EDMONTON, Alberta (Aug. 29, 2015) – Tonight was the finale of the World of Outlaws Oil City Cup competition at Castrol Raceway. Joey Saldana swept the Oil City Cup competition in 2009, and was looking for a victory tonight to add to his podium finish last night, but Lady Luck was not riding with him.
In keeping with his Brownsburg Bullet nickname, Saldana drove a quick, fast and flawless lap in the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M to capture his 14th quick time of the season. The series’ leading qualifier ran a best lap of 14.707 seconds on a track that was drying out due to 30 mph sustained winds.
Saldana rolled off fourth in the starting lineup of the opening heat. At the green, polesitter Jacob Allen led the pack with Saldana running fourth. After a caution on lap three, and after competition resumed, Saldana advanced to third. At the checkered flag it was Allen with the heat victory, Saldana third, with both drivers transferring to the dash.
The ‘six’ ping pong ball pulled during the inversion draw did not favor Saldana. A straight up start would have put him on the pole of the dash, but after the inversion, he was relegated to the sixth position on the grid.
During the dash draw ceremony, the drivers watched closely as track workers reworked the racing surface. With the high winds today, track conditions were totally different from last night. During the heats the track had begun to slick off in spots. The dash drivers would be the first to hit the newly conditioned track.
“During the heat, I was just trying to find grip and traction and there’s not much out there so I was just moving around,” said Saldana in a pre-dash interview. “It definitely got better for the later heat races. We’ve got a good car. We’ll see what happens here and hopefully we are in contention to win another race. If I do my job hopefully we are standing on the front straightaway winning one of these. This could be a totally different track after the tilling. It is going to be interesting to see what happens.”
The dash drivers, first out on the newly reworked dirt, had the opportunity to take some hot laps to get a feel for the track and were then asked by Outlaws officials to give thumbs up or down if they thought the track was race ready. The majority voted with thumbs up and the field was aligned.
When the green flag waved, polesitter David Gravel assumed the lead with Donny Schatz in pursuit. Saldana was fifth and in a spirited battle with Logan Schuchart for fourth. The track was much faster than it was earlier in the evening.
In the eight lap event that set the first eight starting positions for the feature, Gravel won the dash and the pole. Saldana finished fifth and would start the A Main on the inside of the third row.
When the field went green, polesitter David Gravel grabbed the early lead. Daryn Pittman, Logan Schuchart, Donny Schatz, Shane Stewart and Brad Sweet were trading positions behind Gravel. Saldana was seventh. Schatz had just made a move to pass Gravel in turns 1 and 2 when the caution came out on lap 10 and the field reverted to Gravel on the lead at the restart, followed, in order, by Schatz, Schuchart, Stewart, Pittman and Sweet. Saldana was eighth in the restart order. Back to green and the inside line got a better start with Schuchart taking the lead, Stewart second, Pittman third, Gravel fourth and Schatz fifth, a total reshuffle.
Contact between Saldana and McMahan sent Saldana on a wild ride, the car flipping on the back straight before coming to rest on its side. This incident brought out the red flag on lap 15. Saldana climbed out of the car and was ok but the car was damaged too badly from front to back, and top, for that matter, to repair.
As the cars began to refire, drama ensued as Schatz was unable to fire initially as something was lodged in the fuel shutoff. After a trip to the work area, he was able to fire on the next push and joined the back of the field.
Back to green and Schuchart led the field until he was passed by Pittman on lap 17. Meanwhile Schatz was charging through the field. By the time the yellow came out with four laps remaining, the running order was Pittman, Schuchart, Sweet, Schatz and Stewart.
Then hard contact between Schuchart and Sweet launched The Big Cat (Sweet) upside down and brought out the red flag once again. Sweet was okay and after quick repairs to the car, he was able to return to racing action.
The race ended under a green, white, checkered flag scenario with Pittman the victor.
Schatz was second and the winner of the Oil City Cup for the best overall finish in the two nights of racing. Third place went to Logan Schuchart.
Saldana was credited with a 23rd place finish.
“We made wholesale changes to the car tonight a few times,” said car owner Dan Motter. “Mostly they worked well but we made one change before the A Main that made the car hard to handle. It was a disappointing end to what started out as a promising weekend.
“We have a lot of races coming up these next couple of weeks so we will be busy preparing cars, parts and pieces.”
The Outlaws return to the United States for a doubleheader at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Washington September 4-5.
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