Gravel Navigates Dust Bowl For Charlotte Hat Trick

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David Gravel on his way to victory Friday at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Adam Fenwick Photo)
David Gravel on his way to victory Friday at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Adam Fenwick Photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – David Gravel came into the World of Outlaws Last Call at The Dirt Track at Charlotte with one goal in mind: keep a shot at the owner’s championship alive for Jason Johnson Racing.

He accomplished that during Friday’s World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series feature at the four-tenths-mile dirt oval, leading all 30 laps for his third straight Charlotte victory with the Outlaws.

The Watertown, Conn., veteran took the lead from the outside pole and never looked back, navigating intensely-dusty conditions and a slew of lap traffic to perfection in the closing third of the race.

Gravel eventually took the checkered flag 3.249 seconds clear of runner-up Sheldon Haudenschild for his seventh win of the season and the 58th victory of his World of Outlaws sprint car career.

With one goal checked, Gravel was already looking ahead to the second half of his mission in victory lane, as he tries to give JJR a title as a parting gift before moving to Big Game Motorsports in 2021.

“I just wanted to keep applying the pressure on Brad (Sweet) … and we gained [eight] points on him, so that’s how we do it,” Gravel said. “We have to beat him by 10 positions or so tomorrow, and that’s going to be hard to do, but all we can do is win tomorrow’s race and see where it ends up.

“I really wish I’d been in the car for the three races that I missed, because I know we’d have raced with Brad or been ahead of him,” added Gravel, who was out of the No. 41 at various times during the year for ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series opportunities. “This has been a crazy year … but I’m happy to get another win here and just happy to have a shot at it for JJR.”

Gravel got an impressive jump on Macedo off the initial green flag, but that advantage was wiped out almost instantly after Sammy Swindell got upside down on the frontstretch just before the flagstand.

That set up a complete restart, which was of no consequence to Gravel, who soared around Macedo a second time and proceeded to set sail despite several cautions that brought the field back to him.

Incidents on laps five, eight and 11 necessitated yellows which bunched the field back up, though due to track conditions each of the ensuing restarts was single-file.

That only aided Gravel, who darted away each time.

The final slowdown was for a turn-two incident between Daryn Pittman and Wayne Johnson, which set up Macedo alongside Gravel for one last restart with 19 to go. Once the JJR No. 41 got off turn two, however, it was gone into the North Carolina night.

A long run to the finish did provide lap traffic inside of 10 to go, allowing Macedo to close within two car lengths at one point, but Gravel deftly passed cars to eventually widen his margin in a big way.

Entering Saturday’s season finale, the margin between the leading Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 and Gravel’s JJR No. 41 in the owner standings is 22 points.

If Gravel wins the race, Brad Sweet must finish 10th or better to bring the team title home for KKR.

Haudenschild passed Macedo for second with a nifty slider in turn three with nine laps left, bringing Schatz with him, but the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing No. 17 could do nothing to erase Gravel’s lead.

“I had some good green flag runs, and I was wanting us to get to some lappers there, but after I got to second David just did a really good job of getting through traffic,” noted Haudenschild. “He got a couple cars in between us and the track was just really dirty from then to the finish.”

Schatz completed the podium, while Sweet finished fourth to unofficially lock up his second World of Outlaws driver’s championship in a row. His lead stands at 50 points over Logan Schuchart, who came home seventh, with a maximum of 48 points that can be made up in a single feature.

That said, all Sweet has to do is start Saturday night’s feature to take the crown and become the sixth driver in World of Outlaws history with multiple sprint car championships. He’ll join Steve Kinser, Schatz, Mark Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Jason Meyers in that exclusive club.

To view complete race results, advance to the next page.