EAGLE, Neb. — Sammy Swindell leads the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in feature victories. He leads in heat race wins and in bonus points via qualifying.
Unfortunately for the three-time champion, he has faced a myriad of issues throughout the season and has come up against a hot streak by Donny Schatz as the campaign winds down.
On Wednesday, Swindell did everything he could to cut into the championship points deficit by earning qualifying points, winning his heat and leading all 40 laps to claim the NAPA Auto Parts Outlaw Showdown in the Outlaws first event at Eagle Raceway since 2009.
“After Knoxville we just kinda put an effort into just going for it and that’s what we were doing,” he said. “We’ve had a few problems that we’ve had to work around with some stuff, some pieces. We’re back on track here now. Hopefully we can get through the rest of the year clean and we’ll just see where the points lay.”
It was Swindell’s 12th feature win of the season — his most since 1997, which is the last time he claimed the World of Outlaws championship.
Yet Schatz wasn’t far behind. While his streak of five consecutive top-two finishes was snapped, Schatz’s third-place result marked his 10th straight top five and 19th in the last 21 points races. He maintains a 94-point advantage over Craig Dollansky and a 117-point edge over Swindell with nine features remaining this season.
“I just could never get rolling right; Sammy rolled best,” Schatz said. “To start sixth and run third, no one is complaining here. You’re not going to win every night.”
Cody Darrah was the only driver who gave Swindell a challenge and that was short lived. Swindell, who started on the pole, rocketed to the early lead with Darrah maneuvering from fifth to second on the opening lap.
With Schatz advancing to third by lap six, Darrah began to reel in Swindell. The duo entered traffic on lap seven and Darrah closed to the rear bumper before the first caution came out for Joey Saldana, who stopped in turn two on lap 13.
Swindell chose the inside line on the double-file restart and edged Darrah until the second — and final — caution came out for Terry McCarl stopping on the backstretch on lap 17.
“That last restart I kinda got through (turns) one and two not as well as I did the last two starts and he got away from me,” Darrah said. “We got into lapped traffic and I couldn’t really move around as we could earlier in the race. Our car was pretty tight and as the track progressed it slicked off in spots, which didn’t allow me to overcome and throw my car like it was in the beginning of the race. Definitely hard fought for second place.”
Swindell capitalized and as the final 24 laps were caution-free, he picked his way through traffic to perfection en route to his third career win at Eagle Raceway. He won the first career World of Outlaws event in 1981 and also in 1992.
“It was a hard race; it was tough,” Swindell said. “We’ve got a new car and everything is going great here tonight. Hopefully we can keep going with this momentum here.”
Dollansky finished fourth and Kerry Madsen earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after driving from 11th to fifth.