Saldana Thunderbowl Winner

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Last year Joey Saldana didn’t pick up his third World of Outlaws win of the season until August, which was 43 races and seven-plus months after the year started. Saldana is five months ahead of last year’s pace, as he was victorious for the third time in 2009 on Saturday night in the finale at Thunderbowl Raceway over Terry McCarl, whom he traded the lead with officially once, but unofficially a number of times as the pair jockeyed for the top spot on the high-banked bullring before a packed grandstand, en route to claiming the $10,000 top prize.

Saldana moved to within four victories of moving into the Top-10 all-time with the World of Outlaws, after scoring the win at Thunderbowl Raceway to bring his career total with the series to 42. He now has three career wins at the track, with two of those coming in World of Outlaws effort aboard the Budweiser Maxim for Kasey Kahne Racing.

“It was a great effort for the team,” said Saldana. “We made all the right adjustments all night long. We were good in the heat, the dash and the feature. That is all you can ask for out of your crew and your car. Hopefully we can win some more. Three is a good start to the season.”

The race began with Terry McCarl and Sammy Swindell battling for the lead in turns one and two with McCarl getting the initial jump and Swindell battling back to lead down the back straightaway.

While they jockeyed for the top spot in the early going, Saldana patiently waited in the wings until the trio got to lapped traffic before making his moves.

Saldana lined up third in the 35-lap contest on Saturday night and worked his way into second on the 10th lap, getting around Swindell, who led the first seven laps of the main event. After using a textbook slide job to move into second, Saldana looked to track down Terry McCarl.

Saldana was able to reel McCarl in when the leaders hit heavy lapped traffic around the 10th lap. By laps 12 and 13 he was even with McCarl and took the lead a couple of times unofficially, with McCarl inching back ahead each time at the line to be scored the leader. On the 14th lap, Saldana was able to slide past McCarl as they exited the fourth turn and then won a drag race down the front straightway to lead into turns one and two.

Once out front, Saldana weaved and sliced his way through traffic, with McCarl waiting to pounce at the slightest of opportunities. He was held up once which allowed McCarl to quickly close back in on him.

“My car was working really good,” noted the winner. “I know that Terry (McCarl) got to me and when I got to Haud (Jac Haudenschild), I didn’t know what he was really going to do, so I slowed myself down because I didn’t want to do anything stupid in lapped traffic. The track was pretty tough with the cushion right around the fence and I hit the wall a couple times and didn’t want to knock my front end out.”

The entire 35-lap event went from green to checkers, non-stop, providing plenty of lapped traffic for the front runners to negotiate on the high-banked bullring. Saldana was able to slice his way through traffic using both the high and low side of the track. McCarl was able to close back in on Saldana in the late going when the pair was mired in heavy traffic, but each time he got a run he was not quite able to get around Saldana.

“It was surprising, but this is the World of Outlaws and these guys are professionals and we are supposed to put on a good show for the fans and go non-stop,” shared Saldana. “I think the fans saw a great race and there was plenty of good racing out there. I’m fortunate to get to drive this car and get another victory.”

After setting a new track record on Friday night at Thunderbowl Raceway, McCarl turned in another very solid effort on Saturday, leading six laps and finishing second in the Big Game Treestands Maxim. It was the sixth Top-10 finish of the season with the World of Outlaws for the native of Altoona, Iowa.

“We had a great car all weekend,” said McCarl. “We drew a late number to qualify tonight and that really showed what we had. We turned a solid lap in there and got up on the front row (of the heat race). We won the heat race pretty handily, I guess. My guys gave me a good car. Joey (Saldana) had a good car as well. He got me in traffic. I made a couple of wrong choices and thought my car was better on the bottom than it was.”

Swindell, the three-time World of Outlaws champion, paced the field for the first seven laps after winning the Crane Cams Dash to earn the pole position for the A-Feature. He was able to pull away in open track early in the main event, but in traffic, McCarl was able to track him down and used a slider off turn four to take the lead on the eighth go-around.

“We got a break there with that draw in the dash and were hoping we could pull off a win, but we just didn’t make all the right changes for the race track and had to settle for third,” noted Swindell. “We’re close and we’ll learn from this. I have a pretty good idea of what I did wrong and we’ll look at it everything and make some notes.”

McCarl was glad to see the race go non-stop and was able to track Saldana down several times in traffic as he looked for his first win of the season. With two laps left, Saldana got very high off the fourth turn, brushing the wall and allowing McCarl to close back in. He made one final run on the leader, but was not able to get around him.

“I am a rhythm guy and I wish they all would go that way,” stated McCarl. “That puts on a better show for the fans in traffic. If there had been a couple of yellows, maybe we would have won it. I don’t think he was any better than us out in the open, but again we want to put on a great show for the fans and I think that was a great show, swapping the lead and going at it in traffic. We love to see a non-stop race when we can.”

Swindell on the other hand was surprised that the race went non-stop, a night after a number of cautions slowed the action. He wound up third to earn his sixth Top-10 finish of the season and in the process was able to move to within six points of longtime rival Steve Kinser who is second in the series championship standings.

“With the way the race track was, I figured someone would get in the wall or someone would make a mistake and someone would get into someone else,” said Swindell. “I was surprised it went straight through, but I am glad it did. It would have been better for me without the traffic, but I still don’t think I would have been able to get by those guys, because you had to get off the corner and that is where I was struggling.”

Donny Schatz, the three-time and defending series champion finished fourth in the Armor All J&J, with Craig Dollansky in the Direct TV Maxim in fifth. The pair battled for the fourth spot for a number of laps, trading the position three times.

Tim Kaeding was sixth in the DTR Transport KPC, with Chad Kemenah in seventh in the Kantor Oil Company Maxim. Randy Hannagan, who was victorious on Friday night, was eighth in the Central Valley Meat Company Maxim. Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws champion was ninth in the Quaker State Maxim, with Kerry Madsen 10th in the TK Concrete KPC.

The World of Outlaws return to action on Saturday, March 28 at the legendary Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, for the last big event at the hallowed half-mile.

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