When the West Coast Swing began for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series only one driver had visited Victory Lane in 2019.
Following the nine-race stretch, eight more drivers added their name to the win list as the level of competition on the track continues to rise. The only driver to repeat as a winner out West was David Gravel, who was victorious in two of the last four races of the West Coast Swing. Following his first win of the season, California native Brad Sweet moved into a tie for the lead in the series standings and wrapped up the West Coast Swing by moving into the top spot, by himself. The Outlaws head to Texas for this weekend, followed by a stretch of races in the Midwest as the schedule begins to pick up.
David Gravel was victorious twice during the West Coast Swing aboard the No. 41 for Jason Johnson Racing (JJR) and both wins had added meaning. Gravel’s first triumph of the season at Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford, marked the first for JJR since the passing of team founder Jason Johnson last year. When Gravel returned to victory lane a week later at Arizona Speedway, it marked his 41st career World of Outlaws A-Feature win, driving the No. 41, which was the number Johnson campaigned for a large portion of his career, including when he founded JJR.
“I kind of forgot about it, because if you try too hard to win a race, you know, it’s not going to come,” said Gravel of his 41st win. “I knew the next one was going to be 41, but it didn’t really all click. I’m glad to win on my sister’s birthday and it’s cool to be my 41st win. All of those things coming together, I guess it was meant to be.”
Brad Sweet had been close to winning a number of times this season and finally broke through at USA Raceway, leading the final 12 laps to earn the victory. That win moved him into a tie with Donny Schatz at the top of the series standings. Following a runner-up finish the next night at Arizona Speedway, Sweet took sole possession of the point lead as he chases his first series title. The Californian leads the series in top-five finishes.
“I think we were in the right place at the right time a lot of the time and we were able to capitalize,” Sweet said. “Coming from sixth to win is hard in these things, especially on a pretty fast track. We’ll take it any way we can get it.”
Aaron Reutzel swept the entire night of racing at Perris Auto Speedway on March 30 to score his second-career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series win. The native of Clute, Texas, was fastest in time trials of the 26 cars in attendance. Reutzel followed that up with a win in the first heat race as well as the dash. He led all 30 laps of the main to win in dominating fashion. Coincidentally, both of Reutzel's World of Outlaws wins have come in the state of California, as he scored his first series triumph in 2018 at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare.
Oh So Close...
Sheldon Haudenschild came close to picking up his first win of the season on a couple of occasions. He led the first 19 laps at Keller Auto Speedway, after starting on the pole and also paced the first 13 circuits at Arizona Speedway, again after starting on the point. At Keller Auto Speedway, the young driver finished third, which he matched, yet again, at Arizona Speedway. Those finished helped the Ohio native firmly establish himself among the top-10 in points.
A New Combination
Following the pair of races in Arizona, the CJB Motorsports team, for whom Shane Stewart drives, switched their engine program. The Pennsylvania-based squad is now running power plants from Gray Motorsports, owned by longtime NHRA Pro Stock and Funny Car driver, Johnny Gray.
“We kind of had some issues, kind of going on for about a year,” said Crew Chief Barry Jackson, in regards to the team’s engine program. “It’s going to be a little bit of a learning experience for both them and myself. They’re great engine builders, but it’s like me going over there to try and work on a Pro Stock car or a Funny Car. It’s a whole different ball game.”
Near The Front
Daryn Pittman continued his strong start to the season aboard the Roth Motorsports No. 83 as the West Coast Swing came to a close. The 2013 series champion ran second at Hanford, was seventh in Tucson and sixth at Arizona Speedway. After leading the point standings for the first nine races of the season, he is currently third, just 14 markers out of the top spot as he chases his second Outlaws title and the first for Roth Motorsports.
Donny Schatz remains the only driver on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series tour who has finished among the top-10 in each and every race. The 10-time and defending series champion wrapped up the West Coast Swing with finishes of sixth, seventh, fourth and fourth, respectively. At Arizona Speedway, Schatz earned the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award, coming from the 13th starting spot to finish fourth. Schatz leads the series with 11 top-10 finishes, while he has seven top-five performances, which is second only to point leader Brad Sweet.
Brent Marks and Kraig Kinser both earned their best finishes of the season in Arizona. Marks, who raced his way into the dash at USA Raceway, crossed the line sixth at the three-eighths-mile on April 5. That helped the third-year driver break into the top-10 in the series standings. The next night, Kinser came home eighth at Arizona Speedway, working his way forward from the 11th starting position. The Indiana native is just four points out of the top-10 in the series standings as the schedule get busier.
A Long Trek
Mark Dobmeier travelled over 1,800 miles from Grand Forks, N.D., to compete with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series at Perris Auto Speedway in Southern California. The winningest driver in River Cities Speedway history then headed to Arizona with the Outlaws, where he finished 11th at USA Raceway in Tucson.
Carson Macedo finished in top-10 in three of the last four West Coast races, including a runner-up at Perris. The leading contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award is currently fourth in points, in what is also his first season driving for Kyle Larson Racing. Macedo, who won in his home state of California at Silver Dollar Speedway last month, has nine top-10 finishes in the first 11 races of the season.
Valley of the Sun
Arizona was good to Ian Madsen as he ran second at Tucson and was fifth at Arizona Raceway. Those finishes helped the sophomore driver move up to seventh in the series standings. Madsen, who won earlier this season at Thunderbowl Raceway in California, has five top-five finishes, which is third-most on the Outlaws tour.
Shark Racing Heating Up
Jacob Allen picked up a season best finish of seventh at Arizona Speedway, winning a heat and getting in the dash. Allen’s Shark Racing teammate, Logan Schuchart was eighth at USA Raceway and 10th at Arizona Speedway. The Pennsylvanian is currently sixth in points on the strength of seven top-10 finishes.
Following his first win of the season at USA Raceway, Brad Sweet moved into a tie for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series point lead. A runner-up finish the next night, put him in sole possession of the top spot, four markers ahead of 10-time and defending series champion Donny Schatz. Daryn Pittman, who led the standings through the first nine races of the season, is currently third, 14 points back. Carson Macedo is currently fourth, 82 markers out of the lead, with David Gravel in fifth, just four points behind him. Logan Schuchart currently sits sixth in the standings, with Ian Madsen seventh, Shane Stewart eighth, Sheldon Haudenschild ninth and Brent Marks 10th. A total of 11 nights of racing have been completed thus far in 2019, through April 6.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series heads to the historic Devil's Bowl Speedway in Texas on April 12-13. The half-mile was the site of the first-ever Outlaws race, back in 1978. Jimmy Boyd won the finale of that event, with a star-studded field from coast-to-coast in attendance. This year, the finale of the Texas Outlaw Nationals will pay $20,000 to the winner. Following a weekend off for Easter, the Outlaws head to the Midwest for a trio of events at bullrings, April 26-28 at Lake Ozark Speedway in Missouri, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, near St. Louis and Jacksonville Speedway in Illinois.