For a few seconds, Joey Saldana thought he had blown his chance to win another race at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
But Saldana made the right moves, holding off Donny Schatz to win the Outlaw Showdown’s annual World of Outlaws sprint car feature Friday night.
Saldana, of Brownsburg, Ind., won his third World of Outlaws sprint car race of the season and 87th of his career, and cut Daryn Pittman’s lead in the series standings down to a single point.
Pittman, who finished eighth, now leads the World of Outlaws standings with 4,248 points to 4,247 for Saldana. Schatz is third, 21 points out of the lead.
In the nightcap, Jonathan Davenport of Mount Airy led from start to finish to win the 25-lap FasTrack dirt late model feature race ahead of Arthur Walker of Forest, Va.
Four of Saldana’s wins – including three in the Outlaw Showdown – have come at Charlotte. But his biggest worry came from Schatz, who has seven career wins there and was starting on the outside of the front row beside Saldana.
“He’s definitely everybody’s benchmark when the tracks turn slick,” Saldana said.
While Saldana went on to lead every lap in the 30-lap feature, Schatz was never out of sight. He had the lead once on Lap 8, only to give it back because the yellow flag came out.
However, it was late in the race when Schatz had his best chances.
With nine laps remaining, Saldana came up on Jason Sides coming off the second turn. Saldana had to check up, even running into the back of Sides’ car, which allowed Schatz to close the gap.
But Saldana was able to go low on the backstretch, allowing him to stretch out his lead while Schatz was pinned behind Sides.
“I thought I had thrown it away,” Saldana said. “I knew Donnie was on me … but I had to keep my pace going or he was going to drive right by me.”
Schatz had another chance on Lap 27, diving into the third and fourth turns in an attempt to slide ahead of Saldana. But Saldana powered out with a slight lead, and maintained it over the final three laps.
“I really wanted to get a win,” Schatz said. “I just needed to figure out how to pass him a few more times, I guess.”