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Williams Grove Prelim report 2006-09-29

Williams Grove Prelim report 2006-09-29
Oct 1, 2006, 7:53 PM

Solwold Strikes: Captures National Open Preliminary Feature Win Mechanicsburg, PA--September 29, 2006 -- Experience certainly plays a big role in being successful at Williams Grove Speedway. Jason Solwold does not have quite as much track time ...

Solwold Strikes: Captures National Open Preliminary Feature Win

Mechanicsburg, PA--September 29, 2006 -- Experience certainly plays a big role in being successful at Williams Grove Speedway. Jason Solwold does not have quite as much track time on the historic half-mile as many of the other 62 competitors he took on Friday night, in the first night of the National Open, that pit the World of Outlaws Sprint Series against the Pennsylvania Posse. But with every lap he does take at the storied facility, Solwold feels more comfortable in the car and gains more confidence.

This confidence increased exponentially on Friday night as he made his way to RacinSoles Victory Lane.

Solwold slid around Michael Carber in turn one after a lap 13 restart to capture the preliminary feature win that kicked off the prestigious event.

Soldwold in the City Wide Insulation Maxim then held off a very hard charging and determined Doug Esh during a final three lap shootout. For Esh, it was his best career finish in a World of Outlaws event.

"Williams Grove is always a fun place to come to, and I am pretty excited about winning here," said Solwold. "Usually it takes a long time to win here, especially against there guys."

Jeff Shepard filling in for Brooke Tatnell in the Race Outfitters/Castrol machine finished in the third spot. Daryn Pittman in the Titan Garages & Carports Maxim was fourth. The top-four finishers on Friday night locked themselves into the top four qualifying spots for Saturday night, and will not have to take part in time trials, though they will take part in heat races and have to race their way into the A-Feature by way of the heats.

Michael Carber finished fifth, picking up his best career run in a World of Outlaws event, after earning the outside front row starting spot in the preliminary feature after finishing second in the dash. He had a very spirited battle with Solwold, in the middle of the race.

Esh in the Kinard Trucking J&J ran in the top-three the entire night, and worked his way up to second on lap 16 getting by Carber. While Esh was pleased with his second-place run, he wondered what might have been if he had waited another lap to try the slide job he tried on Solwold in the first turn with two laps to go.

"I was pretty good low in (turns) one and two," said Esh. "We got to lapped traffic sooner than I wanted to. I gave the race away there at the end. If I wouldn't have slid him in one as early as I did, I could have waited until the last corner, I might have had a shot. We're locked into the heat race for tomorrow night and we are trying to keep the PA Posse on top. We'll do that tomorrow if we can."

Jeff Shepard had not been in a race car for a couple weeks and drove a very steady race to come home third. He knew he was in for no easy task, as he climbed into the Rush Racing car for the first time, with a field of cars that as the largest for a National Open event in more than 15 years.

"To finish third in an Outlaws show, I am really happy," said Shepard. "There were 63 cars here. The car was fast and I am ready for tomorrow."

Pittman will be seeking his second straight win in a $50,000 race on Saturday night, as he won the same payday at the Gold Cup earlier in the month. He started the weekend off by ensuring a spot in a heat race on Saturday night, and now does not have to qualify with his fourth-place run in the preliminary feature. He ran in the fifth spot for most of the feature, before passing Carber with just a handful of laps to go.

"I'm tickled to death," said Pittman. "They're changing the format around a little bit and the biggest key is getting locked in. Obviously you want to win, but getting locked in is a huge relief. It's not as fortunate as usually being locked it, but we do not have to draw a number and we do not have to qualify tomorrow. We've given ourselves a good chance, and now we have to take advantage of it tomorrow. We'll see what they throw at us with the format, and we'll give it everything that we got."

Carber led his first ever laps with the World of Outlaws. He used two strong starts to power around Solwold. The first start was aborted with Carber in the lead, and after lining up next to Solwold for the second start, like the first, he took the lead heading into the first turn. After a very solid fifth-place run, Carber and his team have plenty to build on for Saturday night.

The rest of the top-10 was Joey Saldana in the Mopar-powered Dodge/Curb Records JEI, in sixth. Terry McCarl was seventh in the Big Game Treestands Eagle. Greg Hodnett came home eighth the Wirtgen J&J. Kenny Jacobs crossed the finish line ninth in the JEI Performance JEI. Todd Shaffer was tenth in the McCoy Bros. J&J.

Current championship point leader Donny Schatz had an up-and-down night. After getting caught up in an accident in the second heat, his team quickly made repairs to his car to get him back on the track. He worked his way from the back of the field into the final transfer spot. Early in the preliminary feature he was running high and lost traction and almost got into the wall, forcing him again to the back of the field. He methodically worked his way past 11 more cars before the checkered flag flew to finish a very respectable 15th.

Back at the front of the field while battling for the lead, Solwold and Carber made a bit of contact, that got both car sideways and brought out the yellow flag, that would clear the track ahead of the leaders and give them a chance to race into the first turn. It was here that Solwold made the pass for the win.

"I kind of got into the 69 car," Solwold said. "I thought he was going to slide across the middle and go to the bottom and the next thing I know, we're collected. A couple laps before that, I had an altercation when someone got sideways and spun out."

After winning his third dash of the season, the native of Mount Vernon, Wash., started from the pole position. He was chasing Carber early in the race, as the teenager was able to put a sizeable distance between the pair with a clean race track ahead of him. Once in traffic though, Solwold quickly closed the gap, as he has his car working very well on both the high and low side of the track.

"We just had a good race car tonight," said Solwold. "We started up from and it's a lot easier when you can start up front like that. We had a good car, and hopefully we can do something with it tomorrow. We were catching up to him. He got away from us a little bit. In traffic it seemed like he was slowing down a little bit and we were getting better."

Solwold did not know how close Esh was in the final couple of laps. He kept the car firmly planted straight ahead and hit all of his marks.

"I saw somebody underneath me," said Solwold. "I just kept my line. We were real good up there. It was our night tonight, and hopefully we can repeat something like this tomorrow."

Esh who had a tough race last weekend at Williams Grove, was proud of how hard his team worked and how resilient they are. After a strong run during the Summer Nationals, he believes he is on the cusp of picking up a win in a World of Outlaws event at Williams Grove.

"It's definitely a good feeling to run second," said Esh. "With 63 cars in the pits, it's always a pleasure to do that, especially when the best in the business are here. We just have a lot of momentum going. We got kicked a little bit in the chops and that makes us work a little harder. We've been good here all year. We thought we had as good a shot as anyone coming in here tonight to win. I'll be more upset tomorrow night if we do not win."

While the field spread out early in the race once the leaders got into traffic, a blanket could be thrown over the top-three. One driver that really benefited from negotiating the slower cars was Shepard. He also was glad to see the caution flag wave to bunch the field up even more.

"I think the caution did help us," said Shepard. "The car is a little different from what I have been running all year, and the fuel load got light and I felt much more comfortable in the second half of the race. When you get into somebody else's race car, everything is different. Everything is in a different position, the knobs and switches. I had to mount my seat in it. They didn't build that car for me, they built that thing for Brooke (Tatnell). It's difficult anytime you jump into something. I put the seat in the car yesterday."

After turning the second quickest lap in time trials, Daryn Pittman showed he was fast all night long. He finished sixth in the dash to earn that starting spot in the preliminary feature.

"I think we were definitely one of the best race cars on the track all night," said Pittman. "We had to come from seventh in the dash and pulled off a fourth-place finish. I'm happy with that. We weren't as good as we should have been in the feature. All in all, we were pretty good."

For Solwold, it was his second preliminary feature win of the season. He also won during the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar (Calif.) Speedway, the last World of Outlaws Sprint Series event that paid $50,000, the same check that will be awaiting the winner of the National Open on Saturday night.

"We're going to have to have a little bit better of a car than we had tonight for tomorrow night," said Solwold. "The track will probably be a little slicker tomorrow night. We still have to get through the heat races and the dash. It's a little bit different now since we are not locked in, that would have been good for tomorrow night. We'll have to race our way up there tomorrow night and see what happens."

Esh also was looking ahead to the finale on Saturday night and what his team needed to gain one more spot and find his way to RacinSoles Victory Lane for the first time with the series.

"We have to keep doing what we are doing," said Esh. "I think we are ok. The motor program is good. The crew is unbelievable. We had a bad weekend last week and just bounced back and got back on our feet. That's what our crew is made of. We can second and I am not upset with that. Tomorrow, we will give it everything we have. That is what we did tonight and just came up a little short. We'll see what tomorrow brings, and hopefully we're sitting out there (in victory lane)."

Shepard who lined up fourth for the preliminary feature before slipping by Carber on the 19th lap, was pleased with his performance, considering he had not been in a race car for a few weeks, and had only raced about a third of the times the drivers he was racing against had competed this year.

"These guys race all year round, and I haven't raced for two or three weeks," said Shepard. "I've only raced about 20 times this year, and these guys are on their 60 or 70th race. They just came hot off of a race last weekend. The first race back, you have to get your sea legs back. You're use to going 55 (miles per hour) on the highway and you go 155 out here. Everything is totally different. You just have to get up on the wheel."

After winning the finale of the Summer Nationals at Williams Grove, Pittman would like nothing more than to pick up another A-Feature win at the famed track. With the stellar field of cars on-hand, he knows that that will be no easy task. He learned a few things from a tricky track surface on Friday night that he and his crew will be able to apply on Saturday as they prepare for the finale.

"The race track was a little weird," said Pittman. "It was slick, but really fast. I wanted to get into heavier traffic. We got into it where there was one car at time. It was just tough to pass. The speeds stayed extremely high for how slick the track got. We just weren't as good as we should have been, but it was good enough for fourth. That was the goal coming into tonight to feel like we accomplished the hardest part. We'll come back tomorrow and be as good as we can, and give ourselves every chance we can to win the thing."

The National Open wraps up on Saturday night for the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, with an event record $50,000 earmarked for the winner.


* FILLING IN: Jeff Shepard, was behind the wheel of the Rush Racing car on Sunday night, filling in for Brooke Tatnell, who has won four A-Feature races this season. Tatnell returned to his native Australia last week to be with his father George who is battling cancer.

"I'm just trying to do a fellow racer a favor," said Shepard. "I am trying to help keep those guys in the points."

* FAST QUALIFIER: Kenny Jacobs paced the 63 cars in time trials with an AMB i.t.-timed lap around the 1/2-mile semi-banked oval at 16.457 seconds at 109.376 mph. Because the National Open, is a multi-day show with varying championship point totals on each night, no qualifying bonus points are awarded. Brian Paulus holds the track record of 16.140 seconds established on April 26, 2002.

* QUALIFYING EVENT WINNERS: Heat race winners included: Dion Hindi, Greg Hodnett, Paul McMahan, and Lucas Wolfe. ...Stevie Smith won the C-Main. ... Tony Bruce Jr. won the B-Main. ... Jason Solwold won the dash.

-credit: woo

Williams Grove Finale race report

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