Commonwealth Clash Friday report

Saldana Powers to Victory in World of Outlaws Sprint Series Commonwealth Clash Preliminary Sarver, PA -- May 20, 2005 -- Joey Saldana has come close over the years, but until Friday night he had never been to Victory Lane at Lernerville ...

Saldana Powers to Victory in World of Outlaws Sprint Series Commonwealth Clash Preliminary

Sarver, PA -- May 20, 2005 -- Joey Saldana has come close over the years, but until Friday night he had never been to Victory Lane at Lernerville Speedway.

Starting next to pole-sitter Brooke Tatnell in the front row of the Preliminary Feature for the World of Outlaws Sprint Series Commonwealth Clash, Saldana quickly powered into the lead in the first turn. He easily stretched his advantage, but more importantly he had strong, clean restarts after the five cautions to take the checkered flag in the 25-lap feature.

Those restarts were crucial because the action behind him was fierce as the top four positions in the Stacker 2® Dash for a shot at the pole Saturday in the main event were on the line. While Saldana maintained his position in front, Steve Kinser methodically worked his way into second followed by Tatnell and Daryn Pittman as those four guaranteed themselves one of the prized spots.

"We've always been really close but could never break through with a win and tonight it seemed like I qualified slow enough where it paid off," said Saldana, a Mean 15 racer whose record-run in 2002 is still the track qualifying record. "Nine times out of 10 out here it seems like you qualify too good and then you're behind guys like Steve Kinser [after the field is inverted]. Tonight I qualified perfect. I was ninth-quick, a couple of guys missed [the transfer] and it put me on the front in the Dash. It's touchy out here. The competition's so close. If you look at the qualifying times, you can't sandbag and think you're going to be ninth so you've got to go out and do the best you can."

There was no question Saldana had all the horsepower he needed Friday night in his Larry Woodward-owned car. Restart after restart, he shot out to sizable leads. After his team struggled with motors early in the season, it finally remedied the situation at Knoxville Raceway in April, where Saldana established a track record, too.

"The biggest thing is that my car was rolling really good," said Saldana, who collected $5,000 for his victory. "We've been fighting our car all year and we've been blaming our car but if the motor doesn't run, the car doesn't work. These cars rely so much on the motors to make the car work. This sport is driven by motors and if you don't have them you're in trouble. We knew we had a problem and we rectified that, but the problem is that you need five or six of them to really be competitive week in and week out."

With Saldana in front, Tatnell was trying to track him down and fend off Paul McMahan, who was just trying to keep Kinser from sliding past him. On Lap 9, Kinser was fourth when he got a run on McMahan and pulled to the inside of him. Before Kinser could complete the move, a caution came out followed four laps later by a red flag when Donny Schatz became the last of several drivers to have trouble in Turn 2 and wind up on his side after charging from 16th to 5th. On the restart Kinser worked a lower groove, eventually darting past McMahan on Lap 16 in Turn 3 and making it stick in Turn 4.

By Lap 19, Kinser was focused on getting past Tatnell. First he looked low in Turn 3 but Tatnell shoved his car down the banking. Then a lap later, Kinser got a strong run off of Turn 2 and used it to get around Tatnell before a caution came out once again, this time for McMahan as he was racing for fifth against Sammy Swindell. They got together on the frontstretch with McMahan getting into the inside wall. With only five laps to go, Saldana wasn't about to rest, especially with Kinser bearing down. Kinser looked low again but Saldana was too strong, leaving Kinser to hang onto second. That left Tatnell to secure third while Pittman made his car as wide as possible to hold off Sammy Swindell and earn his place in Saturday's Stacker 2® Dash.

"He was out there in clean air, whistling along the top," said Kinser, a Mean 15 racer from Bloomington, Ind., who increased his points lead to 148 points over Dollansky. "We needed some longer runs. I was pretty good when I got heat in the tires. The second yellow, I was underneath Paul and [Tatnell] and I think if the yellow wouldn't have come out right then I would have been in second and everybody was in lapped traffic. We did what we wanted to do, we got locked in [to the Dash]. Of course, we would have liked to have won it, but the main thing is to get locked in and try to win [Saturday] night.

"Every time I'd get a little run on them, I'd show my nose just a little too quick and they'd pull it back down on me in Turns 3 and 4 and break my rhythm a little bit. We needed some seven-, eight-, nine-lap runs. It took me about three or four laps to get heat in my tires to get going."

The cautions were a hindrance to Tatnell, an Australia native who was leading the Preliminary Feature last month at Knoxville Raceway when disaster struck on the last lap as he got together with a lapped car.

"Getting locked in was the main thing," Tatnell said. "Joey had it to himself tonight. We had a couple of problems. We stripped the fuel-tank bolts so we had to just strap it down for the feature race. To run second most of the way, the restarts didn't help us but we're locked in. It wasn't too long ago I was leading the race and didn't get locked in."

Pittman, a winner earlier this season in Wichita, Kan., was determined not to lose fourth and a spot in the Stacker 2® Dash to Sammy Swindell.

"Giving up fourth with five laps to go is like losing a race, it's the same thing," Pittman said. "I knew he was there, I could see him. I was moving up a little on the straightaway trying to at least shut him down and try to kill his momentum. The harder I drove the car it was a lot better. I think we pulled away the last couple of laps when I just started running it in a lot harder and hitting my marks rather than just running it in too slow."

For Saldana, the victory provided at least one night of relief to a driver not used to struggling on the World of Outlaws circuit.

"Last year when I got in this car, it was really strong," Saldana said. "We won five races. It was a consistent top-five or top-10 car. This year, we've been struggling so this definitely helps with my owner and myself. It keeps everybody from pointing fingers. Everybody has the same outlook now. Doing something like this definitely gives us the perspective that this is where we need to be. It's not all the mechanic or the driver, it takes a car, an owner, a motor, a driver and a mechanic. These owners spend so much money, they want to see some kind of return. Hopefully we can build on this and get better."

Shane Stewart quickly recovered from an incident that sent him onto his side in Turn 2 during hot laps to reclaim the advantage in the race for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. With his sixth-place run, Stewart not only moved into the top 10, he moved back in front of Tim Kaeding by seven points.

In the Stacker 2® Dash, Tatnell grabbed the lead going into Turn 1 and led all six laps to earn his third pole position of the season, while Saldana powered to the front in the second Dash and drove to victory and a starting spot on the outside of the front row.

In the B-main, fast qualifier Jason Meyers maneuvered through traffic to hold off local favorite Ed Lynch Jr., Mean 15 racer Brian Paulus and Kevin Swindell. In the first heat race, Tim Shaffer, who won the Lernerville track title in 1993, dove in front at the drop of the green flag and stretched his advantage to win while Daryn Pittman earned the final transfer spot. In the second heat, Brooke Tatnell raced from the fourth starting position to the win as Brett Covell held onto the final transfer position. In the third heat, Jason Solwold slid in front at the start and drove to victory as Dollansky earned the final transfer spot. In the fourth heat, Danny Lasoski shot out front quick and won as Shane Stewart grabbed the final transfer position.

Jason Meyers was the first of the 39 cars to go through time trials and wound up with quick time of the night after turning a lap around the 4/10-mile oval in 12.913 seconds at 125.455 mph. Joey Saldana established the single-lap record of 12.334 seconds on May 14, 2002.

"We were amazed we were able to get that quick a time," said Meyers, who won the feature May 7 in Granite City, Ill. "Normally the first 10 cars out here are kind of at a disadvantage. Tonight it worked out for us. It's our first quick time of the year and it's good for the team and let's us know we're in the ballpark with the car."

The World of Outlaws Sprint Series completes the Commonwealth Clash Saturday night at Lernerville before heading May 24 to Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa., May 26-27 to Williams Grove Speedway and May 28 to Hagerstown Speedway.

All the action from Lernerville Speedway can be seen at 8 p.m. ET on May 25 and June 1 on The Outdoor Channel.

-woo-

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Tim Shaffer , Kevin Swindell , Danny Lasoski , Donny Schatz , Steve Kinser , Sammy Swindell , Brian Paulus , Brooke Tatnell , Daryn Pittman , Jason Meyers , Joey Saldana , Shane Stewart , Tim Kaeding
Teams Williams