Paige, TX.- Making their first trip to the central Texas area, the World of Outlaws, Craftsman Sprint Car Series kicked off the Cotton Bowl Speedway racing season Friday night. Coming off the DIRTcar Nationals during Florida’s Speedweek, the high-flying, 410 Sprinters rolled into the 3/8 mile, semi-banked, clay oval with 32 drivers looking for the inaugural ATX Rentals Outlaw Shootout trophy.
The World of Outlaws Sprint Cars travel across the country thrilling fans with some of the best Sprint Car aces in the world including multi-time and defending champ, Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet(who picked up two Florida wins), Sammy Swindell, Danny Lasoski, Daryn Pittman, Joey Saldana, Shane Stewart and former ASCS National champs, Jason Johnson and Aaron Reutzal.
There were a couple local Texas drivers trying their hand at making the show with multi-time ASCS Gulf South champ Ray Allen Kulhanek and Sam Hafertepe jr. The track was well groomed and racy and the stands, wow, the stands were packed to capacity with a standing room only crowd that didn’t know the finish that lied ahead.
Also on the nights race card were the CBS Stock Cars and Eco-Stocks.
Sweet Swipes Sprint Spoils
In front of a packed house, Brad Sweet(Huntersville, NC) made it three out of four this season in sensational fashion, besting his team mate Daryn Pittman. After battling in the top five all night, Sweet put a last lap slide job on Pittman in thefinal corners to get the lead. Oh, but the excitement wasn’t over. The two banged wheels as they raced towards the finish line with both coming across anything but straight.
Pittman had chased early leader, Joey Saldana and turned up the heat in the last five laps to get the spot. Sweet followed in his tire tracks and the fight was on to the checkers. As the lead duo ran through traffic a slower car forced Pittman to change his line giving Sweet the opportunity to dive inside going into turn 3. Pittman tried to fight back coming off turn 4 but came up short to Sweet.
After the ever popular four-wide salute, the 24-car World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car field fired into turn 1 with Saldana getting out first. Pittman, David Gravel, Sweet and Logan Schuchart sorted out behind him. Saldana kept it on top while Pittman ran high in 1-2 then took the bottom in 3-4. The yellow waved on lap 4 when Brent Marks stalled in turn 1.
On the restart Sweet made a big move past Gravel and Pittman for third with Schuchart coming along past Gravel for fourth. The caution was back out quickly after Wayne Johnson, Sheldon Haudenschild and Dusty Zomer made contact mid pack. W. Johnson and Haudenschild went around in turn 2 and Zomer stopped on the front stretch.
Back under green Pittman retook second from Sweet while Schuchart and Gravel swapped fourth. Saldana and Pittman began to check out and just as Pittman got along side Saldana, a yellow waved for a spin by Terry McCarl in turn 4. Pittman gave Saldana a good look on the restart and was getting pressured from Sweet.
Coming to halfway it was Saldana, Pittman, Sweet, Gravel and Shane Stewart in the top five while Schuchart and Lasoski battled for sixth. Shortly after the mid-point the leaders caught traffic and the top four closed up to within a couple car lengths with ten to go. Pittman was on Saldana at lap 22 and used traffic to get by for the lead lap 24.
Saldana then faded giving up spots to Sweet and Gravel the next circuit with Donny Shatz getting fifth from Stewart. Sweet caught Pittman with two to go. As the white waved Sweet was on Pittman’s tail tank. Sweet got a run on the back stretch and when Pittman had to pass a slower car, put on a picture perfect slider in turns 3-4.
Pittman did everything he could to regain momentum and chase Sweet off turn 4. As the two banged it’s a surprise neither went over as they slugged it out to the checkers with Sweet in the Kasey Kahne owned, Razorback Professional Tools, Curb Records, ASE, Sage Group, Rob Cappetta powered, TI22 Chassis.
“A packed house, a last lap pass for the win, what more could you ask for,” replied Sweet. “No, you can’t really have a plan in racing. I just tried to stay as close as I could. I was watching the flagman and knew how many laps there were. When we got into traffic it was just based off what Daryn(Pittman) did as to what I would do. Sammy(Swindell) kind of moved on him and he spun his tires and I got a run on him. He never saw it coming. I was able to pull the slide job off, we made a little contact coming to the line. That’s racing.”
“I wasn’t saving my stuff. I was going as hard as I could. I thought I was going to run second but the opportunity presented itself at the end. I got that good restart, but Daryn got me back and thought we were pretty even. He was going to be tough to beat. It was all just based off lapped traffic. It worked to our favor tonight, for sure.”
“You try to compare a new track to other places. This is a little bit Haubstadt, Tulare and few others. It’s a unique track. It was different, but really racy, what more could we ask for. We try not to change too much from track to track. We worked on the car throughout the night. We hit it pretty good for the A-main. It was a great race and great crowd. A lot of people liked this place. Sure the guys that did good will like it and the guys that didn’t won’t, but that’s how it is. It had a good top and good bottom, then the lapped traffic came into play.
“We’re running the whole tour this year. It’s nice to get a good start, but I’ve had good starts in the past and that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got a long way to go and it’s great to have three wins under our belt and running as good as we are. It’s a long season.”
Bennett Best in Stock Car Bash
After opting to start at the back, Danny Bennett charged his way to the front of the 15-lap CBS Stock Car feature. After an early restart and three wide battle, Bennett moved up to second and caught leader Michael Rogers. Bennett got the spot at the one-third point and got out to a good lead. Steve Sims, who also choose to start in the back made his way up to second, but could never get close enough to mount a challenge.
Gary Hutchinson led the CBS Stock Car feature coming off turn 2, but it was Hutchinson, Rogers and Mike Nuby three wide for the lead at the line on lap 1. Rogers claimed the spot on lap 2 while Sims made his way to fifth before Drake Pruitt and Jarod Leitchman tangled in turn 1.
On the restart it was Sims, Bennett and Hutchinson three wide for second with Bennett getting the spot. Bennett closed quickly on Rogers and took over the top spot on lap 5 with Sims and Hutchinson door to door for third. Sims finally secured the spot and got second from Rogers.
At the crossed flags it was Bennett, Sims, Rogers, Danny Castle and Hutchinson in the top five. As the two leaders separated themselves, Castle and Rogers fought for third. As the white flag waved Bennett in the Danny Boy Racing, Ladd Coins, bastropautorepairs.com, All In Designs, Chevy had a comfortable margin that he held to the checkers.
Zajac Zips to Front of Field in Tech
Daniel Zajac went from fourth to first at the scales following the 15-lap Eco-Stock feature. Now you would first assume that the top three couldn’t make weight, maybe have the wrong percentage, but no. After contact during the race the three were mixing it up after the race and were DQ’d for fighting. Geez guys, it’s a long season!
Danny Baggerley jumped out front as the 14-car Eco-stock took the green. Mason Teague, Richard Fitch and Eric Wilson were three wide for second and Larry Underwood fifth. Teague, Fitch and Wilson pin-balled off each other on lap 1 as Baggerley began easing away. Alyson Dorken made her way up to fifth past Underwood as Teague and Fitch swapped second.
Teague began catching a slowing Baggerley and got the lead on lap 12. Baggerley was then forced to pull with clutch problems. With Teague out front Wilson, Zajac and Dorken were fighting for third. Teague led the field to finish line with Zajac getting by Dorken for fourth and being in the right spot to pick up the victory.
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series travels southeast to Royal Purple Raceway(Baytown) for a Saturday night show before heading west to Vegas, Arizona and California. For more info visit www.woosprint.com.
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Cotton Speedway resumes racing March 5th with regular schedule of IMCA Modifieds, Southern Sportmods, I-Stocks and Hobby Stocks, plus the South Texas Late Model Series and Eco-Stocks. For more info visit www.cottonbowlspeedway.com.