Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saldana Wins Heat, Finishes Sixth in Texas



EL PASO, Texas – The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series made its only Texas stop Tuesday night at the inaugural event at El Paso Speedway Park, an oval-type configuration with wide sweeping turns and short straights.

In a random draw for qualifying order, Saldana was the first on the track in the Motter Equipment Fatheadz Eyewear 71M. His best circuit around the .45-mile track was 13.907 seconds, placing him twelfth in the qualifying order, earning him a valuable pole position in the third heat. Ironically it was the last qualifier on the track, David Gravel, who took quick time with a 13.453.

In the heat race, Saldana brought the field down for the green and took the lead in turn one. Running laps quicker than his qualifying time, he led all eight laps to the checkered flag. His heat victory gained him a position in the dash, important because the finish order of the dash determines the top-10 starting positions for the A-Main.

The dash inversion draw was the No. 4 ping pong ball transferring Saldana to the 10th and final starting spot. There was a wild start to the dash as Chad Kemenah and Jason Sides got together in turn one with Kemenah flipping wildly, coming to rest on all four wheels in the catch fence, bringing out the red flag. Kemenah unbuckled quickly and got out of the car. Sides went to the work area to make repairs. He re-fired briefly but took the car back to the pits. The green waved for the second time and it was caution free to the finish. Saldana crossed the finish stripe in the eighth position which established him as eighth on the starting grid for the A-Main.

After the four-wide salute to the fans, the field came down for the green in side-by-side formation. The waving of the green set off a torrid battle between Tony Stewart Racing team mates pole sitter Steve Kinser and number two starter Donny Schatz. The two were racing hard until Schatz bicycled and nearly flipped the car, falling back to seventh position, at which point Daryn Pittman and Craig Dollansky took up the battle for second. Kraig Kinser, Saldana and Schatz showed their driving skills in a three-wide race for fifth position. With less than 10 laps to go, the red flag flew when Cody Darrah drove over the cushion and flipped hard in turn one. Darrah climbed out of the car to the cheers of the crowd. When racing resumed, the challenges continued and at the checkered flag, it was a wire-to-wire win for 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser taking his first victory of the season. Daryn Pittman was second, Craig Dollansky rounded out the podium finish, and Saldana finished sixth.

The teams have a grueling 1300-mile drive from El Paso to Paducah, Ky. where they will begin a series of MidWest races this Friday night.

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