[media-credit name=”Dan Kapuscinski/Rolling Wheels Raceway Park” align=”alignright” width=”198″][/media-credit]Cold and damp. Those are the best descriptions for Rolling Wheels Raceway Saturday night. But cold has never been a deterrent for the Outlaws or their fans. Cold or not when the gates opened at 5PM New York time the crowds began to pour in. With hot laps on the track and not many empty seats seen there was still a line of traffic to get onto the raceway’s grounds. The grandstands were packed. The track was packed and the drivers were rested and ready after almost a week off. It was time to race. And nothing would warm the crowd and the drivers like the mighty wings of the Outlaws on the track.
The evening saw a 28 car field for the 5/8 mile semi banked dirt clay oval track in Elbridge, N.Y.. Qualifying draw would spread the touring Outlaws throughout the order with Sammy Swindell going out last. The track record of 15.952 seconds was set 8 years ago by Craig Dollansky. Though the field would get no where near that record tonight, it was still a very fast field with Quick Time going to Daryn Pittman with a lap of 17.027 seconds or 132.143 mph. Dollansky would time 2nd and Schatz would time 3rd. Allowing Dollansky to pick up a point on Schatz in the very beginning of the night. The remainder of the top 5 were Joey Saldana and local driver Shawn Donath.
The first heat of the night would set the tone for the evening. A fast paced no holds barred 8 lap shootout that saw a return of The King, Steve Kinser to the Dash. The race would be won by Kerry Madsen, with Kinser coming home second, Saldana third, Quick Time holder Daryn Pittman in 4th and Justin Barger in 5th and an old friend from the Canada Glenn Styres rounding out the transferring cars. Not making the cut would be last years rookie of the year Cody Darrah. Darrah who had a uncharacteristically bad evening would struggle all evening.
The second heat would see ASCOC Champion, David Gravel take the checkers over Lucas Wolfe, Shawn Donath, Sammy Swindell, Craig Dollansky and Bill Rose. Sammy Swindell would literally hold class for the young drivers in the field when he climbed from 8th to 4th in a single lap. Although Swindell could advance no further, he gave notice that a poor qualifying lap was not going to hold the Big Game Tree Stands number 1 back. He served notice in a very convincing manner that he was there to win, and starting from the back only meant he would have to work a little harder at it.
The third heat would qualify the final 6 into the A Main. Chad Kemenah, Kraig Kinser, Donny Schatz, Paul McMahan, Jessica Zemken, and Jamie Collard would all advance into the feature. Kemenah, Kinser and Schatz would advance to the Dash.
The Dash was a hard fought battle between the top 4 cars. But it offered a glimpse of what was to come later in the evening with the A Main. The dash was won by Chad Kemenah with Steve Kinser coming home second, Donny Schatz third and Kerry Madsen 4th. There was a bit of foreboding there when Dollansky crossed the stripe in 7th after having Magneto trouble in both the dash and his heat race. Was Dollansky snake bit? Only time would tell.
The Last Chance Showdown would transfer the final 6 cars into the A Main. Looking at the line up one would be tempted to pick Cody Darrah from the outside front row as a sure thing. But making that choice would have been a mistake. Long time modified champ Frank Cozze was starting on the pole. Cozze had won his first Sprint Car race earlier in the year in upstate New York. Frank was determined to make a run for his second tonight. Cozze jumped out into the lead on lap one and never looked backed winning the last chance showdown by a 1.8 second margin over Cody Darrah, Bobby Breen, Joe Smith, Daniel Mazy and Mike Stelter.
The field for the A Main was set and even with the deep chill in the air the anticipation was palpable. Steve Kinser had the most wins of any driver at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park having won 11 out of 34 races could he send the monkey on his back, packing back to the zoo and win number 12? Donny Schatz was lurking back in the third spot, Schatz had been on a terror for 12 weeks, would he take win number 12 on the season? Madsen had run hard all night and was showing the same kind of patience and skills that had made him a contender and winner all season, would he make it number 6 on the year? And far from least sitting back in 21st starting spot was the crafty veteran and 4 time champion Sammy Swindell. Swindell had already shown he could move up very quickly through a field would he find a way to the front tonight?
The 25 lap feature was a hard fought and determined race. Chad Kemenah lead 16 laps and at one time had pulled away from 2nd place Steve Kinser by almost 3 seconds. But then came the traffic, and no one works traffic better than the King of the Outlaws and on lap 17 Steve Kinser took the lead and worked the traffic like a maestro conducting the 5th symphony of Beethoven. Where ever he found them he passed them pulling out to a straight a way lead on Kemenah and Schatz in less than a lap. His teammate Donny Schatz wasn’t done yet and he split lapped traffic on the bottom to take second from Kemenah with 4 laps to go. But the King was long gone. Schatz could close but he was too far back to catch Steve Kinser. Afterward, Schatz would be asked if he had had more time could he have caught him? Schatz replied, “No way he was hooked up. We finished 2nd. We came to win but we finished 2nd.” Chad Kemenah would come home 3rd. And in post race comments said that he had no regrets. Oh and that crafty veteran Sammy Swindell he would be the Hard Charger of the race climbing from 21st to 8th.
There was not a single position that was not hard fought for on the track in the A Main. Every driver, every team ran hard and showed the skills and guts that it takes to take on the might wings of the Outlaws. The winner on the night? Well Steve Kinser took home the trophy and the check and he notched win number 574 for his career. But the real winners were the fans in the stands and at home following with help from Johnny Gibson and the WoO team. The World of Outlaws raced hard. They raced wide open. They took chances. They didn’t points race not even Schatz and Dollansky points raced. They raced for the checkers. They reminded us what the real point of the sport is. To cross the line first. If you cross the line first enough times you come home with the most points at the end and you take home the big prize. But you do that with the grace, courage, skills and determination of a champion.
Oh yeah the points race. Donny Schatz increased his point lead over Craig Dollansky by 9 points going into the final 4 races of the year. That means he has a 168 point lead over Dollansky. Is it insurmountable? No. But Schatz would have to miss at least 2 features for Dollansky to get the championship if Dollansky won both of them. Mathematically it’s possible but it is not very probable. Still however, things happen fast and stranger things have happened. So we go into the next race saying Schatz is close to sealing the championship but he doesn’t have it yet. Will Dollansky find a way? Will Schatz stumble and fall? Will lady luck remain true to her chosen champion thus far Schatz? Or will she jump ship and give Dollansky a hand up to the deck? We have 4 more races to find out.
Qualifying Results: 1) Daryn Pittman 17.027 132.143 mph, 2) Craig Dollansky, 3) Donny Schatz, 4) Joey Saldana 5) Shawn Donnath, 6) Paul McMahan 7) Steve Kinser 8) David Gravel 9) Chad Kemenah 10) Kerry Madsen 11) Lucas Wolfe 12) Kraig Kinser 13) Glenn Styres 14) Bill Rose 15) Jessica Zemken 16) Justin Barger 17) Frank Cozze 18) Jamie Collard 19) Cody Darrah 20) Bobby Breen 21) Michael Parent 22) Danny Franek 23) Sammy Swindell 24) John Smith 25) Mike Stetler 26) Dick Spadaro 27) Daniel Mazy 28) April Wilson.
First Heat Race Results: 1) Kerry Madsen 2) Steve Kinser 3) Joey Saldana 4) Daryn Pittman 5) Justin Barger 6) Glenn Styres 7) Cody Darrah 8) Davey Franek 9) Mike Stelter 10) April Wilson
Second Heat Race Results: 1) David Gravel 2) Lucas Wolfe 3) Shawn Donath 4) Sammy Swindell 5) Craig Dollansky 6) Bill Rose 7) Frank Cozze 8) Bobby Breen 9) Dick Spadaro
Third Heat Race Results: 1) Chad Kemenah 2) Kraig Kinser 3) Donny Schatz 4) Paul McMahan 5) Jessica Zemken 6) Jamie Collard 7) John Smith 8) Daniel Mazy 9) Michael Parent
Dash Results: 1) Chad Kemenah 2) Steve Kinser 3) Donny Schatz 4) Kerry Madsen 5) David Gravel 6) Joey Saldana 7) Craig Dollansky 8) Lucas Wolfe 9) Daryn PIttman 10) Kraig Kinser
Last Chance Showdown Results: 1) Frank Cozze, 2) Cody Darrah, 3) Bobby Breen, 4) John Smith, 5) Daniel Mazy, 6) Mike Stelter 7) Dick Spadaro 8) April Wilson 9) Davey Franek 10) Michael Parent (DNS)
A Main: 1) Steve Kinser 2) Donny Schatz 3) Chad Kemenah 4) Kerry Madsen 5) David Gravel 6) Joey Saldana 7) Craig Dollansky 8) Sammy Swindell (Hard Charger) 9) Paul McMahan 10) Daryn Pittman 11) Lucas Wolfe 12) Justin Barger 13) Shawn Donath 14) Bill Rose 15) Kraig Kinser 16) Cody Darrah 17) Glenn Styres 18) Jessica Zemeken 19) Frank Cozze 20) Jamie Collard 21) Bobby Breen 22) Joe Smith 23) Mike Stelter 24) Daniel Mazy.
KSE Hard Charger Award: Sammy Swindell from 21st to 8th.