World of Outlaws Wrap-up: Morgan Hughes National Open at Williams Grove Speedway What a crowd: One of the largest crowds in the history of Williams Grove Speedway packed the legendary half-mile for the finale of the National Open last Saturday...
World of Outlaws Wrap-up: Morgan Hughes National Open at Williams Grove Speedway
What a crowd: One of the largest crowds in the history of Williams Grove Speedway packed the legendary half-mile for the finale of the National Open last Saturday night. Hundreds of fans were lined up hours before the gates opened to get a seat and see if the Pennsylvania Posse could extend their win streak to 10 races. Fans began setting lawn chairs in the infield long before the first green flag of the night would fly. Earlier in the day the annual Chili Cook-Off was held in the back pit area attracting countless fans under beautiful blue skies on a picture perfect fall day.
Earning a spot in the 2011 Morgan Cup: The Top-Five World of Outlaws finishers and the Top-Five Pennsylvania Posse finishers from the finale of the National Open earned a spot in the inaugural Morgan Cup to be held in May of 2011 at Williams Grove Speedway. The Morgan Cup will be a 12-lap dash with a $10,000 total purse along with the Sterling Silver Morgan Cup, which the winner will earn and will be displayed at the winning group's headquarters. The Top-five World of Outlaws finishes in the National Open were: Jason Meyers, Jason Sides, Paul McMahan, Donny Schatz and Kraig Kinser. The Top-Five PA Posse finishers were: Lance Dewease, Stevie Smith, Brian Montieth, Daryn Pittman and Greg Hodnett. If any of these drivers changes teams in the off-season, they are still eligible for the Morgan Cup, as the driver's themselves earn the spot, not the car or team they are driving for in 2010 The lineup for the Morgan Cup will be determined by a coin flip, with all the World of Outlaws cars starting in one line (either inside or outside) and all the PA Posse cars starting in the opposite line (either inside or outside).
Looking to seal the deal: Jason Meyers used a very solid weekend at Williams Grove Speedway to extend his lead in the World of Outlaws championship standings as he continues to chase his first series title. The native of Clovis, California finished eighth in the opener and was third in the finale, after leading the first 26 laps. He was able to extend his lead to 102 markers over 20-time series champion Steve Kinser, with Donny Schatz third-111 back and Joey Saldana fourth-115 out of the lead. The lead for Meyers is the largest that any driver has held this year and the first time that the lead has been in triple digits. A total of four races remain on the 2010 calendar at three vastly different tracks: the sprawling 5/8-mile Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in New York, the ¼-mile bulling of Tri-State Speedway in Indiana and the blazing fast banked four-tenth-mile at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
"I don't know," said Meyers with a smile when asked what it will take to cap off a title run. "I've never done it before. All we are trying to do now is win races. We go out each night and try our best to win and stay out front of the guys that are chasing us."
Always tweaking: Sammy Swindell set fast time in the finale of the National Open, which marked the first time this year he has set fast time in a World of Outlaws event. That lined him up fourth in the first heat race and he knew that as long as he finished at least fourth in that eight-lap contest he would be in the dash. He ended up coming home second in the heat after a spirited battle with Donny Schatz. His team was able to try a couple of different things in the heat race as well as the dash that really paid off later in the night. Swindell led the final 14 laps of the National Open to score the $50,000 top prize.
"Every time we went out after setting fast time we were able to go out and work on the car instead of having to make that race or be in that certain position," shared Swindell. "I knew I could run fourth pretty easily (in the heat race) so we weren't going to penalize ourselves and it worked out for us."
Back in the saddle: Joey Saldana returned to the seat in the National Open for the first time since suffering a concussion on September 24 at Eldora Speedway which forced him to miss the Commonwealth Clash at Lernerville on September 25. The second generation driver began the weekend by turning the 16th fastest lap against a very strong 58-car field to put himself on the pole for the first heat race. He would win that heat to earn a spot in the dash, where he would finish ninth. Saldana finished seventh in the main event to earn his fourth Top-10 finish of the season at Williams Grove Speedway. He is currently fourth in points, while his team is second in owner points with four races remaining on the year.
"I actually felt good when I put my helmet on," shared Saldana. "I didn't want to do anything stupid out there or cause anyone else some problems. I'm just trying to be smart and smooth and not make any mistakes. We had a good solid run and hopefully we can keep that up."
A career first: David Gravel set fast time in the opener of the National Open to earn his career World of Outlaws fast time honor. He bested a stout 58-car field, which was the largest car count of the season for the series. Gravel just edged Tim Shaffer in time trials by a mere 21-thousands of-a-second to earn the top spot. The teenager from Watertown, Connecticut finished sixth in the first heat which put him in The Last Chance Showdown where he would start on the pole and finish second to race his way into the 25-lap main event. He would start 13th in the A-Feature and came home 14th to score his best-career finish at Williams Grove. Gravel has veteran crew chief Rob Hart turning the wrenches for him.
"A place like Williams Grove is so intimidating and this is their biggest race of the year, so it's a good thing to show you are the fastest car in time trials. It just sets up for a good night. Qualifying good just makes your night a whole lot easier. It's definitely a unique place and coming here more helps for sure, especially racing-wise and throughout the night knowing what to do with cars."
Plan of attack: The start of the main event on the first night of the National Open took a couple of attempts to get going. On the initial green, there was a jumped start in the middle of the field which led to the complete restart. Following the second start there was a six-car pileup on the front stretch. The third start of the race was clean and the green flag wound up flying for the remainder of the distance, with Greg Hodnett scoring the win, which was his fifth in the last nine World of Outlaws races at Williams Grove Speedway.
"You try not to get bottlenecked up and be somewhere towards the front," shared Hodnett when asked about his strategy on the couple of complete restarts. "That's the biggest thing and just trying to be smooth and smart."
Another solid weekend: Tim Shaffer continued his amazing 2010 campaign with a very strong weekend during the National Open. He opened the famed event by qualifying second of the 58 cars that took to the track on night one. He followed that up by blasting from the fourth spot in heat one to a win to earn a spot in the dash. He came from fourth to second in the dash, which put him on the front row for the main event. The reigning All Star Circuit of Champions title winner led the first 14 laps of the feature on Friday night and wound up second. He again was second quick on the following night and raced his way into the dash and would come home sixth in the finale of the National Open.
"It's been an awesome three months," said Shaffer on Friday night. "I really want to win bad here and that's probably what hurt me tonight. I went a little too hard too early and used my tires up and didn't find the rubber late, but there are no excuses. We'll keep at it and keep working hard."
A career-best finish: Mike Erdley scored the best finish of his career with the World of Outlaws last Friday night in the opener of the National Open, coming home fourth. He finished second in the third heat race to earn a spot in the dash, where he ran seventh. He lined up in the fourth row for the 25-lap main event and gained a couple of spots on the opening lap and was up to fifth on the second lap. He fell back to sixth on the sixth lap and got by Kerry Madsen and Stevie Smith on the very next circuit to move into fourth, where he would remain the rest of the distance.
Back at the Grove: Jason Solwold, who won the opener of the National Open in 2006 returned to the famed half-mile for the first time since 2007 this past weekend to drive for the J&M Motorsports team based in Central Pennsylvania. He raced his way into the main event on the first night by way of The Last Chance Showdown. In the finale, the Washington native came up just a couple of spots short in The Last Chance Showdown.
On the air: The finale of the National Open will air on SPEED on Saturday, October 23 at 8 p.m. Eastern, as a super-sized three hour show. Bobby Gerould will call all the action from the legendary half-mile with Hall of Famer Brad Doty offering expert analysis, along with Shane Andrews and Sarah Jane Hunt reporting from the pit area. Tune in to SPEED on Saturday, October 23 at 8 p.m. Eastern to see all the action from the National Open.
Up next: The World of Outlaws take part in Super DIRT week for the second consecutive year with the New Yorker 25 at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge on Saturday, October 9, followed by a stop at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana on Saturday, October 16 for an event that was postponed by rain earlier this season.
On sale now: Tickets for a number of premier World of Outlaws events are currently on-sale, including the event at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in New York on October 9 and the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, November 4-6. For tickets visit www.WorldofOutlaws.com/tickets.