Schatz Gets No. 12 At Lebanon Valley
W. LEBANON, N.Y. — Donny Schatz took advantage of a questionable restart choice by leader Joey Saldana Sunday night to engineer a weekend sweep, adding an World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series win at the Lebanon Valley Speedway to his Saturday triumph at Williams Grove.
Point leader Daryn Pittman, who set a new track record of 17.179 seconds in time trials, charged from fifth to second with Paul McMahon, 11th-starting Kerry Madsen and Sammy Swindell rounding out the top five.
Schatz’s strong dash win put him on the pole for the start, but Saldana blasted off the half-mile’s high banks and took command on the green, with Schatz, Swindell and Pittman dropping in behind him. But then, on lap seven, Cody Darrah slowed in turn four and went pitside on the frontstretch, drawing a yellow that saw the leader surprisingly opt for the inside row on the restart.
“We were OK before that yellow, just waiting to get to some lapped traffic, but I have no idea why he took the bottom for the restart,” offered Schatz. “After that we were just cruising until that final yellow. With a green-white-checkers finish, you just have to hope that no tires go flat and you make it to the end, which we did.”
Pittman also shot down Saldana on the lap-seven restart but by lap 10, Schatz was out to a turn led and the full grandstand was watching the eighth-starting McMahan work the third-running Saldana over. He finally got underneath the No. 71m off turn four on lap 16, with Madsen then drawing attention as he worked his way by Swindell to crack the top five.
By lap 20 Schatz was in heavy traffic but Pittman was too far away to take a shot at the lead. McMahan, in turn, was closing on Pittman but never got close enough to make a serious challenge. But then, Tony Stewart brushed the wall on lap 24, drawing a yellow flag that erased Schatz’s full-turn lead.
As the field prepared for the green-white-checkers finish, Saldana went pitside with a flat tire, but otherwise, the finish was set and nothing changed on the last two tours.
“Those restarts are tough, with him in clean air,” said Pittman. “But we had a really good car and we went forward, which is all you can ask for. Still, it’s frustrating. We’ve got a really fast car but the format kills us. Nobody’s good enough when the 15 car starts on the front row of the dash after the inversion. I don’t know how to qualify less well so we benefit from the inversion, so I guess we’ll just keep digging.”
McMahan was also proud of having gone forward on a track where passing is notoriously difficult.
“It was a normal Lebanon Valley race,” said McMahan. “Get in line and fly. But I got a couple of really good restarts and passed two other cars racing, so we made out a lot better than I expected.”
Steve Muellier won the action-packed small-block finale after taking the white flag in third, as Steve Hough and leader Kim LaVoie get together between turn four and the checkers, taking each other out. Brett Haas and Matt Pupelo trailed, but Pupelo was later DQ’d when he came up light at the scales.