David Gravel (Trent Gower photo)

Gravel Gets In The Groove At River Cities

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — After running second for a majority of Friday’s 40-lap feature at River Cities Speedway, David Gravel crept up on James McFadden and slipped by on the 36th circuit before holding on to win the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series event.

“I think running second there all race was the best place to be,” Gravel said. “I knew the top was the fastest, but it’s hard to get there when you start on the bottom. That last restart when I was in the lead there, I probably should’ve started on the outside. But I fell back to third or second there, and then I was letting James go. It was one lane around the top, so he could go wear stuff out or maybe he was conserving, too. I just let him go and get to lap traffic, and I knew that was my only chance. I searched down there (turns three and four) for two laps. It was a little slower, but I felt it coming. Once it came in, it latched up really good.”

Gravel’s win was his fifth of the season with Big Game Motorsports. It also marked his second career victory at River Cities, making him the sixth driver through 30 series visits to the North Dakota bullring to own multiple wins.

Gravel began the race from the pole after topping the Toyota Racing Dash. Gravel took the lead at the drop of the green, but a caution flag after a lap allowed outside front row starter Brad Sweet to have another shot at him.

Sweet would not be denied on the next attempt as he drove ahead of Gravel to secure the top spot. Over the next handful of laps, Gravel stayed within striking distance as the lead duo neared traffic. When Sweet’s slider on a slower car in turns one and two didn’t clear, the door opened again for Gravel.

Heading down the backstretch, Gravel went under Sweet and cleared him with a slide job in turns three and four. But Gravel and Sweet opened themselves up to attack in the next set of corners. Gravel went low to protect, and Sweet followed him around the bottom. Behind them, a hard-charging James McFadden nailed the cushion and ripped around both of them to take the top spot.

From there, McFadden began to distance himself in the Roth Motorsports No. 83. McFadden appeared to be in control and heading toward back-to-back World of Outlaws wins for the first time in his career.

Then Gravel began to chip away at the advantage. Lap by lap the gap continued to shrink until Gravel neared the tail tank of the Roth No. 83. Coming to four laps to go, Gravel pulled the trigger and rolled through the middle of turns three and four to pass McFadden.

“I felt urgency like I had to pass that lapped car with two (laps) to go,” Gravel explained. “I couldn’t clear him. Then I heard J-Mac right on me, and I was like I’ve got to run it as hard as I can as close as I can, and if he was going to pass me, he was going to have to go around me.”

Behind Gravel, it was McFadden claiming the runner-up position after leading 25 laps of the main event.

“I still felt pretty decent on the top,” McFadden said of the closing stages of the race. “I felt like I could run it in pretty hard. It was sketchy, but I didn’t feel like I was spinning the tires a lot and struggling for grip. I got super tight behind a lapped car there, and that was probably enough for him to sneak by us. Nothing to hang our heads about. Sometimes it’s nice to be in second place.”

After leading early then slipping back nearly outside the top five, Brad Sweet rallied to bring the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 home third.

“That first lapped car just threw me for a loop,” Sweet said. “He did a 360 and got me slowed up. I thought I had enough of a run to slide him, but then he kind of gained some speed, and it kind of made me a sitting duck. I needed to clear him, and I didn’t get it done. It was really top dominant tonight, so once I got (tire) spinning and David got me, we raced down there and he went to the bottom of (turn) one and we were both sitting ducks. I just felt like there were a couple things I didn’t do good, and it set me up for a few bad laps.”

Carson Macedo and Logan Schuchart completed the top five.

The battle at the top of the standings is now incredibly tight with Sweet leading Gravel and Macedo by only two points.

The finish:

Feature (40 Laps): 1. 2-David Gravel[1]; 2. 83-James McFadden[4]; 3. 49-Brad Sweet[2]; 4. 41-Carson Macedo[6]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart[5]; 6. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[3]; 7. 1A-Jacob Allen[10]; 8. 15-Donny Schatz[11]; 9. 5-Spencer Bayston[7]; 10. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[13]; 11. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[12]; 12. 13-Mark Dobmeier[16]; 13. 7S-Robbie Price[20]; 14. 2A-Austin Pierce[23]; 15. 11M-Brendan Mullen[9]; 16. (DNF) 14T-Tim Estenson[19]; 17. (DNF) 9-Kasey Kahne[8]; 18. (DNF) 8-Jack Croaker[15]; 19. (DNF) 8H-Jade Hastings[21]; 20. (DNF) 26-Blake Egeland[18]; 21. (DNF) 20G-Noah Gass[17]; 22. (DNF) 17M-Zach Omdahl[24]; 23. (DNF) 0-Nick Omdahl[14]; 24. (DNF) 99-Jordan Graham[22]