By Lee Elder
HAUBSTADT, Ind. (May 13, 2018) – The third time was charming, especially for David Gravel at Tri-State Speedway in the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series.
The Outlaws had tried twice before to race at the quarter-mile track, suffering at the whims of Mother Nature. But Sunday’s weather was terrific and the event filled the pits and drew a big crowd on Mother’s Day.
Gravel benefitted from a crash among the leaders on a late-race restart but then he had to hold off a furious charge by Hunter Schuerenberg at the end. Gravel won by less than a car length.
“I’m just happy to get another win,” Gravel said. “It’s been an up and down year.”
NASCAR Cup star Kyle Larson, who raced sprint cars prior to switching to pavement racing, joined the Outlaws at Tri-State and finished third. He admitted thinking he might be rusty before getting in the car. He said, after posting the best time in qualifying and then winning his heat race, “I was a little nervous. It’s been since (an early-season race at) Volusia that I’ve been in a sprint car.”
Joey Saldana finished fourth and Donny Schatz was fifth.
The frenetic racing, a classic component of Outlaw racing on a racy, quarter-mile track like the one at Tri State had its biggest impact on the field during a re-start with 30 laps completed. Sheldon Haudenschild and Justin Peck were racing for the lead as they exited turns one and two when they got together and stalled each other in front of the field. Daryn Pittman, Brady Bacon, Brent Marks and Kerry Madsen had nowhere to go and crashed as well.
Gravel, who had been running third, assumed the top spot for the restart. The biggest development was that Donny Schatz, the nine-time WoO champ who had won the last two Outlaws races and leads the standings this season, moved from tenth place to sixth and became a threat to win.
As Schuerenberg hounded the leader, Larson drew closer with about five laps to go. Gravel was able to work traffic over the final two laps and keep the charging Schuerenberg behind him.
“I really don’t know if I should feel happy,” Schuerenberg said. “I am, that’s a career best for us. But it just sucks to get within ten feet and not get there. David was just really good and Kyle was there, breathing down my neck.”
NOTES: The event was the third attempt to run the race at Tri-State. Weather problems soaked two other dates … The race drew 44 entries for the Outlaws … Parker Price-Miller won the 2017 WoO race at Tri-State … Heat race winners: Justin Peck, Kerry Madsen, Kyle Larson, Sheldon Haudenschild … C Main winner: Jeff Swindell … Last Chance Showdown winner: Aaron Reutzel … Front row starter Kevin Thomas Jr. suffered rotten luck. The wheel studs on his left front snapped before the field completed the second lap, losing the wheel and ending his race … The Outlaws shared the track with the UMP Modifieds … The track is located in southern Indiana, an easy drive from Eldora Speedway in Ohio after the Outlaws raced there on consecutive nights … NASCAR star Kyle Larson raced with the Outlaws after finishing fourth in the Cup race at Kansas the night before.