PORT ROYAL, PENNSYLVANIA (October 9, 2020) – The temperatures in Juniata County were reflective of this time of the year with a crispness in the air surrounded by the changing color of the foliage that fills your eyes in this part of the country. David Gravel and the JJR #41 team trekked up Route 322 from their mid-state home when they are in town, the Jonestown KOA Campground, and made the right hand turn onto West Fourth Street in Port Royal to drive towards the pit entrance. There were 48 cars lining the pit area off turn four at Port Royal Speedway’s half-mile oval ready to complete in the first of two nights of action in the Nittany Showdown with an $8,000 check waiting for the winner at the end of the night.
With the size of the field, the drivers were separated into two separate flights for time trial qualifying. David would be in Flight A and would push off fifteenth for his two laps at speed aboard the Weikert’s Livestock/Staunton Union Stockyard (SU) #41 Maxim. The Staunton Union Stockyard was purchased by the Weikert family in 2019 and has been around since 1936 serving as a livestock hub for decades. Gravel climbed into the cockpit of his Maxim Racing machine and secured himself into his Simpson Race Products safety belts. With two track records recently falling at famous half-mile ovals – Eldora (David Gravel with a 12.599 second lap) and Williams Grove (Shane Stewart with a lap of 16.111 seconds) – the drivers were all shooting for Lucas Wolfe current track record of 15.168 seconds set back on July 5, 2014. When the pushed truck pushed him off his Kistler Engines/Engler Machine and Tool power came to life and he entered the track in turn one. Unleashing the horsepower his engine had to offer at the track affectionately referred to as The Speed Palace, the Watertown, Connecticut native took the green flag to start his first lap against the clock. When he completed the initial circuit he did so in 15.395 seconds. With no time to reflect, he stayed on the loud pedal and improved the next time around with a lap of 15.318 seconds. His best lap secured the third quickest lap overall in Flight A for the talented forty-one driver.
When the cars pushed back across the track and into the pit area following the conclusion of time trials, Philip Dietz went to work with Clyde Knipp and Nate Repetz to get the car ready for the Drydene heat races. Based on the outcome of time trials, David would line up second in the first heat race. He would roll the Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/Winters Performance Products #41 into his front row starting position beside quick timer Donny Schatz. The remainder of the field was stacked with talent as Tony Stewart and Brian Brown were in row two, Daryn Pittman and Brent Marks in row three, as Kraig Kinser, Lynton Jeffrey, Landon Myers, Dylan Cisney, Brent Shearer and Kody Lehman filled the remainder of the starting order. Schatz wasted little time as he exploded forward when his front wheels touched the chalk stripe at the exit of turn four. He led Gravel into turn one as the top two started to check out. Gravel was close behind but the real battle was for third between Brent Marks and Tony Stewart. Those two fiercely battled for the show position throughout the entire race as the top two were entering a new zip code. Schatz would take the heat race win over Gravel by 1.907 seconds with Stewart beating Marks for the third spot and Brian Brown holding on to secure the final transfer position.
David did what he needed to do to advance into the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash and when he pulled his starting position it was a three. He would start on the inside of row two beside Sheldon Haudenschild with Kyle Larson and Danny Dietrich sitting on the front row. Anthony Macri would start fifth beside Brock Zearfoss and Gio Scelzi and Donny Schatz would start from row four. When the green flag waved, Larson drove into the lead over Dietrich. Gravel did not get a good start as it seemed as though his car would not take off. When he settled in he fell back to the seventh spot and would work the six laps in dirty air. Larson left nothing to the imagination as he took the win by 3.055 seconds over Dietrich with Haudenschild, Zearfoss and Schatz rounding out the top five. Gio Scelzi came home sixth with David in seventh and Anthony Macri rounding out the finishing order.
The horns sounded to summon the feature field starters to the racing surface at Port Royal Speedway for the opening night Nittany Showdown 25-lap feature. There would be 26 cars eligible to start the race with David Gravel holding down the inside of row four aboard the Weikert’s Livestock/AutoMeter #41 Maxim. After the traditional four-wide salute to the fans, Kyle Larson and Danny Dietrich brought the field barreling down the frontstretch to the green flag. Larson was in the lead with Dietrich close behind. Gravel was up on the wheel and driving his forty-one searching for passing lanes. The track was lightning quick, but as the laps passed in the feature turns three and four started to slick off a little. David was battling like he always does from his high speed office, but Larson was in a league of his own at the front of the pack. The racing was fast and clean throughout the field until with 10 laps to go, Brent Marks hit the turn four wall and helicoptered to a stop collecting James McFadden, Brad Sweet, Lance Dewease and Carson Macedo. Each driver rejoined the field with the exception of Macedo who had too much damage to repair. When racing resumed, Larson again owned the top spot with Dietrich and Haudenschild trying feverishly to track him down. All three drivers were fast, but the driver of the fifty-seven would not be denied as he collected his eleventh World of Outlaws victory of the season with Dietrich, Haudenschild, Scelzi and Zearfoss completing the top five. Anthony Macri came home ahead of Donny Schatz and David Gravel with Freddie Rahmer and Kerry Madsen completing the top ten. A good run for Gravel and the forty-one team, but they will be eager to get back to Port Royal for Saturday’s $15,000 finale to improve their performance.
Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT); Saich Family; Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution; Weikert’s Livestock; J.R.C. Transportation, Inc.; Durst Inc.; Maxim Racing; The Boyd Family; Pro Powder Coating (PPC); Waco Metal; High Performance Lubricants, LLC; Team Jack Foundation; Mark Burch Motorsports; Tiger Towing; All Pro Auto Reconditioning; AutoMeter; Bell Racing USA; Brown & Miller Racing Solutions (BMRS); Buckwalter Trucking, LLC; C&R Racing; Chalk Stix Torsion Bars; Crow Enterprizes, Engler Machine & Tool, Inc.; Factory Kahne FK Shocks; Fibreworks Composites; FK Rod Ends; Fuel Safe Racing Cells; Greber Racing Components; Hoosier Racing Tire; ISC Racers Tape; Jansen Transportation; Kistler Racing Engines; KSE Racing Products; LogoDaddy Graphics; Max Papis Innovations (MPI); MSD Performance; RaceDiecast.com; Schoenfeld Headers; Shell Shock Paint; Simpson Race Products; T-FAB Custom Metal Fabrication; Vortex Racing Products; Walker Performance Filtration; Weld Wheels; Wilwood Racing; and Winters Performance Products.
To stay connected with Jason Johnson Racing (JJR), go to www.jasonjohnsonracing.com.
To stay up-to-date with David Gravel and his success and journey on and off the track, as well as to purchase his gear and merchandise, go to www.DavidGravel89.com.