Outlaw Racing News
Dukes Steals Texas as Gandee Resurges with Bristol Brilliance
Bristol, TN - As two weeks have passed by some incredible races have as well. Aaron Dukes once again using his strategic magic to sneak away from Texas with checkered flag in hand. Utilizing fuel strategy to keep Shad Swatsworth at bay for his 3rd win of the season. Followed up by a brilliant drive by Zach Gandee, leading much of the Bristol race and holding off a hard-charging Dukes for the final 60 laps to claim victory number 2 on the season.
Texas kept the packs close, and the racing closer for much of the race. Pacey Wigent started off the night a step ahead, and looked to be the early favorite. Grabbing the pole, and notching stage 1 to his name. Dukes by stage 2 would work some magic, seemingly having the better long run car running down the race leader from some 2 seconds back to steal the stage in the final few laps. Though the racing was fantastic for the opening stages, the stage 3 was more hectic seeing all but one of the races cautions fly. However, misfortune would find Wigent, seeing himself set well behind the field. Leaving the race to be decided amongst the top 3 of Dukes, Ryan Lewis, and Shad Swatsworth. An early pit stop from Lewis would see him gain a near 4 second advantage, but would leave him short of fuel on the final run. Meanwhile Dukes would maintain a 2 second gap over Swatsworth over the final 30 laps to secure the victory.
The narrative would then shift to Thunder Valley and the Bristol Motor Speedway. Where the run down was nearly identical to Texas. Much like Wigent a week earlier, Dukes snagged the pole, along with a gutsy call and just enough time to run down Swatsworth in the final laps for a stage 1 win. Then Gandee showed his strength, dominating all of stage 2. Over the course of the final stage Gandee held all others in check, even engaging in a 60 laps duel with Dukes, dogfighting all the way to checkers for his second win. Gandee finally broke though after his season opening win at Talladega.
Through all Dukes has proven that consistency has been key, finishing no lower than 2nd since his 7th place showing in the season opener. All the while garnering a solid grip on the standings in the process, extending out to a 52 point advantage to this point in the season. Zach Gandee reclaimed the number 2 spot after this last weeks victory. Pacey Wigent dropped to third after mechanical issues found him early on at Bristol, relegating him to just a hadful of points behind Gandee. Ryan Lewis fell to 4th after this past week closing the gap to Wigent ahead, only 7 points behind the New Yorker. Shad Swatsworth rounds out the Top 5, while closing the gap ever slightly to the 3 ahead of him behind a flurry of good finishes with podiums in each of his last 3 races.
Outlaw Racing News
Dukes Crowned Champion in Shortened Season
Millsboro, DE - In a league voted decision, season 4 has ended just after reaching the mid way point. Citing lack of attendance among other reasons, league officials have decided to end the season early in lieu of taking time to bolster the roster and revamp the schedule heading into series five.
In spite of the early end, Aaron Dukes claimed the ORS Championship once more by a staggering 52 points after only 7 races. Notching 3 wins in that time and finishing no lower than 2nd all season long, other than the season opening 7th at Talladega. All while leading the league in most categories, most stage wins with 6, most top 5's with 6, and tied for most poles with 2. Dukes certainly looked impressive all season long, procuring a sizable points advantage, and seizing yet another ORS Championship.
Zach Gandee finished the season runner up, Gandee notched a pair of wins, 3 stage wins, 4 Top 5's and 2 poles en route to another 2nd place effort in the standings in back to back seasons. Pacey Wigent improved a spot of the season previous, finishing only 4 points in back of Gandee. Wigent put together a solid season with 1 win, 4 stage wins, 5 top 5's and 2 poles. Ryan Lewis finished the shortened season 4th in the standings behind a 1 win, 1 stage win, 6 top 5's and a pole, performance. Shad Swatsworth saw a huge improvement from last season jumping from 8th to 5th in the standings. Swatsworth finished the season with 5 top 5's.
Outlaw Racing News
Robertson Snatches Fume Fueled Victory in Fontana
Fontana, CA - Kicking off the season in style, this being the first series the opening race had been moved from Talladega, and in Hollywood fashion produced quite the spectacle. Moments of drama, action, and a hint of suspense put together what was the best opening race since the league first began. Several new names flaunted their stuff throughout the race while the old guard remained a force to be reckoned with. Yet by the end, Jerry Robertson in his first race with ORS picked up the win, outlasting everyone as the fuel ran out.
Ryan Lewis picked up where last season left off, setting a scorching qualifying lap to nab his 5th series pole. Lewis would go on to lead much of the opening stage as his 4 car group separated themselves from the field. Zach Gandee however would eventually take the top spot after Lewis would run wide out off turn 4, towing Sam Wade and Shad Swatsworth along past the 22. With 1 pit stop needed for the first stage numerous drivers elected to pit all throughout the run, eventually cycling out to series champion Aaron Dukes inheriting the lead. Dennis Boggess would find himself only a second and a half back as Gandee and Lewis would rejoin the fray just a few more tenths back. Easily overtaking the number 5 Chevy, they set their sights on Dukes, slowly eating away at his lead until Lewis would finally make a run as the white flag flew. With Dukes on slightly older tires, he would fall victim to Lewis but would be able to hold off Gandee on the final lap as Lewis would go on to seal the stage victory.
By stage two, the story remained the same. Lewis and Gandee maintained their stranglehold on the top spots as 3 and 4 wide racing ensued behind them. The racing would eventually calm down and spread out as the stage dragged on. Pit stops would again shake up the order but this time Gandee would find himself in the fortuitous position, getting out ahead of Lewis on his way to claim the second stage.
It didn't take long for the action to pick up once the race resumed for the final stage, with 3 wide racing again enticing drivers with big possibilities. Those same drivers would soon find themselves under the first and only caution flag of the night. Though seemingly fatuous, this caution would have a profound effect on the races conclusion. The race would resume with 36 laps to go, essentially putting each of the subsequent pit cycles on the very edge of making this a two stop race. Though at the time not many teams had realized this predicament. Lewis started off strong again, with Gandee, Robertson and Brandon Bass on a four car breakaway. Contact would set Bass out of the draft but still within striking distance of the leaders, mired back with Wade and Dukes. The first hat to be tossed into the strategy game would be Lewis'. Pitting nearly 3 laps before any of the other leaders. Gandee would be the next in with, Robertson and company the lap after. Everyone was now bound to their strategies. The early pitting by Lewis had allowed him to open up a near 4 second gap over second place Gandee, but forcing him into a pickle by attaching an extra pit stop by races end. Leading all through the run, Lewis peeled off for his 2nd cycle with 15 to go. Gandee ran his stint down to 13 to go, while Robertson and company ran close to empty to the 12 to go mark. One driver would go even as far to stretch the run an extra lap, as Dukes would begin sputtering in 3 & 4 but make it to pit road with 11 to go. The stage was set for a dramatic finish, and being just down the highway from Hollywood, would not disappoint. Lewis by this point had garnered a hefty lead, but alas with 5 to go would have to give up his hard fought first position for fuel. Gandee being well over a lap short, began managing his gap back to Robertson in 3rd, doing all he could to save just enough to make it to the end. All the while, Robertson, Bass and Wade were also conserving what they could as they too looked to be just short of making it the the end. The one driver that wasn't? Aaron Dukes back in 6th, putting himself more than 7 seconds behind Gandee, he was foot through the floor the entire rest of the way. As Dukes slowly clawed his way back into the hunt, Robertson had closed the gap to Gandee, taking the race lead with 3 laps to go. Gandee would have to give in coming to 2 to go. The number 19 Toyota would peel off and down pit road. Robertson now had a solid 2 second cushion over Bass in 2nd and an ever evaporating 4 second lead over Dukes in 3rd. As the number 42 Chevy took the white flag it only seemed like a matter of when. Did he save enough? Did he manage enough? Finally out of turn 4, seeing the checkers in sight, the engine began to sputter, and that cushion? Just enough, as Dukes would bypass an out of gas Bass on the final straight and come in just under 2 seconds behind the coasting 42 Chevy. Jerry Robertson in his first ORS appearance picked up the tough win, as Dukes would settle for second. Dukes would actually be the only returning driver in the Top 5 as Brandon Bass would coast past the line for 3rd, Sam Wade would do the same for 4th, and Jake Phillips who had a quietly consistent night rounded out the Top 5. Not all would be lost for Lewis and Gandee who came home 7th and 8th respectively, as their great stage finishes boosted them up the standings, just a stones throw from the top spots. Next week we go under the lights in the Midwest to the quaint 7/8th mile Iowa Speedway.
Outlaw Racing News
Wigent Wanders Away in Commanding Iowa Win
Newton, IA - A little something for everyone seemed to be the motif Wednesday night under the lights at Iowa Speedway. A dash of strategy, a tinge of bumping and grinding, a sprinkle of overly worn tires, and a splash of great side by side battling to help wash down what turned out to be a fantastic race through and through. Pacey Wigent however didn't want to leave much to chance in the final few stints, opening up and managing a 4 second lead, all while claiming victory for the first time this season to reinsert himself into the championship hunt.
Starting off the night was a blistering pole lap set by Shad Swatsworth to notch his first pole in the series. Then proceeding to prove it wasn't a fluke, Swatsworth would lead the much of the opening stage. By the end, Stage 1 became less about speed and all about fuel. Being just beyond the edge of fuel mileage, saving enough over the course of the run was a tall task, and two drivers aimed to do it. Aaron Dukes and Pacey Wigent began right at the drop of the green flag and as the stage wore on and pit cycles commenced these two would find themselves alone on the lead lap. Tires worn to the rim and mere fumes powering their engines, Dukes would go on to take the stage easily after an on-track mishap with another driver in the late laps saw Wigent fall a considerable distance back.
Stage 2 saw the script flip from fuel conservation to who could wrangle the long run car. At 27 laps, the tire fall off would provide the needed fuel saving to make the stage without pitting, and putting these drivers tires on the ragged edge. Out the gate early would be Ryan Lewis, wrestling the lead away from Dukes off the jump. Lewis would lead for the first dozen or so laps before Zach Gandee made his presence known. After working his way up to second, Gandee would challenge for the lead, taking it for himself with 15 to go. Lewis would falter, losing second to Dukes, and eventually third to Wigent unable to keep the pace. Gandee nursed his half second lead over Dukes for more than 10 laps before his tires would eventually fail him. Dukes would challenge with 5 to go, stealing the lead in turns 1 & 2, before cruising to a 3 second lead and his second stage win of the night.
By the final stage, everyone seemingly knew what everyone had. Lewis owned the short stint, Gandee commanded the mid run, while Dukes owned the long run. Until Wigent finally got a chance to stretch his legs. After an early caution, things seemed to mellow out. Lewis lead the early going as the field slowly began to drift apart. Dukes would find the apron, setting him behind the proverbial 8-ball, dropping him from the top 5. Wigent found strength as the stage rumbled on, closing on and disposing of Lewis after the first dozen laps after the restart. From there, Wigent never really looked back, slowly building up a solid lead, and maintaining the gap even through the first pit cycle. With at least one more stop on the docket, the field seemed pretty set in stone. Wigent had accumulated a 3 second lead as Gandee and Lewis fought for 2nd. Swatsworth rode in 4th while Dukes had fought back inside the top 5. The race on the line, the Top 3 played conservative, all pitting the at the same time. However as the cycle played through a new leader would emerge. Dukes on a two tire strategy would briefly hold the top spot, but after a lap Wigent re-inherited the lead. Once again Wigent would ride away, watching the number 1 Chevy fade from his mirror. Dukes would do his best to tame his wild ride, but alas Gandee and Lewis would reclaim their old spots. In the end, Wigent trumped the field en route to his first win of the season. Gandee clamoured home in second with Lewis just beating out Dukes for 3rd. Shad Swatsworth would hold on for 5th after attempting a two tire stop as well, capping off a solid point night for the number 21 team.
With the win Wigent shoots up standings after a provisional the week before, up 6 spots to 5th. Jerry Robertsons' 6th place effort keeps him in the hunt inside the top 5, nestled in 4th. Gandee and Lewis rebound after missing on last weeks strategy, to pick up big points, moving themselves into 3rd and 2nd respectively. Dukes remains atop the standings after two big stage wins and another top 5, stretching his lead out to 13 points over Lewis after 2 races. Next week the short track trend continues in the desert, and the ISM Raceway.
Outlaw Racing News
Dukes' Fuel Scheme Trumps Field in ISM Victory
Avondale, AZ - For all the hard racing that was witnessed tonight, and the many differing pit strategies demonstrated throughout the final stage, one driver trumped them all. Aaron Dukes pulled off a one stop strategy over the final 53 laps stage to not just capture the win, but to also compound his points lead heading into Road America as the first leg of the season closes out next week.
Starting off the night at ISM was with a Wigent sitting on the pole. Pacey Wigent claimed his first pole of the season to add to his league high 20 poles. Soon after the green flag flew however Wigent would elect to fall to the rear knowing his pace would be off before adjustments. This gesture allowed to outside front row sitter of Zach Gandee to take the top spot going into turn 1. Gandee would separate himself rather quickly from the field as Dukes and Ryan Lewis battled for nearly 15 laps before Dukes would finally emerge in the number 2 spot. A similar battle would take place for the number 4 spot between Shad Swatsworth and Jake Phillips, with Phillips coming out on top after an agonizing 18 lap tussle. Out front Gandee saw his lead shrink by over half a second over the closing laps of the stage but would hold on in the end for his 2nd stage win of the season.
Come the second stage, the skirmishes would intensify. Gandee would lead the field to green but within a handful of laps, and his mirror full of Ryan Lewis. The number 22 Ford muscled his way into the lead as a four car breakaway began in the front of the pack. Lewis, Gandee, Swatsworth and Dukes would race under the proverbial blanket for much of the stage, but no one had enough to challenge Lewis as the stage wound down. Lewis would go on to take the stage by several tenths for his second stage win of the season as well.
Going into the final stage, what was seen in the second would only be a glimpse of what was to come. As the race resumed, Lewis maintained his mantle ahead of the field, but again wouldn't see himself pull very much away. Through the first 16 laps much of the top 8 was only separated by less than 2 seconds. Though one driver amongst the hornets nest of cars was making big moves within. From 7th on the restart, Pacey Wigent began to prove his worth. Picking off drivers one by one, seeing himself inside the top 5 just a few laps after the green, and inside the top 3 just a handful of laps later. In a race where the passing had been tough, Wigent found the going easy pickings eventually working up to challenging for the lead before the first round of pit cycles began. This is where the feel of the race began to shift, as Gandee, who had dropped outside the top 5, would be the first to service his car. Thus setting off action throughout the field. Sam Wade would soon follow, with Wigent and Lewis pitting just laps later. Phillips and Jerry Robertson would succumb after 22 laps while Shad Swatsworth would pit the lap after. The biggest gamblers rolled the dice, staying out well beyond the estimated fuel window, as Dukes, Dennis Boggess and Kurtis Swatsworth finally completed the cycle with 27 to go. Gandee would cycle out to the lead but would soon be under fire as his older tires began to give way. With nearly the entire field playing against each other on differing strategies, Shad Swatsworth was the first to strike. The number 21 Chevy elected for a two tire stop with 21 laps to go, pitting well before anyone else to go the distance. His early call would quickly ignite the second round of pit stops as Gandee, Wigent, Wade and Lewis would pit just a few laps later. As Phillips and Robertson were off cycle from the rest, it wouldn't be until under 10 to go, the 4 and 42 would peeled off to the pit lane. Thus giving the lead up to Dukes with just 9 laps to go. As Dukes last pit on lap 83, the number 1 Chevy was looking to conserve what fuel he had to go through to the end, and running the final leg of the race at a sluggishly slow pace. Also on the plan was Boggess and Kurtis Swatsworth who inherited the 2nd and 3rd positions respectively. Much of the field quickly unlapped themselves and began bearing down on those of the top 3. Dukes had worked out a comfortable and ever growing 8 second lead over Boggess, with another 26 second cushion back to the two tires of Swatsworth. As the laps counted down, Kurtis Swatsworth would end up having to pit, coming up just a lap short of the checkers. Dukes would nurse his Chevy home to pilfer his first win of the season. Boggess would come up short, losing power going into turn 3, but would come in under the wire, holding off a hard charging Shad Swatsworth for 2nd. Swatsworths' two tire call brought the 21 Chevy home in 3rd, as Wigent just ran out of time having to settle for 4th. Ryan Lewis would also find himself settling for a top 5, with one of the best cars on the track being proven by Lewis setting the fastest lap of the night.
After 3 races, Dukes' win sees him stretch out his championship advantage just a little further, growing out to a 25 point advantage over Ryan Lewis, whose stage performance prevented further hemorrhaging of points. Zach Gandee with another solid points night, stays right on the tail of Lewis just 3 points out of 2nd. Pacey Wigent saw another solid performance on the heels of last weeks Iowa win, working himself now up to 4th in points, just 6 points in back of Gandee. Jerry Robertson found himself with another up and down night before falling to 7th, yet can remain hopeful, falling only to 5th in the standings 7 points behind 4th. Next week finishes off the first 3rd of the season which means its road course time as Road America awaits its prey.