GRANITE CITY, IL – After an early season stretch of dominance that saw him claim three of the first five World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car races, David Gravel’s results had slipped in recent weeks.
The sub-par finishes were never a matter of performance. A slight mistake at U.S. 36 Raceway led to a DNF. Contact with a competitor in Pevely turned a potential win into a ninth. Through it all, the Big Game Motorsports #2 continued to be one of the fastest cars on track.
On Friday night, Gravel and his team put a full night together to collect their Series-leading fourth triumph of the season after a mid-race pass for the lead as the World of Outlaws returned to Tri-City Speedway for the first time in 15 years. With the victory, Gravel upped his career total with The Greatest Show on Dirt to 80 – becoming only the 12th to reach that mark. The Illinois oval became the 42nd different track he’s visited Victory Lane at with the World of Outlaws.
In the bigger picture, Gravel also moved up to second in points – only 12 behind leader Carson Macedo. Perhaps most importantly, celebrating in Victory Lane helped Gravel forget about the recent troubles and bring to mind what he and the Big Game team are capable of when everything operates smoothly as they pursue a title.
“We’ve been up front all year,” Gravel said. “I screwed up at U.S. 36, and then we had stuff happen at Volusia and Pevely, but this car has been fast all year… We’ve been in the Dash so many of the nights. Even if we’re not in the Dash, we battle to the front… It’s been a fun year. We’ve had three nights to throw away already, but if we keep running like we are, it’ll take care of itself.”
While Gravel emerged as the winner, it was Logan Schuchart who controlled the early portion of the race. The driver of the Shark Racing #1S won the night’s Toyota Racing Dash to earn the pole of the NOS Energy Drink Feature. When the green flag flew, it was Schuchart who paced the field with Sheldon Haudenschild in tow.
The runner-up spot was gifted to Gravel on lap eight when Haudenschild tapped the Turn 1 wall on corner entry and couldn’t get his car pulled away. The contact sent the NOS Energy Drink #17 upside down. Despite sustaining heavy damage, the Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing crew, with the help of others, was able to make repairs and send Haudenschild back out.
A quick red flag on the ensuing restart caused the next attempt to be single file and set up what wound up being the race’s longest green flag run.
Schuchart charged ahead when the green flag came about, but Gravel stayed not too far behind. As Schuchart stuck with the low line around the entire three-eighths mile, Gravel began to search. Eventually, the Watertown, CT native found speed on the cushion in Turns 1 and 2 and quickly ran down Schuchart.
A few laps prior to halfway, Gravel powered down the backstretch with a massive run and looked to Schuchart’s inside entering Turn 3 but didn’t have the room to make it stick. A few quick circuits later and Gravel refused to be denied. With the same type of run down the back straightaway, Gravel roared alongside the Shark Racing machine and held his ground. Schuchart slipped up in the set of corners, and Gravel hit the moisture on the exit perfectly to secure the top spot.
“Yeah I just didn’t want to blow it and get inside him (Schuchart) and show him I was running the top and getting big runs on him,” Gravel explained. “Luckily, it all worked out. I was able to get by him down the backstretch He kind of really wasn’t running the bottom, kind of running low then slipping up where I was kind of getting that moisture line. That line was getting thinner and thinner as the race went on. It got tricky, so I had to get my wing back.
“I was really ginger going into (Turn) one. I didn’t want to do what Sheldon did. It’s so easy to do that. There’s a shadow there. The curb is against the wall, so I was kind of conservative on entrance, but I tried to have a lot of corner speed through the center and exit and it worked out.”
Once he grabbed the lead, Gravel began to stretch the advantage in traffic – slicing through lappers while those behind them struggled to get through.
As the laps waned, fifth-starting Parker Price-Miller began to run down the top two while running the top all around the racetrack. With less than five laps remaining, “The Law Firm” threw a slider on Schuchart to take over the second spot.
Even with PPM’s late speed, there was no time to catch Gravel as the 30 year old cruised to the checkered flag with more than a two second advantage for his fourth win in 14 races. The only thing that could’ve made the celebration sweeter is if he’d reached the 80 win mark prior to four time and defending champion – Brad Sweet, who earned his 80th last month.
“Me and Brad Sweet kind of have the same stats. We were both at 79, and I wanted to beat him to 80, but he’s a lot older than me, so I’ve got more time,” Gravel said with a smile.
Holding on for a popular second place effort was Kokomo, IN’s Parker Price-Miller. It was his first World of Outlaws podium of the year and the eighth of his career. The crowd greeted him with nearly a winner’s applause for his efforts when he emerged from the car.
“Really happy to have a good run. We kind of struggled in the beginning,” Price-Miller said. “I didn’t want to see that last caution. We were kind of tight, but that’s how it fell. Maybe we needed one more yellow, but David looked really good and it’s hard to pass guys. Happy with a second, but it’s also like we were so close to getting another win. We’ll take it.”
Rounding out the podium was the night’s pole sitter and leader of the first 15 laps, Logan Schuchart. It marked the Hanover, PA native’s second straight top three as he continues to build momentum. Schuchart’s average finish in the last four races is a strong 4.25 as he looks to continuing climbing toward the points lead.
“You always like to win. That’s the goal, but it’s nice to get a podium,” Schuchart said. “The more the race went on the more I felt like we were struggling, just kind of hanging on and playing defense a little bit. I knew Parker was back there, so I tried to get the wing pulled back… We just missed it a little bit there in the Feature. I didn’t expect it to slick off that much.”
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars head to Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, IN tomorrow (April 29). For tickets, call (812) 768-6025.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action on DIRTVision.
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 2-David Gravel; 2. 9P-Parker Price Miller; 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 4. 41-Carson Macedo; 5. 49-Brad Sweet; 6. 11-Michael Kofoid; 7. 71-Cory Eliason; 8. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 9. 83-James McFadden; 10. 21H-Brady Bacon; 11. 24-Rico Abreu; 12. 15-Donny Schatz; 13. 39M-Anthony Macri; 14. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg; 15. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 16. 51B-Joe B Miller; 17. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 18. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 19. 7S-Robbie Price; 20. 21-Brian Brown; 21. 5-Spencer Bayston; 22. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 23. 5T-Ryan Timms; 24. 9R-Chase Randall; 25. 23B-Brian Bell