SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. — The right move at the right time won Saturday night’s NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series feature for David Gravel at Granite City Speedway.
It was lap 29 of 35 and Sheldon Haudenschild at was poised to steal the lead from Gravel; only until a lane change completely flipped the script.
His pace through lapped traffic ultimately told Gravel something was off, and he jetted from the low line to the cushion at once down the backstretch. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as Haudenschild prepared to launch a slide job for the lead, but his momentum ran dry and the move fell short coming to the five-to-go signal.
Gravel’s perfect timing guided him to his fifth win of the season and the 63rd of his career.
With a big month looming for him and his car owner Tod Quiring, they started off on the right foot with a home state win. The Big Game Motorsports shop is located in Windom, Minn.
“The car was really great,” Gravel exclaimed. “I could run both lanes, and that ended up being big. I could tell off the lappers I was slow through the corners. He [Haudenschild] started rolling and I moved up at the perfect time. Luckily, it wasn’t 40 laps or I might’ve been in trouble. To win on a slick track like that and pass Brad, Donny, that sure feels good.”
The 35-lap feature began with Aaron Reutzel driving past Donny Schatz to lead the opening circuit at the three-eighths-mile. Reutzel and Schatz ran 1-2 for the first 14 laps until the only caution of the race flew for a turn one pileup involving Carson Macedo, James McFadden and Dominic Scelzi.
The first and only restart of the race ensued and quickly shuffled the order. A rough restart on the outside for Schatz sent his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing No. 15 falling to fourth as Gravel and seventh-starting Haudenschild roared to life.
Gravel proceeded to sneak under Reutzel’s Roth Motorsports No. 83 and take command, but it was short-lived as Haudenschild slapped the right rear of his NOS Energy Drink No. 17 off the fence and drove around them both to lead lap 16 by a mere 0.011 seconds.
Gravel took it back the next time by and held on until the checkered flag, but it wasn’t without a fight.
It came down to Gravel, the lone duck working in lap traffic, vs. Haudenschild and Schatz over the closing laps.
A perfect decision shattered all of Haudenschild’s momentum and ultimately sealed the deal on Gravel’s Minnesota victory for the Big Game Motorsports boys.
“I saw Sheldon earlier when we were side-by-side for several laps, and I assumed he heated his tires up and disappeared,” Gravel said. “Every time I hit the top I tried to look out the left side and make sure nobody was there. I was banging it off the cushion a couple of times. Definitely uncharacteristic for me, but Sheldon made me get up in the seat.”
Scoring his fourth second-place finish of the season was Schatz.
“We just couldn’t get to the right place at the right time,” Schatz noted. “Being outside on that restart killed what little run we had. Trying to get those spots back was tough. We salvaged a decent finish, though. We’re in the hunt and we’re getting closer. That makes me feel a lot better.”
Haudenschild, who officially led one lap, secured his third-consecutive podium finish.
“He just moved up at the perfect time,” Haudenschild said. “As soon as I was getting that run on him, he moved up with the lappers in front of him. I felt like I did a good job creeping around the bottom and moved up at the right time, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll keep clicking off these podiums and the wins will come.”
To see full results, turn to the next page.