February 17, 2017
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Schatz Survives Opening Night at Gold Cup Race of Champions
Dollansky and Swindell endure issues to slow World of Outlaws championship hopes
World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series PR
CHICO, CA (9-6-12) - Well, that just shook up the points.
A pair of drivers in contention for the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series championship took a major hit on Thursday while a four-time champion survived a treacherous track on the opening night of the 59th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway.
Donny Schatz slid by polesitter Kyle Larson exiting turn two on lap 20 en route to his eighth World of Outlaws victory of the season. The win, combined with some misfortune to a couple of fellow championship contenders, moved Schatz into the points lead for the first time in the last 21 races.
"It was fun," he said. "(Larson) was really good on the top and we had a decent car on the bottom. It just was really tricky to run. It took me five or six laps to figure out how to drive it. It was a fun race and I'm glad to come out on the good side of it."
Two drivers in search of that same title found bitter results.
Craig Dollansky, who entered the event with the points lead after 16 consecutive top-10 finishes, spun out after contact during a restart on lap 17. Dollansky, who had restarted eighth, headed to the work area to have everything checked out only to be left there. Since the race was past the halfway point, he didn't get the guaranteed two minutes.
Dollansky later returned after a caution, but raced two laps down and finished 20th. He is 12 points behind Schatz in the championship chase.
Sammy Swindell, who entered the event third in points, was set to capitalize on Dollansky's bad luck. Swindell ran in the top three for most of the feature until a last-lap miscue stopped him on the frontstretch - only a handful of feet from crossing the finish line.
While Swindell was chasing down Larson in traffic for the runner-up position, Swindell dove to the bottom in the final turn. It appeared that he clipped the infield tire, which knocked his car up the track and into the frontstretch wall. He could only watch as all of the remaining cars on the lead lap drove by. Swindell was credited with an 18th-place finish, which dropped him to 74 points behind Schatz in the championship battle.
In front of the tough luck was a great clash between Schatz and Larson, who traded slide jobs at least a half dozen times.
Larson led the first 10 laps before Schatz took the lead exiting turn four on lap 11. The duo slid each other in nearly every end of the track for two laps with Schatz having the advantage at the finish line before Larson held onto the lead on lap 13.
After the sixth - and final - caution of the race came on lap 20 when Kerry Madsen stopped on the frontstretch, Schatz got the opportunity he needed. On the lap after the restart, Larson got into the demanding cushion and Schatz slid off the bottom in turn two just in front of Larson.
Larson nearly jumped the cushion the ensuing two laps, which let Swindell close to within a couple of car lengths. Schatz entered traffic on lap 29, allowing Larson and Swindell to rapidly gain ground.
"I had to take about five laps just to settle down," Larson said. "He got about a straightaway out there and then I just started trying to run the heck out of it. I caught him there coming to the white (flag) and got close coming to the line."
As Schatz was dramatically slowed on the bottom, Larson powered to the cushion and Swindell to the very bottom of the inside groove. Schatz held off the late charges with Larson bouncing off the cushion and Swindell facing his own disaster.
"We just cruised around and watched and watched Sammy hit the tractor tire there at the end and stick it in the fence," said Tim Kaeding, who finished third after avoiding Swindell's damaged car. "He was about eight feet short. I've been there several times."Jason Sides placed fourth and Sean Becker was fifth. Bill Rose ended sixth and Steve Kinser earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after maneuvering from 22 nd to seventh. Shane Golobic finished eighth, 21st starter Joey Saldana ninth and Lucas Wolfe rounded out the top 10.