Gravel dominated the night by earning his 19th Quick Time and ninth win of the season
A hunger had been building inside David Gravel the last three weeks.
His appetite for another win had been teased on several occasions. He set Quick Time three times since his last win in September but was unable to make the achievements relevant with another win.
Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway for the opening night of the National Open, Gravel was presented with a full course meal. He made sure to leave no crumbs for his competition.
He set Quick Time for the 19th time this season. Won his Drydene Heat race. Drew the pole for the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash and won it. And then further demonstrated his mastery of the half-mile speedway by leading all 25 laps to claim his ninth win of the season – tying 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz for the second most wins this season. The victory was also his second win at Williams Grove Speedway this year – sixth overall.
“Just happy to Quick Time and win a race,” Gravel said, of Watertown, Conn. “Seems like the couple of races we’ve been drawing a bad pill for the Dash draw and tonight we were able to get a good draw. So just an awesome night. Finally get to show how good this car is.”
Gravel was proficient on the tacky track conditions all night. He couldn’t afford to be anything less. Fellow masters of the paper clip-shaped track, 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz and PA Posse veteran Lance Dewease had cars fast enough to keep Gravel starving for another win if he made a mistake.
At the start of the 25-lap Feature, Schatz moved his way from third to second by the second lap of the race and Dewease went from sixth to fifth before the first lap was completed.
Before they could try to make up any more ground, the caution came out on Lap two for Kerry Madsen, who lost his brakes.
On the restart Gravel launched ahead of Schatz. The Fargo, N.D.-native peeked underneath Gravel going into turn one, but the Mesilla Valley Transportation No. 41 was strong around the high side of the speedway. Gravel, again, launched ahead of the Toco Warranty No. 15 car down the backstretch.
Behind them, Dewease continued his relentless charge to the front by making the pass for fourth into turn one and then passed Cory Eliason for third-place off turn four. Schatz was his next target.
Gravel, Dewease and Schatz had already won at Williams Grove Speedway earlier this year. For Gravel, he was on a quest to cure his craving for another win. Dewease was looking for his 99th win in total at the speedway. Schatz was not only eyeing another win, but a chance to close the points gap between he and points leader Brad Sweet, who started 20th.
The caution came out again on Lap five for Jeff Halligan having an issue with his engine, which left oil on the track. Now Schatz and Dewease were close enough to Gravel to potentially spoil his night.
However, on the restart, Gravel shot ahead of the 30-car field, clearing Schatz before turn one. Both drivers went low through the first corner. Gravel, again, showed the strength of his car by being able to pull away from Schatz exiting the corner and down the backstretch.
Schatz faded away from Gravel and Dewease closed to the No. 15 car’s bumper. The Fayetteville, Pa.-native stalked Schatz for several laps, while Gravel pulled away from them by more than a second. With 18 laps to go, Dewease dove underneath Schatz into turn three, cleared him for second by the apex of the corner but couldn’t hold the bottom. Dewease slid to the cushion in turn four, allowing Schatz to drive back underneath him and take the position back.
The two stayed in their respective positions for the next 15 laps. Dewease never faded from Schatz. Always kept the pressure on him. He tried to pass Schatz a few more times, but Schatz always ended the battle with the advantage.
Gravel reached lap traffic by Lap 16. It was Schatz and Dewease’s opportunity to try to make up ground on the leader.
“It was real hard,” Gravel said about the lap traffic. “If I went low the guy on the outside of me was just as fast. If they didn’t mess up it was going to be hard to get by them. Luckily Sheldon (Haudenschild) messed up once. Got by him. I was able to get by Kraig (Kinser). The top opened with Jacob (Allen) and I was able to put together a few good laps there. I don’t know how close anybody was.”
There was no pressure from behind for Gravel. Even in heavy lap traffic. With three laps to go Dewease was able to dive underneath Schatz into turn one and clear him for the runner-up spot. However, Gravel was more than two second ahead of him.
The Jason Johnson Racing team found themselves back in Victory Lane, picking up the $10,000 prize, while Dewease settled for a runner-up finish and Schatz rounded out the podium.
“We were pretty good from the start,” Dewease said. “It’s a hard field. A lot of fast race cars. I had some of the best in the country I had to pass.”
After two nights in-a-row of finishes outside the top-15 for Schatz and losing more than 30 points to Sweet, he rebounded with a podium finished and almost cut Sweet’s points lead in half. Coming into Friday night’s race Schatz was 40 points behind Sweet. He is now 26 points behind the Kasey Kahne Racing driver. However, Sweet stopped the bleeding from being worse by charging from 20th to 10th, picking up the KSE Hard Charger award.
“We were kind of hanging,” Schatz said about his race. “We’ve got to adapt to somethings and the guys did a great job with that. Hopefully we can learn from the night and make improvements for tomorrow.”
Schatz also had Ford’s new 410-c.i. motor in his car. He said he was pleased with it.
“It’s finally a relief that it’s here,” Schatz said. “You can’t say enough about these guys. I don’t think anyone will see the work and how much went into this… All we can do is keep building on it and keep working on it and that’s what we’ll do because that’s what we do.”
Friday’s night victory for Gravel and his team helped cure one hungry, but another formulated soon after with the National Open on Saturday night paying $65,000-to-win.
“It feels good to win the first night, but tomorrow is why we’re here,” Gravel said.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series on Saturday, Oct. 5, will return to Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. for the National Open. Get tickets and more information.
As always, if you can’t make it to the race, you can watch all of the action LIVE on DIRTVision.com.