CALISTOGA, Calif. — David Gravel drove his Jason Johnson Racing sprint car to his eighth World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory of the season during Saturday night’s Wine Country Outlaw Showdown at Calistoga Speedway.
“Feels good to get another win,” Gravel said. “I feel like we could have won last night (at Stockton Dirt Track). To let that slip away, it feels good to get a win.”
Gravel dominated the night, but Californian Brad Sweet, looking to close the points gap between he and points leader Donny Schatz, nearly stole the victory
The two drivers started the night in polar opposite scenarios. Sweet qualified 17th out of 22 cars. Gravel set quick time for the 15th time this season and set a track record for Calistoga Speedway with a time of 15.672 seconds.
Both drivers went on to finished second in their Drydene Heat race. However, Gravel fell from first to second and Sweet charged from sixth to second. Their performance put them both in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash, which Gravel drew the pole for and then went on to win.
At the start of the 25-lap feature, Gravel launched to the lead and Sweet – who started third – took second from Logan Schuchart. Riding the high line of the half-mile track, Gravel gapped Sweet by close to half a track.
On lap five that changed. Gravel had to wait on the throttle for the slower car of Stephan Ingraham blocking his line, killing his momentum. That allowed Sweet to cut Gravel’s lead in half. After they crossed the line for lap seven, Sweet threw a slide job at Gravel going into turn one. He rocketed underneath the Mesilla Valley Transportation No. 41 car and put his NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 car in the lead by turn two.
“I got to the 93 car (of Ingraham) at a bad spot and tried to slid him, it was a dumb mistake on my part,” Gravel said. “I deserved to lose the lead there. Racing all of these races, you should know better than that.”
Gravel was able to still exit the corner better than Sweet, though. He hammered the throttle off the turn with the confidence his rear tires would hold on to every inch of the clay surface. They did and he powered back by Sweet going into turn three.
However, Gravel got out of shape on corner entrance, slowing his pace. Sweet was directly behind him and also had to slow to avoid running into Gravel. Before Sweet could attempt a run underneath him on the exit of turn four, a caution came out for Shane Stewart slowing on track.
Gravel launched back to the lead with Sweet behind him on the restart. Less than 10 laps later, Gravel found himself back on Ingraham’s bumper. Back to having to slow his momentum. And back to having to worry about Sweet breathing down his neck.
Before Sweet could strike again, another caution came out. This time for Chase Johnson having motor issues that resulted in a burst of flames underneath his car, which extinguished by the time he stopped the car.
“It’s one of those things, man, it’s part of dirt-track racing, you’ve got to be good in lapped traffic and luckily we were,” Gravel said.
Lined up single file for the restart with eight laps to go, Gravel bested Sweet and third-place Schuchart on the start pulling away by several car lengths before the flag stand.
With clean air in front of him and no lap traffic to deal with, Gravel put the cap on his dominating night by leading all 25 laps and winning his first race at Calistoga Speedway.
Sweet had to settle for second but narrowed Schatz’s point lead to 10 markers.
“The cautions just kind of came at the wrong time for us,” Sweet said. “He would get out front with clean air and we could stay a half straightaway behind. You needed lap traffic to break his pace… We’ll take it after our qualifying effort. It’s a good rebound for our NAPA Auto Parts car. We’ve got a big picture going on here.”
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