BRANDON, S.D. — Entering Monday night’s World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series event at Huset’s Speedway, David Gravel said he felt no pressure to win at the track owned by his car owner, Tod Quiring.
Despite that declaration, Gravel won anyway — and won convincingly — leading 26 of 35 laps at the quarter-mile dirt oval and fending off a determined Donny Schatz during the opening night of the Billion Auto Huset’s 50.
Gravel maintained his track position as the Huset’s bullring took rubber late in the race and bested Schatz by .297 seconds for his sixth World of Outlaws win of the season and his second victory of the year at Huset’s. The Watertown, Conn., won a local 410 sprint car show at the track on June 6.
It marked the 64th win of Gravel’s World of Outlaws career, putting him just two behind Craig Dollansky and Bobby Davis Jr. for 13th on the all-time win list with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
“We’ve been really strong here lately, but luckily I got Donny back there,” tipped Gravel in victory lane. “I went to the top because I knew that was going to be the fastest lane, but he was able to start with me there and grab the lead on lap one. I tried hard to get back by him, and then I felt like I was better running second when we got into lapped traffic. Getting him back was, obviously, what won the race.”
Gravel admitted he was a bit nervous as the laps wound down, not knowing exactly how much tread was left on his Hoosier tires due to all the rubber that the track had taken on.
“I conserved my tire quite a bit, and that was all I had left at the end,” Gravel noted, gesturing to a nearly-bald tire on the black-and-orange sprint car sitting beside him in victory lane.
Though Gravel won the DIRTvision Fast Pass Dash to earn the pole for the 35-lapper, it was 10-time Outlaw champion Schatz who got the measure of the initial start, rolling the bottom of the quarter-mile dirt oval to perfection and leading the first nine laps uncontested.
However, traffic quickly became a factor prior to the lap-10 benchmark, and when Schatz got pinned behind the slower car of Paige Polyak, Gravel soared around the outside to take command of the race.
The caution lights blinked on at lap 11, when Aaron Reutzel tagged the outside wall exiting turn four with the Roth Motorsports No. 83, shredding a right-rear tire and breaking a wheel as well.
Reutzel went to the work area for repairs and returned briefly, but was caught up in another accident on the ensuing restart when Brian Brown and Brock Zearfoss got together coming to the green flag, spinning Zearfoss in front of Reutzel and leaving the three-time All Star champion with nowhere to go.
Reutzel retired shortly after that point and was credited with a 23rd-place finish.
Racing resumed on lap 12 after the restart skirmish and went green flag to the finish, with traffic becoming a factor around the midway point and remaining so as more and more rubber was laid down in the upper groove of the racing surface — particularly in turns three and four.
Gravel pulled a 1.573-second advantage on Schatz by lap 15, but the driver on the move was Kerry Madsen, who restarted seventh and found himself third one lap prior to the crossed flags being displayed for halfway.
Madsen could get no further, however, as Schatz slowly began to eat into Gravel’s lead as the duo worked through slower traffic. With 10 to go, the margin was down to one second, and at six to go Schatz was within four tenths of a second of the race leader and smelling blood in the water.
Schatz showed his hand with four laps left, poking a nose to the inside of Gravel’s No. 2 in turn one, but Gravel shut that pass attempt down and never let Schatz get another try after that.
From there, the order stayed unchanged, with Schatz settling for second and his 19th top-five finish of the year in 33 World of Outlaws features.
“I just didn’t go in the right spot there. I misjudged; I thought the 19 (Polyak) was going to miss the bottom and she didn’t, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Schatz explained. “David got back by us and that was that. I think we had something for him there at the end, so at least that’s a positive. … I was trying to get him to make a mistake; one and two was about the only place it was going to happen.”
“I got really tight when the rubber came in,” added Gravel. “I was actually watching Donny on the video screen, and I saw he was pretty close to me in one and two … so I just ran it really hard in three and four to try to get a little bit of a gap, because Donny’s one of the best rubber racers out there. It worked out.”
Madsen completed the podium, followed by two-time defending series champion Brad Sweet and NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson, who was looking for his fifth win in nine days after a pair of stock-car wins and a pair of sprint car triumphs.
Sheldon Haudenschild, Jacob Allen, Logan Schuchart, Justin Henderson and Kraig Kinser closed the top 10.
Madsen kicked off the night by setting the overall fast time over the 43-car field, with a lap of 10.706 seconds (91.463 mph) around the Huset’s oval measured at .272 miles by World of Outlaws officials.
Madsen, Gravel, Schatz and Reutzel won their respective heat races, with Jack Dover topping the C-Main and James McFadden winning the 12-lap Last Chance Showdown prior to the main event.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.