STOCKTON, Calif. – The World of Outlaws played to a fired up sold-out crowd at the new Stockton 99 Dirt Track located on the San Joaquin Fairgrounds. The enthusiasm for the inaugural event didn’t stop with the fans, there were 45 entries trying to make the cut for the A-Main Feature, and for the first time this season, a C-Main was added.
Joey Saldana and the Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear team were excited about this new venue but challenges for the 71M team emerged early in the evening.
In the first warm-up group, as Saldana accelerated to get up to speed, a broken U-joint sidelined him. Back in the pits, the team had to pull out a back-up car after quickly determining the broken U-joint had destroyed the complete driveline, broken the rear end and motor plate and there was concern that it might have damaged the engine.
After five hot lap sessions, because the racing surface had changed dramatically, groups one and two were allowed to return for another warm-up session. Saldana was back out in the final hot lap session but at 15.185-seconds, it wasn’t the time he was looking for.
The team only had a very short time to make changes as Saldana was the seventh driver back on the track for qualifying. It was a dramatic improvement as Saldana lapped the circuit in 13.863 seconds but the track got quicker as driver after driver challenged the 3/8-mile track, and Saldana was 22nd quick in the qualifying order at the end of the session.
“Having a problem at the top of the show in the hot lap session really put us behind the eight-ball,” said a dejected Saldana. “When we finally got our hot lap session in we had a quick turn-around because we were out right away again in qualifying. Davey (Whitworth, crew chief) and the team did a good job in their assessment of the damage on our primary car, and followed with a quick decision to pull out the back-up car.
“We started sixth in our heat which was chock full of hard-charging, quick drivers including Steve Kinser, Tony Stewart, Donny Schatz, Sammy Swindell, Jonathan Allard, Jason Meyers, Craig Dollansky , Bobby McMahan, Nick Rescino and Greg Wilson.”
The drivers in the second heat race accounted for 30 World of Outlaws championships. Tough indeed.
When the grew flew, Saldana was driving with newfound intensity and by the second lap he was three-wide muscling his way to fifth place, passing Sammy Swindell. The two swapped positions but Saldana prevailed at the checker grabbing the fifth and final transfer spot of the heat to make the A-Main. Sammy Swindell was the second fastest qualifier and Saldana passed him consigning Swindell to the B-Main.
It was a long night filled with multiple cars spinning and flipping resulting in a lot of equipment carnage.
It was about 11:45 pm when Saldana took his 20th starting position in the A-Main. Kyle Larson and Tim Kaeding put on a show while battling for the trophy and displayed some skillful maneuvers while driving high and low, accented by slide jobs By the time the checker flew at 12:20 p.m., the count for cars upside down was in double digits. In the Feature, Saldana gained nine positions and finished 11th. Larson won the event, with Kaeding finishing second.
After a long night of racing, the 71M team still had to rebuild the primary car and perform maintenance on the car Joey raced at Stockton.
The team is looking for a good showing Saturday night in the Mini Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico.