Wilmot Warrior: David Gravel wins OReilly Auto Parts Badger 40 at Wilmot Raceway
Scores his sixth World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series victory of the season
By Tony Veneziano
WILMOT, Wisc. – July 30, 2016 – David Gravel has been under the weather over the course of the last week, but he didn’t let that slow him down on Saturday night in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Badger 40 at Wilmot Raceway in Wisconsin. The native of Watertown, Connecticut, led all 40 laps to claim his sixth World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series win of the season.
Gravel has now won in both of his starts with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series at Wilmot Raceway and has 13 career wins with the series.
“It’s been a rough last six or seven days for me and I’m just starting to feel better,” said Gravel, who drives the Big Game Treestands machine for CJB Motorsports. “The car was just awesome. I’ve only had one other car ever that has driven perfect like that. There was a lot of yellows and that gave Donny (Schatz) a lot of shots at me and chances to try to change it up a little bit.”
Gravel started on the pole and withstood five cautions flags. On four of the double-file restarts, he had seven-time and defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz lining up beside him. Gravel used strong restarts each time to sprint to a sizeable lead in open track.
“Some yellows helped me not have to deal with lapped traffic,” explained Gravel. “There at the end, I passed a couple of lapped cars and had a pocket with about five to go. I think I saw Donny poke his nose, and I knew I had to get going and that gave me a little cushion. Our car was so good on the top that it just drove itself, really. Typically, we struggle on restarts with tire pressure and laying over on the right rear. That car was great tonight.”
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The win for Gravel was his sixth of the season, which surpasses his previous career-high of five, which he set in 2014. The 24-year-old has now won four times on short tracks this year, after conquering the third-mile Wilmot Raceway.
“I wanted to beat the five wins I had a few years ago and did that tonight,” he noted. “Hopefully we’ll be able to keep this rolling the rest of the year.”
The race got off to a rocky start, with the yellow flag waving three times in the first dozen laps. The first yellow of the race came out on the second lap, when Jacob Allen, who was running second, spun. Just past the halfway point of the race, while in traffic, Schatz was able to get his nose under Gravel in turns three and four, but wasn’t able to make a pass. The final 19 laps of the race went caution-free, putting the leaders into lapped traffic, some of which was heavy at times.
Schatz, who started sixth, ran the high side of the track most of the 40-lap race. With just a handful of laps remaining he gained ground on Gravel in lapped traffic, at one point, splitting two slower machines coming off turn four, but was never quite able to get a run on the leader.
“I’m happy to get a good finish,” said Schatz, driver of the Bad Boy Off-Road J&J for Tony Stewart Racing. “Riding the rim is not really my game, but I can make it my game if I have to. I just kind of bouncing off the cushion in (turns) four and two. I thought I had a good shot at him, but if I got off the cushion, I couldn’t go anywhere. Getting there was one thing and passing was another.”
The O’Reilly Auto Parts Badger 40 wrapped up a busy month of July for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series and Schatz finished first or second in 10 of 13 races in the month, with his lowest finish in that span being a seventh-place effort.
“These guys did a pretty good job here and we had an incredible July,” said Schatz. “Tomorrow July is over, so the next time we get to race is August and we are worried about the big races next weekend and beyond.”
Joey Saldana finished third on Saturday night, after starting fourth. The veteran driver battled Schatz for the second spot throughout the second half of the race, getting several runs, but was unable to make a pass. For Saldana, the third-place showing was his third-straight top-five finish at Wilmot.
“This is a great team and I am lucky enough to drive this car,” said Saldana. “Everyone is working hard and we are hanging in there. We are just missing something little. Being on the front straightaway, hopefully you can win some of these races. We’ll keep doing what are doing and try to stay as positive as possible. It’s easy to get down and beat up. We’ll take this and go on to Pevely and hopefully get a couple of spots better.”
Brad Sweet finished fourth on Saturday night, with his Kasey Kahne Racing teammate Daryn Pittman rounding out the top-five. Sweet opened the night by setting fast time for the ninth time this season. Shane Stewart finished sixth, with Jason Johnson seventh and Jason Sides, who ran in the top-three for a portion of the race, finishing eighth. Greg Wilson picked up the KSE Hard Charger Award, coming from 17th to ninth. Logan Schuchart rounded out the top-10.