PEVELY, Mo. (May 2, 2015) – After a long night’s drive and a couple of hours of sleep,World of Outlaws competitors arrived at Federated Auto Parts Raceway I-55. The track, co-owned by Kenny Schrader, is host to the Ironman 55 competition in early August.
Joey Saldana and the Dan Motter-owned team were looking for retribution for last night’s 11th place finish with a race car that wouldn’t respond to set-up changes. Crew chief Randy Wolfe, Sean Strausbaugh and Derek Miller made adjustments tonight that ultimately gave Saldana a horse to ride in spectacular fashion despite some formidable odds.
Tonight’s top qualifying times seemed to be dependent upon low pill draws that allowed drivers to go out early in the order for time trials. Joey Saldana, 30th out of 33 drivers to take to the track for qualifying, found the racing surface very challenging. Known for his ability to coax the maximum out of the Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop 71M in qualifying, Saldana laid down identical 11.306-second laps which seeded him 20th in the final qualifying order. Saldana’s company behind the 16-car inversion included such marquee names as last night’s winner Shane Stewart, Outlaws point leader Donny Schatz, Paul McMahan, Steve Kinser and Brian Brown.
Saldana would need a strong showing in his heat to help gain a position in the feature.
Based on his qualifying position, Saldana started fifth on the grid of the fourth heat. Polesitter Brad Loyet took the initial lead when the green flew. Two laps into the 10-lap heat, Saldana advanced to fourth. At the half-way mark, Jason Sides passed Loyet for the lead and shortly thereafter Saldana made his way to third. Sides won the heat and Saldana finished third earning a spot in the feature.
The I-55 one-third mile track was groomed one last time prior to the start of the 40-lap A Main. The 24 starters were given a few laps prior to the green flag to work the moisture into the racing surface. During that time, polesitter Rico Abreu went to the work area and subsequently could not get his car to fire. It was a heartbreaking moment for him as he was unable to compete.
Saldana pushed off from the 18th starting position next to last night’s winner Shane Stewart.
When the green flag dropped, Kerry Madsen assumed the lead followed by Jason Sides and Christopher Bell. Saldana began to pick off competitors one by one, advancing through the field as the laps ticked by. At the halfway point, lap 20, the caution was displayed. Saldana was 11th on the restart. Christopher Bell paced the field as he had taken the lead on lap 15. Back to racing. Sammy Swindell got by Bell on lap 21 but Bell was back on point on lap 24. Saldana had climbed to sixth place right before the caution came out with two laps to go when Paul McMahan lost a motor. This called for a green, white, checkered finish and this was where Saldana’s driving skills were even more impressive. The restart order was Bell, Sides, Swindell, Pittman, Schatz and Saldana. The Bullet lived up to his nickname, and with a track-them-down attitude, he blasted to a third place finish picking off significant competition in the process.
Saldana’s performance earned him the Hard Charger award.
“This was a great effort by the team tonight,” said Saldana. “No one gave up. We’re happy with this good, solid top three finish and I know we had more. We’re ready to go to Haubstadt.”
“Hats off to crew chief Randy Wolfe, Sean Strausbaugh and Derek Miller for the preparation for tonight’s feature,” said team owner Motter. “The set-up was spot on. I think this might have been the most fun I’ve had as a spectator watching Joey drive. He was flawless.”
The Outlaws wrap up the weekend of racing tomorrow night at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana.
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