WILMOT, Wis. — If it was up to David Gravel, he would race at Wilmot Raceway every week if he could.
At least, that’s what he jokingly said after winning his third straight World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series start at the track in Saturday night’s Badger 40.
Gravel used some late-race heroics for the second straight night, taking the lead with just two laps remaining en route to a thrilling win over Shane Stewart. That pair traded the lead four times officially, but unofficially swapped the lead numerous times, with Gravel running the top of the track and Stewart a little lower.
“It’s been awesome racing here,” said Gravel. “Wisconsin is great. It doesn’t matter if we are at Beaver Dam (Raceway) or Cedar Lake (Speedway), the stands are always packed. They are just as good as Pennsylvania fans. It was racing with Shane. We both raced real hard.”
Gravel led on three separate occasions on Saturday night for five laps, but for the second straight night, he led the most important one, the last lap. Gravel took the lead for the first time on lap 29, when Brad Sweet made contact with an infield tire and dropped from first to third. Stewart also moved up a spot at that point in time.
Stewart took the top spot on the very next lap, and remained out front for six circuits. Gravel got back by on lap 36 and was out front for two laps, before Stewart took the lead again on lap 38.
Gravel moved back to the lead on lap 39 and paced the final two laps to secure his 12th win of the season.
“I think I may have been to patient and Shane (Stewart) got by us,” said Gravel. “Luckily Brad (Sweet) got into the infield tire and that gave us track position. I know we had a really good car. The track was awesome. The bottom was good and so was the top. It was even. The curb got out there really gnarly at the end and bit me a couple of times, but I knew that was the fastest place. I just had to play Russian roulette with the curb those last few laps and it worked out.”
Stewart started fourth and was up to third on the second lap, keeping pace with Sweet and Gravel in the early going. With six laps to go the caution flag flew, which set up one final double-file restart, with Stewart choosing the low side and Gravel up top.
Following that unfurling of the green flag, the duo waged war, trading the lead at both ends of the track a number of times.
“It was exciting,” said Stewart. “I honestly felt like I drove a little too cautious there at the end. I was trying to block him and hit my lines. That team has been really, really good here lately and we were close. We were a lot closer than we have been lately. My guys continue to work crazy hours to make sure the car is ready each and every night. We just came up a little short tonight, but it was a fun race.”
Sweet finished third after dominating the first 28 laps of the main.
“I’m tired of making mistakes,” said Sweet. “The NAPA guys are giving me a great race car each and every night. We are in contention to win every night. This one tonight is on me. It was driver error. I was trying to get through lapped cars. We were setting a good pace. The car felt great and I didn’t really have anything to complain about. Once you make a mistake with these guys they do a great job and Shane was right there. They capitalized on my mistake. I’m just happy it didn’t knock the front axle out and end out night.”
Sheldon Haudenschild finished fourth after lining up on the outside of the fifth row, while Donny Schatz raced from 13th to fifth.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…