BARBERVILLE, Fla. - Feb. 15, 2013 - There were hugs, smiles and high fives. Then, a hop onto the back of his car, where Daryn Pittman let out a yell that reached the edges of Volusia County as the confetti blanketed his new ride.
An extremely happy Pittman gave his NASCAR-star boss, Kasey Kahne, a grin as they celebrated on the frontstretch at Volusia Speedway Park Friday night following Pittman's World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season-opening victory in front of packed grandstands.
"We were stout from the time we unloaded and we were just lucky enough to come out on top," Pittman said. "I'm as happy as I've ever been driving a race car."
The 42nd annual UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment was the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season debut for Pittman, who got the call near the end of last season to compete for Kasey Kahne Racing.
"They built a really strong team over the offseason and it's fun to watch," Kahne said. "I'm glad we were able to get him in our car. I think he's done really well for a long period of time and now hopefully he can do really well all year for us.
"I was super happy to see him start off like this, but I didn't know how quickly they would gel and get things rolling."
Pittman's 31st career World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory - which ranks 14th all time - was a work in progress all night. After qualifying second quickest of the 40 competitors, Pittman charged from fourth to win his heat race.
The dash inversion was a six, making him start on the inside of the third row for the six-lap race that determines the lineup for the first five rows of the feature. Pittman passed one car to earn the fourth starting position in the 30-lap, $10,000-to-win main event.
After riding in third for the first 10 laps, Pittman rocketed to the lead on a restart one third of the way through the race. He drove around Kasey Kahne Racing teammate Brad Sweet entering turn one and then slid Sammy Swindell, who led the first 10 laps, entering turn three.
"You weren't going to pass eight or 10 cars to win tonight, so I think our dash, gaining that row, helped and put us in position to win," Pittman said. "And just being in the right place at the right time in the A (Main) and just having a car that was good enough that I could move around. Some nights you've just got to get what you can in a short amount of time and just hope it's enough at the end."
Pittman began to drive away before Swindell reeled him in as they entered traffic just past the halfway mark. The duo restarted side by side twice in the final 10 laps after cautions for David Gravel and Lance Dewease, but the inside groove was the preferred line and Pittman chose it on each restart.
Swindell's front nose wing began to break apart in the final half-dozen laps and part of it lodged in his cockpit in the closing laps. He maintained second place until running out of fuel on the backstretch of the final lap, which dropped Swindell from second to fourth place.
Jac Haudenschild, who cracked the top three on a restart with 10 laps remaining, was within striking distance and assumed the runner-up finish.
"It's definitely good to be out front because the clean air does help," he said. "I followed Sammy for quite a while. It was just tight back there behind cars. The track was narrow, but we're happy with a second-place finish"
Sweet, who ran second to Swindell for the first 10 laps, narrowly edged him to claim the final spot on the podium and join his winning teammate.
"We started up front was the key to getting a podium," Sweet said. "Daryn was just really fast. He was able to get by me and Sammy there and kind of showed us something."
Paul McMahan, who set quick time in qualifying, rounded out the top five.
Craig Dollansky drove from 11th to sixth, Jason Sides placed seventh and Donny Schatz earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after maneuvering from 22nd to eighth. Kraig Kinser finished ninth and Steve Kinser rallied from 17th to end 10th.
The UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit continues on Saturday. Front gates are scheduled to open at 5 p.m. with hot laps around 6 p.m. and Opening Ceremonies at 7:20 p.m.
UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment Notebook
NOTES - Donny Schatz was presented with his 2012 championship ring during Opening Ceremonies. … Lance Dewease, Daryn Pittman, Brooke Tatnell and Justin Henderson each claimed their first heat race win of the season. … The dash draw was a six. … Sammy Swindell won his first dash of the year. … Joey Saldana became the first Last Chance Showdown winner of the season. … Pittman is the fourth different season-opening winner in as many years.