HANFORD, Calif. (April 12, 2013) – Veteran driver Joey Saldana came to one of his favorite tracks, Kings Speedway, looking for his 84th career World of Outlaws STP Sprint Series victory. Having won at this track in 2000, the Brownsburg Bullet was looking to repeat.
Out of all the years that car owner Dan Motter fielded teams in the 1990’s, it was his first trip to California to watch one his drivers compete.
Though the Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear team didn’t win the feature, they won a wire-to-wire heat race and finished sixth in the A-Main. The night’s racing was a crowd-pleaser and the epitome of the wild, wild West with lead changes, three wide battles, thrills and spills.
The 12.293-second track record set by Saldana in February of 2001stayed intact following tonight’s qualifying session with quick time going to Chad Kemenah’s 13.047-second effort. Saldana qualified in the No. 8 position with a 13.265-second lap around the 3/8-mile track. Saldana was 18th in the order of competitors taking to the track for timed qualifying. Despite the fact that the track began to slow down as the night went on, the 71M team was happy with the results.
“After hot laps, the team went to work and changed the rear end gear ratio and loosened up the car to get it in qualifying trim,” explained Motter. “The changes were beneficial in improving the handling.”
The No. 8 qualifying position seeded the Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear team in the outside of the first row for the second heat. Pole sitter Kraig Kinser and Saldana were side-by-side as the green flew. On turn two of the first lap Saldana drove up over the cushion to take the lead and never looked back. There were three yellow flags, one for D.J. Netto whose car jumped out of gear when it slammed back down on the track following a wheel stand, one for Brian Brown when his car jumped out of gear after he drove over the cushion coming out of a turn, and the final yellow was for Austen Wheatley who slid to the inside of one of the turns. On the final restart, Saldana, still in the lead, still driving hard, was able to fend off Steve Kinser who was in hot pursuit. Saldana was quicker in turns one and two, Kinser was better in turns three and four. At the checker it was Saldana first, Steve Kinser second.
Car owner Motter and the 71M team were thrilled to win the heat and now turned their attention to the dash, comprised of 10 of the evening’s best performers.
The No.6 ping pong ball was pulled for the dash inversion draw, relegating Saldana
to the eighth starting position. The Bullet would have significant challenges ahead of him, and for that matter, behind him, and only six laps to fight for any ground he could gain.
As the green flag waved, Saldana was pinched by a moving violation. World of Outlaws officials determined he was on the throttle too early and penalized him, moving him back one row to the outside of row five. On a slick track but with a lot of side-by-side action, Saldana moved to the top of the track and was able to gain three positions in the last two laps, finishing seventh and therefore starting seventh in the 35-lap A-Main.
The Feature saw six lead changes in the first 10 laps. There were several stops and starts for yellow flags and one red flag when Jason Sides flipped between turns one and two with 29 laps to go. Sides was able to repair some of his wing damage and return to action. Saldana was quietly gaining ground while the leaders engaged in a spirited battle. With 17 laps to go, the Bullet was riding in the fourth position. With 16 laps to go another yellow flag flew because Tim Kaeding spun between turns one and two. At this juncture, Outlaws officials threw a red flag because with all the yellows, competitors couldn’t complete the event without refueling. The teams were given two minutes to refuel and perform work on their cars except change a tire. Racing resumed with more cautions flown. On the final restart, Saldana was relegated to the inside of the track and got boxed in on the bottom going into turn one and lost position. After battling with Kraig Kinser for fifth position, Saldana had to settle for sixth at the checker.
Donny Schatz won the event with Chad Kemenah second and Sammy Swindell third.
The 71M team will pack the trailer tonight and make the 275 mile drive to Perris, Calif. in order to avoid any traffic congestion they might encounter if they waited until the morning to leave. They plan to be parked at the Perris Auto Speedway gate at 10 a.m. tomorrow and will perform maintenance on the sprint car to prepare for tomorrow night’s SoCal Showdown.