Outlaw Racing News
Swatsworth Rebounds with Come From Behind Victory, Claims Kansas
Kansas City, KN - Last week was not what Shad Swatsworth expected. Auto Club saw the 46 team struggle after early contact forced them well behind everyone else. They fought hard for what they could, but alas had to settle for a dismal 11th place finish. At times tonight it looked as if the same luck would befall the Swatsworth team. Looking good after stage 1, the 46 caught the wall early in stage 2 again sending him to the back, and again to start the final stage saw himself behind the main pack. Using the races single caution Swatsworths' hard work would finally pay off, knifing through the field to present one of the few challenges to Zach Gandee. In fact Swatsworth would prove to be the bigger challenge, marching past the 48 Chevy en route to a 2 second victory, finally arriving at the peak after so many valleys over the past season and a half.
Though Swatsworth wasn't the early favorite, and in order to comeback there must that hill to climb. From the drop of the green, that hill looked to be Ryan Lewis. Back to back poles for the number 9 Chevy, saw Lewis back out front looking very strong early on. Lewis would lead much of opening stage, while also utilizing a sweet two tire strategy to outlast a hard charging Swatsworth to claim the opening stage, Lewis' second of the season.
Strong out of the gate for the second stage, Lewis continued to lead with little challenge. lewis was seemingly picking up where he left off in California, where Lewis was also a strong competitor. However the feeling wouldn't last long. Whilst leading, Lewis' engine would expire, retiring the number 9 team prematurely. With Lewis gone, the mantle was passed to the 33 of Tyler Starcher who would resume the race lead before the field delved into pit stops, shuffling the running order heavily as multiple strategies came to fruition. When the cycle came to its end, Aaron Dukes found himself leading with Richard McGinnis close in tow as the two looked to stretch the stage its full 19 laps on fuel. A gamble that would pay off as Dukes would go on to take the stage for his first stage win of the season.
With Lewis out, the dominant car looked to fall to Gandee as the races final stage begun. Starcher, Mike Montgomery and Pacey Wigent stayed close in tow as the 4 began to pull away from the field. Then came the lead up to the races lone caution. Sam Wade would lose control of his 00 Chevy, collecting McGinnis all while Dennis Boggess would do the same out of turn 2, collecting Shad Swatsworth just a lap later. Much of the field would elect to pit except for McGinnis who eyed a gamble of some sort, and inheriting the lead. Once the race restarted his lead wouldn't last long with his old tires giving way to fresh rubber rather quickly. Gandee would resume the top spot through much of the next run as the restart left 39 to go. The next pit cycle would hit with around 28 to go, leaving much of the field spread out. Though Gandee wouldn't cycle out with the lead. Dukes would take over the top spot, having undercut the previous pit stops with a two tire strategy. However with the aged rubber, Dukes would soon see his 3 second lead evaporate as the fresh tires of Gandee quickly tracked down the 99 Ford. Though as Gandee was hunting the 99, a new challenger appeared for the 48 Chevy. Shad Swatsworth, who had overcome several incidents, was too on the prowl. As he and Gandee dispatched the 99 of Dukes, Swatsworth quickly went on the attack putting pressure on Gandee before wrestling the lead away with 20 to go. However one more stop stood between everyone and the checkers. Montgomery and Dukes opened the bidding with 16 to go, setting off the final pit cycle of the night. Gandee would come a few laps later before Swatsworth would peel off a lap after. The slight undercut from Gandee did secure the 48 team the lead if only for a moment. Once back up to speed Swatsworth would catch and dispatch of the 48 hastily, as he looked to extend his lead over the final 11 laps. Untouchable over the final run, Swatsworth cruised out to nearly a 2 second lead by the time the 46 Valvoline Ford would see the checkers. After a season of trying, a season of top 5 after top 5, Shad Swatsworth finally found himself back in victory lane for just the 2nd time in his ORS stint. Gandee would have to settle for runner up as he could do nothing but watch another win slip through his fingers for the second week in a row. Montgomery continued to show his early season strength, finishing off the night with a third. Pacey Wigent fought back after an early spin to bring home a 4th as Dukes would see his strategy bring the 99 home for a top 5.
Zach Gandee has flexed his muscle early this season, for the second week in a row coming just one last run short of a victory. Yet two straight podium finishes in nothing to sneeze at as Gandee climbs atop the point standings by a slim 8 point margin. A tie for second brings up the likes of Mike Montgomery and Aaron Dukes, both getting there in thier own way. Montgomery has shown much speed early on while Dukes has had to rely more on strategy to poach his pair of top 5's. Either way the duo find themselves just an arms reach from the top of the standings, in a momentary stalemate for 2nd. Sam Wade would fall to fourth after being unable to capitalize on the win the week before, but still sits in solid position just 14 points in back of Gandee. From one race winner to the next, Shad Swatsworth rocketed through the standings following his big win. Jumping from 11th to 5th, he'll look to keep this momentum and pounce on the 16 point difference between himself and the top. First things first though, surviving the desolate desert as the crew heads to ISM Raceway for week 3 of this 13 week season.
Outlaw Racing News
Gandee Holds Fast, Keeps Field at Bay in Tightly Contested ISM Win
Avalon, AZ - Finally, that sigh of relief. It had been over 10 races and a season, numerous runner up finishes, dominant car just to have it stolen in the end. Nearly every twist and turn going against him in just the wrong way at just the wrong time. At times, it almost seemed as if victory lane was eluding just him, doing everything right to have it all taken away. Yet here we land, at finally. He staved off every late challenge and charge, running down the 14 machine when it looked as if strategy might just spoil another dominant performance. Rerunning down the 63 after contact put Gandee behind. Then watching as the 99, as he'd done many times before looked to do the impossible. This one however was different. No one was stealing this one, no one was surprising him with speed. This time everything he worked for would come to fruition. Victory on this day at ISM belongs to Zach Gandee.
Besides Gandee there's another who seems to find that black and white checkered flag equally as elusive of late. For three weeks, Lewis has set his number 9 Chevy on the pole position. For three weeks Lewis has had one of the strongest cars, and for three weeks Lewis has found himself with a stage win in hand. Tonight would be no different. Lewis quickly from his number one spot on the grid opened up his lead over the field. putting a second advantage up by the time they were 5 laps in. The big worry early in the stage was rubber. Would the tires be able to last the full 22 lap stage. For some, this was the end goal. As laps wound down, drivers would be put to the test to be conservatively aggressive. Closer and closer the stage end drew, and several cars gave in pitting in the closing laps. Though a good many would risk blowing a tire, for a taste of stage points. Lewis would just make it to the line before his rubber gave way, as we would see 3 of the top 5 have flats on the final lap with two of them spinning in turns 3 & 4. Stage winner went to Lewis for his third straight race with a stage victory.
Stage 2 would put a little more emphasis on speed being 3 laps shorter than the one before it. This would be where Gandee would first flex his muscle. Even with Kurtis Swatsworth leading the field to green, Lewis would be the man to find himself back in the top spot by the time the field made its first pass of the line. Though Lewis would not so easy pull a gap this time around. Gandee stuck himself to the rear bumper of Lewis, wasting no time going after the number 9 Chevy. Much of the top 5 was under a blanket with a bunch of side by side racing early in the stage. The top 2 would tangle for a number of laps before Gandee would eventually emerge ahead, as Lewis would falter. Before long however Gandee would have company. Shades of just a week ago, Shad Swatsworth sliced through the field after restarting 9th following his blown tire in stage 1. Now the 46 Ford was back hunting the 48 with 13 to go. This time however there seemed to be an air of determination emanating from the 48 team this go round. With Swatsworth keeping the pressure on, Gandee would keep the 46 in his rear view over the final 13 laps en route to his first stage win of the season.
Keeping in mind the taste of leading, Gandee was resilient in his defense of the top spot as the race rumbled into its final stage. Leading all the way up to the first round of pit stops, Gandee would resume his stranglehold on the lead once the first cycle concluded. Though Gandee never held an insurmountable advantage, he maintained the lead he did have, never really getting challenged through much of stage though Boggess and Lewis were within arms reach. The excitement didn't pick up again until after the second round of pits stops had cycled through. Multiple strategies came to light as Mike Montgomery on two tires emerged ahead of Gandee and Boggess, who came to pit road just behind the 48. Setting up for the final stint, Gandee wasted no time closing the gap to Montgomery but as Gandee looked to pass the 14, Boggess took this moment to take the two three wide. Contact ensued, sending Montgomery and Gandee into the outside wall giving Boggess the lead with Lewis sneaking through for 2nd. There it was, again. Once more a win seemingly slipping through his fingers. As noted before though, that air of determination once again shone through. Gandee after falling to 5th, quickly picked off Montgomery after using the 14 up. Caught and passed the 9 of Lewis clearing himself off of 4. Now it was onto Boggess, and Gandee wasted no time dispatching the 63, paying forward the contact from earlier and sending Boggess hard into the outside wall. While all of his was happening, one thing was forgotten about. All the batting was for 2nd on the track. Dukes was once again up to his old ways, as the 99 sat upon a rapidly evaporating 8 second lead. Tonight however was not one of those nights and in one of the few times the 99 has come up short, Dukes would have to give up the top spot to pit with 3 laps to go. Inheriting the lead, Gandee only had to hold off a hard charging Ryan Lewis over the final few laps. Maintaining a lead of just a few car lengths, Gandee would seal the deal on this night, finally getting back to victory lane for his 11th series win. Lewis would come home in 2nd to rebound nicely from his DNF a week ago. Boggess would have to settle for 3rd as Swatsworth finished the night in 4th. Montgomery would hold on for 5th as his 2 tires slowly slipped in the final laps.
Capping off the night with a win was a huge way for Gandee to capitalize on taking the points lead last week. Gandee would see his point lead stretch out to a solid 23 point advantage after just 3 weeks, with Dukes falling short on strategy tonight being now the only driver left with a top 5 in every race through the first three. Lewis rebounded nicely after a disastrous race week in Kansas. Another stage win, another pole, in fact sweeping the first 3 races this season while also garnering the most bonus points to work the 9 team into the number 2 spot in the standings. Keeping up appearances of a solid car every week thus far. Mike Montgomery does drop to third after being tied for 2nd last week but continues to be a figurehead in these finishes week in and week out. Holding steady in 4th is Shad Swatsworth picking up a Top 5 after last weeks victory. Dukes falls into a tie for 5th with Sam Wade the week 1 winner. Strategy failed Dukes tonight coming up just short of snookering yet another win, by instead falling to 11th by nights end, now sitting 39 points in back of Gandee. The Finger Lakes region of New York welcomes the ORS gang as the years first road course will present its own challenges at the Watkins Glen International.
Outlaw Racing News
Last Lap Pass Sees Lewis Overcome Late GWC for Watkins Glen Glory
Watkins Glen, NY - After being a pace setter through much of the season, Ryan Lewis swept the stages and the win to claim his first victory of the season to set right on the heels of Zach Gandee in the championship standings. It had been pole after pole, contender week in and week out, yet after every week he seemed to settle just short of putting the entire race together. Tonight a late caution nearly saw another potential win wither away. Having to fight back and defend against an intense Mike Montgomery, Lewis was able to put the final staple in the final corners to keep the 14 at bay to win here at The Glen.
For the first time all season, Lewis was unseated from leading the field to green. Riding high off his momentum from ISM, Zach Gandee laid down the best lap with a speed of 127.539 for his fifth ORS pole. The top spot would be the hot spot in the early going with a number of drivers taking their swing. Shad Swatsworth and Mike Montgomery would trade the position with Gandee until Lewis, working up from his 5th starting poisition would take the lead with 7 to go and never look back. Lewis would go virtually unchallenged though the rest of the stage securing his 4th stage win of the season.
Stage 2 wouldn't be quite as clear cut with Swatsworths' crew getting it done on pit road to allow the 46 Chevy to lead the field to green. From the jump Swatsworth was a stalwart out front, fending off multiple challengers as the laps quickly ticked off the board. As it looked as if Swatswoth would hold off Lewis to take the stage, a single slip up in turn 7 allowed the 9 to go on the offensive, finishing the pass down the front straight and leading the final lap of the stage as Lewis claimed his 5th stage win of the season.
The races final stage would truly test the consistency of the top drivers. As the race commenced, the mistakes started early. Swatsworth would lose control first, relegating the 46 team to the back of the field. Then it was Gandee catching too much of the rumble strip off of turn 1, joining Swatsworth behind the 8 ball. Next was Montgomery spinning into the tire barriers between the final corners, collecting Aaron Dukes in the incident. Pacey Wigent who through all the errors, running runner up, nixed his pit strategy by pitting just a lap too soon, forcing the 0 Chevy into a 2 stop strategy. Even the pit wall claimed its share of drivers on exit, as Gandee and Dukes would both clip the wall on pit exit spinning them across the racing surface. The only front runner seemingly above all the troubles was Lewis, whose lead had grown exponentially over the course of the run. Though Lewis had outrun all those issues and errors that had befallen his peers. He just couldn't overrun them. Lee McQuain who was on the verge of going another lap down after early issues had put the 24 team several laps down, lost control of his Chevy in front of the leader, unfortunately collecting the 9 of Lewis to bring out the races only caution to set up a green-white-checkered to end the evening. Through Lewis' incident, Montgomery had inherited the lead even though Lewis remained in 2nd. As the GWC commenced, Montgomery got a massive start as Lewis jumped a bit, having to lay off to make sure the 14 got to the line first. Lewis however would fight back getting back to the 14's corner panel before falling in line ahead of Swatsworth in 3rd up through the esses. Montgomery would have a fantastic bus stop and carousel combo, opening up a half second lead on the 9 heading down into turn 7. Lewis would counter with a clean 7 and 8, closing back to with 2 car lengths as they took the white flag. With Lewis breathing again down his back, Montgomery would over shoot turn 1 just enough to open the door for Lewis as the two would barrel off toward the esses door to door. Contact in turn 2 would push the 14 a little wide and popping his left sides into the grass as they shifted to turn 3, but Montgomery never lifted, carrying momentum back into turn 4 just a half car length off the bumper of Lewis. Now though it would briefly be a three car race as Swatsworth was now on the bumper of the 14 as the trio rumbled down the backstraight towards the bus stop. As the three were under the virtual blanket, Swatsworth would blink last, getting hard into the back of Montgomery getting into the bus stop. While it would cost the 46 over a second to the leader, Montgomery was able to stay right with Lewis through the bus stop and into the carousel. However Lewis would catch too much of the rumble strip on exit, dragging his right sides into the grass and giving the momentum off the carousel to Montgomery as once again the two were door to door down the short shoot to turn 7. Though Montgomery would clear Lewis, he would take a rather defensive line into turn 7 giving the better turn to Lewis who was a half lane higher on entry. The two would touch sending the 14 wide off of 7 but the two were still essentially door to door approaching the final corner. Montgomery however would catch a bit too much of the rumble strip as Lewis would hold his momentum on the high side, fending off the determined Montgomery to secure his first win of the season. Montgomery would have to settle for his best finish of the season thus far with a 2nd. Swatsworth continues his string of success with a third, as Tyler Starcher and Anthony Benda, in his first ORS race, come home 4th and 5th respectively for their first top 5's of the season.
Gandees' night ended on a bit of a sour note, after having a top 5 car all night, would lose it for the second time off the turn 1 rumble strip on the final lap to fall back into 6th. Though his two 4th place finishes in the stages would stave off losing the championship lead, for now Gandee clings to a 2 point advantage heading into next week. Lewis' strong 45 point night marched him right up to the doorstep of the top of the standings as he'll look to carry this momentum into next week and finally cross the threshold. Another strong showing from Mike Montgomery sees the 14 team right in the thick of a championship pursuit. Posting his best finish of the season thus far, the 14 sits just 13 points back of Gandee. Speaking of strong showings, Shad Swatsworth notches yet another podium this season, his 2nd in 3 races while not only pulling to just 20 points off of 1st, but building up a decent cushion back to 5th, leading Dukes by 27 points. Dukes so far this season hasn't been the Dukes of old, but ever consistent nonetheless even on the heels of an unfortunate night. 5th in the standings and still spitting distance from the championship battle, a few good races could make this a 5 man hunt at the top, or a few bad races could prop the four horsemen atop the standings into their own zip code. A trip to the midwest is in order as action under the lights kicks off in a week at the Iowa Speedway.
Outlaw Racing News
Gandee Lambastes Field in Dominate Iowa Victory
Newton, IA - The restarts may have been wild and crazy, a hectic rumble for position. Once the racing cooled off, and the single file action took over. One man proved to be unbeatable. Zach Gandee led over 80 laps en route to becoming the first multiple win driver of the season after a completely dominating performance at the Iowa Speedway. Ever extending his points lead after nearly losing it post The Glen when late race catastrophe dropped the 48 to a sub par finish. Tonight its the last thing on his mind, opening up a nearly 30 point advantage heading into Pocono.
Gandee achieved pole number 2 in back to back races and from the jump Gandee looked strong. Opening up a half second lead early over Mike Montgomery and Aaron Dukes. It would slowly stretch out to nearly a second before Dukes would open the bidding, hitting pit road first. Dukes would in fact set off a series of reaction stops as most of the field followed suit within the next several laps. Ryan Lewis would hold out the longest, while strategy took its place in the fight for second with pit stops cycling through. Dukes and Shad Swatsworth gambled on the two tire stop, Montgomery another second back also took two tires. Then came Gandee and Pacey Wigent an extra 7 seconds back on 4 tires. However it was apparent Dukes was having trouble with the handle of his car as the run went on. Swatsworth would run down the 99 from a second back to set up taking the lead once Lewis hit pit road. Next would be Montgomery moving into the number 2 spot as Lewis would make his stop with 8 to go. Dukes would nearly fall into the clutches of Gandee but would hold on as the stage came to a close. Shad Swatsworth would nab his first stage win of the season.
Stage 2 Swatsworth came out swinging. Out of the gate the 46 looked strong keep the likes of Montgomery and Gandee at bay for the opening 10 laps of the stage, building up just over a one second lead. Before long pit stops would come calling again. Gandee would pit a lap before Swatsworth but it would turn out to be a big momentum swing in favor of the 48. As pit stops cycled out, Gandee found himself passing the 46 down the backstretch inheriting a solid one second advantage with 11 to go. The pass on track however was only for 3rd, as two drivers looked to stretch things out to the end. Montgomery joined the fight way late, as he held onto as ever shrinking lead. Dukes, though he was in save mode throughout the entire run, closed down on this gap quickly eventually taking the lead with 5 to go. From there it was a matter of managing the gap back to Gandee who was over 12 seconds back, and once again Dukes would steal a stage via the saving game for his second stage win of the season.
To begin the final stage Dukes found himself in trouble early, as adjustments put him well behind the 8 ball from the drop of the green. The 99 would quickly drop from the top 5 as Gandee retook the top spot and from there he would't look back. Over the next 63 laps Gandee would prove why he would be the guy to beat this season. Pacey Wigent never let the 48 feel completely comfortable, but would never truly able to get up and challenge Gandee as the run went on, but did keep the 48 team honest through the entirety of the runs. While Gandee was being kept honest by Wigent the same could be said for Swatsworth to the 0 Chevy. Outside of that, the top 3 had checked out. Even through a pair of pit cycles, and a caution-less race. Wigent during the final run would close the gap to under 2 seconds. However Gandee would maintain his lead the entire stage and claim his 2nd victory of the season. Wigent could do little but watch, but after several tough races this season, a runner up finish could be just what this 0 team needed. Swatsworth has continued his string of consistency with yet another podium finish, his third of the season. Sam Wade found success to back up his season opening win, with a 4th place finish while Mike Montgomery fought hard for his 4th top 5 to keep pace with Swatsworth and Gandee.
Surging ahead in the standings is Gandee, taking full advantage of a rough night for Ryan Lewis, to open up a solid 28 point advantage heading into week 6. Shad Swatsworth finds himself sitting 2nd in points after another solid night. Just a single point separates him from Ryan Lewis who falls to third this week. Lewis had a rough night in the 9 Chevy. Found himself behind the 8 ball early in the final stage, was working hard to rebound to 7th battling Dukes in the final laps for the position until a cut RF tire put the final staple in his night. Now Lewis sits 3rd in points 29 back of Gandee. Though Mike Montgomery falls to 4th in points, he sits right in the thick of the championship fight. 32 points in back of Gandee but only 3 points out of Swatsworth in 2nd. Then there's Dukes whose luck continues to fight against him, a lowly 7th place finish sees the 99 team give up even more points to the top. Its quickly becoming do or die time for the 99, sitting now 65 points in back of the top. The tricky triangle leads us nearly into the half way point of the season, and with the fight at the top remaining thick, who blinks first? Pocono, week 6, Wednesday night, who knows whats in store.
Outlaw Racing News
Gandee Scary Good on Hollows Eve, Goes Back to Back for Win Number 3
Long Pond, PA - Class was back in session on this Halloween eve to close out October. For the second week in a row, Zach Gandee was the professor as all the pupils could only sit back and watch. His pace went unmatched through most of the night, his 48 Chevy was scary good even when muddled back in traffic as he was on several occasions tonight. Many tried to unseat the 48 from the top spot, but by the end of the night Gandee gave a tip of the hat and cruised off into the night. Pulling out a 3 and a half second lead en route to his third win in 4 races.
Not only had Gandee been dominate during the race, qualifying has been his alone the past 3 weeks as Gandee and Ryan Lewis both now sit with 3 poles each on the season. Gandee wasted no time early on, as he, Lewis and Aaron Dukes used the first lap to break away by over a second to 4th. In this first stage however, Lewis was ill content to ride runner up, going on the attack early and often as the two would swap the lead over the opening handful of laps. While the battle for the lead intensified, a new challenger appeared. Covering over a second and a half difference, Mike Montgomery was hot on the tire tracks of Aaron Dukes, and after Gandee scuffed the wall out of turn 2, Dukes was forced behind the slower 48, allowing the 14 of Montgomery to go two for one heading into turn 3. Though Gandee would hold off this challenge, he would eventually fall to the 14 a couple laps later. While all this took place behind Lewis, He wasn't able to capitalize on building an advantage, and was soon under pressure from Montgomery in the closing laps. Lewis would fight hard, but much like the rest of the top 5 would succumb to Montgomery in this opening stage. Montgomery notched his 2nd stage win of the season just ahead of both Lewis and Gandee.
Drama began the races second stage as the caution would immediately welcome the field. Dennis Boggess with the brilliantly risky strategy call to not pit on the conclusion of stage 1 saw the 63 take the green on fumes and 3 inflated tires. As anyone could have forseen, the field would pile into the 63 as he spun immediately upon the drop of the green flag and as quickly as the stage resumed, it was again halted. Now it would only be a 7 lap shootout to decide stage 2, and no one was prepared for the speed Gandee showed up with to begin the stage as the only driver to not pit under the caution. Untouched for the final 7 laps, Gandee secured his second stage win of the season.
Much like the start of stage 2, a caution welcomed the field in the beginning of the final stage when Gandee blasted the turn 2 wall on the opening lap. Dukes would inherit the lead but even a masterful restart would not prevent the inevitable. Sam Wade, who had the short run speed all night quickly closed on Dukes in the proceeding laps, taking the lead 3 laps after the restart. Dukes would fight back in turn 2 but as Dukes got under Wade, Montgomery took a huge run under Dukes as it was three wide for the lead out of the tunnel turn. Wade would fade, as the 99 and 14 remained door to door down to turn 3. Montgomery would emerge ahead to take the top spot as it was a flurry of action behind him. Two and Three wide erupted numerous times throughout the top 10. While the storm raged, casualties would be produced. The first would be Montgomery, after contact with the 0 of Wigent, the 14 would careen off the turn 2 wall before spinning back across the track sending much of the pack scrambling the avoid the Chevy. Next would be Wigent, after a slight nudge from the 48 of Gandee, the already loose 0 Chevy would go full out of control exiting turn 3 spinning toward the inside wall. As the field finally started spreading out, Gandee who had restarted 9th was back in the lead with Lewis and Anthony Benda close in tow, and Shad Swatsworth and Dukes a few seconds back. Yet as the pit cycle commenced, the chaos of the final stage claimed its final victims as Benda and Swatsworth would get together on pit entry, collected the unsuspecting 99 of Dukes essentially pushing the trio out of contention barring a late caution. With the cycle concluded, and racing back underway Lewis quickly went on the attack on fresh rubber. Gandee however never let the pressure consume him, letting the car do the talking for him. As Lewis used up his stuff, Gandee slowly began to exponentially stretch his lead. As he took the white flag, what was a hard nosed battle for the top spot was now a 3 second lead over the number 9 Chevy. Cruising for the final 2 miles, Gandee would conquer the Tricky Triangle to become the first back to back winner this season, and winner of 3 of the last 4. Lewis would rebound after a rough Iowa showing for 2nd. Shad Swatsworth continues his run of consistency with yet another podium finish. Anthony Benda in his 2nd ORS appearance nothces his 2nd top 5 with a 4th place effort as Aaron Dukes rounded out the top 5.
Behind another great points night Gandee firmly holds the championship lead in his grasp as we head into the halfway mark of the season. A solid 41 point advantage going to week 7. Lewis retakes 2nd in the championship behind a 2nd place run at Pocono. Though not out of the fight for first, overcoming a 41 point deficit will prove challenging if Gandee keeps up this momentum. Shad Swatsworth falls once again back to third, but still proving top be a potent opponent. Notching yet another podium, Swatsworths' consistency has kept the 46 team in championship contention throughout the season, the question becomes can he take that next step and turn these podiums into wins and eat into Gandees' mounting lead. Mike Montgomery maintains his standing sitting comfortably in 4th after showing grit, coming back to a 7th place finish to salvage what he could from a disappointing Pocono run after showing front runner pace. Though he loses some ground to those around him, he still sits on a comfortable 34 point advantage over Dukes in 5th. Like everyone tonight, Dukes lost quite a bit of points to the top of the standings, now sitting 85 in back of Gandee. Unless Dukes and company can turn their season around at the halfway point in season, a championship top 5 may be all that's in the cards for the 99 team. Gateway could be a place drivers could either shine in the spotlight, or let the rain wash their tears away. There's nothing quite like a short track to stir the pot even further as the seasons halfway mark sits just a week away.
Outlaw Racing News
Dukes Again Proves to be Conservation King, Steals Gateway
Madison, IL - A much needed night for a number of drivers as a strategy filled final stage flipped the leaders on their head as much of the field vied for the one stop race. When it comes to getting the best out of their game plan, there are few that can top Aaron Dukes. As he once again proved tonight well outpacing those on a similar one stop strategy. Though its taken half a season for Dukes to finally notch a win on the year, its a step in the right direction for a team looking to turn their season around and into championship contenders.
Even with a win to his name, Dukes didn't mind adding one more accolade as the 99 team was able to give us only our 3rd different pole setter this season. From the drop of the green Dukes was able claw out to nearly a one second lead as much of the field became embattled. However Dukes' enjoyment would slowly come to an end. Shad Swatsworth would slowly over the opening 9 laps reel in the 99 Ford. The two would battle for several laps, trading the lead before contact between the two would bring Mike Montgomery into the fold. Catching the battling leaders sleeping, Montgomery would go two for one in turns 1 & 2, to take the lead with 8 to go in the stage. From there Montgomery would not look back. Cruising for the final laps, the 14 Chevy would take his 3rd stage win of the season.
Stage 2 would see Montgomery flex his muscle ever further. Though Zach Gandee and Richard McGinnis would stay close in tow through much of the stage, neither of them could genuinely challenge the 14. Keeping his competitors at bay for stage number 2, Montgomery would take both stages, notching his 4th stage win of the season.
The racing leading up to the final stage had been excellent with plenty of side by side action throughout the field, and the start of the final 48 laps were no different. The top 4 were essentially under a blanket from the drop of the green. Montgomery led Gandee, Swatsworth, and Pacey Wigent, and they would slowly inch away from the rest of the field. Dennis Boggess and Aaron Dukes weren't too far behind but the front 4 were in a league of their own early on. Even with an ever growing gap, the front 4 weren't content to rest on their laurels. The battling up at the front was fierce and feisty. The lead would change hands a numerous times before the races first pit cycle came upon them. Wigent would open the bidding, being the first to pit road with 30 to go. Soon after would be Swatsworth, Gandee, and Montgomery within laps of each other. However several drivers looked to stretch this first run to lap 76. Dukes, who would inherit the lead, McGinnis and Anthony Benda, all met that goal, rejoining the race with 24 to go. With the pit cycle concluded, Wigent would resume leading the race and many of the front runners looking to jump on the one stop wagon. This endeavor would prove challenging as the 14 and 48 quickly dropped back to the 99 of Dukes in 5th. Gandee would stick with Dukes to keep the 99 team honest, while Montgomery would give in to the inevitable, pitting with 18 to go. Wigent would give up his 12 second lead to hit the pits next, all in on his 2 stop strategy. Swatsworth would now become the race leader, as Dukes and Gandee were quickly closing the gap. In all of 3 laps, Swatsworths' 6 second lead had evaporated as the 46 attempted to save what he could, but the attempt would be in vain. Dukes would take the race lead with 10 to go with Swatsworth pitting shortly after. Gandee would stay tight with Dukes for a majority of the run, doing his best to keep the 99 honest but in the end, Gandee would overuse his Chevy, burning his tires down to the liner and a blown right rear would force the 48 to pit road. From there Dukes could set sail for the checkered flag, with his nearest challenger Sam Wade 8 seconds back. For the first time this season, Dukes sets himself in victory lane, becoming the 5th different race winner this season. Sam Wade has shown he's a force to reckoned with in the fuel mileage races, finishes the night with a solid 2nd place finish. Richard McGinnis saw his strategy play out wonderfully to come home 3rd. Pacey Wigent stuck with his 2 stop strategy, that persistence paid off with a top 5 as the only driver in the top 5 with multiple pit stops. Once again Anthony Benda has found his way into another top 5, going 3 for 3 in his ORS starts this season.
Tonight saw one of the few blemishes on Gandees' otherwise stellar season. A blown tire saw the 48 team relegated to 8th but a strong stage showing helped bail Gandee out of a disappointing finish. Even with the 8th, Gandee still saw his lead grow by 2 points over now second place runner Shad Swatsworth, now 43 points in front. Swatsworth was among those high in the standings to wind up with a rough finish, outside the top 5 for one of the few times this season. Yet with Ryan Lewis taking a provisional, the 46 team did move up in the standings but only gained but one point on the championship lead, unable to capitalize on the 48's misfortune. Mike Montgomery also moved up a spot in the standings to 3rd. On what would've been a huge points night after 2 stage wins, the 14 team also saw a strong night turn to disappointment. Though picking up 4 points on Gandee, now 47 points from the top spot. Ryan Lewis took home a marginal 10 point provisional to drop all the way to 4th in the standings. Lewis would benefit from those around him in the standings having rough nights, not losing much ground in the process. Dukes came out the big winner of the night, picking up the victory on a night everyone above him in the standings was outside the top 5. This was the night Dukes has needed to help catapult the 99 team into the championship picture, but his work his cut out for him and it will be a long road to recover from 70 points down. Its all downhill from here as we bypass the halfway point and embark on the back half of the season. Gandee has done well to put himself well advantaged over the first half of the season, can he do it for 6 more races? Charlotte is the next challenge, who will prevail?
Outlaw Racing News
Swatsworth Outlasts Fuel and Field, Racks Win Number 2 on Season
Concord, NC - For two weeks in a row, pit strategy played the spoiler. Turning again into who could outlast who. Who could make what work. Everyone took a different shot in the dark, and 2 guys hit the bullseye. The ending became a shootout between Shad Swatsworth and Sam Wade. Jockeying for position while keeping just enough fuel in the car to finish the race. In the end, Wade came up 200 feet short. Shad Swatsworth carries his sputtering 46 Chevy across the line, just beating out the coasting 00 of Wade to restake his claim in the championship hunt with win number 2 on the year.
Pacey Wigent reintroduced himself to front running this week, starting off the night with his first pole of the season. Wigent would immediately assert himself a contender from the drop of the green. Mike Montgomery would stick right to the bumper of Wigent with Gandee and Lewis close in tow. Wigent and Montgomery would trade the lead several times before the races first pit cycle. From the first stage, strategy played its role, as Wigent and Lewis would take 4 tires, Montgomery and Gandee would take 2. Gandee would in fact take the race lead during the cycle with Montgomery close in tow. Gandee had set himself up to take the stage, but a slip in turns 3 & 4 wahsed the 48 up, allowing the 14 of Montgomery to slip through to steal his 5th stage of the season.
Stage 2 saw fuel saving go full bore as a number of drivers looked to stretch the full 19 laps of the stage. Wigent and Montgomery still set the pace, as car by car would back off to conserve what they could to push the limits on a fuel run. As the run went on, car after car dropped to pit road for a stop and go fuel pop. By the end, Shad Swatsworth was showing the way but having to back off so much, he saw his lead over the now second place Aaron Dukes, rapidly closing. However the 46 would begin sputtering on the back stretch, looking to coast all the way back to line. A feat he nearly accomplished. Dukes well under power would scream pass the 46 of Swatsworth just 75 feet from the line to snag his 3rd stage win of the year.
The final stage became an amalgamation of the first two stages, and strategy quickly came to forefront of everyone's mind. Attempting to turn the final 53 laps into a 2 stop race and every driver had an idea of how to get there, from those backing off early to try to split up the stages to those going full conservation mode on the final run to the checkers. Some guys would make it, some wouldn't. Two of the strongest cars all night in Wigent and Montgomery, who combined to lead over 80% of the race, fell short by the end. Dukes, Gandee, and Richard McGinnis looked early on to conserve giving up tons of time to be able push hard at the end. However the winning strategy turned out to be smack in the middle. Though Sam Wade and Shad Swatsworth scrambled in the final run to save fuel, the huge advantage they held over Gandee and Dukes was over three quarters of a track, and they used up enough to leave the finish between them. Wade, who tends to find himself a tough competitor in these fuel mileage races, put up a whale of a fight all the way to the checkers. Alas Wade would come up just a couple hundred feet short of the finish line, as Swatsworth would go on to take the win as both drivers were running out of fuel. Wade with back to back runner up finishes, as Gandee found his groove in the fuel mileage game to come home 3rd. Dukes would finish the night 4th, as McGinnis rounded out the top 5.
Gandee made a true championship move, switching up his game after realizing in the final stage his handling just wasn't there. Falling to 7th on the stage start, seemingly hobbled, Gandee made the decision to shadow Dukes throughout the final runs to put himself in a successful position by races end. Though he lost some ground to the 46, he still holds a solid 35 point lead with 5 races to go. Meanwhile, Shad Swatsworth picked up a timely win to keep the championship advantage from exceeding 40 points. Second win of the season makes him the only driver besides Gandee with multiple wins. Montgomery picked up yet another stage win to tie Lewis with the most on the season, but the finish was far from expectation. After having one of the strongest cars on the night, fuel mileage again bit the 14 team by the time the checkers flew. Though solidly in third, points lost to those ahead is ill timed, now 54 points in back of Gandee. Lewis became the pinnacle of disappointment in Charlotte. A top 5 car all night, running out of fuel and having to pit dropped the 9 team to a 9th place finish a lap down. Now just 3 points set Lewis from Dukes in 5th, as the look towards Gandee furthers. Dukes picked up another top 5 following last weeks win, but the 99 team looked non competitive all night. Pouncing on saving opportunities to improve his race, pace was all but non-existent. Yet, only lost 2 points to the championship lead as a stage win bolstered his bonus points on the night, now 72 points behind the top spot.
Outlaw Racing News
Montgomery Finally Breaks Through, Notches First ORS Win
Bristol, TN - On the brink all season long, hugging the fringe race after race. Finally after many weeks of having tons of speed, Mike Montgomery has a finish fall his way and puts his number 14 Ford in victory lane. Winning at an important time, on a night where most championship contenders got bit by the Bristol bug. Came up big on a night when he needed to be, when everything looked to be yet another podium, he broke through to the other side to clinch his first ORS win.
Montgomery has his eye on the checkers from the jump. Though Zach Gandee snagged the pole and looked strong early opening over a 2 second lead while Montgomery cut through traffic to work himself up to second 9 laps in. Once the 14 got second though he slowly reeled the 48 in, closing the lead to just over a second before the races first caution brought everyone back together with 17 to go. Going back green Gandee spent the first few laps holding off a hard charging Aaron Dukes before Montgomery was able to overcome his pit crew setting him back taking a few laps to clear the 99 Ford. Montgomery now set his sights on Gandee and begun reeling in the 48 Chevy, getting to his bumper with 10 to go. Keeping the pressure on, Montgomery finally saw his opening with 8 to go, pulling alongside the 48 for the top spot. Battling for several laps door to door, Montgomery would finally emerge ahead of Gandee with 5 to go, and setting sail to pick his now league leading 6th stage win.
For stage 2 a new contender entered the fray. Montgomery and Gandee once again pulled away from the field on the restart, but as the run settled out Shad Swatsworth would make quick work with much of the field eventually taking the lead and opening up an exponential lead. Swatsworth looked untouchable until a late caution setup a green white checker to decide the stage and boy did pit strategy throw a wrench in the finish. Chaos would best describe the final two laps as Montgomery and Dukes elected for two tires. While Montgomery and Dukes got off the line well a bump from behind into turn 1 for Dukes sent the 99 onto the apron forcing the Ford to make a save in front of the entire field. Being split by Gandee and Ryan Lewis, Dukes would be shuffled quickly to the back after being forced into the wall the next corner while 3 wide for 5th. Back out front Montgomery was doing his best to hold off a hungry pack, but contact with Swatsworth pushed the 14 wide and into the wall. The 46 would muscle his way into the lead, while outlasting Gandee on the final lap to steal stage 2, his second on the year.
Those that thought Swatsworth looked untouchable in stage 2, got that theory proven in the races final stage. From the drop of the green, the 46 Chevy rocketed ahead, opening up a near 8 second lead over the course of the run. Until the long run began to take its toll, and Swatsworth found himself fighting an ever loosening race car that nearly sent the race leader into the inside wall. Costing the 46 nearly 5 seconds on track, Swatsworth would be soon to pit road. Those that pit early dodged a mighty bullet, as the caution would wave just as pit cycles concluded with 27 laps to go. Once again pit strategy played a factor under caution as 4 drivers would stay out as the green flag pit cycle had just ended. Sam Wade would inherit the lead, with Montgomery to his outside for the restart. Surprisingly though from the drop of the green Wade kept his composure and walked out to a half second lead. Montgomery settled in second with Wigent 3rd, and Dukes being the first driver with the freshest tires in 4th. Behind him was a litany of championship drivers fighting hard to get by each other to try and attack the top 4. However the in fighting would to them in as Lewis would spin off the apron, and several instances of contact between Gandee and Swatsworth eventually sent the 46 hard into the inside wall. Later in the run whilst battling for 5th Gandee would get loose while outside of Tyler Starcher and spin off the 33 cars door, relegating yet another championship contender to the rear. Yet back up front the battles were hot and heavy. Trying to take advantage of fresh tires, Dukes attacked Wigent for third numerous times, as Wigent furiously blocked. At one point taking off the 99's nose putting Dukes into the wall. All the while Montgomery slowly reeled in the 00 of Wade. The two would battle for the lead for several laps but in the end Montgomery would again come out on top, taking the lead with 11 to go. With the top 2 fighting, Wigent inserted himself back into the conversation. As Montgomery began pulling from Wade, Wigent went quickly on the offensive on the 00. Driving hard into turn 3 to get under Wade, the 0 Chevy would push up the track and into Wade putting the 00 hard into the outside wall. After muscling himself into second, Wigent looked onto the lead but Montgomery was too strong over the final 6 laps, keeping Wigent at arms length, and after almost two seasons of trying, Montgomery would come off turn 4 and see the checkers for the first time fly over his number 14 Chevy to win in Thunder Valley. Overcome with excitement all that could be heard over the team radio on the cool down lap was "YeeYee" and that exactly what he would do all the way home, to victory lane. Wigent would see his aggressive moves pay off, matching his best finish of the season from Iowa with 2nd tonight. Wade would hold off the 99 for 3rd, as Dukes could do no damage to front four with the fresher tires, settling for 4th. Tyler Starcher in his first race in several weeks picked up his second top 5 finish of the season with a 5th place effort.
Boy was it a tough going in the late stage for the championship contenders. Gandee, though, would hold strong over Swatsworth by still 35 points. as the two would tie for points earned on the night. It would be Montgomery making sizable gains however, picking up nearly 20 points on the top 2, to pull just 2 points in back of Swatsworth and 37 behind Gandee. Setting up what should be an exciting final 3 races as 3 drivers vie for the championship. Behind this top 3, sees Dukes move up into 4th after another consistent top 5 finish, while Lewis would have trouble late, picking up a DNF after transmission troubles retired the number 9 Chevy with 9 laps remaining. Though not technically eliminated, 70 and 77 points will be a tough hill to climb for the 4th and 5th place contenders. Thanksgiving will separate the final 3 races but we'll be back in two weeks with some road racing action from the twists and turns of The Roval.