CHICO, Calif. (Sept. 12, 2015)– The World of Outlaws Gold Cup Race of Champions wrapped tonight at Silver Dollar Speedway.
With 41 cars in the pits, the two-flight format was in play again tonight. It was more ‘Cowboy up’ as the drivers tried to find the quickest way around a track that was faster than last night, but still tricky to negotiate.
Joey Saldana wheeled the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M to the No. 2 flight two qualifying position with an 11.338-second lap.
Based on the two-flight qualifying format, Saldana rolled off fourth in the fourth and final heat. When the green flew, polesitter Dominic Scelzi led the pack followed by Carson Macedo, Sean Becker and Saldana. With two laps complete, a caution slowed competition, and when the track went green again, Saldana passed Becker for third.
But only one lap was completed before second place runner Macedo tagged the wall bringing out the yellow again. On the next restart, Saldana vaulted to the lead and maintained that position for the remainder of the heat to cross the finish line first, transferring to the dash.
“You want to run the best you can every time you hit the race track,” said Saldana. “If nothing else, it gives good feedback to the guys if you need to make your car better. We’ve got a good car again. We just have to do a better job and a lot of it comes down to me. So hopefully I do a better job tonight and we can win this!”
Lady Luck was smiling on Saldana during the inversion draw when a ‘four’ ping pong ball was pulled placing Saldana on the pole of the dash. The Brownsburg Bullet had a great start when the green dropped and took the lead. It was a flag to flag victory for Saldana who won the dash and the pole position for the Gold Cup Race of Champions finale.
Following driver introductions and the four-wide salute to the fans, the drivers assembled in side by side formation for the start of the Gold Cup finale. Saldana jumped to the lead followed by Brad Sweet, Kerry Madsen, and Donny Schatz.
By lap five, Schatz had moved into second and was in a side by side battle with Saldana for the lead. When the yellow came out on lap 14, the top five were running nose to tail in traffic.
On one hand, a restart gave Saldana an open field, but on the other hand, he had Schatz right next to him. Back to racing and Saldana went back to the lead with Schatz driving every where the 71M wasn’t. Saldana had the eye of the tiger and ripped around the track making every defensive move in the sprint car driver’s playbook.
Another yellow on lap 16 and another restart with Saldana on the point. Schatz and Saldana continued to battle. It was edge-of-your-seat excitement with the two drivers going double dog dare you wheel to wheel. On lap 29, the split second advantage Schatz was waiting for happened in lapped traffic. Schatz took the lead. Saldana was on the attack for the remainder of the 40-lap race but Schatz crossed the finish stripe first, Saldana was second and Kerry Madsen finished third.
When Saldana was introduced after the race as the second place finisher, he got a rousing round of applause and cheers from the fans. He was obviously a crowd favorite.
“Tonight, man, I gave it everything I had,” said Saldana. “I was trying, I mean I was top, middle, bottom trying to make his (Schatz’) life miserable and obviously he’s just waiting for you to make a mistake and he just chomps on ya and ‘see ya later.’
“We just do the best we can and learn from it and just try to do a better job. If you can celebrate on the front straight with the World of Outlaws at the end of the night it’s a great accomplishment, you did a lot as a team. This weekend we were really solid every single night, qualifying, heat race, dash, feature, definitely very positive for the whole Motter team and looking forward to finishing out the year.
“Obviously Donny Schatz is on his game this year, his whole team, and if you beat him, you accomplish something. We were very, very close. We just didn’t get it done. So at least we know we can keep him in sight and if we get a little bit better, we can beat him.”
The final race on the West Coast swing will be tomorrow night at Antioch Speedway.
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