David Gravel Thrills Valley Fans
WEST LEBANON, N.Y. — Connecticut resident David Gravel sent a grandstand full of New Englanders home from Lebanon Valley Speedway’s annual World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series show with smiles on their face Sunday night.
Gravel, as close as you can get to a “local” Outlaw in eastern New York, combined blazing speed and a big dose of luck to edge Kerry Madsen and Donny Schatz for his fourth win of the season and third in the Roth Motorsports No. 83.
Early leader Madsen lost the lead to Gravel on a restart, then got it back on a subsequent restart only to have the start called back when Steve Kinser flipped. That time, Gravel prevailed and led the rest of the way, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
Madsen got the drop on polesitter Kinser on the initial break, with the third-starting Gravel and Brad Sweet dropping in line behind them. They ran that way until lap six, when Kinser’s car quit in turn one and he coasted to a stop at the pit gate. With the yellow extended for Cody Darrah’s flat right-rear tire, Madsen had lots of time to think about lane choice and took the outside, normally the preferred line on the high-banked half-mile.
But Gravel launched like a rocket off the bottom and took a lead he would maintain easily until a lap 14 yellow flag for a stalled Jessica Zemken brought the next restart. With Gravel taking the inside, Madsen blasted off the banking and flew into turn one with Sweet right on his bumper, dropping Gravel to third. But the yellow and then red flew when a turn four skirmish left Kinser on his side at the top of the frontstretch, though a quick tire change would get him back in action, much to the delight of the crowd.
With WoO rules mandating a single-file restart for the second attempt and the other restart negated,, Gravel led the field to green again without any worries and was home free — almost.
“I missed my marks a couple of times near the end but luckily, I had a big enough lead by then that it didn’t matter,” said Gravel. “We struggled at Williams Grove but this makes up for it. I got passed and lost the lead but Steve really helped me out when he got tangled up there. The best I would have been was third without that extra restart.
“I ran my 360 against the Outlaws here back in 2008 and hit the wall so hard that we junked the car, so this makes up for that a little, too.”
The final restart also helped Daryn Pittman, who had advanced from ninth to fifth, then shot down Sweet as they hit turn one. But he had nothing for Schatz and they finished that way, with Sweet, fast-timer Joey Saldana, Paul McMahan, Lucas Wolfe, Logan Schuchart and Justin Barger trailing in the slim 20-car field.
“I should have been on the other line on that first restart,” offered a glum Madsen. “The outside worked ok the first time and I got the lead easily but the next time, it turned out to be a bad move that cost us the race.”
Schatz, on the other hand, was happy to finish and retain his point lead, saying: “I hurt the motor five laps in. We broke the water pump and I was lucky just to finish. I didn’t think we’d make it but we did.”
Brett Haas edged veteran Wayne Jelley, Alan Houghtaling, Jason Herrington and Art Collins in the small-block modified finale.