A long time had passed since the last World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car race at BAPS Motor Speedway. So much time, in fact, that current Series point leader – David Gravel – was only 40 days old at the time.
Fast forward 31 years, and Gravel arose victorious as The Greatest Show on Dirt returned to the York Haven, PA racetrack. Gravel came out on top of a fierce duel with his closest championship competitor – Brad Sweet – to make the trip to Victory Lane. A back-and-forth battle between two of Sprint Car racing’s best proved the long awaited return to BAPS was worth every bit of the wait. The Watertown, CT native climbed atop the wing with his son Levi in a celebration for the World of Outlaws over the PA Posse.
The victory moved Gravel up to a Series-best nine in 2023 aboard the Big Game Motorsports machine. His 85th career win elevated him into a tie with none other than Brad Sweet for 10th on the all-time Series win list. And in the grand scheme of the season, Gravel added four more points on his championship lead over Sweet.
“Hats off to Kolten (Gouse), Scott (Gobrecht), and everybody here at this racetrack. They gave us a really good racetrack,” Gravel said. “Cody (Jacobs), Scott (Vogelsong), and Zach (Patterson) gave me an unbelievable car tonight. We didn’t qualify that great. But from the Heat Race I knew we had a really good race car. It feels good to be on the second row of the Heat Race and get in the Dash and win one.”
The path to the front was by no means an easy one for Gravel. He began the race behind the wheel of the Huset’s Speedway #2 from inside the second row with a front row consisting of Sweet and Logan Schuchart ahead.
On the opening circuit Gravel immediately went to work on attacking Schuchart for second as Sweet pulled ahead. Gravel slid by the Shark Racing #1S in Turn 2, but Schuchart crossed him over down the back straightaway. In Turns 3 and 4 Gravel pounded the cushion around Schuchart to secure the runner-up spot.
Up front Sweet comfortably paced the field until traffic become a factor and Gravel began to close in. With a racing surface that offered a nearly equal top and bottom, the battle became about mastering both lines in order to navigate traffic. Gravel shifted toward the bottom while Sweet stayed high leaving Gravel a window and he pounced, rolling by on Lap 14 for the lead.
But on the next lap, Gravel got caught behind a lapped car on the top, allowing Sweet the lane to sneak back around. Only five circuits later on Lap 20, Sweet found himself trapped by traffic, and Gravel ripped the cushion to regain the top spot.
“Man, I think they (track grooves) were about equal,” Gravel explained. “Wherever the lapped car wasn’t that’s where I had to go. Brad was pretty good. I was behind Freddie (Rahmer), and that one lap he went to the top in front of me and gave Brad the lead back. Just happy to have a good enough car. He definitely started spinning (his tires) down the backstretch pretty bad. I was better than him at that point.”
Gravel’s move on the 20th circuit proved to be the winning one as Sweet wasn’t unable to catch him to challenge again. Sweet stayed close but not quite close enough as Gravel took the checkered flag with a 1.240 second advantage.
“It was a great racetrack,” Gravel said. “I’m glad a lot of fans came out today. Now we’ve got a little mini-speedweek with three days in a row. Hope we’ll see everybody at Williams Grove this weekend and battle it out.”
Brad Sweet’s second place effort marked his 18th World of Outlaws podium of the season as he continues the hunt for a fifth consecutive title. The driver of the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 felt like he had a strong car but was missing a touch of speed needed to stay ahead of Gravel and potentially pick up the win.
“I was pretty good early,” Sweet recalled. “I really struggled in lapped traffic. It didn’t surprise me when David got me. But the racetrack was great, two lanes. I got him back. I just didn’t have a good enough car I don’t think. Like he said, I was spinning down the backstretch. I just couldn’t find a great spot for my car. At the end I kind of paced him and felt like we were pretty equal. I was trying hard, and I was too far behind. We’ll take a second tonight and try to get better for the next two nights.”
Rounding out the podium was Logan Schuchart. The Shark Racing pilot kept the C&D Rigging machine toward the front of the entire race after starting outside the front row to earn his eighth podium of the season. Like Sweet, Schuchart found himself missing a little something to have the speed necessary to best Gravel. Overall, the night proved to be an encouraging one on home turf for the Hanover, PA native.
“It’s really cool to have the run that we did and be here at BAPS Motor Speedway,” Schuchart said. “Anytime we can race in front of these PA fans, we love it. Happy to be here. I’ve never won here in my career. We come here at the end of the year, and we’re always on the podium but never win. Looking forward to coming back. I think we have a great car to come back with. Every time I’d get to them it seemed like a lapped car would be in my way on the top and I’d have to move to the bottom. I just didn’t feel as comfortable as I needed to.”
Carson Macedo and Brent Marks completed the top five.
Gravel’s win grew his point lead to six over Sweet while Macedo stayed close as he now sits 32 markers behind Gravel.
A 19th to eighth run gave Danny Dietrich the KSE Racing Hard Charger Award.
The Smith Titanium Brake Systems “Break of the Race” went to Cory Eliason after a late flat tire ended a likely top 10 run.
Justin Peck topped Low-E Insulation Qualifying for his second consecutive Simpson Performance Products QuickTime.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Justin Peck (seventh Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were claimed by Brad Sweet (226th of career), Carson Macedo (107th of career), and Logan Schuchart (113th of career).
Sam Hafertepe Jr. won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars tackle two more nights against the PA Posse at Mechanicsburg, PA’s Williams Grove Speedway for the Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals (July 21-22). For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 2-David Gravel; 2. 49-Brad Sweet; 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 4. 41-Carson Macedo; 5. 19-Brent Marks; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 7. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 8. 48-Danny Dietrich; 9. 83-James McFadden; 10. 13-Justin Peck; 11. 44-Dylan Norris; 12. 15-Donny Schatz; 13. 23-Devon Borden; 14. 91-Kyle Reinhardt; 15. 9-Kasey Kahne; 16. 1A-Jacob Allen; 17. 27-Troy Wagaman Jr; 18. 99M-Kyle Moody; 19. 7S-Robbie Price; 20. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 21. 5-Spencer Bayston; 22. (DNF) 11-Cory Eliason; 23. (DNF) 8-Freddie Rahmer; 24. (DNF) 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr