Hammer Time: Doug Esh Wins $50,000 National Open Mechanicsburg, PA--September 30, 2006 -- Doug Esh had a decision to make in the summer, after losing his day job. Should he look for another full-time job, or should he fulfill a lifelong dream...
Hammer Time: Doug Esh Wins $50,000 National Open
Mechanicsburg, PA--September 30, 2006 -- Doug Esh had a decision to make in the summer, after losing his day job. Should he look for another full-time job, or should he fulfill a lifelong dream and become a full-time racer?
The decision was pretty easy for the native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He chose the latter and it has certainly been paying off, as he is the leading feature winner at Williams Grove Speedway on the season. On Saturday night, his decision looked even better, as he took home a track record $50,000 for winning the finale of the National Open that pit the World of Outlaws Sprint Series against the Pennsylvania Posse.
Esh aboard the Kindard Trucking J&J used his outside front row starting spot to take the lead on the low side of turn two on the opening circuit of the scheduled 40-lap event, and led the rest of the way. Esh used a yellow flag on lap 26 to his advantage, as a persistent rain began to fall, that would eventually bring the National Open to a close, and put him in the record books scoring his first career World of Outlaws A-Feature win.
"I don't even know if I have words to describe it," said an ecstatic Esh said holding the winner's trophy in RacinSoles Victory Lane. "I have never even raced for 50-grand before. To come out here and win it, is flat incredible. I still think I should wake up and quite dreaming."
Craig Dollansky driving the Karavan Trailers started sixth and quickly worked his way to the front, as he chased Esh as well as Daryn Pittman. Dollansky who won a preliminary feature at Williams Grove in July as part of the Summer Nationals, moved up the second spot on lap 16 when Pittman had to go to the work area for a flat tire. The six-time feature winner on the year, then set his sights on Esh, who had opened up a sizeable advantage with a clean track ahead of him. That lead quickly diminished when the pair hit heavy lapped traffic.
"I had a pretty good race car," said Dollansky. "Things were getting better for us as the race went on. "It's just an unfortunate deal."
Donny Schatz, who was in search of his third straight National Open win and fourth overall, finished third in the Parker Store J&J. The current championship point leader lined up seventh and slid has way into the Top-Five on the second lap with a brilliant move on the low side of the track to pick off both Jason Solwold and Jeff Shepard on the same lap. This coming a lap after getting around Brian Leppo.
The native of Fargo, North Dakota then powered his way around Lucas Wolfe on lap seven to get up to fourth, after which he inherited the third position when Pittman endured his flat tire. Schatz currently leads the series with 14 A-Feature wins, to go along with 38 Top-Five finishes, as he strives for his first series title.
Lucas Wolfe was fourth in the Allebach Racing Maxim, with Chad Layton rounding out the top-five in the Apple Dealerships Maxim.
"Fourth here is pretty good at a weekly race, so with an Outlaw race it is really good, especially at the biggest race of the year here," Wolfe said. "I am definitely very happy with it. We've been struggling the last couple of weeks, so this is definitely a good night for us. Hopefully this will be some good momentum for the end of the year and hopefully start next year the way we end this year."
The rest of the Top-10 was Friday night's preliminary feature winner Jason Solwold in the City Wide Insulation Maxim in sixth. Former National Open winner Kenny Jacobs in the JEI Performance JEI was seventh. Five-time Williams Grove track champion Lance Dewease was eighth in the Hamm Maxim. Alan Krimes was ninth in the Conestoga Valley Maxim. Mike Erdley aboard the Lisi Shell Maxim was 10th.
Early in the race, Esh was about to get into lapped traffic when a caution flew and gave him an open race track to work with. He used a strong restart to pull away from Pittman and Dollansky. The trio encountered lapped on the 12th go-around and that is when Pittman closed in on the back bumper of Esh.
Esh had another tense moment on the 16th lap, as he was attempting to put Greg Hodnett a lap down. The two cars made contact, which caused Ed Lynch Jr. to get on the brakes and make contact with Pittman who sustained a flat tire that would put the outside pole sitter to the back of the field after a quick tire change by his crew.
"Sure it (the contact) did worry me," said Esh, whose nickname is 'The Hammer.' "I didn't want to take myself out. I was a little disappointed that racing for 50-grand, I didn't get more room than that."
While battling traffic, Esh knew that he had some heavy hitters breathing right down his neck in the form of Dollansky and Pittman who have a combined 10 World of Outlaws Sprint Series A-Feature wins this season and 36 in their respective careers.
"I knew we had to get through the traffic, because the best in the business were behind us," said Esh. "We just had to get through it and get going. I made a move and got together with him (Greg Hodnett). I didn't mean to because I didn't want to take myself out, but lapped traffic is a tough deal, because they are racing their race too. I am racing for the win, so you hope that they give you a little bit of room. Everyone was racing hard and we were racing hard and got through it and ended up here."
Dollansky was pleased to get into traffic, as he and his crew had the car set-up for longer runs. With the ground he was making up in traffic on Esh, the native of Elk River, Minn., would have preferred the race to have gone green for as long as possible.
"It was a pretty untimely yellow," said Dollansky. "It cost us a lot. I was trying to be patient and run a patient race to get to the end and conserve fuel and get to lapped traffic. Right at that point we had taken the lead and the yellow came out. The timing was pretty bad for us."
After finishing second on Friday night in the preliminary feature, Esh was disappointed, but knew he and his crew learned a few things that would help them out on Saturday night, when the big money was on the line. With his runner-up finish on Friday night he locked himself into a starting spot in a heat and did not have to take part in time trials along with Solwold, Pittman, and Shepard. After finishing second in his heat, Esh lined up third for the dash, and finished second to earn the outside front row starting spot in the finale of the National Open.
"We just worked hard last night to put ourselves in a position to be in contention for the win tonight," said Esh, who finished in the Top-10 on all seven World of Outlaws events at Williams Grove this season. "Last night we got our job done and tonight we really got it done. It was just a team effort. Our team is second to none. The motors run great and the cars work well. The tires are good, and the shocks are good. The crew is just awesome, and driver wasn't halfway bad."
After dodging a bullet early in the race after his contact with Hodnett, Esh had to endure a rain delay and could be seen pacing back and forth in his trailer while waiting to hear word from officials as to if the race could be restarted or not. Since the rains came on lap 26 over half of the race was complete, and by way of World of Outlaws rules, that made the race official when it became apparent that the rain would not subside.
"It (the waiting) will kill you," said Esh. "You have to pick your heart up off the floor a couple times because it wants to fall out of your chest. With the rain starting and stopping and starting and stopping, it was just playing with us a little bit. Everybody was saying on the radio that on the radar we would be ok. It's just nerve wracking. The pressure is just incredible to deal with. I haven't dealt with this kind of pressure for a while, and it will just tear you up."
Dollansky who is second in series points was disappointed that Mother Nature cut the feature a few laps short, but was pleased to know that his team was competing for yet another win, as they continue there late season surge, that included a dominating win to start the week at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway on last Sunday.
"This is definitely one of the races on the calendar that you mark and would like to have a shot at winning," said Dollansky. "We were definitely in the hunt to get this race tonight. I feel bad for our whole race team. We had a really good race car. Charlie Fisher's motor was running great, and things just continued to get better for us as that race wore on."
Esh was not the only one sweating out the rain delay as Wolfe sat in fourth, searching for his second Top-Five run of the season with the World of Outlaws.
"It was kind of rough (during the rain delay)," said Wolfe. "We had to sit around. That kind of works on your nerves a little bit. I guess it all worked out pretty well for us in the end. We'll take it and move on just be happy with it."
Esh drove around all week leading up to the National Open with a note on his dashboard reminding him that if he won the National Open, he would receive half of the $50,000. After finishing second in the preliminary feature on Friday night, he and his team were very confident that they could gain that one extra spot on Saturday night.
"We were in a position to win, and that is all we wanted to do," said Esh. "We wanted to get through the heat race and get through the dash, and get to the front row. We needed to be on the front row. It's what we work for. That is the only reason we came here today. We were disappointed last night, just because we ran second. I wasn't disappointed in the fact that we put ourselves in a position to win. Putting yourself in a position to win is so important in these deals, with track position. Last night we got our job done, and we came here tonight with the attitude that we had to win."
The World of Outlaws Sprint Series returns to action on Oct. 7 at Knoxville Raceway to make up an event that was postponed due to rain earlier in the season.
NATIONAL OPEN NIGHT #2 NOTEBOOK
* FAST QUALIFIER: The top-four finishers from Friday night's preliminary feature were awarded the top-four qualifying spots on Saturday night, and did not have to take part in time trials. With the inversion system in-store, they each started fourth in one of the heats and had to race there way into the A-Feature.
* QUALIFYING EVENT WINNERS: Heat race winners included: Kenny Jacobs, Chad Layton, Brian Leppo, and Donny Schatz ... Jac Haudenschild won the D-Main. ... Dion Hindi won the C-Main. ... Ed Lynch Jr. won the B-Main. ... Daryn Pittman won the dash.