MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (Aug. 20) — After capturing Friday night’s 40-lap World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature at Williams Grove Speedway, Gregg Satterlee was asked if he remembered his last victory on the national tour.
“No, I really don’t,” he said, providing a clear indication that it had indeed been a long time between checkered flags for the the 37-year-old driver from Indiana, Pa.
Eventually, Satterlee quizzically said, “Delaware? Was that the last one?” He was right — Delmar’s Delaware International Speedway was the site of his previous WoO triumph — but he expressed a sense of shock upon learning that the date of that win was Aug. 14, 2014.
“Seven years ago!” Satterlee exclaimed, shaking his head in amazement. “Oh my God.”
Yes, Satterlee’s fourth career WoO victory was a long time coming. His first three wins in selected WoO appearances came in a span of two years — 2013 and ’14 — but he’s been fruitlessly pursuing another success ever since.
That day finally came at Williams Grove, the famed half-mile sprint car stronghold where Satterlee was a runner-up to Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., in last year’s WoO stop. Taking advantage of his outside pole starting spot, Satterlee outgunned front-row mate Max Blair of Centerville, Pa., for the lead at the initial green flag and never looked back as he paced the entire distance for the $10,000 top prize.
NASCAR and open-wheel superstar Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., offered Satterlee’s stiffest test, rising up from the sixth starting spot to second place by lap 12 and bidding for the lead several times in lapped traffic during the race’s second half. But Satterlee hung tough in his family-owned XR1 Rocket car, and, after Larson slowed on lap 36 because a clod of mud punched a hole through the right-side nose of his K&L Rumley Longhorn No. 6 and went into the radiator, he stayed comfortably ahead of Gray Court, S.C.’s Chris Madden for the remainder of the distance.
Madden settled for second place, 0.754 of a second behind Satterlee. Kyle Hardy of Stephens City, Va., finished third in Sommey Lacey’s Budds Creek, Md.-based XR1 Rocket car after starting fifth but falling back as far as eighth early in the race. Ninth-starter Rick Eckert of York, Pa., placed fourth in his self-owned XR1 Rocket car while 13th-starter Matt Cosner of Ridgeley, W.Va., slipped past Sheppard exiting turn four on the final lap to complete the top five.
Sheppard, who started third in the Rocket Chassis house car, fell back as far as eighth following a lap-six restart before ultimately crossing the finish line in sixth.
Satterlee knew the key to the race would likely be the initial start. He executed his plan to burst into the lead immediately — though not without a hairy moment.
“Max kind of surprised me,” Satterlee said of the race’s polesitter, who charged side-by-side with Satterlee into turn one. “I thought I had quite a bit of room between him and I. I don’t know if he just slipped or whatever, but he was up into my left-front pretty hard and I thought I was as wide as I could be (in turns one and two). I think I gave him plenty of room. He just went in there as hard as he could.
“Luckily, there were so much traction up there I was able to just hold it wide open and go right around him (to assume command off turn two).”
Using the outside lane at the start was actually part of Satterlee’s strategy.
“I kind of tested (the top) out before the green (flag) and I thought, I don’t know how many laps a guy can make out here, but I can make one really good one,” related Satterlee, who registered his eighth overall victory of the 2021 season. “And that’s what I planned to do … if I would’ve ended up in the guardrails, that’s what I would’ve done. I was pretty certain you could make one pretty hard lap up there, and it stuck. I was able to get around Max and it all worked out.”
Satterlee’s hold on the lead seemed to be precarious when the 29-year-old Larson, making a surprise appearance at Williams Grove three weeks after his first-ever WoO Late Model win in July 31’s Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway, began to turn up the heat. When Satterlee reached a pack of three slower cars on lap 24, Larson closed right up on the pacesetter.
“I think they were at least three-wide, and I was just trying to use as many lanes as I could,” Satterlee said of racing through lapped traffic with Larson hot on his tail. “I didn’t know where (his closest pursuers) were, I had no idea how close anyone was. We used to have (signal) stick guys, but now we have no stick guys (per WoO rules) so I didn’t know what was going on behind me.
“I’m not real good at looking anywhere but where I’m racing. It takes all my focus just to drive this thing around there and hit my marks. Picking crew guys out of the grandstands and watching the (video) screen (outside turn three) … I can’t do that. If I take my eyes off the racetrack for even one second, I lose track of where I’m going.”
Satterlee “only saw (Larson) once coming out of four,” but he repelled that thrust and stayed smooth out front.
“I figured if I was gonna get passed they were gonna go under me, but I didn’t know how much of a lead I had at any point,” said Satterlee, who noted that his car’s left-rear tire was nearly bald at the end of the race. “I know from racing places like this, if you lay wide at the end of the straightaways, no one’s gonna be able to really roll around you unless they time it perfect. And when you lay wide and then cut left, they have a hard time going underneath you.
“The way I was, I was just being really patient to where if I did have somebody fly in there (to attempt a slider) I was just gonna be able to keep coming left and hit my mark no matter what.
“That was my plan,” he added. “I’ve just followed enough guys around these places who were doing that, and it’s really, really hard to get passed. Whoever was leading that race was gonna be doing that same thing. I just knew that was the safe thing to do.”
Madden, 46, couldn’t summon enough speed to threaten Satterlee after inheriting second from the departed Larson, whose headed pitside with his car overheating due to the damage done to its radiator.
“I felt like I was making some headway in one and two, and then I would lose it in three and four,” said Madden, who started fourth. “We just kind of run the same lap speed then.
“I’ve been here two or three times and never ran a lap — we got rained out, so tonight was the first time I got to actually make some laps around here and I really didn’t know how to tune for the feature.
“I guess it’s a great sprint car track,” he continued. “It’s just so big. Clean air was everything. I think if I would’ve drew front row, I probably would’ve won the race. But we didn’t, so we’ll take our second and build on it.”
The 28-year-old Hardy was the underdog of the race as he recovered from a slow start to climb back to fourth by lap 15 and then move up to third when Larson retired.
“We’re happy with a third place tonight for sure,” said Hardy, whose career-best WoO finish is second. “There’s a couple different things we could’ve done to make it better, but we’ll take it. It ain’t easy racing with these guys.”
Four caution flags slowed the feature. Dylan Yoder brought out the first on lap six when he pulled up lame in turns three and four. Debris on the backstretch triggered a lap-12 caution, while the final slowdowns came on lap 36 with Larson’s problems and lap 39 when fifth-place Dan Stone stopped due to a broken transmission.