ROSSBURG, Ohio — It’s been a wild week for young David Gravel, but when the checkered flag fell on Saturday night’s World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series event at famed Eldora Speedway he was headed to victory lane.
In a thriller on the high-banked historic half-mile oval, Gravel passed defending series champion Daryn Pittman as the two exchanged slide jobs midway through the A-main. Gravel eventually found his way to the front of the pack to win in only his second night behind the wheel of the Roth Motorsports No. 83 machine. It was Gravel’s second victory this season and the fourth of his career.
Pittman held on to finish second while Randy Hannagan was third with Paul McMahan in fourth and Donny Schatz in fifth with the KSE Hard Charger award after starting the feature in the 19th position.
Gravel, 2013 World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year, started on the pole of the 30-lap feature event with Pittman on the outside. Exiting turn four on the start of the race Gravel jumped to the lead, but Pittman, working the high side of the track in the Great Clips No. 9 of Kasey Kahne Racing gained momentum and swiped the lead exiting turn two.
Entering lapped traffic, Gravel and Joey Saldana began to close in on Pittman. The top three ran just feet from each other for several laps before the lone caution of the event on lap 11 after Kerry Madsen’s right rear tire went flat. Pittman chose the outside line on the start, putting Gravel to his inside and Saldana on his tail with Hannagan starting behind Gravel. By lap 16 the leaders again entered traffic and Gravel was prepared.
On lap 17, Gravel slung the Roth Motorsports car to the bottom of turn three and pulled off a slide job on Pittman to lead lap 18. Pittman fired back entering turn one nearly duplicating the move to lead down the backstretch. The final pass was made going into turn three as Gravel again slid Pittman to take the lead and the win.
“In the beginning there I fell back to third but I got the wing back and the car was just awesome when I got the wing back, this is great,” said Gravel. “I’ve raced Daryn a lot when he was 27 car and he’s a really clean racer and I think we put on a hell of a show because I know I’m tired after that, it was a handful.”
Pittman tried to fire back, first on lap 22 in turn three, but slid up the track, unable to duplicate the result. Two laps later Pittman fired off a last ditch effort and tried to use a lap car as a pick, but again Gravel countered the move leaving Pittman to fight to hold on to second place from an attacking Hannagan.
Hannagan, behind the wheel of the NAPA No. 11n, began working the bottom of the track late in the race while the majority of the leaders were running around the top. Hanngan took several looks to the bottom of Pittman, but 2013 champion kept his line to hold on for a second place finish.
“The track was great, man we had a great car, hats off to David I just got beat by a better driver tonight, there’s no question about that,” said Pittman. “I just got too cautious in lap traffic and got in dirty air. He really pissed me off when he got by me and made me start driving the car the way I should have been driving it the whole way. Hats off to them, he deserves that ride, he’s a good young kid. The best driver won tonight, that’s for sure.”
Hannagan charged from the seventh position to take the final position on the podium.
“Sitting third on the restart, I thought would be able to get a good restart there,” said Hannagan. “I started over driving it there at the end and it allowed the top to get going again. We’ve worked really hard over the years on getting our car right through the middle because everybody’s going to be on the top. If you can get your car through the middle, then you’ve got something they don’t.”
With an even 10 quick time awards Saldana holds the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship lead by a single point over McMahan.
Matt Westfall won the UMP modified feature.