As the marquee event on the track’s schedule and one of the crown jewels of the World of Outlaws slate every year, it’s a big deal to win it.
We visited with the winner of the 2008 Kings Royal, Daryn Pittman, to talk about one exciting night in Rossburg, Ohio.
Daryn Pittman looks back at 2008 Kings Royal
When he looked back at the 40-lap main event that saw himself earn one of his biggest victories in his life, Daryn Pittman insists that the race was won on the first lap.
Although it took a sequence of events even before the main event started to happen, the 2008 Kings Royal played right into Pittman’s hands.
“I don’t think I had watched that race in at least 10 years,” Pittman said. “It was fun to re-visit one of the biggest wins of my career.”
The broadcast for the racing that night was on Speed TV – the old network dedicated to exclusively motorsports – and it opened up with plenty of fireworks.
Six-time Kings Royal winner Steve Kinser was dismayed by the series’ decision to allow Donny Schatz an extra qualifying lap after a car had failed to exit the track prior to his first attempt.
The second chance at a lap improved Schatz’ time from 23rd on the board to sixth, bumping Kinser down a crucial spot.
“I remembered when the broadcast came on, him being upset,” Pittman said. “I didn’t remember the incident at all as to why they were so mad.”
After series officials made their ruling and Kinser got in the face of one, he’d walk away.
But, that meant packing up his entire trailer, re-loading the car, and threatening to forfeit one of the biggest events of the year.
“The only reason that that was even feasible was because the Kings Royal was a show-up points race,” Pittman said. “He was upset that his chances of winning were extremely, slim-to-none, at that point. It was one of the rare instances that you could see somebody of his stature threaten to load up and go home.”
It certainly wasn’t something that anyone was used to seeing, but Kinser was serious.
He and his crew had the No. 11 Quaker State car completely loaded into the semi with, before taking the time to reevaluate the situation.
Pittman commended him for the passion.
“Steve’s always kind of been that way – super intense – since I (was) racing with him,” Pittman said. “You see him fly off the handle and just completely lose it on things. Just 10 or 15 minutes later, after he’s got time to re-think it, he changes tune pretty quickly. I always kind of respected that about him, his competitive pride, and how emotional he gets.”
Schatz moving up on the board didn’t make much of a difference for Pittman, but it slated him on the outside of Heat No. 4.
Pittman and Titan Racing USA
The Oklahoma native would have the advantage starting on the outside in his No. 21 Titan Racing car – the same he had been racing in for nearly a decade.
Pittman began his stint with the team in 2001, strictly racing in Australia for the first part of it.
The team made the move to the United States, but only lasted a handful of years before going out of business.
“That was the last year that I had ran that car,” Pittman said. “We had a terrible year going but ended up winning the Kings Royal, so. I got let go right before the start of the 2009 season and the team didn’t continue for more than four or five months.”
He’d have to beat the No. 83 of Shane Stewart at the start to secure the first-place position.
Coincidently, Stewart was racing in the same Roth Motorsports car that Pittman drives today.
“I’m one of many that have been in the 83 car,” Pittman said. “It’s always been a staple out on the tour at the big races. It’s just had some different drivers in it. I didn’t really remember that Shane was in it at the time. He was actually, I think, just a little quicker than me in our heat race and started catching me towards the end.”
Pittman held off Stewart to win the heat race and would start from the pole position in the dash.
The Sequence that won Pittman a Kings Royal
Pittman’s dash performance wasn’t promising for fans of his.
Joey Saldana had been dominating throughout the event. The No. 9 Kasey Kahne Racing car was the class of the field, and, when given the space do so, would be out to a straight-away lead within a lap of the restart.
He’d go on to finish fourth, but it spelled great fortune for the No. 21 team.
“We went from the pole to fourth in the dash,” Pittman said. “I feel like it was sort of a blessing. I either needed to (finish) either second or fourth. The bottom was not even remotely an option and it was tough to pass guys (on the top).”
When Pittman rolled out for the main event to the outside of P3 starter Dale Blaney, he jumped at an opportunity.
Although, it was what the second-place starter in Jason Meyers where Pittman took the advantage.
“Re-watching that race kind of confirmed what I remembered,” Pittman said. “I feel like that race was won for me on the first lap.”
When he took the green flag, Pittman was already passing Blaney on the outside.
He would pass Meyers for second before the end of the first lap.
“Jason went into (turn) one, turned off of the cushion and tried to cross back under (Saldana),” Pittman said. “He lost his speed. It gave me clean air to make a lot of mile an hour off of turn two and I was able to slide (Meyers) in (turns) three and four.”
If he didn’t make that move, though, Pittman thought that he might have not even had a chance at the win.
It was that hard to pass under green flag conditions.
“My car was great,” Pittman said. “We just didn’t have raw speed like (Saldana) did. I think me and Meyers were very equal. I think if I didn’t get by Meyers on the first lap, I think I struggle to get by him for the rest of the race and probably don’t.”
With 39 laps to go, Pittman sat in second place.
The problem was Saldana being able to out-pace the field on restarts.
It was out of Pittman’s hands.
“At that point, I really wasn’t worried about Joey,” Pittman said. “I think all of us knew that (Saldana) had the car to beat. There were two things going through my head. We’re either going to A. run second because they’ve got a better car and they’re faster than we are. Or, B. We’re going to get some fortune.
Saldana proved everyone’s thinking correct.
He was the fastest car on the track and was able to worry less about lapped traffic because of the amount of cautions throughout the race.
There were basically resets every time Saldana was getting close to lapped traffic. It was the only thing that was going to keep him from a win… aside from an accident.
With 12 laps to go, Saldana slowed to a stop on the track with a flat tire.
“He has the tendency to run the edge (of the track) right up on the fence,” Pittman said. “I think they claimed that he cut something, but from my memory I swear I remember seeing him hit the fence right out of turn two about three or four laps before he cut the tire.”
After the restart, it was all Pittman.
The No. 21 cruised to victory lane over the next 12 laps.
No one was passing him. It was too difficult to at the front of the pack.
It’s part of the reason that Pittman thinks the racing at Eldora has gotten better, despite some people’s complaints.
“That race track has changed so much since then,” Pittman said. “It’s crazy to go back and watch those races. People complain now because (they don’t like drivers) running around the bottom so much. Watching that video, it was tough to pass. You had to be married to the top. If a guy did get a run behind you it was just too easy to cross back over and maintain that position.”
Eldora Speedway, 12 years later, has just gotten better.
“After listening to everybody complain over the years about how it’s changed, I think it’s a better racetrack than what it used to be,” Pittman said.
Sitting in ninth in the World of Outlaws’ all-time wins list, Pittman has had plenty of victories in his memory.
Holding 85 first-place feature finishes, he compared the Kings Royal to one of the best wins of his career.
“I would put the Historical Big One ahead of that for a couple of reasons,” Pittman said. “But, I think the Kings Royal just has more prestige to it. I think when I won the big one, I was still pretty young. It was such a big win for me at an early part of my career where it was a little more unexpected.”
No matter how any win came about for Pittman, though, make no mistake.
The 2008 Kings Royal is a special one in the 85.
“I’ve had quite a few (victories),” Pittman said. “But, this is definitely right up there with the rest.”
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