LOVES PARK, ILLINOIS (June 29, 2016) – The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series competitors visited Rockford Speedway on Wednesday night for the inaugural Outlaw Clay Classic. Kind of like Keith Urban’s early hit song “Where the Blacktop Ends”, the promoters covered the quarter-mile, high backed asphalt paved oval with Illinois river clay for the Outlaw invaders to conquer on America’s newest dirt track. They billed it as the ‘Dirt Takeover’ and a lot of fans were in the stands ready to see how the experiment turned out. There were 26 cars signed into the pit area and each of them was there for a shot at the winner’s trophy and check in the inaugural event.
When the drivers hit the track for warmups it was truly the first time anyone had gone at speed atop the new clay surface that was put down for the event. Following the session a little more track preparation was completed and the cars pushed off for time trials. Jason would wait patiently as he was the 23rd car out for his two time trial laps. Buckled into his Crow Enterprizes safety harness his Kistler Engines power came to life under the hood and he got rolling. He planted his right foot to the floor as the engine noise reverberated through his Schoenfeld Headers. When the stopwatch was clicked after his first lap it clearly displayed 12.469 seconds. Trying to improve the second time around he navigated his way around the oval in the Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution/Weld Racing #41 Maxim. He turned in another consistent lap, albeit slightly slower, at 12.789 seconds. His first lap time stood and he ended up 16th quick in the qualifying session.
When the heat race lineups were posted in the pit area, the #41 Priority Aviation Services/Valvoline JJR entry was in the first and fastest heat race on the outside of row three. Quick timer, Parker Price-Miller, was on the pole with Bill Balog to his outside. Jason shared row three with Jeremy Schultz as they paced behind row two starters Joey Saldana and David Gravel. When the green flag waved these sprint car stars got going. Price-Miller led the field but the characteristics of the temporary surface started showing themselves early as ruts began to appear. Jason caught one of them coming out of turn two. After re-gathering himself and getting back on the accelerator, he realized he relinquished a few spots in the running order as ninth starting Paul McMahan made his way by on the track. Using his Louisiana determination, Jason got back up on the wheel and brought the forty one home with a sixth place finish to secure the final transfer position crossing the line behind Price-Miller, Gravel, Balog, Saldana and McMahan.
The track surface would continue to evolve throughout the night and track officials tended to the surface the best they could to provide the best racing throughout the night. The surface was rough, but this was a really cool facility. Just ahead for the 24 cars that made the feature field was 30 laps around this dirt clay covered oval, or as Keith Urban sings in the chorus of his hit “Where the Blacktop Ends” they were going to race “Where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet; Goin’ back to the well gonna visit old friends; And, feed my soul where the blacktop ends.”
Jason had some worked to do on this tricky and rough surface from his 16th starting position in the Fischer Body Shop/Waco Metal entry. For anyone who knows this high speed chauffeur you know that is never an issue for the natural-born racer from Eunice, Louisiana because he likes challenges and he certainly likes to go fast in his Maxim Racing machine. Donny Schatz was sitting on the pole with Daryn Pittman perched to his outside. Schatz would roar into the lead on lap one as Jason went to work quickly inside his cockpit advancing two positions. He would continue to ‘cowboy up’ and he started to drive the wheels off the forty one during his charge forward. He was sailing around the top side of the speedway and making tracks and not looking back. After a red for Christopher Bell who flipped on the front straightaway, Schatz continued to lead as Jason continued to put on a show around the rough and tumbled surface. The Ragin’ Cajun cracked the top ten and after a few more yellows slowed the high speed action he continued to focus and race forward under green flag conditions. A late race restart gave him a shot to gain some more valuable positions and he did just that when the green lights illuminated around the track. He moved into eighth, then seventh and finally up as high as fifth in the waning laps as he and Saldana were embroiled in a tight battle for the fifth and sixth positions. Saldana would secure the fifth spot late as Jason crossed the line sixth. His ten position advancement from his 16th starting spot earned Jason the KSE Hard Charger award for the night, his fourth of the year. Schatz collected the victory in the Outlaw Clay Classic ahead of Gravel, Shane Stewart, Brad Sweet, Saldana and Jason.
After the race the #41 pilot commented, “That was really fun race as a driver.” He continued, “Philip and the JJR guys gave me a really good piece of equipment to race with here tonight and we are leaving here with a good finish.” After putting on his owner’s hat he stated, “It was rough out there and we bent up and broke a lot of parts and pieces here tonight. But, this was a really cool place to race at for us and our results are reflective of our team effort.”