Saldana dominates NAPA Classic Preliminary KNOXVILLE, IA (June 28) - Joey Saldana hasn't won many Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series races, but he has always been one of its fastest drivers. The 1996 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year won every...
Saldana dominates NAPA Classic Preliminary
KNOXVILLE, IA (June 28) - Joey Saldana hasn't won many Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series races, but he has always been one of its fastest drivers.
The 1996 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year won every race he entered when the series opened the NAPA Classic at Knoxville Raceway Friday, however, finishing first in the First Heat Race, the First O'Reilly Auto Parts Dash and the 25-lap Preliminary Feature.
"We've been really fast lately, but I've just been screwing up and making mistakes," Saldana said. "Toward the end there, I was behind Dennis Moore, Jr., and I moved down the race track and found a little bit of rubber there so I figured I'd be OK if I just stayed there. I'm just glad we won tonight. I'm not even thinking about tomorrow right now.
"These guys are the best in the business. Steve Kinser, Danny Lasoski, Stevie Smith - all of them - are just so good night-in and night-out. Steve's won about 300 (actually 457) more races than I have, so we're just trying to stay out here racing and trying to get some experience."
The $5,000 victory was Saldana's first in a Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series Preliminary Feature since April 10, 1998, at Eldora Speedway. He won the Spring Nationals at Devil's Bowl Speedway March 16th. Smith was Friday's runner-up, taking the checkered flag 1.8 seconds behind Saldana, while Kinser finished third and Lasoski was the fifth-place finisher.
Saldana, the ninth-fastest qualifier in the 50-car field, earned the right to start the Preliminary Feature on the pole by winning his fifth O'Reilly Auto Parts Dash of the season. He drove his family's #17 Eagle Raceway/HEM Saw Eagle into the lead as the green flag fell in the evening's main event. Kinser and Lasoski passed Craig Dollansky for third and fourth place during the opening lap.
Saldana was .2 seconds ahead of Smith when the leaders entered lapped traffic six laps into the race. Smith tried to pass Saldana for the lead in the low groove between turns on and two as Lasoski challenged "The King of the Outlaws" for third place two laps later.
Provisional starter Larry Ball, Jr., took the leaders out of lapped traffic when he stopped on the back straightaway early in lap nine. The caution flag was flying again the next time around as the #5 Maxim driven by Jac Haudenschild lost its left rear wheel cover and gears. Tony Norem flipped in the second corner as the race resumed, bringing out the red flag.
Saldana controlled the ensuing restart and was .4 seconds ahead of Smith when he caught the back-markers during the 17th lap. Smith raced wheel-to-wheel through turns one and two with Saldana the next time around, but was unable to drive the #11H Vivarin Maxim into the lead.
Donny Schatz lost sixth place late in lap 20 when a mechanical malfunction forced him to stop between the third and fourth corners. Dollansky, who raced regularly at Knoxville Raceway in the early 1990s, passed "The Dude" for fourth place in the low groove between turns turns one and two with 3 2/3 laps remaining.
Fourth Heat Race winner Daryn Pittman started the Preliminary Feature inside the seventh row and raced past five cars during the first 20 laps. The defending World of Outlaws Gumout Series champion took the high line around Australian Skip Jackson heading into the second corner early in lap 22. Pittman challenged Tim Shaffer the next time around, but was unable to drive the #21 Hop & Sac J&J into sixth place.
Mechanical problems in the #5M Mopar Maxim forced Mark Kinser to drop out of the "B" Feature. The two-time Knoxville Nationals champion used a provisional and raced into 13th place from inside the 13th row in the Preliminary Feature.
James Chesson, racing with the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series for the first time this year, paced the qualifying session with a 118.515-M.P.H. lap around Knoxville's legendary semi-banked, ½-mile oval. He was running sixth in the First Heat Race when his engine lost power.
Johnny Herrera lost third place in the First Heat Race when the left side panel on his top wing collapsed. The 1995 Knoxville Raceway champion finished second in the "B" Feature and drove Billy Wilburn's #2W Heintz Brothers Maxim into 15th place in the evening's main event.