Column By: NICK GRAZIANO / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – MECHANICSBURG, PA – When David Gravel entered the Champion Racing Oil National Open weekend at the beginning of October, he trailed points leader Brad Sweet by 96 points. This weekend, for the event’s rescheduled date, he’s cut that deficit down to 54 points in five races.
While trending in the right direction for Gravel, and his Big Game Motorsports team, to chase their first World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship, they’re down to four more races to accelerate that climb.
After being postponed by rain, the $75,000-to-win 60th Champion Racing Oil National Open at Williams Grove Speedway takes place Saturday, Oct. 22. Then, the Series will have three days of racing at The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the World of Outlaws World Finals championship finale, Nov. 2-5 – fans will also get to meet Gravel and the rest of the Series stars during a front stretch Fan Fest on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 2-4pm (ET).
Gravel is currently on a streak of six top-five finishes in a row, including a win at I-80 Speedway, helping him cut into Sweet’s lead. Part of that recent success stems from he and his team throwing everything they have into the final stretch of the season, he said.
“I think just being open minded and trying some stuff,” Gravel said. “Find some stuff that has worked, knowing when to use it and when not to.
“Just confidence with the race car. Just trying things. We’ve been together for about two years. We’ve tried a decent amount of stuff. But I think you always have to strive to be better and keep searching and try to find those things that are going to help you win race. Here, lately, I feel like we’ve done that.”
Gravel’s confidence also comes from having previous success at Williams Grove and The Dirt Track at Charlotte. The Watertown, CT driver has eight Series wins at Williams Grove – two of them National Open victories – and six wins at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, including four in the last three years.
His wins at Charlotte have come with three different teams, too – CJB Motorsports, Jason Johnson Racing and Big Game Motorsports.
While his main focus will be to win the last four races, points will still be in the back of his mind.
“I think about it,” he said. “It’s a shame we were 90-something points back going into Port Royal because if we had it to 50 or 60, where we were, it would have been a big help. We kind of didn’t run really good at Eldora and were kind of OK at those last couple of races in California. Because of those, it put us in a bigger gap. It’s going to be hard to make anything happen.
“All I do is plan on running the best I can every night and hopefully running up front and just keep applying that pressure. You never know what could happen. You’re one mistake away from being right there.”
In his second year with Big Game Motorsports and crew chief Cody Jacobs – the 2021 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Crew Chief of the Year – they’ve managed to collect seven wins, so far. While that’s currently off from the 11 victories they had last year, Gravel said he still feels like they’ve had a better season than last year – judging by money earned and performance at marquee events, such as his second-place finish at the Knoxville Nationals.
That still doesn’t mean they’re satisfied, though. There are still more races to win. Still a shot at their first championship.
“I don’t think you’re ever satisfied,” Gravel said. “Maybe content sometimes, but you always want more. You always want to strive for more. We’re third on the wins list for the Outlaws, which is OK, but you’d rather be number one or number two. It’s a very competitive sport this year and everything is earned. That is for sure. We’re focused on finishing off the year strong.”