Bullring Battle: David Gravel chases another win at River Cities Speedway


David Gravel rounds turn two during the World of Outlaws show in June. Photo by Mike Spieker (Speedway-Shots.com).

 GRAND FORKS, N.D. — August 15, 2018 — David Gravel accomplished a feat in June of 2017 at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., that no driver had been able to do since 2014 and that was to defeat Donny Schatz at the high-banked bullring. At the time, Gravel snapped what was a five-race win streak for the nine-time series champion. In order to pick up a second-career win at the track, the young driver will have to break another Schatz win streak, which is currently at two at the high-banked bullring.
Gravel hits the track at River Cities Speedway on Friday, August 17 for the 2nd Leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour as the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series makes their final visit of the season to the track.
“It’s definitely a tough track,” said Gravel. “It’s a demanding 40 laps and very action-packed. It’s similar to Pevely (I-55 Raceway) where we were a couple of weeks ago. They are both high-banked short tracks. The surface changes several times throughout the A-main. As a driver, you have to be very focused and stay on top of everything.”
After spending last week at the sprawling half-mile Knoxville Raceway in Iowa, which is one of the biggest tracks on the circuit, Gravel heads to River Cities Speedway, which is one of the smallest. Being a veteran on the World of Outlaws tour, the native of Watertown, Conn., doesn’t flinch when going from big tracks to small ones, as that’s just par for the course over the 80-plus race season.
“We’ve been there so many times over the years that you just treat like another track and go with it,” he explained. “You turn a lot more at Grand Forks and you kind of go off your instincts. Everything happens in a hurry, so you always have to be on your toes and ready for anything.”
Gravel is quick to point out a few key components that are necessary to contend for wins with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, especially early in the race program. Despite being a small track, “clean air” and “dirty air” also factor into that equation.
“You have to qualify well and get in the dash,” shared Gravel. “Those are two of the most important things to put yourself in a good spot. Clean air helps as well. If you get on the front row, it’s a lot easier to win the race. You can definitely pass there, but to really challenge for a win, you have to realistically start up front.”
At River Cities Speedway, the leaders usually reach the back of the field within just a handful of laps during a green flag run.  Consequently, Gravel and his team know the importance of having a car that is maneuverable in traffic, especially while out front.
“Lapped traffic is tough there,” he said. “Being a small track, we’ll go through a lot of lapped traffic. There is typically a preferred line you want to be in and if lapped cars are there, you have to go somewhere else, where you are not as comfortable and that makes it difficult.”
Gravel and the CJB Motorsports team, for whom he drives, recently began campaigning an in-house built chassis. Barry Jackson, crew chief for the team, designed and built the car. The veteran wrench made a living for many years building sprint cars, when he previously owned JEI Chassis. Gravel took the car to victory lane for the first time on July 27 at Ransomville Speedway in New York.
“The in-house chassis is pretty much a direct copy of what we had been running,” stated Gravel. “I think the biggest adjustment was getting used to the tire we are running this year.”
Gravel heads to North Dakota a solid third in the series standings with 27 race nights remaining on the 2018 calendar. Along with five victories, he has 37 top-10 finishes of which 24 are top-five performances. That has him sitting third in points as he looks to improve on last year’s third-place finish in the standings.
“We just want to win races,” Gravel said. “We have a shot at getting to second in points, which would be a good accomplishment. We’re going to continue to push hard and try to win races and the points will all take care of themselves.”
Tickets for the 2nd Leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour at River Cities Speedway on Friday, August 17 can be purchased in advance online athttps://slspromotions.ticketforce.com, as well at ticket outlets in the Grand Forks area, the River Cities Speedway office and at the track on race day.
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