The World of Outlaws at Huset’s Speedway. (Trent Gower Photo)
The $250,000 grand finale to the Huset’s Speedway High Bank Nationals is at hand.
The three-eighths-mile dirt track in South Dakota will play host to its fourth and final night of World of Outlaws sprint car racing on Saturday night, with more than 50 drivers chomping at the bit to make the 24-car feature.
Always A Bridesmaid, Never A Bride
David Gravel has been the runner-up at four of the last five consecutive World of Outlaws races, including the opening two nights at the Huset’s High Bank Nationals.
He broke his top-two streak by finishing fifth during Friday’s preliminary feature.
Though the win drought may be brief — it’s only been six races since Gravel collected his sixth Outlaw trophy of the season — there’s a lot dangling on the line this week.
With Huset’s Speedway as the primary sponsor on his No. 2 sprint car, which is owned by Tod Quriing, who also owns the race track, and a $250,000 check awaiting Saturday night’s winner, Gravel has plenty of incentive to push for a victory.
“I always try to finish the race safe. But some people have the mindset of, I’m either winning this thing or putting it in a basket,” Gravel said.
Perhaps it’s his maturity as a 10-year veteran on the World of Outlaws circuit, but the No. 2 driver tends to think long-term, even when making split-second decisions on the track. A top-five, or even top-10, finish is always more appealing to Gravel than junking the car.
However, the full-time Outlaw will admit that the payday at Huset’s does have an impact on his typical approach.
“Some people might go a place that I won’t, but if I’m feeling confident and I’m running second and I have an opportunity to win $250,000, I’m going to do pretty much anything I can, other than wreck the guy,” Gravel said.
The list of distinguished sprint car drivers — both full-time Outlaws and non-Outlaws — who didn’t make the A-main on Wednesday night at Huset’s Speedway was astonishing.
Ten-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz, All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Tyler Courtney and 33-time World of Outlaws winner Sheldon Haudenschild were among the drivers who did not qualify.
Jacob Allen, Chase Randall, Kasey Kahne and Sam Hafertepe Jr. were among the others.
Podium Push For Kofoid, Toyota
There were two Toyota engines that landed on the High Bank Nationals podium on Thursday night — a first on the World of Outlaws circuit. The cars were piloted by race winner James McFadden and his Roth Motorsports teammate Buddy Kofoid, who finished third.
Kofoid backed his podium performance up on Friday night, piloting the No. 83jr sprint car to a second-place finish. As the 21-year-old is also second in the High Bank Nationals point standings, Kofoid is locked into Saturday night’s finale.
Meanwhile, McFadden failed to make it out of the semi twice during the preliminary nights at Huset’s Speedway — Wednesday and Friday. However, his one appearance in the A-main resulted in a win, so it’s hard to judge where the Australian will stack up on Saturday.
Kyle Larson missed Friday’s preliminary program because of his NASCAR Cup Series commitments at Nashville Superspeedway. However, Larson’s victory on Wednesday and 22nd-place effort on Thursday, left him 11th in points.
Veteran sprint car racer Matt Juhl suffered a broken back in a three-car accident on Wednesday night when his No. 09 machine flipped on the backstretch.
Juhl suffered a fractured T-5 vertebra and was fitted with a brace before leaving the hospital. According to Juhl’s social media post, he will have to wear the brace for eight to 10 weeks.
With three nights of preliminary racing, only a driver’s best two nights of racing were counted for the points totals that will line up events on Saturday night.
Friday night winner Logan Schuchart ended up on top of the combined points with 863 markers with his Thursday and Friday results counting. Kofoid finished on the podium on Thursday and Friday and is second in points, only one marker behind Schuchart. Gravel’s runner-up efforts on Wednesday and Thursday placed him third in the standings.
Rounding out the top 10 in points are Spencer Bayston, Brad Sweet, Carson Macedo, Sheldon Haudenschild, Rico Abreu, Tyler Courtney and Gio Scelzi. Schuchart and Kofoid are locked into the King of the Hill race, while the remainder of the field will race through six qualifying races that will be lined up straight-up from points.