|Photo courtesy of World of Outlaws, STP Sprint Cars|
Jackson Speedway hadn't seen the Outlaws in three years. Mother Nature wasn't sure she wanted the track to see them this year either, but the Outlaws are growing accustomed to racing the rain. Better yet, they are getting good at it.
It was an emotional night for everyone with the Outlaws, whether in the pits, in the stands or in the press. We had lost one of our own far too young and far too soon. It hurt. It was a reality check that could not be avoided or ignored. It left one of our children alone and without a father. We are a family. It is our responsibility to take care of our own. We don’t always see eye to eye. We don’t always agree on what is right or what is wrong, but we take care of our own. It was understood that Jason Leffler would have wanted us to take the green although the heavy dark cloud that hung over the pits affected everyone and everything. It would take the firing of the engines and the running of the race to dispel the darkness. Even then it was with tears and emotion that Donny Schatz accepted the trophy with his niece and nephew pulled close and tight.
Qualifying would run smoothly for the 34 drivers and teams. The track record of 15.601 seconds, set by Sam Hafertepe Jr. in May of 2010, would stand. Quick Time honors would go to Paul McMahan, with a lap of 16.068 seconds or 112.024 mph. Sammy Swindell, Daryn Pittman, Craig Dollansky and David Gravel would complete the top five qualifiers. Local driver and track champion Bill Boles would lose the side panel of his top wing, but would show extraordinary skill in completing his qualifying effort with an ineffective top wing and very little down force.
The first heat race of the evening would go off without a hitch with Jason Sides taking the checkers followed by Tim Kaeding, Paul McMahan, Ian Madsen and Kraig Kinser. David Gravel would just miss the A Main transfer in sixth. By the end of the first heat race there was enough moisture in the air from the impending rain that you could see vapor trails from the wings of the cars as they went around the track.
Heat Race two would see Joey Saldana and his legendary Motter Motorsports 71M take the victory. Saldana would be chased to the line by Australian champion Brooke Tatnell, Sammy Swindell, Kerry Madsen and Danny Lasoski. Pole sitter Skylar Prochaska would get over the cushion on the backstretch and pick the front end completely off the ground in a battle with Kerry Madsen. Prochaska would save the car but would lose many spots in the process finishing a disappointing eighth.
The third heat would bring the five time and current champion up against a challenger from his home state, when Mark Dobmeier and Donny Schatz started on the front row. Schatz would jump to the lead and never look back. Daryn Pittman and Dobmeier would battle for second until Dobmeier slowed on the backstretch and pulled into the infield with mechanical failure. Daryn Pittman, Cody Darrah, Jason Solwold and Scott Winters would transfer to the A. Dobmeier would be credited with eighth after the DNF. This was the first race in the Buffalo Wild Wings No. 82 for Jason Solwold as he replaced Lucas Wolfe. Wolfe was released from the team on Thursday.
The final heat race of the night was an incredible display of experience and skill. The race was won by Chad Kemenah with Craig Dollansky coming in second. The King of the Outlaws held class coming from sixth to third in two laps. Dollansky and Steve Kinser would trade second a couple of times before Dollansky would pull ahead on the final lap. Also transferring to the A were Brian Brown and Davey Heskin. Jody Rosenbloom would get over the backstretch cushion and spin the car to a stop at the halfway point and would retire from the heat.
With the threat of rain the Dash inversion was drawn in the pits and was a four pill. Craig Dollansky would start on the pole and win the race. Daryn Pittman and Sammy Swindell would round out the top three.
The excitement would begin in earnest in the Last Chance Showdown. Running from the rain is not an easy task. Everything speeds up. The time between races that is normally used to work on the cars goes away. With the Outlaws being the draw ticket, they go to the forefront and their program runs first. That procedure led to some unfortunate occurrences in the Showdown. On Lap 1, Kevin Ingle got in the air and flipped wildly in Turn 3 damaging the catch fence. Ingle would exit the car unharmed after catching his breath and regaining his bearings. There would be a complete restart.
On the pace laps leading back to green, Alan Gilbertson would drive into the backstretch infield entrance and hit a light pole while the race was still under caution. It is unknown whether he intended to enter the infield with a mechanical issue or if a mechanical issue forced him into the infield and into the pole. No one was injured and the driver climbed from the car.
On Lap 3 Matt Wasmund would get upside down and flip wildly in Turn 4 and come to rest on his roof. Wasmund apparently got over the cushion and into the Turn 4 wall without contact from any other competitor. Wasmund would climb from the car unhurt and the race would continue.
On Lap 5 Skylar Prochaska, Dylan Peterson and Jody Rosenboom would make contact out of the fourth turn. Peterson’s car would sustain heavy front suspension damage and be removed by a tow vehicle. Prochaska would be pushed off the track but would not return to the event. Rosenboom was able to keep the car going and finish the race.
In the end, the only MOPAR-powered car in the field would come home victorious and make his way into the A Main as David Gravel took the checkers followed by Mark Dobmeier, Dusty Zomer and Travis Whitney.
With the field complete it was time to rumble. The four-wide salute was run in missing man formation in honor of fallen driver, Jason Leffler. It was a strong and touching moment that left even the strongest of hearts with moist eyes.
When the green flag dropped it didn’t fly for long. David Gravel would jump the start in the 11th spot and be penalized a row. The complete restart would would see Craig Dollansky jump to the lead and pull away. But not for long, Daryn Pittman was coming like a house on fire and he meant to take the win. He took the lead in the middle of backstretch and set sail. Dollansky would fall back into the clutches of TSR/STP No. 15 of Donny Schatz. Schatz meant business and he was not settling for a podium finish this night. Schatz would take Dollansky on the low side coming out of two and he would set sail. Schatz caught Pittman who had a three second lead in two laps.
Schatz would get the lead in traffic and lose it again when the red flag waved for Dusty Zomer, who became a fire ball when his engine expired. Zomer was unhurt and able to coast the car to the fire crew before being pushed back to the trailer for the night.
On the restart, Schatz would take the lead out of two with a daring sling shot pass to the outside and never look back. Pittman could not close or gain ground on the champion once he took the lead.
The battle of the night would be for third place between teammates Craig Dollansky and Sammy Swindell. Sammy Swindell put on a clinic about what it is to be Sammy. His car control and skills with a winged sprint were demonstrated beautifully and he was able to hold off Dollansky until they caught the lapped car of Cody Darrah who blocked Swindell just long enough to allow Dollansky to regain the position. With only three laps left Swindell did not have time to get back by Dollansky for the position.
Victory Lane was a very emotional one for the five-time champion Donny Schatz. The normally quiet and controlled Schatz broke down in Victory Lane. “When we heard about Jason on Wednesday it took the wind out of our sails. I asked myself, why do I do this? It’s because it’s what I love. I’m just glad we had a safe night. This win is for Jason and Charlie.”
Daryn Pittman said, “Losing Jason put our thoughts into perspective. We are all safe. I am not happy with second, but our cars are good our team is good and we’re not giving up.”
Craig Dollansky, whose sponsor was the title sponsor of the race said, “We would have liked to come out with a win but it was a great effort by everyone. We were too tight to roll the bottom and that was where the groove was. It was a great race with Sammy and I hope the fans enjoyed it as much as I did.”
For the Outlaws family the hardest part is over. We have made it to and through the next race. We have assured ourselves that normal still exists. There is still pain. There is still an empty spot. There always will be. But the hardest part is going on. We have proven to ourselves and to the world that we can, as ”Lefturn” would have wanted, go on. He will live forever in our hearts and in our memories but we will pay him the respect that every champion is due by not crying for him any longer, but instead racing for him forever.
Qualifying: 1. 51-Paul McMahan, 16.068; 2. 1-Sammy Swindell, 16.081; 3. 9-Daryn Pittman, 16.244; 4. 7-Craig Dollansky, 16.271; 5. 6-David Gravel, 16.312; 6. 71M-Joey Saldana, 16.352; 7. 4-Cody Darrah, 16.369; 8. 21-Brian Brown, 16.429; 9. 83-Tim Kaeding, 16.431; 10. 55-Brooke Tatnell, 16.479; 11. 15-Donny Schatz, 16.504; 12. 63-Chad Kemenah, 16.516; 13. 7S-Jason Sides, 16.521; 14. 35-Skylar Prochaska, 16.541; 15. 13-Mark Dobmeier, 16.542; 16. 97G-Jody Rosenboom, 16.543; 17. 18-Ian Madsen, 16.546; 18. 33-Danny Lasoski, 16.564; 19. 82-Jason Solwold, 16.565; 20. 56-David Heskin, 16.582; 21. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 16.622; 22. 29-Kerry Madsen, 16.635; 23. 91-Dusty Zomer, 16.711; 24. 11-Steve Kinser, 16.756; 25. 16-Travis Whitney, 16.838; 26. 77X-Wayne Johnson, 16.838; 27. 23W-Scott Winters, 16.930; 28. 93-Derrick Lusk, 16.953; 29. 6R-Bill Rose, 16.981; 30. 25-Dylan Peterson, 17.028; 31. 4W-Matt Wasmund, 17.136; 32. O5-Bill Boles, 18.079; 33. 2K-Kevin Ingle, 18.286; 34. 97-Alan Gilbertson, 18.323
Heat 1 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. 7S-Jason Sides ; 2. 83-Tim Kaeding ; 3. 51-Paul McMahan ; 4. 18-Ian Madsen ; 5. 11K-Kraig Kinser ; 6. 6-David Gravel ; 7. 16-Travis Whitney ; 8. 6R-Bill Rose ; 9. 2K-Kevin Ingle 
Heat 2 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. 71M-Joey Saldana ; 2. 55-Brooke Tatnell ; 3. 1-Sammy Swindell ; 4. 29-Kerry Madsen ; 5. 33-Danny Lasoski ; 6. 25-Dylan Peterson ; 7. 77X-Wayne Johnson ; 8. 35-Skylar Prochaska ; 9. 97-Alan Gilbertson 
Heat 3 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. 15-Donny Schatz ; 2. 9-Daryn Pittman ; 3. 4-Cody Darrah ; 4. 82-Jason Solwold ; 5. 23W-Scott Winters ; 6. 91-Dusty Zomer ; 7. 4W-Matt Wasmund ; 8. 13-Mark Dobmeier 
Heat 4 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. 63-Chad Kemenah ; 2. 7-Craig Dollansky ; 3. 11-Steve Kinser ; 4. 21-Brian Brown ; 5. 56-David Heskin ; 6. 93-Derrick Lusk ; 7. O5-Bill Boles ; 8. 97G-Jody Rosenboom 
Dash - (6 Laps, finishing order determined first 10 starting positions of A-feature): 1. 7-Craig Dollansky ; 2. 9-Daryn Pittman ; 3. 1-Sammy Swindell ; 4. 83-Tim Kaeding ; 5. 15-Donny Schatz ; 6. 51-Paul McMahan ; 7. 71M-Joey Saldana ; 8. 55-Brooke Tatnell ; 9. 63-Chad Kemenah ; 10. 7S-Jason Sides 
Last Chance Showdown - (12 Laps - Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. 6-David Gravel  [-]; 2. 13-Mark Dobmeier  [-]; 3. 91-Dusty Zomer  [-]; 4. 16-Travis Whitney  [-]; 5. 35-Skylar Prochaska  [$200]; 6. 77X-Wayne Johnson  [$180]; 7. 97G-Jody Rosenboom  [$175]; 8. 93-Derrick Lusk  [$160]; 9. 6R-Bill Rose  [$150]; 10. O5-Bill Boles  [$150]; 11. 25-Dylan Peterson  [$150]; 12. 4W-Matt Wasmund  [$150]; 13. 97-Alan Gilbertson  [$150]; 14. 2K-Kevin Ingle  [$150]
A-Main - (30 Laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz  [$10,000]; 2. 9-Daryn Pittman  [$5,500]; 3. 7-Craig Dollansky  [$3,200]; 4. 1-Sammy Swindell  [$2,800]; 5. 83-Tim Kaeding  [$2,500]; 6. 51-Paul McMahan  [$2,300]; 7. 7S-Jason Sides  [$2,200]; 8. 71M-Joey Saldana  [$2,100]; 9. 21-Brian Brown  [$2,050]; 10. 55-Brooke Tatnell  [$2,000]; 11. 33-Danny Lasoski  [$1,500]; 12. 63-Chad Kemenah  [$1,200]; 13. 82-Jason Solwold  [$1,100]; 14. 13-Mark Dobmeier  [$1,050]; 15. 11K-Kraig Kinser  [$1,000]; 16. 29-Kerry Madsen  [$900]; 17. 6-David Gravel  [$800]; 18. 18-Ian Madsen  [$800]; 19. 11-Steve Kinser  [$800]; 20. 4-Cody Darrah  [$800]; 21. 56-David Heskin  [$800]; 22. 23W-Scott Winters  [$800]; 23. 91-Dusty Zomer  [$800]; 24. 16-Travis Whitney  [$800]. Lap Leaders: Daryn Pittman 1-12, 14; Donny Schatz 13, 15-30. KSE Hard Charger Award: 33-Danny Lasoski [+5]