MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — For weeks this showdown at Williams Grove Speedway featuring the nationally touring World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series taking on the Pennsylvania Posse has been brewing.
It’s fitting, then, that Daryn Pittman, a driver from Oklahoma who had been on the Outlaws circuit for years before becoming a regular in the Keystone State, captured the checkered flag on Friday night in the heart of Posse Country.
The win was Pittman’s 30th World of Outlaws event victory to go with six preliminary feature wins, tying him with fellow Oklahoma native Andy Hillenburg. It was also the first World of Outlaws victory for car owner Mike Heffner.
“We won an Outlaw show at Williams Grove, and that’s damn hard to do,” Pittman said.
Then, as if he was attempting squash any debate before it might start, Heffner left no doubt whether or not Pittman qualifies as Posse.
“He’s from Oklahoma, but I don’t care if he’s from Mars,” an excited Heffner shouted to the crowd in victory lane. “This win was for Pennsylvanians. I am, so he’s got to be!”
Pittman was strong all night long, but he needed a little help from a fellow Posse driver to take the checkers. With 12 laps complete, Pittman sat third on a double-file restart following a flip by Tyler Walker in turn two. As the field lined up to take the green, it was determined that leader Stevie Smith took off too soon, bringing out a caution and dropping him back a row, which put Pittman on point alongside Brian Leppo.
Pittman and Leppo battled back-and-forth until Pittman finally completed a slider in laps one and two with five to go. Pittman pulled away to win while a scramble ensued behind him. Leppo held on to finish second with Jason Sides, Stevie Smith and Steve Kinser rounding out the top five.
“Brian (Leppo) has been racing as hard as I have ever seen,” said Pittman, who hails from Owasso, Okla. “It was kind of a reversal of roles because a while back I had the slower car and was holding him up. I’m just really thankful we were able to get an Outlaws victory for this team.”
Leppo set quick time on a night that featured 41 sprint cars for the opener of a two-night event at the legendary half-mile oval. The long and heated debate of Outlaws versus Posse was the central storyline as the top two finishers represented the Posse while four of the top 10 were touring Outlaws, led by Jason Sides.
“We were just trying to run them down at the end but couldn’t close the gap,” said Sides. “I think we learned a few things to use Saturday night, like which lines to use and how to adapt to the track as it changes.”
Sides will be one of the World of Outlaws competitors in Saturday’s inaugural Morgan Cup Challenge, along with Jason Meyers, Paul McMahan, Donny Schatz and Kraig Kinser.
The race was brought to a halt twice on the night, once for Walker’s wreck and then for a scary incident on the back straightaway when Doug Esh flipped end-over-end and hit the pedestrian bridge, which is closed to people while races are being run. Esh walked away from the incident.
It was a tough night for championship points leader Joey Saldana. The Kasey Kahne Racing star timed in 26th and eventually used a provisional to make the A-main. Saldana made up 13 positions to finish 12th and earn the KSE Hard Charger award.
Steve Kinser’s fifth-place run helped to close the gap to Saldana as he now trails by only 37 points.