BRISTOL, Tenn. – The undeniable feeling of momentum powered David Gravel to another prestigious victory Sunday afternoon in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series Bristol Throwdown finale at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Fresh off Friday’s opening night win, Gravel orchestrated a dramatic late-race charge to pass polesitter Logan Schuchart with two laps to go for the $25,000 prize and a spot in the history books.
The 28-year-old joins Sammy Swindell as the only drivers to win multiple sprint car features at Bristol Motor Speedway. It bolsters Gravel’s impressive resume that includes a Knoxville Nationals win and two Williams Grove National Open titles.
“To come in and sweep the weekend is a good feeling,” said Gravel, who pushed his series win total this season from one to three in a matter of three days. “I’ve been saying we’re going to be good on big tracks. That showed this weekend.”
“It’s amazing to be on the list as Bristol winners,” Gravel added. “Next on the list is [a] King’s Royal.”
As he did all weekend, Gravel generated runs like no other in Sunday’s finale. So, when Gravel had a head of steam off turn two with two laps to go and shot to Schuchart’s inside, his intuition took over.
While Schuchart opted the top side in turns three and four, Gravel sailed it in low and raced up to the cushion off the exit of turn four. He cleared Schuchart by a full car and then raced under the white flag.
“I knew I needed to get to the grip and keep my momentum going,” Gravel said. “If I did all that work to get beside him … if I try to hold it low and spin my tires all the way down the frontstretch, that puts me in a position in turns one and two to get passed back.”
Schuchart, who led the opening 23 laps, could not counter. The polesitter’s engine expired in pursuit of Gravel with one lap remaining off the exit of turn two. That moved Donny Schatz to second and set up a green-white-checkered finish on a single-file restart. That only helped Gravel, who set sail in clean air.
The day started with 17 of 26 drivers breaking the previous track record set by Gravel (13.672 seconds) on Friday. Sam Haferetepe Jr. led that intense session of time trials of 13.326 seconds, an average of 142.098 MPH.
Gravel was second-quickest in time trials, a tick off Hafertepe’s new track record with a lap of 13.391 seconds.
He started the feature second but then slipped to third when Schatz maneuvered around Gravel on a restart four laps into the race.
At that point, it appeared Schatz would come into form and perhaps elusive series victory No. 300 was in reach. But on lap seven, a caution for Sheldon Haudenschild allowed Gravel to get by Schatz, who fell off in the later portion of the feature,
“I think if you look at what’s happened all year long you’ll see that,” Schatz said. “We start out OK, then we get to the midpoint of the race and we’re really good. We either have a yellow, or get too much heat in the engine, or something, and we have something happen and it slows down. Same thing happened [Friday]. I didn’t change anything I did. We didn’t change anything. It’s a part of being in a developmental stage.”
Schuchart entered traffic on lap 13 and the race for the win heated up from there. Gravel only got better, too. He could utilize the top to generate the runs he needed and the bottom in turns one and two when necessary, the one line Schuchart couldn’t quite hit.
“It took me a while to get momentum, I felt,” Gravel said. “Then, I felt pretty good.”
With eight laps to go, Gravel had sucked up to the rear of Schuchart, who then used the lapped car of Steve Kinser as a pick in turns three and four to extend his lead. Gravel tried staying with Schuchart, but got tied up behind Kinser.
That’s when Gravel reverted to the bottom in turns one and two, and the dramatic rally to another prestigious victory had just begun.
Schatz, meanwhile, finished second. Aaron Reutzel, who changed engines for the third time in as many days of competition at the Bristol Throwdown, ended up third.
Series points leader Brad Sweet came 11th.
David Gravel, Donny Schatz, Aaron Reutzel, Gio Scelzi, Paul McMahan, Carson Macedo, Brock Zearfoss, Spencer Bayston, James McFadden, Cory Eliason, Brad Sweet, Tyler Courtney, Wayne Johnson, Sheldon Haudenschild, Ryan Taylor, Parker Price-Miller, Derek Hagar, Kraig Kinser, Logan Schuchart, Jac Haudenschild, Rico Abreu, Tim Shaffer, Jason Sides, Sam Hafertepe Jr.