Tony Stewart Racing Continues Outlaw Madness in California
INDIANAPOLIS, March 15, 2011: While most of America is busy filling out March Madness brackets, the competitors from the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series are preparing to avoid any upsets in their second consecutive weekend of action in California. The month-long swing through the Golden State continues with stops this weekend at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway in Hanford on Friday and at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare on Saturday night. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz will play the role of top seeds but, like the NCAA tournament that kicks off this week, there are plenty of opportunities for Cinderella stories to occur.
Sprint car racing in California is very competitive and, when the Outlaws visit, that action normally reaches another level. The tracks are typically smaller and provide close racing. Oftentimes, the surfaces remain wet and sticky throughout the night, resulting in unpredictable outcomes. Several current Outlaws began their careers racing locally in the state prior to joining the traveling series, and there are a number of young stars hoping to splash onto the big stage this weekend by pulling off a major upset.
Kinser, driver of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevy Maxim, is hoping the favorites advance through the weekend and come out victorious. “The King of the Outlaws” is the winningest driver in WoO history with 565 A-Feature triumphs and has won four of eight races this season. Friday’s visit to Kings Speedway will be the series’ first race at the track since February 2003. Kinser has scored seven WoO victories at the 3/8-mile dirt oval. The Bloomington, Ind., native won his first in September 1986 and seventh race at the track in September 1999. He has finished inside the top-10 in his last 10 starts there.
When the Outlaws made their debut at Thunderbowl Raceway in September 2003, Kinser was the fastest qualifier and led 31 of the 35 laps to capture the victory. It was the 51st time he won an inaugural WoO race at a track and, since then, has done it seven more times. In February 2006, Kinser swept two races staged at the track by the National Sprint Tour. He has 12 top-10s in 13 WoO starts at the 1/3-mile dirt oval. Last March, he charged forward in both WoO races. The first night, he was involved in an accident while running third and raced his way from the back to finish fifth. The following night, he stormed from 21st to finish sixth.
Schatz has made a lot of laps in California. Each season, his results seem to get better. Schatz hopes he can drive the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J in front of the field at both facilities. The four-time WoO champion has eight top-10s in 10 career starts at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway. His most impressive drive came in February 1999, when he raced from 21st to finish fifth. The Fargo, N.D., racer has scored a pair of wins in Tulare. The first victory came in October 2005 on a night when he established a new track record during qualifications. His second triumph occurred in October 2007, a victory that helped him seal up his second consecutive WoO crown. Last season at Tulare, he finished fourth in the opener, but was involved in an accident in the second event and got stuck in the pit area making repairs. He was scored 20th.
The Outlaws kicked off their five-race tour through California last weekend with Saturday night’s Mini Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico. Schatz raced to victory in the dash and chased eventual winner Craig Dollansky around the quarter-mile dirt track for 35 laps, ultimately finishing second. Kinser didn’t have the kind of success he was hoping for and finished 13th.
Kinser continues to lead the 2011 WoO championship standings through eight of 67 WoO races. Kinser has won four races to go with six top-five finishes, seven top-10s, and he has accumulated 1,142 points. Schatz has earned three consecutive podium finishes and ranks fourth with 1,071 points, 71 behind Kinser.
For Friday’s event at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. PDT with the grandstands opening at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For more details, contact the Speedway office at (559) 584-7223, or visit the track’s official Web site at www.kingsspeedway.net.
Saturday at Thunderbowl Raceway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. PDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, contact Thunderbowl Raceway by calling (559) 688-0909, or visit www.thunderbowlraceway.com.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/Chevy/J.D. Byrider Maxim:
During your career, you’ve raced at numerous tracks. This weekend, you’ll be returning to Kings Speedway. Even though it’s been a few years since you raced there, will you approach the track the same as you have in the past?
“The approach won’t change, but some of the things we do will. With dirt racing, no matter where you go, the track is always going to be a little different. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve been there. We actually ran a National Sprint Tour show there in the fall of 2006 and it was still pretty similar to what it was back in 2003. A lot has changed with the cars and wings since then. We’re running different tires now, too, so it just goes back to working together as a team. This Bass Pro Shops crew does a great job. I don’t think there will be much that can surprise them. We have to start the night with a good qualifying effort and then go from there.”
Thunderbowl Raceway is your typical California track. It has good banking, tight corners and usually is a great show for the fans. What do you like about racing at Tulare?
“It’s a great place to race. Anytime you can run three different grooves and be able to charge from the back to the front, it’s pretty exciting. I know, as a driver, it gets pretty intense. There are cars running all over the place and you deal with lapped traffic. It’s a place where you have to have a car that can run on multiple parts of the track and, as a driver, you have to make good decisions. It’s definitely one of those tracks where you need to be really good in the seat. When you win a race in Tulare, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
If the schedule would have worked out differently, you would have been spending the weekend watching your son Kurt wrestle at the NCAA National Championships in Philadelphia. How tough is it going to be on you to not be in the stands rooting him on?
“It’s going to be really tough. This is his last year at Indiana University and his last shot at being an All-American. In my life, I’ve had to miss quite a few things, and I know this is going to be one of the toughest. Fortunately, Dana (wife) and I have been able to make a lot of his meets this year. We were able to go the Big Ten Tournament right after the Las Vegas races and see him earn his way to the NCAA championships. Kurt is the only one in our family who never really wanted to race. He’s always been about going to school and competing in wrestling. I’m really proud of him, and he knows I’ll be thinking about him all weekend. Dana will keep me posted on how things are going.
“We’ll just do our best to win a couple of races in California and, hopefully, he can win a few matches there. He’s worked really hard for a long time. I know how important it would be for him to finish his career with a really good weekend at the championships.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J:
Following two strong finishes at Las Vegas, you were able to score another good finish in the Mini Gold Cup last week. Do you feel like the STP team is gaining momentum?
“It feels like we are getting a little better. We have a long way to go to return to the consistency that we’ve had in the past. It’s small steps right now. We’re still trying to get that first win of the year. We also understand that we have to be in position to win to have a chance to do it. In the last three races, we’ve put ourselves in that position. Silver Dollar Speedway hasn’t always been the best place for me but, last week, we had a really good car all night long. We are making strides in the right direction and have to maintain some consistency – qualify well, race our way into the dash, and continue to move forward in the feature races. We know there are no shortcuts to getting where we need to be.”
The schedule continues this week with two more races in California. On Friday night, you return to Hanford and, on Saturday night, it’s back to Tulare. What are your expectations for each night?
“It’s going to be another competitive weekend, that’s for sure. It’s still early in the year and everyone is hungry to win races. I know I’m pretty fired up to win a race. We are going back to Hanford and I haven’t won there. I’ve had to run from the back to the front a few times and just have gotten the job done. The tracks are small and you have to be able to maneuver through traffic. I love it when our races get that way, and it comes down to the driver having to make the right choices. I think the fans like seeing us battle all the way around the track. Tulare usually starts pretty narrow, but widens up as the night goes on. You have to continually make adjustments. And that’s where having a strong crew comes in. I know that my guys (crew chief Rick Warner and crewmen Steve Swenson and Bob Curtis) have been working really hard. Our goal is to continue putting ourselves in a position to win. If we can do that both nights this weekend, I like our chances.”