Outlaw Sprints - TSR's Western Swing
INDIANAPOLIS, March 7, 2011: In the dusty world of dirt-track racing, competitors more frequently find themselves knocking mud off their shoes than shading their eyes from the bright lights. This week offers the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) tandem of Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser the chance do a little more of both as the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series makes stops in the highly radiant markets of Las Vegas and Southern California.
After beginning the 2012 WoO campaign in Florida with three nights of action in mid-February, Schatz and Kinser will resume racing on Thursday night at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And on Saturday night, the Winged Sprint car stars will fight for top billing in the NAPA Know How SoCal Showdown at Perris Auto Speedway in Lake Perris, Calif.
After completing three events within 24 hours on Feb. 18 and 19 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., the TSR teams have spent the past two weeks working at their respective shops back in Indiana. Schatz kick started the Outlaws season with a victory, a second- and a fourth-place finish aboard the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J in the first three WoO races and leads the 2012 WoO championship standings with 438 points heading into Thursday’s race. Kinser, meanwhile, is looking to change his luck behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D.Byrider/Chevy Maxim when he hits the Las Vegas dirt. The 20-time WoO champion seemed to only have bad luck during the first race in Florida, finishing ninth, 17th and 12th, and he ranks 13th in the standings with 374 markers.
The good news for Kinser is that his next race is in Las Vegas, where one’s luck can change quickly. “The King of the Outlaws” won their last March when the WoO made its most recent stop at The Dirt Track. He opened the event by earning the top qualifying spot and concluded the program by leading all 30 laps of the WoO “A” Feature, giving him seven career victories at the facility. Thursday’s race will be Kinser’s 40th appearance at the half-mile clay oval.
That victory last March allowed Kinser to break a tie with Schatz for most total wins at the track. Schatz, whose most recent win in Las Vegas came in February 2009, was the top qualifier in the opening night of 2011 before finishing third in the main event. The following night, the four-time WoO champion raced from the 12th starting position and finished third. The Fargo, N.D., racer earned his first triumph in Las Vegas in November 1999 and has won a pair of March events (2005 and 2006) during his 16-year WoO career. Schatz is the only driver to compete in all 44 WoO races at The Dirt Track.
Saturday night will mark the Outlaws’ first stop in Southern California since October 2007. The most remarkable stat heading into the event is that neither Kinser nor Schatz has been victorious at the 4/10-mile dirt oval in Lake Perris. Kinser, who has 570 career WoO A-Feature wins, and Schatz, who picked up career win number 114 two weeks ago in Florida, have each won at a lot of tracks during their respective careers, and both want to add to Perris to their lists. In 12 career starts at Perris, Kinser has 10 top-10 finishes and his best result came in March 2002, when he finished second. Schatz has four top-10 finishes at Perris and twice has finished fourth (March 2002 and October 2007).
For Thursday night’s event at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. PST, and the grandstands open at 4:30 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets, visit www.lvms.com or call the track at (702) 644-4444.
On Saturday at Perris, the grandstands open at 4 p.m. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. For tickets, visit www.WorldofOutlaws.com or call (877) 395-8606. An exclusive free fan pit pass upgrade is available with the purchase of Advance Reserved seating.
Race fans unable to attend this week’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:
After starting the season with three World of Outlaws races in Florida, you’ve had a couple of weeks to regroup before heading out West. Is it difficult to spend all winter getting ready to race, then race a week and have a little more time off before racing again?
“I guess it just depends how you do in Florida. If things go great, you want to keep racing the next week. We didn’t have the kind of results we were looking for, so we just put it behind us and will start over this week. The Bass Pro Shops guys (Scott Gerkin, Gary DuBois and Mark Angerett Jr.) worked hard all winter and again during the past week and half. We tested in Las Cruces (N.M.) last night and found some things. Like I said before, it’s a bonus if you can get off to a good start in Florida, but it’s not critical. We’ve been doing this for a long time. You can have years start like we did last year (winning four of the first seven races) or it might take three or four weeks to get your program going well. Sometimes it just takes one night for things to start clicking.”
Last March, you had a complete night at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. You were the top qualifier and led all 30 laps of the main event. It was your seventh win at the facility. Why have you been so successful there?
“I’ve always seemed to be better on the big, fast half-mile tracks. These Sprint cars are made for going fast. I think last year we got off to a great start in Florida and just kind of kept it going out there. So many times in this sport you can tell right from the time you unload a car that you are going to have a good night. We went out and cut a good lap in qualifying, made it through our heat race and got a good number for the dash. And we just kind of did our thing in the feature. The competition is so tough that you can’t be off by too much. Over the years, we’ve been able to get around the track in Vegas pretty well and, after the start we had in Florida, I know we could definitely use another night like we had last year.”
On Saturday night, you and your Bass Pro Shops team will return to Southern California for the first time since late in the 2007 season. There aren’t many tracks on the schedule where you haven’t won, but Perris Auto Speedway happens to be one. What are your thoughts heading back to Perris?
“It’s great that we are getting back to Southern California. Any time we can return to an area where we haven’t been for a while, that’s a good thing. We used to race out there quite a bit at places like Ascot Raceway Park. Perris is a nice facility and I’m looking forward to seeing some people that we haven’t raced in front of for quite some time. I know the Non-Wing Sprint cars really put on a good show at Perris and, hopefully, we can be a little better there than we have in the past. I don’t think we’ve been too bad, just not good enough to win. The Bass Pro Shops guys will give me a good car. It’s just a matter of whether or not things go our way.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
After a solid start to the season in Florida, are you looking forward to getting back into action this week?
“Yes, we are ready to go. Our season is a long journey and every year you start with a week of racing in Florida and then head west. Some years things go well in Florida and some years they don’t. We tried some things in the All-Star races (two nights prior to the WoO opener) and they didn’t work. It was kind of an open test for us and that helped us focus on some of the things we needed to keep working on. The guys on the STP team (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson, and Bob Curtis) are really smart and are always looking for ways to help us get better. That will help us as the year goes on. It was good to get that first win out of the way and now we can focus on getting the next one. Our mentality is that the next race is the most important, so it starts again with Las Vegas on Thursday.”
Speaking of Las Vegas, you are the only driver to have competed in every World of Outlaws race at the track since it opened in late 1996. Your six wins there are second only to Steve Kinser. Have all of those laps aided your ability to succeed there?
“Any time you get that many laps on a particular track, you would hope to get better. I’ve been able to get better as my career has progressed. It’s amazing to think that the first time I raced there was right before I started my rookie season with the Outlaws and now we’re starting our 16th year on the tour. The biggest thing for me was to figure out the best way to get around the track and then ultimately have success. We won for the first time to end the 1999 season and since then, we’ve usually been in contention. We’ve been good at the track in the Spring, I think last year we had a couple of podium finishes and, if I remember, we were coming on strong in the final race. We’re looking forward to making more laps there again this week.”
The schedule then takes to you back to Perris Auto Speedway for an event on Saturday night. Your most recent race at the track resulted in a fourth-place finish, tying your career-best result there. What’s been the toughest part about racing there?
“Perris is a tough place for a lot of reasons. The track surface is usually pretty fast and sticky so, unless you start close to the front, it’s pretty difficult to make a charge forward. I think I’ve only started in the top-five once and have been able to race my way forward a couple of times. I’m looking forward to getting back to Southern California. Our engine builder Ron Shaver is from Los Angeles, and we’re looking forward to racing in his region. He’s going to be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame this June and it’d be nice to win a race for him right there in Southern California.”