Saldana Fights Handling Problems in Salina

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SALINA, Okla. (May 1, 2015) – Yesterday the Motter Motorsports team participated in HE&M Saw Employee Recognition Day at the company’s headquarters in Pryor, Okla. The day’s activities included a barbecue and HE&M Saw employees had a chance to examine the 71M Sprint Car and ask driver Joey Saldana and the team questions.

Saldana and team owner Dan Motter also surprised CEO Doug Harris with a Shell Shock designed and painted, race worn HE&M Saw helmet.

Tonight, with HE&M Saw employees in the house at Salina Highbanks Speedway, Saldana, the track record holder and last year’s Salina winner, wheeled the HE&M Saw Motter Equipment Beltline Body Shop 71M to the No. 9 qualifying position with a 13.225-second lap.

With the track dry and slick as early as hot laps, conditions were already challenging.

In the third heat, Saldana fired from the outside of the first row. When the track went green, Saldana challenged polesitter Daryn Pittman, running side by side for the lead. The advantage went to Pittman but Saldana was right behind him and just as he was beginning to pass for the lead, the caution came out for Kyle Hirst who sailed over the banking and spun to a stop. On the restart, Pittman dropped into the groove that Saldana had found prior to the caution, and took the lead coming out of turn four with three laps to go. The running order didn’t change. Pittman got the heat win and Saldana was second.

Saldana made the dash based on a perfect storm of the outcome of the heats.

The ‘four’ ping pong ball was pulled from the jar, which meant no change in starting position for Saldana who would roll to the starting line of the dash from the seventh position.

“We’ve had a good car all season,” said Saldana prior to the dash. “There’s a good showing here tonight from HE&M Saw. We don’t get to visit their facility often so once a year it’s pretty neat to come in here and tell them how much we appreciate all they do for us. With them here tonight, it would be nice to get our first win of the season. So hopefully we can get’er done tonight.”

Track officials reworked the racing surface prior to the dash.

When the green flag dropped on the dash, outside front row starter Kerry Madsen spun up the banking in front of the field and miraculously nobody tangled. Madsen went to the back of the field and Saldana moved up a row. When racing resumed the only position changes were for the lead. Reutzel initially led the pack but was passed by Brad Sweet, who won the event and the pole position for the A Main. Saldana was sixth, which would be his starting position for the feature.

After the four abreast “most awesome sight in all of motorsports”, the drivers returned to side-by-side formation for the start of the 25-lap A Main. Green quickly turned to red on the first lap when Brad Loyet spun and Sam Hafertepe, Jr. made contact with him and flipped upside down. Hafertepe, Jr. was able to climb out of the car but did not continue.

On the restart, Brad Sweet assumed the lead with Aaron Reutzel second. Saldana was fifth but the caution was displayed before a lap could be completed.

The field came around for the third attempt to start the race and the third time was charm. Racing was underway with Reutzel and Brad Sweet swapping the lead before the half-way point. Saldana was shuffled back in the field but began to work his way forward. There were cautions on laps 10, 13, and 21. After the restart on lap 10, Shane Stewart took the lead on lap 11 and held on to the checkered flag. Sweet crossed the finish line second and Daryn Pittman was third. Saldana was 11th.

“We certainly wanted to have a better night for the folks at HE&M Saw,” said team owner Dan Motter. “We made changes to the car throughout the night, and it wouldn’t respond. We just couldn’t make the car happy. Joey drove hard and tried to compensate.

“We appreciate the kind words and understanding from the HE&M Saw employees following the event. We will get this sorted out.”

The teams loaded up and hit the road for their six-hour drive to Pevely, Mo. for tomorrow night’s Outlaws event.

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