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Nation, World Sports

Surging David Gravel wins World of Outlaws Commonwealth Clash at Lernerville

| Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, 11:45 p.m.

David Gravel controlled Saturday's World of Outlaws Commonwealth Clash to record his 14th victory of the season and second of his career at Lernerville Speedway.

Gravel, a Watertown, Conn., native, earned $10,000, and with 15 races remaining in the season, he is solidly third in the standings behind eight-time series champion Donny Schatz and second-place Brad Sweet.

Sweet placed second Saturday and Schatz third. Shane Stewart was fourth and Timmy Shaffer fifth.

The race had two distinct phases with a third thrown in to make it a bit harder on Gravel.

“You just have to take it as it comes when the race is like that,” Gravel said. “At the end of the race, the car got a bit free, but you'll have that in a 35-lap race.”

The race was red-flagged for 10 minutes after Jason Sides somersaulted off Turn 1 on Lap 4, just as Gravel was about to lap the back of the field.

The race continued, with nine total restarts, including two at the end once Gravel already had taken the white flag, so the race actually had 37 laps, not 35.

“On the last couple of restarts, I was just protecting my spot on the track so nobody could get under me,” Gravel said. “It's been a good year. These races are not easy to win, and you always have to believe in yourself.”

Top local finishes included Pittsburgh's Danny Holtgraver in 11th, Sarver's Carl Bowser in 15th, Apollo's Sye Lynch in 16th and Johnstown's Danny Shetler in 19th. George Hobaugh of Chicora finished 21st. Davey Jones of Warrendale was 23rd, and Apollo's A.J. Flick was 24th.

Twenty-nine cars took part in qualifying, and the track was in excellent condition with 12 cars under 13 seconds. Stewart registered the fast time in 12.764 seconds, which translates to just about 105 mph. Gravel was second-fastest (12.801), and Sheldon Haudenschild was third (12.828).

In July, for the WoO Don Martin Silver Cup event, only nine of 39 drivers registered a time under 13 seconds. Lernerville's track record of 12.334, set by Joey Saldana in 2002, is safe for another season.

After qualifying, Gravel's crew changed his engine. Gravel made it out for the second heat, where he finished second.

There were three heats, with the top-six in each transferring to the main event. In the first heat, Stewart claimed the checkered flag. Kraig Kinser won the second heat, and Sheldon Haudenschild prevailed in the third.

Local drivers also had a mixed bag in qualifying and heat races. In the first heat, Lynch was battling for the final transfer spot, but mid-race contact with Clyde Knipp caused a problem and Lynch finished eighth. Holtgraver pulled off before the green flag fell on the second heat. Flick, finished fifth in the second heat, and Bowser placed fifth in the third heat.

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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