World of Outlaws–David Gravel Wins National Open but not Without Some Controversy

David Gravel Wins National Open but not Without Some Controversy
Scores his first victory at Williams Grove and fifth of the Outlaws season; leads the Outlaws to a podium sweep
MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Oct. 4, 2014 – David Gravel led the Outlaws to a sweep of the podium as he picked up the biggest win of his young career at Saturday night’s $50,000-to-win National Open at the historic Williams Grove Speedway. It was his first win at the track and his fifth World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season.

The win did not come without a little controversy though.

With seven laps to go, as Gravel, then in second, was locked in a pitched battle with Stevie Smith for the lead, the two dove into turn one and Gravel made contact with the back of Smith’s car. The contact helped send the 68-time World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series winner Smith sideways to the bottom of the track. Smith recovered but not before losing the lead and several more positions.

“I was trying to go outside of him every time and you’ve got to slow down to run the bottom,” Gravel said following the race. “It’s so narrow on the straightaway so you hit the brakes. I just got him good enough and got him sideways.”

Gravel went on to hold off current points leader Donny Schatz for the win.

“It really sucks that I got into the back of Stevie. It does feel good to win but obviously people are going to boo me,” Gravel said. “I’m running right behind him, trying to get around him, just racing for an inch there. I feel really, really bad for him. It takes away the win for me. I’m happy I won, but it just doesn’t feel right.”

Smith, whose car owner Fred Rahmer won an emotional victory at the National Open last season as he retired from sprint car racing, said that after running a clean race all night he was sorry to have the night end the way it did.

“Basically, he wanted to win that race,” Smith said of Gravel. “I can’t say he was driving over his head, he had a really fast racecar, but he took me out.”

Smith said he was really disappointed for his team and for the hometown crowd.

“Being at our home track, we’ve had a very good year here. We’re very thankful for that but this is a hard one to lose. (Gravel) could have got me back fair and square, but running into me, that’s another problem.”

Smith led five laps in his Miller Brothers Chevrolet car. He has one Outlaws victory this season at Lincoln Speedway.

Gravel started the feature from the pole in his Roth Motorsports car and held off Lucas Wolfe and Dale Blaney in the opening laps. By lap 11, as Wolfe and Blaney battled for second, Smith, who started the feature in sixth, slid past both drivers coming out of turn two and took over the position. A caution came out on lap 15 and bunched the field back together.

When the race returned to green, Smith and Gravel began a 17-lap battle for the lead. Farther back, Donny Schatz had advanced forward two positions from his seventh place starting spot, while Daryn Pittman struggled to maintain in fourth.

A yellow flag flew on lap 27 as Greg Hodnett stopped in the middle of turns one and two. This led to an open red as the race exceeded the maximum number of laps run for fuel. The moment proved pivotal for Smith and Schatz.

On the restart, Smith got around Gravel for the lead as Schatz moved into third. Smith and Gravel raced back and forth with Gravel good on the high side of turns three and four, but Smith blocking the lane every time. Then, on lap 34, came the contact that relegated Smith to a ninth place finish. In the closing laps, Pittman got around Blaney for the third spot and the final position on the podium.

“It’s been a crazy year how things worked out,” Gravel said. “I was patient and trying to run as good as I can and a ride came along and I got one. I can’t thank Dennis and Teresa Roth enough for giving me this opportunity as well as my crew members Scotty, Troy and Brandon. It’s been a dream come true. I think we’ll be full time with the Outlaws next year and hopefully I can gain some fans back next time I come (to Williams Grove).”

Schatz, who has won four of the last seven races with his Tony Stewart Racing STP / Armor All team, was particularly fast through the middle groove throughout the night. He said as the feature wore on his car just got better and better, but he did not have the traffic he needed to make a run at Gravel.

“We just started getting going. The fuel just started coming off the car and it started to get a little bit better,” Schatz said. “I just missed it a little – I gave (my crew chief Ricky Warner) some bad information and he’s got to get good information if he’s going to make the right changes. We were able to get ourselves a decent finish but we really wanted to win the race – no question. I gave it everything I had. I tried running a groove no one else was running there. That’s all I really had for chance. We had a lot of open race track – we didn’t get to a lot of lap traffic.”

Pittman, who has five Outlaws wins at Williams Grove but has never won the National Open, credited his Great Clips team for quick work following engine trouble right after he scored the quick qualifying time early in the night. Ultimately, he said, throughout the feature he did not have the consistency he needed to win.

“This was a night we had circled on our calendar that we really felt like we could contend and put ourselves in a position to win,” said the Kasey Kahne Racing driver. “We just didn’t have car at the beginning and took too long at the end. We’ll learn from it and move on but it’s definitely been a great year.”

Schatz’s lead in the battle for the championship dropped slightly Saturday night to 285 points over Pittman. With his win tonight, Gravel moved up to ninth in points, passing Kraig Kinser.

Alan Krimes took home the KSE Hard Charger Award after advancing 16 positions to finish in 10th.