Monday, July 18th, 2011
Walker steals victory on last lap
By Mike Ernst
ROSSBURG - Sammy Swindell dominated Saturday night's 40-lap Kings Royal main event for 39 3/4 laps. Swindell blew a tire as he entered turn four coming to the checkered flag, allowing Tyler Walker to speed by on the bottom of the race track to win his first Kings Royal and collect the $50,000 top prize.
"I've lost so many in the last turn," said Walker, of Los Angeles, Calif. "I was giving it about half throttle there at the end because I knew the tires were getting low. It just feels really good to be on the other side of that kind of deal. I've lost a lot of races like that so I know how it feels to be sitting there watching as someone else takes the checkers. This is the biggest win of my career by far and I couldn't have done it without the car owners and team that I have behind me."
Swindell started the main event from the pole position and outraced Walker into the lead on the opening lap and immediately began to pull away. Walker held off the early charge by Cody Darrah for the runner-up spot and was able to keep Swindell in site when going into lapped traffic.
The battle at the front stalled when the first caution flag of the event flew on lap 11 when seven-time and defending Kings Royal winner Steve Kinser, running in fourth place, tagged the turn four wall to bring out the caution flag. After moving to the back of the field for the restart, Kinser eventually finished in the 11th position and extended his streak of having started all 28 Kings Royal feature events.
A scary moment darkened the evening on the ensuing restart. As the field roared back to life entering turn one, Ed Lynch, Jr., Joey Saldana, who had charged from 19th starting spot to 10th in the first 10 laps, former Kings Royal winner Daryn Pittman and Friday night's winner Tim Shaffer were involved in an accident.
Lynch, Pittman and Shaffer all escaped without injury, but it took track workers a lengthy amount of time to remove Saldana from his car. He was then transferred to Coldwater Community Hospital, with what was termed by World of Outlaw officials as an arm injury.
On Sunday, Saldana's wife via her Twitter account announced that Saldana had been flown to a hospital in Indianapolis where he had two metal rods and 25 screws inserted into a broken arm that had shattered both bones in his arm and that he had suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
It is the second consecutive year Saldana, who entered the race third in the World of Outlaw title chase, has seen his championship hopes dashed at Eldora. Last fall Saldana entered the fall Eldora event as the points' leader, crashed and suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the next night's action. The injuries from this accident appear to have at the least ended his 2011 season.
When the race restarted, Swindell again quickly pulled away but Walker closed back in as the two entered lapped traffic. On lap 25, Walker pulled even with Swindell in turn three and four, only to have Swindell surge back in front.
Three laps later, Lucas Wolfe brought out the final caution flag of the night. Outlaw officials decided that instead of the normal double-file restart, the restart would line up in single file formation, citing safety concerns because of the tires.
Swindell pulled away again on the restart and appeared he would race unchallenged for his third Kings Royal title. However, just as flag man Rick Foley began to display the checkers as Swindell entered turn four, the tire exploded and Walker flashed by.
"The only shot we really had at him was in the lapped traffic because he was really fast," Walker said. "But I think our car was a little more maneuverable than his and I was hoping to get around him.
"I thought I could see his tire going down and I knew mine was a little soft as well so I was just kind of going half-throttle hoping to save it until the end and then I seen his tire explode," Walker said of the frantic final hundred feet of the race. "Then I was just hoping he wouldn't turn down in front of us and get in our way and let the guys behind us pass us both."
Swindell was able to limp his car home in the runner-up spot, while Paul McMahan drove a strong race running in the top five from the drop of the green flag. McMahan came home in third place and, like the top two, knew it had turned into a tire-conservation race at the end.
"I could see the tires were wearing pretty good so I tried to just ease off and maintain as best I could," said McMahan, who made it back-to-back third-place finishes on the weekend. "We're happy with another top-five finish. Dennis and Theresa Roth really make this possible and I really owe them a lot for keeping me out here along with Kasey Kahne."
Two-time Kings Royal winner Donny Schatz finished in the fourth spot, while Brad Sweet rounded out the top five. Craig Dollansky, Jim Nier, Darrah, Kerry Madsen and track owner and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart completed the top 10.
Heat races were won by Lynch, Sweet, Kinser, Darrah, Walker and Swindell, while Jac Haudenschild, a three-time Kings Royal winner, won the C-main and current outlaw points' leader and defending World of Outlaw champion Jason Meyers won the B-main to advance to the Kings Royal feature.
In the support National Racing Alliance Sprint Invader main event, Randy Hannagan moved around Caleb Helms on the lap 18 and pulled away for a convincing win in the 25-lap main event.
Friday night's winner, David Gravel charged from the back to finish in third place while Chad Kemenah and Dustin Daggett completed the top five.
Eldora will sit silent next weekend before returning to action on July 30th with the NRA Sprint Invaders returning along with the non-wing sprint cars.