Gold Cup: Thursday prelim one report

Saldana dominates Gold Cup Race of Champions opener CHICO, CA (September 4) -- Joey Saldana dominated the Preliminary Feature as the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series opened the 50th Annual Gold Cup Race of Champions Thursday at Silver Dollar ...

Saldana dominates Gold Cup Race of Champions opener

CHICO, CA (September 4) -- Joey Saldana dominated the Preliminary Feature as the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series opened the 50th Annual Gold Cup Race of Champions Thursday at Silver Dollar Speedway.

Saldana started on the pole and held off front-row starter Tim Shaffer throughout all 30 laps to win his first Preliminary Feature of the series' Silver Anniversary Season.

"I just want to thank my guys for sticking with me this year," Saldana said. "We haven't had a very good season. Having a son has shown me that there's more to life than racing, but getting this win is pretty cool. We need to go out and win some more so that maybe someday he can be out here doing this. We're just trying to make the most out of what's left of the season. It's really tough to race against these guys night in and night out. You don't get to start up front very often, so when you do you'd better make the most of it."

Saldana, who ranks third in the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series point standings, was the seventh-fastest qualifier in Thursday's 48-car field. Another 50 or so sprinters were scheduled to race for positions in Saturday's $20,000-to-win championship feature Friday.

The 1996 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year burst into the lead as the green flag fell in the evening's main event. "B" Feature winner Brad Sweet spun when his right rear tire lost air pressure late in the second lap.

Saldana controlled the ensuing restart, and was 10 car-lengths ahead of two-time Gold Cup champion Jac Haudenschild when he entered lapped traffic seven laps into the race. An injector problem forced Jason York to stop in the first corner three laps later, opening the track ahead of the leaders. Toni Lutar brought out the caution flag midway through the race when he spun in turn four.

Defending and 10-time Gold Cup champion Steve Kinser paced the qualifying session with an 11.859-second lap around the high-banked, ¼-mile oval. The O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series points leader drove his #11 Quaker State Maxim past three cars early, and exchanged fourth place with Shaffer during the race's middle stages. Shaffer, who swept the J.D. Byrider Outlaw Nationals at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway early in the year, continued his run to the front late in the 17th lap when he passed Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year candidate Jason Sides for third place.

Colby Weisz spun over the bank in turn two one lap later. Shaffer took advantage of the restart, steering the #83 Beef Packers Eagle into the low groove in the fourth corner to pass "The Wild Child" for the runner-up spot. Roger Crockett, the second-fastest qualifier, stopped on the back straightaway with mechanical problems two laps later.

Sides drove the #7S Aramark/Ozark Maxim past Haudenschild deep in the fourth corner to claim third place, while Kinser passed Donny Schatz for fifth within a lap after the race resumed.

Six car-lengths separated Saldana from Shaffer when the leaders caught the back-markers with 6½ laps remaining. York and Todd Carmichael collided and flipped in turn four the next time around, however, tightening the field and taking the leaders out of lapped traffic.

"The King of the Outlaws" won a back-stretch drag race with Haudenschild to claim fourth place within seconds after the green flag replaced the red. Carmichael's 27th-lap spin in the second corner set the stage for a three-lap dash to the checkered flag.

Saldana raced away as the race resumed, while Sides challenged Shaffer for the runner-up spot. Joey took the checkered flag with 10 car-lengths to spare as all 24 cars completed the race.

"I thought Tim Shaffer was right on me," Saldana said. "A couple of lapped cars showed me the rubber right there in the middle, but luckily I went to the bottom when those cars (York and Carmichael) got together and flipped. Otherwise, I'd have been right in the middle of it."

Sides finished in third place, ahead of Kinser, Haudenschild, Schatz, Dennis Moore, Jr., Jason Statler, Kevin Pylant and Jeff Hodgson.

Statler, who won the final main event the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series ran at Santa Maria Speedway, was leading the Fourth Heat Race when Nick Ringo, Jr., spun in front of him. Statler lost the lead when he collided with Ringo, but raced back into fifth place to claim the final transfer position. Statler passed 12 cars to finish eighth in the Preliminary Feature.

-WoO

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Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Tim Shaffer , Donny Schatz , Steve Kinser , Jason Sides , Joey Saldana , Toni Lutar , Jac Haudenschild , Jason Statler , Jason York , Roger Crockett