STOCKTON, Calif. — Kerry Madsen led just a single lap in the FVP Western Spring Shootout on Saturday night at the Stockton Dirt Track, but he made it count.
Madsen surged ahead of Donny Schatz in the final corner, then won a drag race with the five-time champion in front of the packed grandstands to earn his first World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season by about half a car length.
An ecstatic Madsen joked in victory lane, “I’d have done some doughnuts, but I didn’t even know the race was over.”
Schatz crossed the line just 0.115 seconds behind Madsen with Joey Saldana, who led the most laps, in third. Jason Meyers was fourth and polesitter Bud Kaeding was fifth.
Saldana drove around Kaeding to take the early lead before a caution fell on the second lap when defending series champion Daryn Pittman, his Kasey Kahne Racing teammate Brad Sweet and current points leader Paul McMahan all got together. Another incident on the ensuing restart then forced a single-file restart.
Schatz took his first lead seven laps into the 30-lap A-main, cruising around Saldana through the middle of the track. Schatz built a strong advantage until lap 13, when red flag flew. Schatz chose the outside lane on the double-file restart and Saldana powered back into the lead on the bottom of the three-eighths-mile dirt oval.
Saldana grew his lead for several laps until Schatz made another started to close the gap with eight laps to go. Schatz challenged Saldana for several circuits with several pushes to take the lead. Finally, with two to go, Schatz charged to the bottom of turn one to reclaim the lead.
Madsen followed Schatz into second with one to go after running third much of the race. Then, on the final lap, Madsen put his American Racing Custom Wheels car on the tail of Schatz’s STP/Armor All machine. Entering turn three Madsen went to the bottom as Schatz battled lapped traffic and the two were in a straight-line race to the checkered flag with Madsen taking the win by about half a car length.
“That was actually really exciting because Donny and Joey were just battling and I’m like I think I’ve got a shot here,'” said Madsen. “It was one of those races where I think it paid to be behind the leader, because I found that line and I just got patient with it. I’m just rattled that we won that, I just did not expect that, that’s cool.”
After starting eighth, Schatz gave it all he could to win.
“Naturally I thought I won,” said Schatz. “I guess you always think that. I did everything I could, but Joey got us on the start. I didn’t expect anyone to come there on the bottom. I guess Kerry snuck by us on the bottom and got the win, good for him. I’d like to leave here with a win, but third last year, second tonight, may be next time we’ll get a win.”
Saldana was pleased with a top-three finish in the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw No. 71m.
“It’s just so hard to win one of these races,” said Saldana. “You can see how much effort you put into these cars. I definitely got some gifts there on some restarts. I was thinking Donny had the right groove there for the middle, but definitely there in lapped traffic you had to be right on the bottom and (Kerry Madsen) got us both.”
McMahan recovered from the early spin to finish 11th and maintain the championship lead, down to a six-point advantage over Schatz.