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THURSDAY

March 7th

Outlaw Racing News

Lewis Holds Off Wigent in Final Laps for Second Win

Concord, NC - The sharks smelled points in the water on this night in Charlotte, after an engine failure early knocked Aaron Dukes from the race. Zach Gandee, Pacey Wigent, and Ryan Lewis all circled arouns each other for a majority of the evening, trading the lead amongst each other multiple times, looking to pick up a much needed points night this late in the season. Late cautions shook things up twice, before Ryan Lewis turned a race thrown away into victory, holding off Wigent and Gandee in the final 8 laps to claim his second victory of the season, and claw his way closer to the top 2 in points. 

Coming off back to back wins, Dukes looked strong early in the night. Nabbing the pole and leading a sizable portion of the races' opening stage. Joined in the front by the aforementioned Wigent and Lewis, along with Cody Reeves and Shad Swatsworth. The top 5 worked out to a lead over the rest of the field as laps ran down in stage 1. With fuel being short by several laps, much of the field made the needed stop and go pit stop for the fuel needed to reach stage end. Daniel Williamson, made the valiant attempt to go the distance but by the white flag lap, the top 3 of Dukes, Wigent, and Lewis, roared down upon Williamson in turn 1, as the number 4 Toyota began sputtering for any fuel the intake could grab. All the while Dukes made a play for the lead off of two, but an early entry into 3 forced the number 16 Toyota out of the throttle, giving Wigent the run off the top and Wigents' first green checkered flag of the season. 

The second stage turned the drama up for the front runners, as Dukes' number 16 went up in smoke from the second position, opening the door for a big points night for any of those at the top of the standings. Lewis, Gandee and Wigent pounced at the opportunity trading the lead for much of the second stage even as the races first caution cut the stage in two. Wigent on older tires would falter in the later laps, Lewis would hold off a hard charging number 19 to claim his second stage win of the year. 

Much of the final stage flew by, as an early caution began a long 45 lap green flag run. During which, Gandee and Lewis had opened up a sizable lead over Wigent, Swatsworth, and Michael Montgomery. As the race came down to its final pit stops, Lewis would elect for a 4 tire stop, whereas Gandee and Wigent would come away with 2. But with contact coming onto pit road slowing Gandee, Wigent had emerged with a nearly 3 second advantage over Gandee, putting him in the driver seat when the green flag pit stops cycled through. However fate had other plans, as the races final caution flew with 11 laps to go. With the pit strategies putting many at a disadvantage, most of the field elected to pit for four fresh tires for the final shootout. All except for Lewis, who would inherit the lead for the restart. Along with Matt Liptrap on the front row, Lewis got out to an early lead but draft brought Wigent right back up into the mix with 4 to go. Unable to make any real challenge for the lead, and Lewis thwarting any attempt to his inside, Lewis would hold strong for the final 8 laps to seal his 2nd win of the season. Making up for his fall from the podium the week before, Lewis bounced back in a big way, closing the gap to the points lead to 33, only 19 points now behind  Gandee in 2nd. Wigent came back in a big way, after mechanical failures had kept him from the finish two weeks in a row, now finds himself back in the hunt just 7 points behind Lewis, 4th in the standings. Gandee wound up with a solid night with a 3rd place finish, capitalizing on Dukes' misfortune to close to just 14 points out with 4 races to go. Shad Swatsworth continues to feed off his momentum from Canadian Tire, with his 2nd top 5 in 3 races. Michael Montgomery rounded out the top 5, his second in as many races. Next week the group gets down and dirty, as we head to the Ohio Valley and the Eldora Speedway.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday

March 12th

Outlaw Racing News

Dukes Dominates Eldora From Flag to Flag

New Weston, OH - Little was left to the imagination after the ORS crew tackled the clay dirt oval of Eldora Speedway. Aaron Dukes swept the race from wire to wire, leading all 150 laps en route to his 4th victory of the season. Yet joining him on the podium were several new faces. While Dukes stratched out his championship lead, Shad Swatsworth and Lee McQuain inserted themselves into the mid standings ferocity, finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. 

The races opening stages seemed to be a mere formality, with Dukes starting from the pole never looking back. That doesn't necessarily mark the first half of the event as unremarkable. The battle from 2nd through 5th for both stages provided great door to door fisticuffs, with paint traded, and egos bruised. Swatsworth showed his dirt slinging prowess early, overcoming some consistency issues, fought tooth and nail for each of his runner up finishes in the stages. All the while McQuain was able to sneak into the points in the first stage, flexed his muscle in the second. Proving he belonged amongst the front runners, and capitalizing on contact between Ryan Lewis and Zach Gandee, snagged third in the second stage. Cody Reeves even found himself in the points for stage 2 after the incident dropped Lewis back to 6th. In the end it was Dukes, notching stage wins 10 and 11 as the race slogged into the final stage. 

The hard nosed racing continued among the top 5, with contact and constant position changes shuffling much of the top 5. McQuain found himself 2nd before long after moving the 51 of Swatsworth for the position, but by the time the checkers flew Swatsworth had worked his way back up to the 98 of McQuain and emerging as the clear number 2. Yet that's all the fruit the battling would bear. Dukes would motor away to a near 8 second lead before settling behind the 18 of Reeves in the closing laps. With all 150 laps belonging to the number 16 Toyota, Dukes claimed the checkered flag for win number 4. Pushing his lead over Gandee to a season high 29 point deficit. Swatsworth pulled off his best finish of the season in the runner up spot, picking up a season high in points with 28 from the race and moving into a tie with Brett Stack for 12th. McQuain picked up his first top 5 of the year of his own doing, after Montgomery picked up a top 5 for the 98 team in Iowa. The third moved McQuain up only one spot to 11th, but did plant him amongst the mid pack fight in the standings a mere 18 points out of 7th. Ryan Lewis emerged from the night 4th, coupled with Wigents' absence more the secured his 3rd place in the standings. Gandee held on for fifth, after looking strong early fell off in the later runs, picking up his series leading 9th Top 5. Next week the lights stay dim as the night time racing resumes under the lights of the Kentucky Speedway.

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY

March 21st

Outlaw Racing News

Gilbert Gallops to First Win, Dominates Kentucky

Sparta, KY - Few could hold a candle to Charles Gilbert on this night. Even if you stayed with him on the restarts, over the course of the run Gilbert and his #40 Toyota would just eek away as the tires burned off. He held his own destiny, and shined within this domain. Gilbert becomes the second first time winner this year, and put the league on notice for the remainder of the season. 

Though Gilbert found a solid groove come race time, qualifying had Gilbert mired back in 6th on the start. Ryan Lewis had grabbed the top spot, and led though much of the opening stage. Green flag pit stops certainly shuffled up the Top 5 with varying strategies playing out. Gilbert would snatch the lead during the transition with a brilliant two tire stop giving him plenty of breathing room for the final 12 laps. With not much in the way of traffic, Gilbert cruised for his first stage win of the season while Lewis could all but look on, on his way to second in the stage. 

The races second stage put on quite the thrilling show as an early caution put many drivers right on the edge of a fuel run. Zach Gandee assumed the lead off the restart electing not to pit, but as green flag racing commenced the top 7 or 8 just couldn't seemingly separate. Reason being a majority of the field were trying to save just enough fuel to make it to the end over the final 28 lap run. The lead changed hands over a dozen times as drivers jockeyed for position to set themselves up for the finish. With just under 10 to go, Gandee would eventually give in to fuel, as not pitting under the previous restart had put him without the precious laps of fuel needed to make it. As the stage approached 5 laps to go, some drivers had to prioritize making it to the end over vying for the green checkered. Lewis would fall well behind the top 5, as Gilbert who had spent a number of laps behind this group saving just what he needed, began making a run through the field. While most of the pack wondered if they could make it, one driver had slowly stretched out a lead in the closing laps, knowing he had enough. Aaron Dukes to no ones surprise had again played the fuel mileage game to perfection. For the 12th time on the year, Dukes secured the stage win by nearly a second as Skyylor Karnes and Daniel Williamson fought tooth and nail for second coming to the line. Gilbert had rebounded all the way to 4th by the stage end. 

Yet as the races final leg came to be, things returned back to the norm as they had in stage 1. Strategy never really played a huge part in the races conclusion. After learning what they had from stage 1, much of the field knew exactly how to attack their final pit cycle of the evening. Though there were a handful of cautions sprinkled in, and one bad pit stop marring Gilbert back in traffic for the races final restart with 32 to go. In no time at all did Gilbert revert back to his commanding performance he had shown all race. The number 40 Toyota had retaken the lead with 27 laps left and never looked back. Even with another two tire stop, Gilbert outlasted the best of the rest, taking the checkered flag with a solid 5 second lead. Gilberts' win at Kentucky let us forget about the championship battle for a night, and allowed just a celebration of talent. Gandee turned his race around in the final stage, bouncing back from being a lap down to finish in the runner up position. Ryan Lewis never shyed too far away from the front tonight finishing with another solid third place finish, all but securing him into the top 3 in points. Daniel Williamson was another with a strong truck most of the night, procuring a great points night with good stage finishes and climbing back to 4th as the checkers flew. Aaron Dukes just held off a hard charging Shad Swatsworth to notch his 9th top 5 of the season. While the championship battle did get to take a backseat to the action, much changed within the mid field. With a stage win to his name, and the 19 struggling in the opening stages, Dukes saw a one point increase in his points lead going into the final two races. Lewis continuing his momentum, did close a couple points on the top 2, while pulling even further away from 4th place Pacey Wigent. Wigents' great first half of the season has granted him a nice cushion going into the final 2 races still sitting 40 points over 5th. After relying on provisionals the last handful of races, Williamson once again inserts himself into the Top 5 by a mere 3 points over Kirk Kligerman. The big winner this week amongst the mid field was Cody Reeves, jumping 2 spots to 8th only 7 points behind Dennis Boggess in 7th.  Every point matters as we venture to the southwest next week and the ISM Raceway

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY

March 26th

Outlaw Racing News

Dukes Survives Late Slug-Fest with Lewis for 5th Victory

Avondale, AZ - The result hung in the air for much of the final 15 laps. Aaron Dukes and Ryan Lewis barreled down upon the two tired Pacey Wigent, while there may have been a half second gap between the 16 and the 41 prior. Battling for the lead quickly became a 3 car frenzy as Dukes swooped high and Lewis dove low. Essentially splitting the 33, this would be the bookmark the finish would abide by. However over 14 hard nosed laps, Dukes was able to keep Lewis at bay to just stay ahead as the checkers flew and claim his fifth victory of the season. 

Wigent wasn't always the sitting duck, setting the pace early in the night snagging his second pole of the year, though it would be a short lived triumph. As the green flag flew, Wigent over drove the first turn, opening the door for Dukes and Zach Gandee who were already door to door, and running down the back stretch 3 wide. No driver seemed willing to give as they remained three wide though turns 3 & 4 and onto the dog legged front stretch. Wigent would be unable to hold his momentum back into turn 1 as Gandee cleared his way to the lead, ensnaring Lewis and Dukes in a battle for 2nd. he early run would not favor the 16 of Dukes as he would falter from this battle all the way to 5th as Wigent and Shad Swatsworth would make their way by. Gandee would lead all the way through to green flag pit stops, being one of the last trucks to partake. Dukes would kick off the frenzy for fresh rubber, electing for 4 tires with 28 laps remianing. Afterwards, much of the field would also make their way to pit road, with several drivers experimenting with 2 tire stops. Namely 3rd place runner Shad Swatsworth. With the pit cycle concluding, Swatsworth would inherit the lead, riding a solid 2 second cushion over Cody Reeves, also on 2 tires. Along with the laps winding down, the 2 tire strategies seemed to falter. Reeves would eventually succumb to Dukes, eventually falling from the Top 5, as would Kirk Kligerman. Yet Swatsworths' tires seemed to leech life from being out front, maintaining his 2 and a half second lead over Dukes in second. Swatsworth would hold on to that advantage even as the green checkered waved, awarding the 51 team with their first stage win of the season. 

The race would now move onto its middle stage. Adjustments now inserted, it was as much a battle as it was feeling the other drivers out. Dukes seemed to show the early run speed, quickly overtaking Gandee and Swatsworth from the start of the stage, he would amass a near full second lead. From there Gandee and Lewis would begin the run down of the 16, both taking shots at the lead before long. As most of the field would soon find out, stage 2 would be just on the edge of a fuel run. Lewis would bow out of the battle for the lead before long, electing to play it safe for the fuel mileage. All the same Dukes and Gandee never seemed to get out of arms reach of each other, the lead never getting more than a half second difference. Before long the drivers found themselves in the end game, and with 2 to go Gandee would have to bow out. Dukes would once again beat the fuel mileage game en route to his 13th stage win, as Kligerman and Reeves each played their part, collecting stage points in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Lewis for all the saving he attempted came up just short, even Gandee, who would beat the leader off pit road to stay on the lead lap, would get past the 41 to pick up the last stage point heading into the final stage. 

For much of the final stage, it seemed fairly matter of fact and almost eluding to how the finish may play out. Dukes led from the restart on, Lewis would close after the opening 20 laps as tires began wearing down. Dukes would seemingly hold the gap, even as Lewis would feel pressure from behind in Wigent. Gandee would finally settle himself in fourth. Everyone knew there was but one more pit stop left, but where everyone was unsure was who would kick off the cycle. Then with 27 laps to go, Dukes relinquished the lead, and pit road became hot quite quickly. The cycle was over not 3 laps later, with a new face sitting atop the standings. Wigent, going with the differing strategy, played with fire on the two tire stop. Most everyone else went with the four fresh. However Wigent would have to settle for watching his lead dwindle away. Dukes and Lewis were on a tear, running the quickest laps of the race, and with 14 to go Dukes had reached the 33's back bumper. The fresh tires whoed their worth almost immediately as Dukes would work the high side of Wigent out of turn 2. Identically, Lewis dove for the yellow line, taking the inside from Wigent on the exit of two. Dukes would retake the lead down the back as Lewis would clear Wigent into turn three. From there the heat was turned to a thousand as each turn presented itself a new skirmish. Lewis was obviously better with the exit of two with Dukes struggling with grip, but Dukes could counter as his truck favored the opposite end in the three and four. Lewis would finally fire the first shot with 10 to go, looking to the inside of Dukes out of two, going door to door for the lead. Dukes, however, would sail off into turn three, keeping his momentum and would clear Lewis coming to the line off the top side. Nine to go, Eight to go, the cycle continued. Lewis could pull to Dukes' window net every time down the back, but just wasn't able to stay even when the pair exited turn four. Seven to go, Six, it seemed as if every lap would incur the same agony for both drivers. Something happened with 5 to go. The slightest of changes in Dukes' attack of turn 1, seemed to give him the run off he'd been missing. Suddenly Dukes was keeping a truck length down the back, but with so much focus paid to on end of the raceway, the 16 began struggling in three and four. No longer pulling the 41 off the corner. Yet it all looked to be enough, Lewis could never quite get those runs he could before, having to languish behind Dukes. The 41 would get another shot, with 2 to go, turn two came back to him, and once again was able to pull up beside the 16. Alas, Dukes would again fend off the late attack and the white flag enveloped them. As they came through Lewis' end of the speedway, the 41 closed slowly down the backstretch, but Dukes would drive it off hard into the final corner, holding off what was probably the better truck, and claiming his fifth victory on the season. Lewis bitterly would have to accept his 4th runner up finish this year, safely securing his third place in the points standings. Zach Gandee would come home 3rd on the day after struggling with his truck on the first half of the run. Shad Swatsworth would finish 4th completing his best points day of the season. Hoisting himself into the top 10 in points, with a chance to move into 9th with a another solid run next week. Finally for the second time this year, Kirk Kligerman gets himself a top 5 finish allowing him back inside the top 5 in points with one race to go. The season finale kicks off in one week to decide the season in the Irish Hills of Michigan and the Michigan International Speedway.