Danny Dietrich grabbed the lead from Joey Saldana with two laps to go and would go on to win the 54th Annual Champion Racing Oil Williams Grove National Open Friday night. Dietrich, of Gettysburg, earned $25,000 in the car owned by Gary Kauffman. It was his first career National Open win.
“This is incredible,” said Dietrich. “That might have been one of the toughest races I’ve run. They were setting one heck of a pace. I kept working the bottom off of four and I thought if we got to traffic, I’d be all right and sure enough we got to it. These are the toughest guys to race against and to be able to win against these guys and race that hard- it was no easy win.”
Saldana started on the pole and grabbed the early race lead over Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz. David Gravel and Dietrich, who started sixth, swapped the fourth spot. Saldana reached lapped traffic with six laps completed on a very fast racing surface. Saldana struggled to lap some cars allowing Sweet and Schatz to close. Saldana would finally lap Danny Holtgraver leaving the battle for second.
Sweet would close again and grab the lead off turn two with 14 laps completed. Sweet got held up by a lapped car entering turn one and Saldana blasted around the cushion to retake the lead. Schatz drove under Sweet off turn four to take second. Saldana led by 1.180 seconds at the halfway point of the 40-lap National Open. Dietrich passed Gravel and then Sweet to move into third.
The first caution flag flew with 23 laps completed when Doug Esh stopped at the end of the backstretch. The field was then stopped to allow teams to refuel. Saldana picked the inside lane on Schatz for the double-file restart Dietrich threw a big slider at Schatz in turn three to take the second spot. Schatz fought back, but Dietrich drove off the cushion in turn two to secure second.
Saldana kept Dietrich about a second behind him until they reached lapped traffic. Dietrich tried to take the lead with seven laps to go, but couldn’t make the pass in turn four. Saldana continued to lead, but Dietrich wasn’t done. Saldana checked up hard entering turn one behind Shane Stewart. Dietrich was there and nearly got into the back of Saldana in turn two.
Both drivers maintained their spots as they straightened out off turn two and raced down the backstretch. Saldana led with two laps to go, but Dietrich drove by him in turns one and two. Dietrich led into turn three and as they took the white flag. “I lost that ground, but made it right back up,” said Dietrich. “I really thought without the lapped cars I’d be able to pull back to his bumper and it was going to have to be a big slide-job to get by him.”
Dietrich controlled the final lap to score the win by 1.127 over Saldana. “If you would have told me on lap 10 that I’d be standing here, I would have laughed,” said Dietrich. “But, the track came to us a little bit and 40 laps is a long race. We were set-up for the last 20 and it played out in our favor. ”Saldana was forced to settle for a disappointing runner-up. Sweet, Schatz and Gravel completed the top five. Track champion Greg Hodnett, Daryn Pittman, Logan Schuchart, Lance Dewease and Jason Sides rounded out the top 10.
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