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Joey Saldana Breaks Through at Kokomo, Scores First Win of 2015

Joey Saldana Breaks Through at Kokomo, Scores First Win of 2015

Holds off Donny Schatz and Kyle Larson in his home state of Indiana

KOKOMO, Ind. - June 3, 2015 - It had been nearly nine months since Joey Saldana last stood in victory lane with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, so it made it all that much sweeter that he was finally able to park his car in victory lane in front of friends and family at Kokomo Speedway on Wednesday night.

"I've got a great supporting cast with me. My family… my wife Shannon and boys Reece and Ragan were here to see it," said Saldana, a Brownsburg, Indiana-native. "My dad was here. My dad doesn't see many races and he came tonight as did just a lot of people that normally don't get to watch me race. They read about it in the paper but they really don't get to see what I do, so it's pretty neat to see everybody come out and support me. And then to do what we did tonight was an awesome accomplishment."

Saldana's win with his No. 71M Motter Equipment team did not come easily.

He started the night on the pole but lost the lead to Shane Stewart before they completed a lap. Stewart hit lapped traffic on lap four and as he made his way through Saldana closed the gap. They battled for several laps with Stewart holding off Saldana. Two restarts midway through the feature, first for a red flag and then a quick yellow, gave Saldana the opportunity he needed.

He battled forward each time, taking over the lead from Stewart. As Saldana hit lapped traffic on lap 22 a new threat emerged behind him - last year's Kokomo winner and reigning series champion, Donny Schatz. Schatz, who started fourth, had battled past Stewart by lap 23 to take over the second spot. He then set his sights on Saldana.

Two laps later, Schatz was battling for the position as he and Saldana worked their way through traffic. With Saldana banging the boards at the top, Schatz looked low. Each time, lap after lap, Saldana held Schatz off. As the two drivers worked to complete lap 32, Schatz again looked low on Saldana going into turns one and two. This time, Schatz closed the deal.

He led laps 32 and 33. Then, third running Shane Stewart cut a tire down which brought out the caution. Saldana had another chance.

"You just have to try to carry your speed there," Schatz said of the restart. "I tried to go to the bottom to carry as much speed as I could. But getting into one, I must have been sleeping on the start or something because Joey got me going there early and just beat us to the other corner. I did the best I could to try to get past him and I just couldn't do it."

As the final laps counted down, Schatz looked for an opportunity. Off the final turn on the final lap, Schatz got a run with his No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies car but Saldana pinched him off and took home the win by less than a car length.

"Donny Schatz is the guy to beat every single night no matter where he starts," Saldana said. "All I had was the restart. I had to do what I had to do to win the race and luckily I did. He obviously had a really good car because he was right there with me coming to the checkered."

The win was Saldana's second at Kokomo and 92nd career Outlaws win. He is sixth on the all-time wins list. Saldana was also the 13th different driver of the season to stand in victory lane.

Farther back, the battle for third throughout the A main featured some of motorsports' most promising young talent - among the familiar names, Kyle Larson, Rico Abreu and Christopher Bell. Larson, part owner of Larson Marks Racing, filled out a dual role Wednesday night, as he took over driving duties in Keith Kunz's No. 67K car with Bell as his teammate.

Through the early going, Abreu battled briefly up to third, fighting Brad Sweet along the way. As he did that, the two Kunz cars, Larson and Bell, moved forward from sixth and eighth place starting positions. Through the first third of the race, the bunched up field included four cars tight on Schatz's bumper.

Then Sweet, running fourth, crashed, bringing out a red flag on lap 16.

"Before Sweet wrecked we were all about to go at it there for the lead - there was about eight of us," Larson said.

On the restart, Larson got around his Kunz teammate Bell and worked to run down Schatz and then the car he owns driven by Stewart. With seven laps to go Larson had to watch as Stewart cut down a tire in front of him.

Through the final laps he held off Bell and Kerry Madsen to score a third place finish in his first Outlaws start of the season.

"I always have a blast when I run a winged sprint car - especially here at Kokomo," Larson said. "This is one of my favorite tracks. Glad I got to come run… It was a fun race. I didn't do a very good job on the restarts taking off and allowed those guys to get out in front of me."

He thanked his NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi and sponsor for giving him permission to run at the track Wednesday night, and Keith Kunz, who has one Outlaws win as an owner this season with Bell, for giving him equipment to compete in. He said he hopes to run a sprint car again soon.

As an owner, Larson had mixed feelings about the night.

"It stunk for Shane that he got that flat there at the end - it hurt him a lot in points, I'm sure," Larson said. "But that team will fight hard and hopefully Schatz will have a couple of hiccups throughout the season."

Schatz extended his championship points lead to 139 over second place Stewart following Kokomo. James McFadden took home his second KSE Racing Hard Charger Award in a row, advancing 12 positions to finish in 11th.

I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska next welcomes the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on Friday, June 5 for the NAPA Auto Parts Outlaw Showdown. For more information on the event and to learn how to purchase tickets, visit

Follow the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on Twitter at, like it on Facebook at, or check out the latest videos on YouTube at

Kokomo Speedway Notebook

RACE NOTES: Rico Abreu scored quick time tonight, his third of the season, after a lap of 11.096... Joey Saldana was the 13th different winner of the season with his victory Wednesday night… Wednesday night's win was the 92nd World of Outlaws win of Saldana's career. He is sixth on the all-time wins list… James McFadden scored his second KSE Racing Hard Charger award in a row. He advanced 12 positions Wednesday to finish in 11th… Kyle Larson scored a third place finish in his first Outlaws race of the season.

SEASON WINNERS: Donny Schatz - 11 (Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 14, Stockton Dirt Track on March 21, Silver Dollar Speedway on March 28, Placerville Speedway on April 8, Calistoga Speedway on April 12, Devil's Bowl Speedway on April 26, Eldora Speedway on May 8, Eldora Speedway on May 9, Williams Grove Speedway on May 15, Weedsport Speedway on May 17, The Dirt Track at Charlotte on May 22); Daryn Pittman - 3 (Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 13, Antioch Speedway on March 29, New Egypt Speedway on May 19); Shane Stewart - 3 (The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 5, Keller Auto Speedway on April 17, Salina Highbanks Speedway on May 1); Rico Abreu - 2 (Thunderbowl Raceway on March 14, Stockton Dirt Track on March 22); Paul McMahan - 2 (Perris Auto Speedway on April 18, Tri-State Speedway on May 3); Brad Sweet - 2 (Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 15, Calistoga Speedway on April 11); Christopher Bell - 1 (Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 on May 2); Dale Blaney - 1 (Attica Raceway Park on May 29); Brian Brown - 1 (USA Raceway on March 7); Greg Hodnett - 1 (Lincoln Speedway on May 13); Tim Kaeding - 1 (Thunderbowl Raceway on March 13); Terry McCarl - 1 (The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 5); Joey Saldana - 1 (Kokomo Speedway on June 3).

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