last night’s track was awesome (when the 360 Sprint Cars ran). They did a good job last night so they’re working on it, trying to get it like last night and I think it will be a good show.”
The inversion draw produced a ‘four’ ping pong ball assigning Saldana to the third position on the dash starting grid. When the track went green, Andy Gregg assumed the lead followed by Shane Stewart, Kerry Madsen and Saldana. Competition was slowed on lap three when the caution came out for Donny Schatz who came to a stop with a flat right rear tire. A quick tire change and he was back out. Shortly after the drivers went back to racing, Stewart won a battle with Gregg for the lead, Madsen still third, Saldana still fourth. Stewart won the dash and the A Main pole. Saldana would roll off fourth in the A Main.
Saldana is a two-time Gold Cup winner, 2007 and 2009, and was the most successful driver in the field at this track with seven victories.
When the field went green, outside front row starter Andy Gregg looped the car and caught Daryn Pittman in the process. Gregg was done for the night. Pittman made repairs and returned to the field. For the restart, Saldana was moved up one position to the outside of the front row. Back to green with Stewart leading the pack and Saldana second. A yellow on lap seven slowed competition and on the restart, a three-car tangle brought out the red flag. Back to racing and the running order was Stewart, Saldana and Madsen. The top three maintained position until the last third of the race when DJ Netto passed Madsen for third. Saldana was closing in on Stewart in lapped traffic and then the Brownsburg Bullet was slowed by traffic. At the checkered flag it was Stewart, Saldana and Netto.
“The lapped traffic was brutal,” said Saldana. “You don’t want to make a mistake and give up a good spot so you actually slow your pace down. When you slow your pace down, it makes it real interesting. Netto had a good car and he was coming. He just overdrove turn four there which is easy to do. This track is pretty slick to the curb. We had a good car and we just came up a little bit short. We will just keep digging and hope that we can come out tomorrow and win this thing.
“It was a good solid run for us. Fast time, won our heat on a technicality, and we’re here celebrating on the front straightaway at the end of the night. It was a good effort by the whole Motter team. We did a great job as a team and hopefully we can do the same thing tomorrow and get a victory for Dan and Ruth (Motter, car owners) and our sponsors HE&M Saw and Beltline Body Shop.”
# # #