CHICO, Calif. — Kyle Hirst is no stranger to victory lane, especially in California, and he proved it Friday night by outdueling Shane Stewart to win the opening night of the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway.
It was Hirst’s first career World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series feature win, coming on a night when California locals took six of the top seven finishing positions.
Hirst was victorious in the fourth heat race after leader Kalib Henry lost power steering, and that was crucial when the Craftsman Club Dash inversion was a four, lining Hirst up on the front row of the event.
Hirst walked away with the dash win, lining up on the pole with Stewart alongside, and he took command from the drop of the green, leading the first six laps before Stewart closed in as traffic thickened.
Stewart and Hirst made contact the following lap, with the Larson/Marks Racing No. 2 leading lap seven. As Stewart navigated traffic, Hirst and Dominic Scelzi remained within striking distance.
Coming off of turn four on the 11th circuit, Stewart bobbled on the cushion and allowed Hirst to re-take the lead on lap 12, but a caution for Sheldon Haudenschild the following lap allowed everyone to catch their breath.
The lone red flag for the evening came on lap 16, when Bud Kaeding got sideways and collected Daryn Pittman and Paul McMahan. All drivers were uninjured in the accident. On the ensuing restart, fifth-running Jac Haudenschild got contact from another competitor that ended his night as well.
From there, the final 14 laps went non-stop, with Hirst and Stewart exchanging slide jobs for the lead multiple times. On two occasions, Stewart cleared Hirst off of turn four for the lead, but Hirst turned it under and regained command into turn one.
Hirst’s win was a popular one among the California faithful and led to an emotion-filled Victory Lane with his Roth Motorsports No. 83 team.
“I’ve been racing for 15 years and I’ve finally snagged one of these World of Outlaw wins,” an exuberant Hirst said in victory lane. “That’s for Chico, California!”
Stewart and Scelzi completed the podium, with Scelzi’s third-place finish marking a career-best for him as well.
“Coming home second is nothing to shake your head at,” said a content Stewart. “We continue to have fast a car and that’s a testament to my guys. I feel like we have a shot to win every time we roll out.”
Cory Eliason and Justin Sanders completed the top five, followed by Jonathan Allard in the second Roth Motorsports entry and 14th-starting Shane Golobic.
David Gravel picked up KSE Hard Charger Honors with an impressive 24th-to-eighth run, and Donny Schatz came from a provisional starting spot to finish ninth. Sheldon Haudenschild recovered from his mid-race spin to cap off the top 10.
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series returns to the Silver Dollar Speedway Saturday night for the conclusion of the 64th Annual Gold Cup Race of Champions.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…