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BIG E BARNBURNER: David Gravel Bests Donny Schatz in Last Lap Eldora Thriller




ROSSBURG, OH (May 4, 2024) - Eldora Speedway showed exactly why it’s known as “The World’s Greatest Dirt Track” on Saturday night.


The #LetsRaceTwo finale for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars gave fans a main event they couldn’t look away from. It was everything you could ask for. A 10-time champion battling a driver eying his first. A tricky racing surface with multiple grooves. Several late passes for the lead including one last move to secure the victory on the last lap.


The combatants came in the form of David Gravel and Donny Schatz, and they threw everything they had at each other. Hammering the top. Tiptoeing the bottom. Rolling the middle. Slide jobs. Nothing was left on the table. In the end, Gravel grabbed the checkered flag by powering ahead of Schatz down the back straightaway on the 30th and final lap and holding him off to the finish line. Gravel put the punctuation mark on a clean sweep at “The Big E” as he also set Simpson Quick Time and won both his NOS Energy Drink Heat Race and the Toyota Racing Dash.


“With the lower air pressure and lower tire temps we were really, really good,” Gravel said. “I got my wing so far back I couldn’t steer it, and on the restarts I would move it forward. But then as the run went on I got really loose. Once I got to that lapped traffic, my car kind of stalled out. That’s why I grabbed the wing, but then it made it where I couldn’t move around. I just had to hold the car straight. I couldn’t maneuver. Donny was definitely more maneuverable, but I think in open air we were probably a little bit faster.


“It’s really hard to beat Donny Schatz in the slick like that. He was running really hard in (Turns) 1 and 2 and running the cushion and just hang a little bit off of (Turn) 2. And luckily, we were able to get just better runs down the backstretch each time and get position on him. It feels really good to get another win. Starting on the front row two nights in a row and getting no wins would’ve been very disappointing. Really happy to get this one.”


Gravel grabbed sole possession of the most World of Outlaws wins in 2024 with his fifth. He also moved Big Game Motorsports one step away from a major milestone. Tod Quiring’s team is at 99 victories with The Greatest Show on Dirt. A 100th would make him only the sixth car owner to reach the impressive feat. Five of Gravel’s 93 career triumphs have come at Eldora, putting it in a tie for the third winningest track on his résumé.


The 30-lap Feature was brought to green by Gravel with Michael “Buddy” Kofoid alongside. Kofoid looked under Gravel on the opening circuit but couldn’t find enough speed to make a run at the lead, and Gravel began to pad his early advantage.


It didn’t take long for Gravel to near traffic as third-running Donny Schatz began to close on Kofoid for second. On the eighth circuit, Schatz tried a slider in Turns 1 and 2 and couldn’t clear Kofoid. But in the next set of corners, the 10-time champion rolled the low line to snatch the runner-up spot from the Roth Motorsports #83.


Schatz wasted no time closing on Gravel. He was a second behind the lap he passed Kofoid, and one rotation later it was slashed to six tenths of a second. Then on the 14th lap Schatz found the run he needed and used the low side of Turns 3 and 4 to slip ahead of Gravel and lead the lap. 


A slowing Kalib Henry set up a restart on the 17th lap and opened the door again for Gravel. The Huset’s Speedway #2 got a huge run down the back straightaway and slid ahead of Schatz in the third turn to regain the lead.


Over the next several circuits Gravel pulled away and looked as if he was heading to a comfortable win at Eldora. The gap grew to nearly two seconds on Lap 19, but with less than 10 laps to go the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15 came to life as traffic became more and more of a factor. 


By Lap 25 the lead was back under a second and shrinking with every corner. A few laps later the war began. Schatz dipped beneath Gravel in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 28 and narrowly grabbed the spot on the front straightaway. Gravel returned fire with a slider in Turns 1 and 2 that Schatz countered with a crossover and took the lead back. In Turns 3 and 4 Gravel went low as Schatz opted for the middle, and just as the white flag was within sight the red lights flashed for a flipping Bryce Lucius.


Schatz held the lead for the restart, and the battle immediately resumed when the green lights returned. Gravel got a head of steam exiting the second corner and slid ahead of Schatz in Turns 3 and 4. Schatz turned under him to drive back ahead and lead at the white flag. Like the lap before, Gravel got a run out of Turn 2 and dove under Schatz in the final set of corners. But this time he stuck to the bottom and didn’t leave Schatz the lane to crossover. It proved to be the winning move as he came out on top.

“I just tried to go a car width lower or higher than him (Schatz) on the start and was able to get alongside him,” Gravel said. “And then when I slid across, I slid way too hard across all the way to the fence. I should’ve backpedaled, kept the tires underneath me, and put myself in better shape in (Turns) 1 and 2. But luckily, we were able to get a good run. Cody (Jacobs), Zach (Patterson), and Stephen (Hamm-Reilly) have been working really hard.”


Schatz brought home the runner-up spot after the hard-fought battle aboard the Carquest #15. The Fargo, ND native notched back-to-back podium finishes during the #LetsRaceTwo weekend and is up to seven top threes in 2024. Schatz felt he might’ve been standing in Victory Lane if it wasn’t for the red flag coming to the last lap.


“He ran away on that one restart,” Schatz said. “He drove by us and ran away. And then we caught back up and got back by. So, I guess if we wouldn’t have had the red, it may have been a different story.”


Carson Macedo brought the Jason Johnson Racing #41 home third to complete the top three. The Californian has now bagged six podiums this season. He fought within the top five throughout the entire race and climbed his way onto the podium with a strong run late in the going.


“I think I just had a really good final restart there,” Macedo explained. “Everybody kind of went to the top, and I sort of filled through the middle and felt really good. It’s a testament to Philip Dietz, Robby McQuinn, and Adam Zimmerman. They gave me a great car there. I thought there were points in the race where I had a really, really good car and then faded a little, and then I got good there at the end. I feel like we gain some momentum with that kind of a race car.”


Giovanni Scelzi and Logan Schuchart completed the top five.


A 21st to ninth drive earned Sheldon Haudenschild the KSE Racing Hard Charger.


David Gravel claimed his fourth Simpson Quick Time of 2024 and the 114th of his career in Sea Foam Qualifying.


NOS Energy Drink Heats One, Three, and Four went to David Gravel (252nd Heat Race win of career), Giovanni Scelzi (46th of career), and Emerson Axsom (first of career). Milton Hershey School Heat Two belonged to Buddy Kofoid (21stof career).

Gravel also topped the Toyota Racing Dash.


Sheldon Haudenschild won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.


Bryce Lucius was awarded the Smith Titanium Brake Systems Break of the Race.

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars head to Pennsylvania for the first three battles with the PA Posse. First up is Lincoln Speedway’s (Abbottstown, PA) Federated Auto Parts Gettysburg Clash on Wednesday, May 8. Then the weekend takes the tour to Mechanicsburg, PA’s Williams Grove Speedway for the HVAC Distributors Morgan Cup on May 10-11. For tickets, CLICK HERE.


If you can’t make it to the track, catch every lap live on DIRTVision.


FEATURE RESULTS:

NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 2-David Gravel[1]; 2. 15-Donny Schatz[4]; 3. 41-Carson Macedo[6]; 4. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[5]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart[11]; 6. 83-Michael Kofoid[2]; 7. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[7]; 8. 99-Skylar Gee[3]; 9. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[21]; 10. 22-Cole Duncan[13]; 11. 27-Emerson Axsom[8]; 12. 23J-Cale Thomas[9]; 13. 21H-Brady Bacon[23]; 14. 7S-Landon Crawley[15]; 15. 17B-Bill Balog[17]; 16. 1-Nate Dussel[24]; 17. 42-Sye Lynch[20]; 18. 101-Kalib Henry[16]; 19. 23-Garet Williamson[22]; 20. 24D-Danny Sams III[19]; 21. 55T-McKenna Haase[18]; 22. 32-Bryce Lucius[10]; 23. 24-Logan Seavey[14]; 24. 49X-Tim Shaffer[12]


For complete results, CLICK HERE.

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