Gravel Wins at Placerville

David Gravel

Gravel picked up his second World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series win of the season Wednesday night. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Race Results

By Gary Thomas

Taking the lead just after the halfway point in the feature, Watertown, Connecticut’s David Gravel hung tough through multiple restarts and eventually held off a fast moving Rico Abreu to pick up his second World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series win of the season Wednesday night.

The victory at Brad Sweet’s Placerville Short Track Showdown was the first of Gravel’s career at the tight high-banked quarter-mile and came aboard the familiar CJB Motorsports/ Go Muddy No. 2 Sprinter. He now joins Donny Schatz as the second repeat winner with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series in 2017.

Gravel had taken the lead at the original start of the 40-lap race, but a yellow flag before one lap could be completed made for a complete restart. On the ensuing green flag Bixby, Oklahoma’s Shane Stewart rocketed out to the top-spot. The driver of the Larson/Marks Racing No. 2 held command over the early stages and fended off Gravel as he looked for season win number one.

Racing through heavy traffic just past the midway point, however, Stewart’s bid at victory fell through when contact with the front stretch wall left him with a reported broken shock. Gravel and Rutherford’s Rico Abreu were both able to get by prior to Stewart slowing on lap 25 to bring out a caution. Back to green, Grass Valley racer and event promoter Brad Sweet went to work on Greg Wilson for the third spot. After battling for a couple laps Sweet assumed the position and attempted to move in on the top duo.

With just six laps left Australian traveler James McFadden climbed the back stretch hill and got upside down to cause a red flag. He emerged okay but was done for the night. The green flag then waved for the final time, and Abreu committed to the bottom side of the speedway, while Gravel railed the top.

Abreu was able to get to his inside going into turn one on lap 38, but Gravel got better drive off the corner and dove to the bottom in turn three. The move broke all the momentum Abreu had built up, and that was all she wrote as Gravel took the checkered flag by 1.147 seconds.

“We haven’t really had much luck here at Placerville the last two years, so it feels fantastic to come out of here with a victory,” Gravel commented on the front stretch. “Shane Stewart set a torrid pace there at the beginning, and when he made that mistake I knew that I had to capitalize. I saw Rico poke his nose in there late in the race as well, so I moved down to run the bottom coming down for the white flag. It takes an army to win these races, and I have one heck of a team behind me. I can’t thank CJB Motorsports, Barry Jackson and this whole team enough.”

The runner up finish capped a great night for Abreu in front of his home state fans. “I really tried to be patient there at the end running the bottom, but it was really hard to judge your speed out there,” said the driver of the Abreu Vineyards No. 24 machine. “After that red flag we were really good, and even though I wanted to win, we’ll take a second with these guys. It was really an electric atmosphere tonight and a lot of fun, so I want to thank all the fans for coming out and supporting this deal.”

Sweet capped a solid run in the feature with a third place effort aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing/ NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 Sprinter. “I definitely didn’t want to see that red near the end because I felt we had really got rolling at that point. It was another good night for the 49 team though, so we’re happy. It was great to see so many people here at Placerville Speedway tonight, and I hope we put on a good show for everyone. Big thanks to my guys for all their hard work on the race car and all the people that helped put this event on.”

Greg Wilson put together an impressive night and crossed the stripe in fourth to earn his best finish of the season, while California driver Kyle Hirst tallied his first top-five of the 2017 campaign as well finishing fifth. The remainder of the top-10 was filled out by Owasso, Oklahoma’s Daryn Pittman; Wooster, Ohio’s Sheldon Haudenschild; Campbell’s Bud Kaeding; Bartlett, Tennessee’s Jason Sides and Eunice, Louisiana’s Jason Johnson. Brownsburg, Indiana’s Joey Saldana earned the KSE Hard Charger Award coming from 26th to 11th in the feature.

Current NASCAR Monster Energy Cup point leader Kyle Larson also competed during the night and was moving forward in the feature, until he clipped a spinning car. After going to the back he then got forced off the track in turn two, which ultimately ended his night.

The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series will return to action this Friday night at the Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford, CA. The following night finds the series in action at Perris Auto Speedway in Lake Perris, CA.

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