A sold-out crowd of race fans witnessed an action-packed finale of the Textron Off Road World of Outlaws World Finals on a stellar Saturday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. The world’s most exciting three days of dirt racing roared to a thrilling conclusion with David Gravel passing World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz on the final lap of an exhilarating season finale. Brandon Sheppard (World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series) and Matt Sheppard (Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds) joined Schatz in celebrating well-earned championships.
Schatz appeared set to wrap up his season with a victory, but Gravel took advantage of the points leader’s late-race struggles with lapped traffic. Gravel rode the cushion in the final laps, slid under Schatz in Turn 1 on the 30th and last lap and held on for his 18th win of the season.
“That was a hell of a blast,” Gravel said. “I hope everybody loved that. Luckily (Schatz) didn’t move up in (turns) 3 and 4 and I was able to get another shot at him. Lapped cars were kind of running in his lane. I just went outside of him, got a hell of a run each time and I just tried to choose the right time to pull the trigger. It worked out.”
Despite narrowly missing out on his 250th career Outlaw sprint car victory, Schatz took solace in winning the war – his ninth series title.
“It’s been a great year,” Schatz said. “We would’ve liked to have finished it a little bit better but it’s still something to hang your hat on. I don’t think there’s any question 250 will happen. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
Cole Duncan, Ian Madsen, David Gravel, Trey Starks, Joey Saldana and Bill Balog collected heat victories. Brian Brown and Stevie Smith won dashes. Shane Stewart won the B-Main. Tony Stewart won the C-Main.
The final race of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series season more than lived up to its billing as a can’t-miss event.
Dennis Erb Jr. collected his first Outlaw late model victory of the year after he rallied late in the race and passed Mike Marlar to take the checkered flag. Marlar dominated the early going but didn’t have enough to keep Erb at bay as the race wound down. Series champion Brandon Sheppard followed Erb, Marlar and Jimmy Owens with a fourth-place finish. Tim McCreadie was fifth with Jonathan Davenport sixth.
“We’ve been working really hard,” Erb said. “We had a really good car last night. We tweaked on it a little bit tonight and were able to get the job done. … (Marlar) slipped up there just a bit and we took advantage of it. We didn’t want to look back because we had a full field behind us. It really feels good to come here and pick up a victory in front of everybody.”
Josh Richards, Erb, Marlar, Dale McDowell and Sheppard scored heat wins. Casey Roberts, Chris Madden and Brandon Overton won B-Mains.
“Our team is amazing,” Sheppard said during his championship celebration. “I was hoping to break (Josh Richards’ single-season) win record tonight but I guess we’ll settle with tying it. This team, in my mind, is the best one out there.”
Matt Sheppard celebrated his sixth Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified championship in style on Saturday. Needing to protect his 37-point lead over Billy Decker, “Super Matt” controlled the feature and held off all challenges from runner-up Keith Flach to conclude his season in appropriate fashion. Mike Mahaney, Danny Johnson and Tim Fuller rounded out the top five.
“This place is so crazy,” said Sheppard, who won 12 out of his 25 starts this season. “You can’t take a lap off here. You’ve got to be on the gas every lap. It’s awesome to put on a show in front of a big crowd like this. This makes our season.”
Demetrious Drellos, Matt Sheppard, Mike Mahaney, Keith Flach and Tim Fuller captured heat wins.