ELMA — Monday night racing at Grays Harbor Raceway turned into another series of salvos between Donny Schatz and Daryn Pittman for the World of Outlaws points lead.
Pittman held steady as the Outlaws’ points leader with Schatz after two days at Skagit Speedway in Alger. However, Schatz took over at Elma. After winning the trophy dash, the Fargo, N.D. driver used a restart mistake by Pittman to take the lead for good on lap 17 to win the 30-lap A-main event.
The Monday night win for Schatz is his 19th victory of the season, tying his career-best total, and his second career win at Grays Harbor Raceway. Schatz won his first title in Elma in 2005.
“This was a tricky little place tonight; you had to be on the edge,” Schatz said. “I was able to capitalize on Pittman’s mistake on the restart and make it stick.”
Pittman took second in the race and kept his season points total, leading Schatz by 20 points entering tonight’s Outlaws event at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore. Steve “The King” Kinser took third.
Langley, B.C. driver Kenny Rutz dominated the Sportsman Sprints in the 25-lap supporting class A-main.
The stop in Elma represented the first of seven straight days of racing for the Outlaws. For Schatz and Pittman, it was just another day in their two-man battle atop the Outlaws points standings.
For this 30-lap A-main, Schatz received a bit of good fortune before the trophy dash earlier in the day. The five-time and reigning Outlaws champion was picked first on the pill draw for the pole position on the eight-lap dash. Since the dash determined the first five rows of the A-main, Schatz held an advantageous spot.
Schatz went wire-to-wire to win the dash, with Pittman second to sit next to him on the front row.
That is how the two drivers started the A-main and Schatz was dominant in open track, leading by more than a full turn over Pittman and the rest of the field. Lapped traffic, however, helped Pittman.
On lap 13, Pittman drew close to Schatz and used Enumclaw’s Henry Van Dam as a pick to get past Schatz for the lead. The Pittsboro, Ind. driver only held the lead for five laps before Cody Darrah ended up into the wall between turns 1 and 2 to bring out the yellow on lap 17.
This is where the race turned in Schatz’s favor. Pittman took the inside position on the restart, but Schatz had all of the momentum as they crossed the start-finish line. Going into turn 1, Schatz stayed high and hammered his car into turn 2 and the back straightaway for the lead. Pittman stayed low, but bobbled a bit with third-place driver Steve Kinser right on his rear.
“All of my restarts were pathetic tonight, to be honest,” Pittman said. “It has been tough. We haven’t been able to get a win, but tonight, we felt like we could. We had the best car, but just didn’t do it. You can’t mistakes like that with cars like (Schatz) right next to you or with any of these guys. When I had the lead, I felt like I ran really well with everyone. No excuses. They were better tonight.”
Three more caution flags flew to bunch up the field, but Schatz was equal to the task on all three restarts.
The second caution flag on lap 23 came out when NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Kyle Larson spun into the infield and out of the race. Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., spent Sunday in Calistoga, Calif., to win both races of the Louis Vermeil Classic and flew to the Northwest early Monday to compete with the Outlaws.
Starting 16th, Larson got as high as fifth place before Kraig Kinser hit the back of Larson’s car and spun him into the infield. Larson finished 20th overall.
The final caution flag of the night came on lap 27 and turned into a red-flag stoppage due to gas supply issues. Outlaws series officials called for the red flag, because they believed the cars couldn’t finish the 30-lap race after the caution laps and the final green-white-checkered flag laps.
Following a 10-minute stoppage, Schatz led the field single file for the start-finish line and never allowed Pittman a chance to get a chance to challenge in the final three laps.
Kinser, who made life difficult for a bit for Pittman, took third. Tim Kaeding, the Outlaws’ top qualifier of the day, grabbed fourth and Kerry Madsen rounded out the top five.
Roger Crockett, of Medford, Ore., was the top Northwest driver, finishing 13th overall. Enumclaw’s Henry VanDam was the lone Grays Harbor Raceway regular to qualify for the A-main and he finished 18th overall.
Rutz, the younger brother of veteran sprint car driver Travis Rutz, dominated the eight-car field on Monday.
After winning the trophy dash and starting sixth in the 25-lap A-main, Rutz moved quickly into second place to challenge pole leader Cale Brooke, of Pemberton, B.C. for the first half of the race.
Rutz stayed on the high groove throughout his pursuit of Brooke, but never got the lead until lap 13. Brooke stayed low throughout the exchange and finally lost the lead when Rutz caught enough momentum out of turns 3 and 4 to pass.
Steven Reeves, of Valleybrook, Alberta, passed Brooke late in the race for second as Rutz pulled away by more than half a lap for the victory. Steve Parker, of Sedro Woolley, took fourth and Zach McCabe, of Arlington, rounded out the top five.