AMERICAN raider David Gravel hopes car familiarity can help reverse his fortunes in the 41st Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.
The Connecticut speedster will chase Classic glory when the two-day sprintcar showcase gets under way at Allansford’s Premier Speedway this weekend.
Gravel endured a frustrating first season racing in Australia as crashes and an unfamiliar setup combined to deny him any meaningful results. The 20-year-old is back for a second tilt buoyed by the faith and financial backing of Melbourne car owner Bruce Stephens.
Gravel was unashamed in saying the Stephens-owned car he drove last year failed to live up to expectations.
But the pair are confident of an improved showing on the back of a new J&J chassis machine similar to what the American drives in his homeland.
“I definitely want to make the (A main) race and see what happens after that,” Gravel said yesterday.
“I think this year having the same car as we do back home, and I bought a crew guy out here, there are a lot more things I’m familiar with.
“I think our chances are a lot greater this year.
“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t make the race. I set pretty high goals but realistic goals.”
Gravel said he was appreciative of the help Stephens had provided since the pair met for the first time last year: “He obviously has some faith in me”.
That faith stems from an impressive set of results as one of the younger hard chargers on the American scene.
He started driving quarter midgets aged six and progressed through micro sprints before joining the dirt-track racing elite.
He has placed third in the All-Stars Circuit of Champions series for three consecutive seasons and raced the final at the 2012 Knoxville nationals.
“We won an All-Stars race last year and I believe we finished in the top five over 20 times with the All-Stars,” he said.
“With minimal amount of races with the World of Outlaws we finished top five eight times, had 10 top 10s and five quick times.
“We had 14 quick times overall. We did pretty well in qualifying.”
Gravel is one of 18 Americans who make up part of a record 102-car field set to light up the Allansford track on Saturday and Sunday.
He raced with a 360 engine in the new car for the first time at Simpson last weekend, finishing a fast second behind Matthew Reed.
Runs in the President’s Cup at Avalon on Wednesday and King’s Challenge at Mount Gambier on Friday will provide more preparation.
“I was really glad we ran our car in the 360 race to get some seat time.
“Hopefully we’ll stick to a basic setup and go from there,” he said.