CONCORD, N.C. – Joey Saldana needed a fast car and some good fortune to win the Circle K/NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown on Friday at The Dirt Track At Charlotte.
He had both when it mattered most.
Saldana fended off a late challenge from Donny Schatz to win his third World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series event of the season. He led every lap of the feature, but it wasn’t the easiest of Saldana’s wins.
Schatz passed Saldana early in the race, but a Kory Crabtree accident moved the running order back to the last completed lap. It put Saldana in the lead, a position he held to the finish.
“The cushion (in turn one and two) definitely saved me,” Saldana said. “Donny is definitely everybody’s benchmark when (the track) gets slick. This (Motter Motorsports) team is working hard just to compete at a high level and right now, we’re doing a good job.”
Saldana – who won the dash to start first in the A-Main – found a way to hold off Schatz when it counted. Lapped traffic temporarily thwarted Saldana with 10 laps to go, but he slipped underneath Schatz and stayed ahead after the two were alongside one another.
Schatz got a wheel on Saldana twice in the closing stages, but the five-time champion’s Tony Stewart Racing car drifted up and couldn’t complete the pass.
He settled for second place after posting the fastest lap in qualifying.
Schatz lamented the fact he’d passed Saldana once, but Crabtree’s incident before he crossed the start-finish line rendered the lead change irrelevant.
“I just needed to figure out how to pass him a few more times, I guess,” Schatz said. “That’s the secret of the game. These STP guys, I really wanted to get a win for them. They keep putting a great racecar under me and keep making it better. That’s all you can really ask for.”
Logan Schuchart, Paul McMahan and Cody Darrah rounded out the top five.
Daryn Pittman entered Charlotte with a four-race win streak and a 19-point lead in series standings, but he wasn’t a factor in the A-Main.
A 15th-place qualifying run and fourth-place result in his heat race put Pittman 14th in the feature.
He rallied for an eighth-place finish, which kept him in the points lead by one over Saldana.
“I’m fairly happy with our A-Main,” Pittman said. “We never come with the goal of running eighth, but we dug ourselves such a big hole in the time trials that we couldn’t dig ourselves out of it.
“Truthfully, it’s a bad night for us. If our bad nights are eighth-place finishes, that’s a good thing. We were going forward and we salvaged a respectable finish.”
Saldana’s streak-snapping win didn’t faze Pittman as much as the lack of track position frustrated the Kasey Kahne Racing driver.
“It was exciting but you knew it was going to end sometime,” Pittman said. “Very few people get to win four in a row and get in position to win five. It was fun.
“It just tells you how humbling this sport can be. It shows you how tough it is to win these races, and you’d better enjoy them when you do, because you never know when your next one will be or if it was your last one.”
The A-Main featured a spectacular crash on a lap nine restart, when Larson-Marks Racing driver Shane Stewart flipped end over end after contact with an infield tire.
Stewart was unhurt in the crash. Brad Sweet and Jason Sides were also involved.
Stewart’s car owner, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Larson, said the first-year team had a solid run going before the accident.
“I felt like Shane and (crew chief) Steve Suchy did a great job of getting the car better,” Larson said. “We probably had a top-four or top-five car. We just needed track position.”
David Gravel, Steve Kinser, Pittman, Kerry Madsen and Kraig Kinser rounded out the top 10 in the A-Main.
Jonathan Davenport won the Fastrak Racing Series late model feature race.