EDITOR’S NOTE: With a lack of racing on-track due to the recent coronavirus pandemic around the globe, Sprint Car & Midget is digging into the archives and reflecting on notable races from the past.
Today, we look back on the 2018 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series event at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., won by local favorite Aaron Reutzel.
TULARE, Calif. — Texas native Aaron Reutzel scored his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series victory on March 9, 2018 in thrilling fashion, after exchanging multiple slide jobs with local driver Cory Eliason at Thunderbowl Raceway.
A lap-20 yellow flag for leader Sheldon Haudenschild bunched the field together and allowed Reutzel to begin picking off the leaders in exciting fashion. Eliason settled for second with Donny Schatz third.
Eliason, aboard the famed Roth Motorsports No. 83, won the Craftsman Club Dash, earning the pole for the 35-lap feature alongside fellow California native Jason Meyers.
In search of his first Outlaw victory, Eliason set the pace for the first 11 laps before giving way to Haudenschild on the 12th circuit.
Haudenschild, who set a Tulare track record in qualifying, seemingly had the fastest car on the track and maneuvered the lapped traffic well as he continued to extend his lead.
Coming off of turn four on lap 18, Haudenschild got into the back of a lapped car and the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall No. 17 never settled down.
Haudenschild muscled his ill-handling machine through turn one and two, before making heavy contact with the frontstretch wall at the completion of the lap, ending the young gun’s bid for his third win of the young season.
Eliason assumed the lead, but this time with nine-time Series Champion Donny Schatz alongside of him. The Visalia, Calif., native got a strong restart and established a sizeable lead over the veteran.
Reutzel, who restarted sixth, came to life as he pounded the cushion, weaving in and out of cars grabbing third on lap 23 and passing Schatz two circuits later to claim the second spot.
Reutzel arrived at leader Eliason on lap 28 and the duo waged war for the top spot, as you would expect of two drivers looking for their first World of Outlaws victory. The duo exchanged sliders in each corner, exciting the large Thunderbowl Raceway crowd.
Reutzel secured the victory on lap 31 as he powered his Baughman/Reutzel owned No. 87 around Eliason down the backstretch and pulled away for his first career Outlaw triumph.
“This is a dream come true. I’ve led a handful of Outlaw shows in the past, but never been able to finish the job; you start doubting yourself. It’s something you don’t think will ever happen,” a jubilant Reutzel said. “It all played out perfect tonight. This track is truly special. It fits my driving style – gas it up on the fence.
“I am so lucky to have the people behind me that I do.”
Eliason settled for second and was in good spirits.
“It’s always tough when you are out front in traffic. Aaron drove a great race,” Eliason noted. “Hopefully, the weather cooperates, and we get another chance at it tomorrow.”
Schatz was also pleased with his podium finish as he extended his early series points lead that year.
“A top-three finish is very respectable for us at Tulare. We usually don’t run too well on tracks like this,” he said.
Dominic Scelzi and 12th-starting Carson Macedo completed the top five.
Tim Kaeding, aboard the Sides Motorsports No. 7s, earned KSE Hard Charger honors by coming from 16th to finish eighth in his first start for Sides.
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