Number 71M drivers gets fifith checkered flag of the season, 100th Outlaw win
The World of Outlaws point battle resumed this evening at Jackson Speedway. The top four in the standings were glued together with only 50 points separating the leader and fourth place.
Joey Saldana and the Minnesota-based Motter Equipment HE&M Saw Beltline Body Shop crew began the evening in third place, 21 points out of the lead. Exactly one week ago, Saldana drove to victory at Greenwood, Nebraska, scoring his fourth victory of the season. Saldana hit the dirt at Jackson Speedway in his signature yellow 71M Sprint Car tonight, strapped in, focused, ready to fly and looking for his fifth win of the season.
In tonight’s preliminary action, Saldana was 25th out of 30 entries to hit the track for qualifying. Lapping the half-mile in 16.900 seconds, the Brownsburg Bullet was ninth in the final qualifying order. Though not in his customary top three or four qualifying positions, there was an advantage. After the World of Outlaws qualifying to heat race formula was applied, the Bullet started on the outside pole of the final heat.
Polesitter Ian Madsen brought the field of nine drivers down for a very slow start for the eight-lap heat. Saldana grabbed the early lead, followed by the brothers Madsen: Ian in second place and Kerry in third. At the halfway point, Saldana had stretched his lead to two seconds over Ian Madsen. The Bullet scored a wire-to-wire heat victory, exactly what he needed to earn a starting berth in the dash.
The number six inversion draw favored the Motter team, putting Saldana on the pole for the dash. The Bullet led the field to the chalk stripe and when the track went green, he took command of the field. While Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet were battling for second, Saldana began to pull away. With two laps remaining, Saldana nearly had a two-second advantage. Another wire-to-wire win for Saldana tonight in the dash secured the pole position for the feature.
Saldana took advantage of his starting position and took the lead on turn one, followed closely by Schatz. The two drivers played a 30-lap game of cat and mouse, sometimes with Saldana stretching his lead, sometimes with Schatz catching up and running on the Bullet’s back bumper. Though giving a great show of his driving skills, Schatz was unable to maneuver by Saldana who was glued to the bottom of the track. Coming off turn four thundering to the checkered flag, Schatz made one more run at Saldana but couldn’t run him down.
It was Saldana’s – and the Motter team’s – first victory at Jackson, and their fifth win of the season.
“First off, this is my 100th Outlaw win,” said Saldana in victory lane. “Officially it’s my 89th win, I just tied Danny Lasoski’s career record, this is crazy. But I have 11 preliminary World of Outlaws wins beating the likes of Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell, so to me that’s 100 wins,” clarified the Bullet.
“I can’t thank Dan Motter (team owner), Doug Harris with HE&M Saw, and Lonnie Olsen with Beltline Body Shop enough for giving me this opportunity. My goal for a long time was to win 100 races. For me this is it. I know it’s not official but for me it is.
“It’s a great night. The whole night for us was the dash. Wining the dash put us in position to win the race. It was just an awesome night. We didn’t get a flat (tire) and I was worried about that. It all played out in our favor.
“I knew Donny was on my back bumper but I just knew to stay on the bottom and not make any mistakes. I knew if he was going to try to beat me he would have to drive around me and if he did that, he deserved to win. I knew I had to finish so I had to conserve.
“Just a good solid night and I’m ready to go to Knoxville tomorrow. I just want to win races and continue to be competitive!”
Conservation paid off for Saldana tonight. In the final laps his right rear tire was reduced to just the skin.