SARVER, Pa. – Many times, sprint car drivers fear seeing slower traffic in the closing laps of a race, but David Gravel embraced the challenge of working through the crowd on Tuesday night at Lernerville Speedway.
Gravel drove to victory in the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup and a $25,000 payday, running away from the competition by passing cars more efficiently than anyone else around the four-tenths-mile clay oval.
The No. 41 Jason Johnson Racing sprinter was on rails as it cruised past foe after foe, reaching the checkered flag first by more than four seconds over Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson.
Tuesday night’s race, the 92nd World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series stop at Lernerville, marked Gravel’s fifth win of the season, the 44th of his career and his third at the tricky Pennsylvania facility.
However, it took a concerted effort by his Jason Johnson Racing crew in order to get the handling of the car to his liking when it came down to crunch time.
“I don’t know what it was about this car, but man, she was fast,” Gravel said. “Phillip (Dietz, crew chief) worked on the thing all night, and I was really picky, because it wasn’t good enough entering the corner all night until it was time for the feature. We finally got it good in (turns) one and two, where I was able to pick up the middle and carry a lot of exit speed so I was in a good position going into three and four. I knew we could pass cars.
“These guys did a great job and it’s awesome to win another one of these (Outlaw races).”
Though Gravel was the fastest man in town when it counted, the early rabbit was James McFadden, who charged to the lead from the outside pole on the initial start and drove out to a sizable lead twice despite early caution flags on laps two and six.
The pair of slowdowns – for a stopped A.J. Flick in turn one and a spun Danny Dietrich in turn two, respectively – did nothing to slow McFadden’s momentum early on, but when the final 34 laps ran uninterrupted it was clear that Gravel’s mount was built for long-run speed, and he showed it.
Gravel kept hitting his marks, lap after lap, chased McFadden down in traffic and surged past on the inside of the backstretch at lap 15. Once the Connecticut Outlaw was out in front, it was over after that.
“I just didn’t have to rely on the top (lane),” noted Gravel. “I think 90 percent of the guys had to rely on the top in the heat race and in the Dash, and even there in the beginning of the A … but I didn’t have to at all. I figured it would just get thinner and thinner as the night went on, so we just kept working below it and making our car better below (the top).
“We had a strong week at Eldora, but didn’t get a win,” he added. “To come here to Pennsylvania and check one off tonight feels pretty good, for both me and this team.”
Larson charged from sixth to second, closing a 2.5-second gap down to just under a second between laps 20 and 30, but had nothing for Gravel after the leader began to pull away inside of 10 to go and was forced to settle for the runner-up position in the end.
McFadden completed the podium after leading the first 14 laps, followed by series point leader Brad Sweet and 10-time and defending series champion Donny Schatz.
Tim Shaffer, Logan Schuchart, polesitter Shane Stewart, Daryn Pittman and Sheldon Haudenschild were the remainder of the top 10.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.