While David Gravel led all 30 laps to emerge victorious in the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series main event Friday evening at Ransomville Speedway, the trip to Victory Lane was anything but easy.
Gravel, of Watertown, Conn., eventually prevailed, keeping Brad Sweet behind him as the pair raced each other for the lead while slicing through sessions of lapped traffic. Twice during the race, once on lap 10 and again on lap 17, Sweet got by Gravel very briefly but only to have Gravel retake the lead before the battling pair got back to the strip.
For Sweet of Grass Valley, Calif., it was the second straight year at Ransomville that he wound up the bridesmaid. Last season, Sweet was narrowly beaten in the annual WOO Ransomville race by Tim Shaffer. Shaffer led every lap of that event as well.
Last Friday's result was a bit of a Ransomville rebounding for Gravel. Gravel placed fifth in the 2017 WOO Ransomville contest in his CJB Motorsports No. 5 Sprint Car after blowing a tire as he was approaching the checkered flag on the final circuit while running third.
Gravel did not want last year's tire misfortune at Ransomville to bite him again.
"I was being a little cautious," Gravel said. "I blew a tire here last year and I didn't want to do that again this year. When Brad showed me his nose, I knew I had to step up my game and luckily I was able to get back by him."
The Ransomville triumph Friday was Gravel's fifth of the 2018 WOO campaign.
Sweet, who drives the No. 49 Kasey Kahne Racing entry, could only stare at Gravel in Victory Lane Friday and think about what could have been.
"David did a nice job getting through traffic, especially with the lapped cars battling side-by-side," Sweet said. "I think we were pretty equal with him. My guys gave me a great race car."
When Donny Schatz, who steers the No. 15 Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing machine, started on the pole at Ransomville Friday, many in the large grandstand crowd probably figured that the Fargo, N.D., driver would have a cakewalk to victory.
Schatz's WOO career resume includes nine WOO season championships. Schatz also leads the WOO points once again in 2018 on the strength of 15 main event wins to this point in the current campaign.
For those who were predicting instant victory for Schatz Friday, such would not be the case.
Almost immediately at the dropping of the green flag Schatz began to fade. Gravel got around Schatz on the backstretch of the opening lap. Sweet would sail by Schatz on the third circuit to assume second. Schatz would eventually settle for third.
"We weren't good enough to compete for the win," Schatz said. "You lick your wounds some days and come back stronger."
The 30-lap affair Friday saw two drivers flip their Sprint Cars during the race. Paul Colagiovanni who hails from the Central New York region, flipped his No. 10 machine up and out of the race track between the third and fourth turns on the opening lap. He was uninjured.
On lap four, WOO veteran campaigner Daryn Pittman flipped his No. 9 Kasey Kahne Racing entry while racing for a spot just inside of the top 10 runners. He also was not hurt.
Gravel was not the only one named David to win at Ransomville Friday. Dave DiPietro won his first Ransomville feature race of the season in the track's weekly Sportsman division. DiPietro grabbed the top spot on a lap 15 restart from A.J. Custodi and never looked back. Custodi would finish second. DiPietro became the eighth different feature race victor this season in the Ransomville Sportsman division.