No Stopping Gravel On Thursday At Volusia

Gravel

David Gravel and his crew in victory lane at Volusia Speedway Park Thursday night. (KR Poole Photos)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. – There’s just something about Volusia Speedway Park that suits David Gravel and Big Game Motorsports.

Gravel dominated the second sprint car feature of the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals Thursday night, leading all 25 laps en route to his 89th career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory.

In terms of his success at the half-mile Volusia dirt oval, the win marked Gravel’s fifth win in his last eight Outlaw starts there and his 15th top-five finish in 17 Volusia features since joining Big Game Motorsports.

It’s a remarkable run that was continued, on this night, by a second chance at the initial start.

After Gio Scelzi snuck around Gravel’s outside to take the apparent lead on the opening lap, the pass was negated when Cory Eliason’s No. 8 spun to a near-stop in turns three and four, forcing a yellow flag.

During the retry at the double-file start, Gravel surged ahead off the bottom groove to clear Scelzi, moving up the track on the backstretch to put dirty air on the top wing of Scelzi’s sprinter.

That gave the Watertown, Conn., veteran a gap he’d never relinquish, navigating traffic to perfection through the middle stages of the race before an apparent engine failure for Kasey Kahne led to a late caution and restart with seven to go.

Gravel was undeterred, however, pulling away from Rico Abreu down the stretch to win by 1.289 seconds and take over the point lead in the DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship standings.

“I didn’t know if I was driving away from Rico or not,” admitted Gravel. “I knew he had a good car late in the race, and he usually sets his cars up for the end, so I was hoping I got a good launch … but I kind of opened the door for him to slide me in [turn] one and got a little nervous there for a minute.

“I wanted to get down the backstretch really strong, so I risked it … knowing that if we could keep the lead, it would pay off after that,” Gravel added. “I just didn’t really know where to run. In [turns] one and two, I felt pretty good wherever I’d go, but I struggled late on the bottom and would get tight on the top of turns three and four. Thankfully, we were still good enough to get to the checkered flag first.”

While Gravel tipped before the start of the season that his mind was on both his, and team owner Tod Quiring’s, pursuit of 100 World of Outlaws victories, that wasn’t the main focus Thursday night.

Gravel’s eyes were on the improved performance of his Huset’s Speedway No. 2 and what he may be capable of for the rest of the week at Volusia.

Gravel

David Gravel en route to victory Thursday at Volusia Speedway Park. (KR Poole Photos)

“This car did not like dirty air, at all, so we’ll have to work on that a little bit,” Gravel noted. “I felt like [in] clean air, the car was really strong and really fast. The pill draw helped us in a big way tonight, and it feels good to capitalize and get our first win of the season out of the way.”

Abreu got past Scelzi on lap two, following the second start attempt, and chased Gravel through traffic for virtually the entire feature Thursday night.

He could do nothing to close in, however, as Gravel opened up a lead of nearly 2.5 seconds at one point and left Abreu to settle for a distant runner-up finish – still a career-best Volusia finish for the Californian.

Justin Peck ended up on the podium in third – also his best-ever mark in Outlaws competition at Volusia – ahead of Scelzi and 10-time series champion Donny Schatz, who rose from 16th to finish fifth.

Eighteenth-starting Logan Schuchart earned KSE Hard Charger honors with his drive to sixth, followed by Brian Brown, Brent Marks, Buddy Kofoid, and Wednesday night runner-up Tyler Courtney.

Brown kicked off the night with his eighth career Simpson Quick Time Award, topping Flight B of qualifying with the overall fastest lap of 13.222 seconds (115.716 mph) around the half-mile dirt oval.

Rico Abreu led time trial Flight A with a slightly slower 13.342-second (114.675 mph) clip in the first half.

Abreu, Corey Day, Brent Marks, and Justin Peck won their respective eight-lap heat races, with Spencer Bayston topping the 10-lap C-main and Gravel earning the pole position for the feature by way of his dominant 1.959-second victory in the Toyota Dash.

Rookie-of-the-year contender Bill Balog was the top dog in the 12-lap Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown, leading the transfer cars into the main event after a photo finish with Sheldon Haudenschild.

DIRTcar Nationals action continues Friday night with the third of four World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series features this week, as well as another slate of features for the DIRTcar UMP modifieds.

Those unable to watch the action at the racetrack can stream every lap through DIRTvision.

World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series; Volusia Speedway Park; Feb. 8, 2024

Sea Foam Qualifying Flight A (best of two laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu, 13.342; 2. 14-Corey Day, 13.389; 3. 1-Brenham Crouch, 13.398; 4. 39M-Anthony Macri, 13.433; 5. 17B-Bill Balog, 13.442; 6. 48-Danny Dietrich, 13.453; 7. 7BC-Tyler Courtney, 13.473; 8. 18-Giovanni Scelzi, 13.475; 9. 83-Michael Kofoid, 13.501; 10. 9-Kasey Kahne, 13.518; 11. 5-Spencer Bayston, 13.526; 12. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr., 13.591; 13. 70-Kraig Kinser, 13.715; 14. 88-Austin McCarl, 13.734; 15. 5T-Ryan Timms, 13.801; 16. 11M-Brendan Mullen, 13.889; 17. 64-Andy Pake, 13.971; 18. 6G-Bryan Gossel, 14.102; 19. 15K-Creed Kemenah, 14.123; 20. 7B-Ben Brown, 14.140; 21. 44-Chris Martin, 14.216.

Sea Foam Qualifying Flight B (best of two laps): 1. 21-Brian Brown, 13.222; 2. 2-David Gravel, 13.378; 3. 19-Brent Marks, 13.395; 4. 13-Justin Peck, 13.399; 5. 49-Brad Sweet, 13.430; 6. 26-Zeb Wise, 13.471; 7. 41-Carson Macedo, 13.483; 8. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss, 13.497; 9. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 13.509; 10. 15-Donny Schatz, 13.523; 11. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 13.617; 12. 7S-Landon Crawley, 13.649; 13. 1A-Jacob Allen, 13.668; 14. 8-Cory Eliason, 13.754; 15. 24D-Danny Sams III, 13.797; 16. 22-Riley Goodno, 13.825; 17. 97UK-Ryan Harrison, 13.888; 18. 16G-Austyn Gossel, 14.009; 19. 0-Justin Whittall, 14.058; 20. 16TH-Kevin Newton, 14.170; 21. 6-Bill Rose, 14.444.

Heat #1 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 24-Rico Abreu [1]; 2. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [4]; 3. 83-Michael Kofoid [5]; 4. 1-Brenham Crouch [2]; 5. 5T-Ryan Timms [8] / 6. 70-Kraig Kinser [7]; 7. 17B-Bill Balog [3]; 8. 44-Chris Martin [11]; 9. 5-Spencer Bayston [6]; 10. 64-Andy Pake [9]; 11. 15K-Creed Kemenah (DNS).

Milton Hershey School Heat #2 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 14-Corey Day [1]; 2. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [4]; 3. 39M-Anthony Macri [2]; 4. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr. [6]; 5. 48-Danny Dietrich [3] / 6. 9-Kasey Kahne [5]; 7. 88-Austin McCarl [7]; 8. 11M-Brendan Mullen [8]; 9. 6G-Bryan Gossel [9]; 10. 7B-Ben Brown [10].

Heat #3 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 19-Brent Marks [2]; 2. 21-Brian Brown [1]; 3. 41-Carson Macedo [4]; 4. 49-Brad Sweet [3]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart [5] / 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [6]; 7. 1A-Jacob Allen [7]; 8. 24D-Danny Sams III [8]; 9. 0-Justin Whittall [10]; 10. 6-Bill Rose [11]; 11. 97UK-Ryan Harrison [9].

Heat #4 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 13-Justin Peck [2]; 2. 2-David Gravel [1]; 3. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [4]; 4. 15-Donny Schatz [5]; 5. 26-Zeb Wise [3] / 6. 8-Cory Eliason [7]; 7. 22-Riley Goodno [8]; 8. 16TH-Kevin Newton [10]; 9. 16G-Austyn Gossel [9]; 10. 7S-Landon Crawley [6].

Toyota Dash (6 laps): 1. 2-David Gravel [2]; 2. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [1]; 3. 24-Rico Abreu [4]; 4. 21-Brian Brown [6]; 5. 13-Justin Peck [7]; 6. 19-Brent Marks [3]; 7. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [8]; 8. 14-Corey Day [5].

C-Feature (8 laps, top two transfer): 1. 5-Spencer Bayston [1]; 2. 0-Justin Whittall [2] / 3. 6G-Bryan Gossel [3]; 4. 7B-Ben Brown [7]; 5. 97UK-Ryan Harrison [10]; 6. 64-Andy Pake [5]; 7. 16G-Austyn Gossel [4]; 8. 6-Bill Rose (DNS); 9. 7S-Landon Crawley (DNS); 10. 15K-Creed Kemenah (DNS).

Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown (12 laps, top four transfer): 1. 17B-Bill Balog [1]; 2. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [2]; 3. 8-Cory Eliason [4]; 4. 9-Kasey Kahne [5] / 5. 70-Kraig Kinser [3]; 6. 88-Austin McCarl [7]; 7. 1A-Jacob Allen [6]; 8. 22-Riley Goodno [8]; 9. 5-Spencer Bayston [13]; 10. 44-Chris Martin [9]; 11. 0-Justin Whittall [14]; 12. 24D-Danny Sams III [10]; 13. 11M-Brendan Mullen [11]; 14. 16TH-Kevin Newton [12].

NOS Energy Drink A-Feature (25 laps): 1. 2-David Gravel [1]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu [3]; 3. 13-Justin Peck [5]; 4. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [2]; 5. 15-Donny Schatz [16]; 6. 1S-Logan Schuchart [18]; 7. 21-Brian Brown [4]; 8. 19-Brent Marks [6]; 9. 83-Michael Kofoid [9]; 10. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [7]; 11. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [22]; 12. 41-Carson Macedo [10]; 13. 39M-Anthony Macri [11]; 14. 14-Corey Day [8]; 15. 49-Brad Sweet [14]; 16. 48-Danny Dietrich [19]; 17. 26-Zeb Wise [20]; 18. 5T-Ryan Timms [17]; 19. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [12]; 20. 17B-Bill Balog [21]; 21. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr. [15]; 22. 7S-Landon Crawley [25]; 23. 8-Cory Eliason [23]; 24. 9-Kasey Kahne [24]; 25. 1-Brenham Crouch [13]; 26. 6-Bill Rose [26].

Lap Leader(s): David Gravel 1-25.

KSE Hard Charger: #1S-Logan Schuchart (+12)

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