LAS CRUCES, N.M. — After steering failure sidelined the Buffalo Wild Wings No. 82 on Friday night, David Gravel was masterful in his rebound on Saturday at Southern New Mexico Speedway, earning his first Protect the Harvest A-Feature triumph with the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by MAVTV American Real.
The fifth first-time winner of the season, ninth in as many features at the New Mexico oval with the Lucas Oil ASCS presented by MAVTV American Real, Gravel is scored as the 120th different winner in national tour competition.
Committing primarily to the cushion of the Southern New Mexico Speedway, Gravel said his car began getting tight in the closing laps.
“I don’t know if it just got cleaned off, or started taking a little bit of rubber there in the center, but I was definitely getting tight,” Gravel explained. “I didn’t know where to run, high, low, middle, but it was definitely getting tricky there at the end. Hopefully it was enough to get to victory.”
Finally getting to speed on the fourth attempt, Kolt Walker and Cody Mansfield flipped violently off the top of turns three and four, collecting Jason Johnson in the mix on the initial start. All drivers were ok with Johnson returning to competition after replacing wings and parts of the suspension. Round two, saw third starting Aaron Reutzel spinning; collecting Friday night’s winner Christopher Bell with James Mosher bringing out the third restart.
Underway, Gravel captured the lead on the second round with a high-line pass on John Carney II exiting turn four before the caution again displayed for the spun No. 20z of Rick Ziehl. One more caution before the first long green-flag run, Gravel set sail with John Carney II and Matt Covington in tow.
With the leaders working to slower traffic by lap 9, Johnny Herrera began his assault on Jeff Swindell for a spot in the top five. Swapping lines for several laps, Herrera worked past Swindell on lap 10 with the MVT No. 94 returning in kind the following lap.
The top five remained unchanged until a caution on lap 25. Erasing a 4.285-second advantage by Gravel, the restart yielded problems for Jeff Swindell as Herrera raced by to begin working on Matt Covington for third with caution lights blinking on for the final time for the stopped No. 93 of Dustin Morgan after contact with Brad Loyet on lap 27 sent both drivers pit side. Three laps on the green and David Gravel went unchallenged to victory.
John Carney II turned in his best finish against the Lucas Oil ASCS with a second-place showing.
“I was too free from the beginning of the race so I had to be where all the moister was to take advantage of that,” Carney said. “The last three, four laps I could gain a little bit on Gravel coming out of four but that was it.”
Despite a broken frame sustained during a flip on the start of Friday night’s feature at the El Paso Speedway Park, Johnny Herrera came from eighth to claim the final podium step.
“We had a good car all night. I usually run really well here, so I had a lot of confidence coming in and that helps a lot,” Herrera said. “The longer the race ran, the better we got, well maybe not better just they started getting slower and we kind of maintained. I’ve just got to thank all the crew guys that jumped in last night to help me. Not only my own, but probably half the field jumped in there.”
Matt Covington maintained for a fourth-place run with Seth Bergman clawing from 16th to complete the top five.
David Gravel, John Carney II, Johnny Herrera, Matt Covington, Seth Bergman, Tony Bruce Jr., Travis Rilat, Logan Forler, Jason Johnson, Jeff Swindell, Gary Taylor, Blake Hahn, Brandon Hahn, Joshua Williams, Dustin Morgan, Brad Loyet, Rick Ziehl, James Mosher, Ryan Linder, Kraig Kinser, Harli White, Kolt Walker, Cody Mansfield, Christopher Bell, Aaron Reutzel.