Story By: NICK GRAZIANO / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – SARVER, PA – While Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz have had their fun battling at the top of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series point standings, David Gravel has quietly crept his way into the party.
He’ll look to crash it this week during the Series’ return to Lernerville Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway – a track Gravel won at in May.
With less than 40 races to go in the season, the Watertown, Conn.-native sits third in points – 120 points behind leader Sweet and 100 points behind second-place Schatz. He’s gained 40 points on Sweet in the last 10 races – with nine top-five finishes, including a string of six podium finishes in-a-row and a win at Hartford Speedway.
Gravel has finished third in points the last three years – the last two behind Sweet and reigning champion Schatz. However, this year, he’s with a new team.
In his first season with Jason Johnson Racing, Gravel has four wins on the year – tied with Logan Schuchart for the third most wins this year, so far – and will eye number five on Tuesday, July 23 at Lernerville Speedway.
“I like Lernerville a lot,” Gravel said. “I was able to win there a couple of times. I’m excited to get there with the forty-one (car). I haven’t been there with the forty-one (car), so just happy to try that out.”
His two wins at the 4/10-mile speedway came in 2016 and 2017 – the last two years Schatz has won at the track, too. Sweet won the last race at the speedway in September with Schatz finishing second. So, while Gravel has found success at the Sarver, Pa. track, Sweet and Schatz won’t make his quest for another win easy.
The doubleheader at Williams Grove Speedway is where he could potentially have the best advantage. Sweet has never won at the speedway and Schatz’s last win at the half-mile Mechanicsburg, Pa. track came in 2015 – however he does have 19 wins at Williams Grove.
Gravel has five wins at the speedway – including his latest one in May.
“Williams Grove has always been a good track to me,” Gravel said.
Winning at Lernerville or Williams Grove Speedway this time around comes with a large payday, as well.
Lernerville Speedway is offering the largest midweek purse for the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup. It’ll pay $25,000 to the winner and $1,200 just to start the Feature.
The Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals at Williams Grove pays $8,000-to-win the first night of the doubleheader, then $20,000-to-win the second night.
“There’s money on the line, so you want to win those races,” Gravel said.
He and his Jason Johnson Racing team have found their rhythm, and speed, lately with eight podiums in the last 13 races and 10 Quick Times on the season, so far. Gravel contributes that to the growing chemistry amongst the team.
“More races together, just figuring things out,” Gravel said. “It’s so tight, the competition is extremely stout, so you have to be on your game at all times. Just trying to fine tune, find that baseline. Just fine tune, you know, that’s what it’s all about. Small details that win or lose races.”
Schatz has said that the competition in the World of Outlaws is so close right now that small adjustments to the car can be the difference between winning and struggling to keep pace with the leaders. Gravel agreed.
“We’re a quarter turn, quarter inch. That’s all it takes right now,” Gravel said.
While they’re in the hunt for the points, Gravel and his Jason Johnson Racing team’s main focus each week is just winning. They’ll worry about spoiling Sweet and Schatz’s points battle as the wins come.
“We’re just trying to run the best we can,” Gravel said. “Our goal is to win every night but be in that top-five consistently and wins will come. It’s one of those things where you win races and the points will take care of themselves. We’ve run really, really, well lately and who knows, we might be able to make it interesting and join in on the fun.