TULARE, Calif. (March 14, 2015) – Saturday: a new day for the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop team. And Joey Saldana’s birthday.
Not a team to wallow in yesterday’s carnage, Saldana and Dan Motter’s crew were focused on rising to the racing occasion for night two of World of Outlaws competition at Thunderbowl Raceway.
“There is a saying,” said Motter, “‘Life is too short to start your day with broken pieces of yesterday, it will definitely destroy your wonderful today and ruin your great tomorrow.’
“The team put together a new car for tonight’s event. We hope our new GF1 chassis responds as well as the one we just lost. We took a hit in the point standings with our DNF from last night, going from first to sixth. We will need some consistency to work our way back up the ladder. There were a lot of cars that suffered considerable damage last night and I hope we can race to the top and stay clear of accidents.”
Tonight, Saldana qualified second, as he did last night, powering to a 12.832-second lap.
The Brownsburg Bullet rolled off fourth in the second heat and gained one position on the first lap. Front-row starter Donny Schatz led the pack with polesitter Trey Starks second and Saldana third. The top three did not change position throughout the eight-lap event. Saldana earned a spot in the dash as well as the feature.
A ‘four’ ping pong ball was pulled in the inversion draw, moving Saldana from what would have been a front row starting position to the second row of the dash.
Saldana addressed the fans prior to the start of the dash discussing the accident last night, not of his making, that put him out of contention while leading.
“We have a great car, great team. We have everything in place to be successful; it’s just hard to do consistently. We tore up the car last night and we have a new one tonight. We are running good so far tonight. We just have to finish and that is the trick. Short track racing is tough and sometimes doesn’t deal you a good hand.”
When the green flag dropped on the dash, Saldana made a good start, gained a position and was running second. Battling handling problems, Saldana surrendered positions ultimately finishing fifth but was able to hold off sixth-place Donny Schatz. Saldana and Schatz would occupy third row starting positions for the A Main.
The first attempt at going green for 35 laps of winged sprint car racing was called back when two cars tangled before the entire field completed the first lap. On the restart,
Rico Abreu used a slide job to pass polesitter Brad Sweet for the lead. Shane Stewart was third, Donny Schatz fourth and Saldana was fifth. Schatz moved to third by lap 27 and McMahan stole fifth, shuffling Saldana to sixth. With 10 laps complete, a caution slowed competition. Back to green briefly before a massive pile up in turn one involving six cars (all drivers okay) brought out the red flag, which became an open red flag period allowing crews to work on their cars.
There were 25 laps remaining when the drivers lined up for a single file restart. One lap under green and back to yellow for a Kerry Madsen spin. The next green was good for the final 24 laps. Abreu maintained the lead. Stewart and Sweet battled for second place. Saldana passed Paul McMahan and Daryn Pittman and was beginning to close in on fourth place Schatz. McMahan found rubber on the treacherous third-mile track shortly before Saldana, but that discovery allowed McMahan to get around Saldana to solidify fifth place. Saldana finished sixth.
Fan favorite Rico Abreu won the race and then spun in turn two after he took the checkered flag. He was pushed to the scales to verify his victory and then enjoyed the traditional celebration with his team in front of the fans. Shane Stewart was second and the final spot on the podium went to Brad Sweet.
“Randy (Wolfe, crew chief) was able to make some adjustments on the open red that improved the 71M’s performance,” said Motter. “I would say that is one of the most hard fought sixth place finishes that Joey has driven to in our car. It was a constant battle with pressure from challengers behind him, but he fought them off like a soldier.
Tip of the helmet to Joey and the whole team tonight. I know he wanted a birthday trophy, but he did a great job.”
Another doubleheader is on tap for the Outlaws next Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22 at the Stockton (Calif.) Dirt Track.