After celebrating with his hands in the air as he propped himself on the back of his sprint car, Joey Saldana pulled off his helmet to reveal messy hair, a dirty face and a look of exhaustion.
“I think I’m more mentally worn out,” he said with a smile. “Physically I feel great.”
Saldana led all 30 laps by riding the cushion around the top of Perris Auto Speedway to claim the SoCal Showdown, which was the first World of Outlaws race at the fast half-mile oval since 2007.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often and getting your first one out of the way early in the season is a big asset to the whole season,” said Saldana, who became the fifth different winner in five World of Outlaws main events this season.
“I think the key to victory was the dash. Getting around Jason (Meyers) and getting clean air made a huge difference. And just making sure I chose the right spot on those restarts.”
Saldana set a blistering pace during the feature. He was only slowed four times for a caution and chose the outside lane on every double-file restart. Despite being side-by-side with Saldana on each restart, Meyers had his best opportunity on lap 21 when the leaders entered lapped traffic.
Saldana had a couple-second lead quickly erased as he was slowed while trying to lap Austen Wheatley. Meyers closed to the back of Saldana before the final caution of the race for a collision between Jonathan Allard and Bobby McMahan in turn two on lap 23.
Saldana cruised from that restart to record his first victory of the season and his 79th career World of Outlaws main event win.
Saldana’s teammate, Cody Darrah, piloting the No. 4 Sage Fruit/ASE/Kasey Kahne Racing Maxim, qualified eighth and finished second in his heat and eighth in the dash. He started the A Main in ninth in finished the event in 13th.