Tony Veneziano - Kilgore, TX
Not that Joey Saldana really needed a good luck charm with how strong he has been running this season, but just in case, he had one for the inaugural WoO Fest at Lone Star Speedway as his son Reece, who was on fall break from school, made the trip south from Indiana. Saldana won earlier this season at the half-mile located in Kilgore, Texas and also was victorious in Texas at Houston Raceway Park, both of which races his son was his in attendance for.
Saldana made it three-for-three in the state of Texas after wiring the field on Saturday night at Lone Star Speedway to score his series leading 19th A-Feature win of the season with the World of Outlaws and his career-high 20th overall victory with the series.
Saldana earned $12,000 for the win, which was the 58th of his World of Outlaw career as he continues to close in on Stevie Smith who is eighth on the all-time win list with 67 triumphs. For the native of Brownsburg, Indiana it was his fourth win of the season on a half-mile track aboard the Budweiser Maxim.
“This is another great win,” said Saldana. “I can’t thank Willie (Kahne), Kolten (Gouse) and Kale (Kahne) enough. They work really hard. Our shop is based out of Charlotte and they have to do a lot of extra driving to get this car to the race track. It was a great effort by this whole Budweiser team. We qualified in the Top-Five as well, so thanks to Speedway Engines.”
Saldana won the Crane Cams Dash to start on the pole for the 30-lapper with Sam Hafertepe Jr. getting the jump at the start and leading the field into turn one with Saldana moving in front in turn two. Hafertepe kept pace with him throughout the race in lapped traffic and closed to within a few cars lengths a couple of times when Saldana was not able to get around a lapped car. The only caution of the night flew on the 23rd lap, putting the leaders back in open track.
“The clear track definitely helped with how the track was, but my car was really good,” noted Saldana in Victory Lane. “The lapped cars were tough and the track was really fast and I didn’t want to do anything stupid. A couple of times I had to lift and just let the lap car go and get him back in the next corner. It was a great race and our car was great all night.”
The victory was Saldana’s third consecutive in the state of Texas and was the fifth win of his career in the Lone Star State. He has finished ninth or better in 10 of his last 11 starts in Texas and was quick to credit the vast number of starts he has in the state over the years to his success there the last few seasons.
“It’s a lot of time behind the wheels of one of these cars,” explained Saldana when asked what makes his so good in Texas as of late. “The pill draw definitely helped tonight, but you have to be fast all 30 laps. We just made the right adjustments on our car It was another great effort by my team.”
Hafertepe wound up second for the second time this season with the World of Outlaws as he continues to close in on his first career win with the series. He used a strong start to keep pace with Saldana early in the contest and then after Saldana opened a big lead, he was able to reel him back in in lapped traffic.
“Once we changed our program up around the middle of the year, we’ve been one of the cars to beat every night,” said Hafertepe. “I definitely wanted to win tonight, but Joey (Saldana) is a class act and there is nobody I would rather see beat me than him. He’s doing a lot for the sport and has already had 19 wins this year, so to finish second behind him, I’m not too mad about it. We made some nice moves in lapped traffic and made it interesting for the fans.”
Hafertepe was hoping that the race would go green to checker without any cautions and that nearly was the case, with just the single yellow flag with seven laps remaining. He tried everything he could to keep up with Saldana on the restart, but in open track was just not able to get close enough to him to make a move.
“I knew we had a good car and behind Joey, though he was so good in clean air that we really couldn’t do anything with him,” shared Hafertepe, whose parents Sam Sr. and Lisa own and operate Lone Star Speedway. “I didn’t like to see the caution because he got back in clean air, but that’s the way racing goes. We’ll take our second here tonight and go to Lowe’s (Motor Speedway) and see if we can’t win up there.”
Steve Kinser got around Jason Sides on the opening lap and then recovered after getting completely sideways in turn two on the lap-23 restart to finish third in the Quaker State Maxim.
Jason Meyers worked his way up to finish fourth in the GLR Investments KPC after winning the first heat to earn a spot in the Crane Cams Dash, with Jason Sides fifth in the Wetherington Tractor Service Maxim.
Donny Schatz, the current series point leader, came home sixth in the Armor All J&J, and was able to gain one point on Meyers in the championship standings, after earning five bonus points for setting fast time in qualifying. The difference between the two is now 19 markers with just the two feature events at the third annual World Finals remaining, as they continue the closest title fight in the 30-plus year history of the World of Outlaws.
Terry McCarl came home seventh on Saturday night in the Big Game Treestands Maxim, with Jac Haudenschild eighth piloting the Owens-Corning Fiberglass Maxim. Lucas Wolfe was ninth in the Allebach Racing Maxim, with Kraig Kinser rounding out the Top-10 in the Bass Pro Shops Maxim.