Pittman Holds Off Saldana In Tucson
TUCSON, Ariz. — Daryn Pittman became the first repeat winner of the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season in front of a near-capacity crowd Saturday at Tucson Int’l Raceway during the Wildcat Shootout Presented by NAPA Auto Parts.
“It’s been an A+ for sure,” Pittman said about his Kasey Kahne Racing team’s start to the season. “I think all of us are really disappointed in our first night at (Las) Vegas. That was our first humbling experience as a team, but nobody was down. We got messages all night from each other, just stay positive and come back the next day. And we rebounded with a solid night at Vegas the second night.
“This is a tough sport and a grueling year that we know can turn around in a hurry. So we’ve just got to stay focused, go into the next race and try to win.”
It was the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series first race at the three-eighths-mile oval since 2007 and the first event in Arizona since 2009. Speaking of history, Pittman’s two wins this season are more than he recorded in the past four years combined. It also helped him to maintain the point lead, which he’s held since winning the season opener.
“Points matter in October and November,” Pittman said. “Right now we’ve just got to win races and go after that, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
However, it could have easily been a sixth different feature winner in as many races this season. Polesitter Joey Saldana, who Pittman replaced at Kasey Kahne Racing, won his first dash of the season and led the first nine laps of the 30-lap feature before a lengthy red flag because Chad Kemenah flipped in turn three.
On the restart, World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series officials deemed that Saldana got on the gas too early and he was penalized one row. That moved Pittman to the lead, which he never relinquished.
“Outlaws races are very hard to win, so if you’re going to lose one you want to lose it racing,” Saldana said. “I don’t know what’s right or wrong. I’m the leader of the race. I don’t know what I did any different.”
Pittman powered to a sizeable advantage and by the time he entered traffic on Lap 18, he led by nearly a straightaway.
In thick traffic, Saldana passed Brian Brown for the runner-up position exiting turn four on lap 25. However, he was unable to make up any ground on Pittman, who empathized with Saldana’s situation.
“Obviously we were the beneficiary of that and it was great, but I would have been ticked if it was me to have the same penalty on us,” Pittman said. “Their job is to make the rules and enforce them. Ours is to push them as far to our advantage as we can to try to get an advantage. He got bit tonight. I’m sure he’s unhappy about it.
“At the end of the day I think we had a great race car. I think we had something for him no matter what. It would have been nice to race for it to see who would have came out on top, but our car was awfully good.”
Saldana’s second-place finish was his second straight podium. Brown picked up his first podium finish of the season in third.
Paul McMahan, who established a new track record in qualifying, placed fourth and Tim Kaeding ended with his third consecutive top five.