Outlaw Sprints - Tony Stewart Racing Teams Set To Duel in North Dakota
INDIANAPOLIS, June 15, 2011: A midsummer stop in North Dakota by the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series teams has been as common as victory parades following championship celebrations. During the last 30 years, the traveling dirt-track stars have spent at least one weekend competing in the Roughrider State. For Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz, the annual stop in his home state is a reminder of his childhood days when one weekend each summer he would travel to Fargo to see his current TSR teammate Steve Kinser battle his childhood idol Doug Wolfgang and the rest of the Outlaws. Kinser has been involved in many North Dakota celebrations during his illustrious career and, in recent years, Schatz has participated in his share, as well. The TSR duo will look to celebrate again this weekend as it competes in the annual Duel in the Dakotas on Friday and Saturday nights at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks.
Schatz, who will be behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, leads the Outlaws back to North Dakota as the WoO points leader and is looking for his third WoO A-Feature victory at the 3/10-mile high-banked, dirt oval. Kinser, driver of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim, is hoping to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing accident at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway and duplicate last year’s performance at River Cities, when he raced to victory.
History shows both drivers have had strong results in North Dakota throughout their careers. Kinser collected his 93rd career WoO A-Feature, and first in North Dakota, in July 1982 when he captured the Duel in the Dakotas finale at Red River Valley Speedway in Fargo. The win was the first of his eight Duel in the Dakotas triumphs, and the 20-time WoO champion was also victorious at the track in August 2005, just three days after his son, Kraig, won the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals. He added a victory at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan in August 2008 before winning last June’s Duel opener at River Cities. “The King of the Outlaws” has finished in the top-five four consecutive races at the track.
When Schatz first left home to travel the Outlaws circuit, the annual stops in Fargo where a bit complicated. It was fun to be home and racing in front of his family and friends, but it also meant added pressure to perform well. As a 20-year-old, learning how to race with Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Dave Blaney and Mark Kinser was a tall order, and beating them was even tougher. He will admit that, during his first few seasons on the road, he put a lot of pressure on himself during those summer visits home. In 2002, he finally got the hometown fans what they wanted – a victory Duel finale. In 2006, he swept the two-night program and, later that season, he earned his first WoO championship. The following season, the Outlaws made their debut at River Cities and Schatz finished third. In June 2008 and 2009, he was victorious at the track and, in each of those years, he would go on to capture a WoO crown, as well. Last season, he finished seventh in the opener and charged from ninth to third in the finale.
One of the biggest obstacles for the Outlaws in the 2011 season has been Mother Nature. Nine of the first 27 races have been affected by weather, and the teams are hopeful they can get two consecutive nights of action in this weekend. In three previously scheduled doubleheaders, they have only been able to get one night completed, including last weekend at Knoxville. Schatz had a consistent evening from start to finish. He qualified fourth, finished fourth in his heat, fifth in the dash and fourth in the 25-lap A-Feature. The finish, coupled with Joey Saldana’s 10th-place result, allowed Schatz to take over the top spot in the 2011 WoO championship standings by one point.
Kinser, who entered the event as the series’ most recent winner following his June 4 triumph at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, had a tough night starting with the draw for qualifying. A late number proved to be a large hurdle and one that slowed his progress toward a 21st WoO championship. He ultimately qualified 25th, started the main event 23rd, and was involved in a first-lap accident. The resulting DNF (did not finish) dropped him from third to fourth in the championship standings, 56 points behind Schatz.
On Friday and Saturday at River Cities Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, contact River Cities Speedway at (218) 773-3002. The official Web site of River Cities Speedway is www.rivercitiesspeedway.com.
Race fans unable to attend Saturday’s race 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:
The World of Outlaws schedule takes you to North Dakota this weekend. What kind of memories do you have about racing up there?
“I have always enjoyed going to North Dakota. The people up there really love their racing. (Promoter) Don Mack has been having us come up there for years. He was a good racer, and it’s always been important to him that the Outlaws make a summer stop in North Dakota. The old schedule had us running two or three nights in Fargo and I can always remember having great crowds and a lot of fun. The past few years, we’ve been going to Grand Forks and the racing has been really good. When you see standing-room-only crowds, it really makes you want to put on a good show. We had a little bad luck the first time the Outlaws raced up there (an accident while running third) but, other than that, we’ve been pretty fast. Last year, it all came together and we were able to finally win one up there.”
In the last few races, your results have been either really good or really bad. What do you do to get back the consistency of having solid finishes every night?
“Racing more would be the easy answer, but I honestly don’t know. We had been running second or first in four of the previous five races leading up to Knoxville last week and just couldn’t finish up there all the time. We fell back a little at Attica (sixth), finished second in Charlotte, crashed on the opening lap at I-96, were running second and blew a left-rear tire at Belleville, and then won at Lakeside. Then we came back last weekend at Knoxville and crashed on the first lap again. It’s tough when you only get one or two races in a week. These guys on this Bass Pro Shops team (Scott Gerkin, Gary DuBois and Mikey Kuemper) work really hard and I give it everything I have each night. We’d like to race four or five times a week, but right now we have to see if we can get two in and get back to finishing right up there.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
After starting the season the way you did (four finishes outside the top-10 in five races), would you believe that you’d be leading the points before July 1?
“I’d say we are a little surprised, but not shocked. We knew after racing in Florida that we had a problem and we were able to work through it and start finding our rhythm. I really don’t feel like we are where we need to be, yet. The finishes are getting better, but we left a couple of wins on the table and those are what count most. It’s been hard for us to build on the results from one night to next when we keep losing races. Our team thrives on competition and competing every night keeps us climbing. This team knows a lot about winning and, if we can start putting wins on the board, the big-picture stuff will take care of itself.”
You’ve spent 15 years on the road with the World of Outlaws. Is it still special to come home and race in North Dakota?
“Absolutely. When I was a kid growing up, the highlight of my summer was going to see the World of Outlaws race in Fargo. Early in my career, it was probably a little tougher on me, but now I enjoy getting to race close to home. There are so many people from this area who have followed my career and been supportive along the way. Winning those championships wasn’t just for me. It was for all the fans who watched me climb the ladder. Now, our goal is to climb back up it. Hopefully, we can have a really good weekend in Grand Forks and keep headed in the right direction.”