WATERTOWN, Conn.—June 16, 2013— When committing to run full-time with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series this season, David Gravel knew he’d only have a couple of chances to tune-up for the Knoxville Nationals at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Iowa. The East Coast racer has made the most of his two starts in 2013 at the legendary half-mile with the series, as he finished seventh on Saturday, June 15 in the Mediacom Shootout, and also charged through the field to gain 14 spots last month at Knoxville en route to an 11th-place showing.
Gravel took advantage of a late-race restart on Saturday night to gain eight spots over the final six circuits to record his best Knoxville finish of 2013 aboard the FMR Racing/JRC Transportation/Musco Fuel/Model Craft J&J, under the Bill Rose Racing banner. He lined up 11th in the 25-lap main event and after falling back a few spots in the early going, methodically worked his way back forward, mainly during the second half of the race.
On the final restart, on lap-19, Gravel lined up 15th and gained three spots at the drop of the green flag. Just a couple of laps later he broke into the top-10 for the first time on the night. Over the last couple of laps, Gravel would work his way past three more drivers to come home seventh.
“The car really came on late in the race and we were able to make up quite a bit of ground,” said Gravel. “I got the wing back and that really made a difference. To have had two solid runs at Knoxville definitely boosts our confidence for when we go back in August for the Nationals. Laps at Knoxville are so important and we’ve been able to make the most of our two starts there this year.”
The night began for Gravel by turning the fifth-fastest lap in time trials of the 40 cars that took to the track for qualifying. This placed him in the fourth starting spot in the third eight-lap heat race. He would finish fourth in the heat to transfer to the main event. The A-Feature was slowed by two yellow flags and a red flag period. Following rain showers earlier in the evening, the race program was delayed a couple of hours, but completed in its entirety.
Gravel kicked-off the weekend at Jackson Speedway in Minnesota for the Big Game Treestands Shootout Presented by Eyecon Trail Cameras. Making just the second start of his career at the historic half-mile, Gravel finished 17th. He started the night by recording the fifth-quickest lap in time trials of the 34 entrants. A sixth-place finish in the first heat race sent him to the B-main, which he won to earn a spot in the 25-lap main event.
“The night didn’t quite end how we were hoping, but we were fast in time trials,” he shared. “Everything was in hurry-up mode due to the weather, so we didn’t have a lot of time to really work on the car after the B-main. Weather-wise we’ve been pretty fortunate the last few weekends to get the complete show in when weather has been all around the track.”
Gravel, who is currently seventh in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship standings on the strength of 13 top-10 finishes, returns to action next weekend at River Cities Speedway in North Dakota and I-94 Speedway in Minnesota.
“We put a new engine for the big tracks and to qualify in the top-five both nights was great, especially with the caliber of cars that were at Jackson and Knoxville,” Gravel stated. “We are working hard to get back to where we were in time trials last year, when we set a bunch of quick times and were in the top-five and top-10 more times than not. With the World of Outlaws format, qualifying in the right spot can really make your night or make for a long night. I feel like we have a pretty good qualifying package on the big tracks right now and hopefully we can carry that to the smaller tracks next weekend.”