Eldora Hosts Goodyear Outlaw ThunderBy Roberta Cowan
Eldora’s trophy is as sought after as the man who calls her his own and has since 2004. Tony Stewart added new catch fencing and a digital scoreboard. A weather alert system to benefit the community and visitors to the track. A smaller track for quarter midgets and an ecologically benficial track preservation system to grow the tracks dirt surface stronger. He brought the diamond of the past that helped form his beloved roots of dirt racing, into the present. Now he has began the journey that will solidify her influence long into the future of the sport.
Tonight was nothing different for Eldora. She was tough and unforgiving. A total of 10 cautions would slow the normally lightening fast Outlaws with multiple car wrecks and wild rolls leaving drivers safe but shaken and cars piles of brutalized rubble. There were freak happenings that left the casual and die hard fan alike shaking their heads in wonder and a showing of skills that illustrated why they call it “The Greatest Show on Dirt”.
The night began with a feeling of excitement in the air. Track owner Tony Stewart had announced on Thursday that he would be altering his schedule at Talladega in order to run both nights of the Goodyear Outlaw Thunder at Eldora. When the gates opened the red white and blue Office Depot number 14 was indeed in the pits and its driver was indeed at the track. Stewart who skipped the final practice at Talladega to be present and compete, showed that he was not only a force to be reckoned with behind the wheel of a race vehicle, but he also understood the importance of the role of track owner and promoter.
Qualifying was an omen of things to come with David Gravel being the fastest in qualifying with a lap of 13.228 seconds, which was only three-thousandths quicker than Chad Kemenah. Steve Kinser (13.277 seconds), Daryn Pittman (13.288) and Jac Haudenschild (13.291) completed the top five. The top 20 drivers were separated by less than three-tenths of a second.
The heat races were quick. The first heat was won by Dale Blaney (older brother of Dave Blaney) and transferred Jac Haudenschild, Trey Starks, David Gravel and Tony Stewart to the A Main. The second heat was won by Craig Dollansky and transferred Joey Saldana, Donny Schatz, Jason Sides and Chad Kemenah to the A. The third heat was won by Kerry Madsen and transferred Steve Kinser, Stevie Smith, Cody Darrah and Cap Henry to the A. The final heat would be won by Sammy Swindell and transferred Tim Shaffer, Daryn Pittman, Greg Wilson and Danny Holtgraver to the A main.
The Dash inversion was a 4. Putting Jac Haudenshild on the front row next to Steve Kinser. The fast qualifier would start on the outside 2nd row. Haudenschild would dominate the dash to take the pole with 20 time Outlaw Champion, Steve Kinser coming home second. With the top 5 rows set it was time for the B Main.
The B Main started 13 cars and transferred 4 to the A. Kraig Kinser would start on the pole and would win the race handily followed by Paul McMahan, Randy Hannagan, Bryan Sebetto. Note of interest here - Sheldon Haudenschild the son of Jac Haudenschild was running in the top 10 of the B Main when an engine expired taking him out of competition. The younger Haudenschild was giving a strong accounting of the education he had received from his father.
The A Main saw cautions for debris that launched from the track surface breaking out one of the front stretch lights and showering the track with glass, exploding tires, Sammy Swindell, a multi car wreck that took out the top 5. The leader, Jac Haudenschild, pit for fuel which is not allowed in the Outlaws except under open red conditions. The leader, Dale Blaney, pit for a flat tire that he changed outside the work area and thus was not allowed to return to the track.
There was 3 wide racing and side by side racing throughout the field from the drop of the green. There was not a single position that was not hotly contested on the track by some of the best drivers in the world. Steve Kinser who would have a tire go down would return to finish 3rd. Sammy Swindell would return to the track to finish 6th. Power slides through every corner. Wheel to wheel down the front and back stretches as this field of magicians fought for Eldora’s crown and a $10,000 purse.
When the checkered flag dropped it was Chad Kemenah who went home the winner. A very emotional Kemenah said in Victory Lane,
“We got lucky there, you don’t want to win like that, but we’ve given some away so I’m not complaining. A win is a win and they pay the same.
“When you’re this close to home it makes it that much better. It’s only an hour and a half to home, so this is kinda like home to me.”
“The last time I won, my wife fired me. I see her down there and it looks alright. I don’t think I am getting fired this time” said Kemenah.
The top ten finishers were Donny Schatz, Steve Kinser, Cody Darrah, Daryn Pittman, Sammy Swindell, Tony Stewart, Joey Saldana, Kraig Kinser, and Cap Henry. The top 9 cars were the only cars remaining on the lead lap.
Donny Schatz would drive from 12th to 2nd and finish the night with a 1 point lead over Sammy Swindell in the Outlaw Points. “There were a lot of things going on and I’m glad we weren’t in it,” Schatz said. “We had a so-so car; it wasn’t the greatest. We were just kinda riding around and trying to be cautious and stay out of trouble.”
The Outlaws will return to Eldora for night 2 of the Goodyear Outlaw Thunder tomorrow night with racing beginning at 730 EST.
Eldora seemed to sigh as the dust cleared away as though she had revisited the echoes of her past and added the echoes of tonight to them. Tonight she smiled on a young man who took home only his second victory but what a victory it was. Chad Kemenah would never forget the beautiful lady in Ohio who bolstered his confidence for one night. And she would never forget him. Her records would forever show that on this hot humid night in May Chad Kemenah won at Eldora.