Tony Stewart Racing Teammates Lead Outlaws West
INDIANAPOLIS – Last year’s World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series title chase played out like a 15-round title bout. Three weeks ago, the 2014 campaign opened with a solid one-two punch in the form of thrilling wins for Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) teammates Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser. The decorated champions return to action this week with a pair of races in Las Vegas Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a Saturday-night tussle in Tucson, Ariz.
Kinser, a 20-time WoO champion, leads the Outlaws to Las Vegas for the sixth annual FVP Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway following his 577th career WoO A-Feature triumph, a fitting start to his final season chasing WoO points. Kinser’s 2014 campaign is dubbed the “World of Outlaws Salute to the King Tour,” and the 59-year-old driver of the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim proved by racing to the front in the season’s third race that he is as hungry as ever to win races.
The driver who has piled up the most WoO wins in recent years has been TSR’s Schatz. The five-time WoO champion and driver of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J earned a career-best 23 WoO A-Feature victories in 2013 and put on a show in the Outlaws’ second 30-lap A-Feature of 2014, racing from 11th to first. The win was his 148th career WoO A-Feature triumph and moves him to within four wins of Mark Kinser’s 152 for third place all-time.
Schatz and Kinser have both been extremely successful at the half-mile, dirt oval in Las Vegas. The Outlaws first competed at the facility to close the 1996 season and have contested 47 nights of action. Twenty-nine of those races have been full point programs and Schatz is the winningest driver at the track with seven A-Feature wins. Last March, Schatz led the final 20 laps of the main event to score the opening-night victory and, the following night, he started on the pole and led seven laps before a flat left-front tire derailed his shot at win number eight. Kinser is a four-time A-Feature winner and has three preliminary feature wins, as well. The Bloomington, Ind., native’s most recent win at The Dirt Track came in March 2011.
Following Wednesday and Thursday’s slugfests in Las Vegas, the Outlaws will head south to Arizona to contest the NAPA Auto Parts Wildcat Shootout presented by RideNow Powersports at Tucson International Raceway. Saturday’s race will be the fifth appearance by “The Greatest Show on Dirt” at the semi-banked, 3/8-mile dirt oval. The first four races were won Paul McMahan (2006), Schatz (2006), Kinser (2007) and Daryn Pittman (2013). Kinser has won nine WoO A-Features in the state of Arizona during his illustrious career and hopes to score his 10th Saturday. Schatz gained additional laps at the track earlier this year in January, driving his Dirt Late Model in the NDLR’s Winter Extreme event, and the Fargo, N.D., racer also won the 2010 and 2011 Western World Championships in Tucson.
With three of the 92 nights of action slated for the 2014 WoO season in the books, McMahan and Pittman share the lead in the championship standings. Schatz is fourth with 423 points, 11 points out of first, while Kinser is in sixth with 416 markers, 18 back.
For both programs at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. PST, and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. For tickets, visit www.lvms.com or call the track at (702) 644-4444.
Saturday at Tucson, the grandstands open at 4 p.m. MST, hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. For tickets, visit www.WorldofOutlaws.com or call (877) 395-8606.
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/Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim:
Florida Speedweeks kicked off the “World of Outlaws Salute to the King Tour.” Could you have asked for a better start to the campaign?
“Sure, we could have won all three nights. Honestly, I’m really happy with how things started. None of us on this Bad Boy Buggies team was happy about how we ran last year and we knew we were better than that. It’s just proof that hard work pays off. These guys (Scott Gerkin, Gary DuBois and Mark Angerett Jr.) worked really hard this winter to give me some good equipment. The first night, we kind of went the wrong the direction in the feature but, on Saturday and Sunday, we moved forward. I said before the season started my goals were to win more races than we did last year and be competitive. We proved in Florida that we can be competitive and now the key is to continue being competitive. What happened in Florida is behind us and we have to come out and have success in Las Vegas Wednesday night.”
The good news is that you go from one of the fastest half-mile tracks (Volusia) to The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another fast half-mile dirt oval. Can you build on what you and your Bad Boy Buggies team learned in Florida this week?
“I’m hoping we can pick up where we left off. I know we struggled finding speed in Florida right up until Sunday night’s feature. The car had been very balanced, so I was really happy to have the speed, too. We needed everything we could to win that race. Daryn (Pittman) gave us everything he had and I know Donny wasn’t too far behind, either. We’ve enjoyed racing at Las Vegas and winning helps that. We didn’t have our normal performance there last March, so we’re hoping to change that this week.”
The week of racing concludes with Saturday night’s race at Tucson International Raceway. It’s the only Arizona race on the 2014 schedule, so that means this is your only stop during the “Salute to the King Tour” in the state. What are some of your favorite memories racing in Arizona?
“You always remember the wins. We had some great races over at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix. It’s a shame that place isn’t around anymore, but things change. You always heard about guys heading out there to race early in the year and late in the year. We ran some of the TV deals (Slick 50 Winter Series in 1992 and 1993) and, of course, all the Outlaw shows out there. Tucson has a really nice track and we’ve had some good nights there. I know last year it was a little wet for much passing, but when we won back in 2007, the race was really good up front. The other thing I remember most is probably just all the great fans that are around this sport. You get to see some of them only once a year. I know we’ve met a lot of people over the years and we’re looking forward to racing in front of those people this year.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J:
For a driver who competes almost every weekend, how tough was it to have a couple of weekends off?
“I don’t know that any driver wants to be away from his racecar for too long, but it was nice to recharge the batteries a little bit. I spent some time snowmobiling and doing something around home that hasn’t been done for a while. I’m excited to get back in my Sprint car. We finished up pretty solid in Florida after feeling like we weren’t quite there to start the week down there. I know you aren’t going to be great every night, but that’s what this STP team strives to be. We’ve set the bar pretty high with our expectations, so wins are what matter and it felt good to get one in Florida. I thought maybe we were going to get another one, but Steve did a great job getting to the front and setting a really good pace. I know we’re going to be racing pretty much from now through the first week of November and I can’t wait to get going again.”
Last year, you won your seventh race at The Dirt Track and had a chance at eight. What’s the key to being successful at LVMS?
“Making laps anywhere is the first step to success. Early in my Outlaws career, we raced at The Dirt Track during the beginning of the season and then ended there, so I raced there quite a few times. Winning that final race in 1999 was the first step. I believe winning the first one is always the hardest. I’ve been fortunate to drive for two really good teams and have an incredible group of guys working on my cars. We also have been consistent with our program in terms of motors (Shaver Engines) and cars (J&J Auto Racing) and that’s helped us just get better and better. Last year, we had the perfect scenario going after winning the first night, but I cut a left-front tire following a lapped car and that pretty much ended our chances at the sweep. Everyone knows you need a little good luck, especially in Las Vegas, so we’re looking forward to heading back there and trying our luck again.”
For the second time in 2014, you’ll be competing in Tucson. How much different will this trip be for you?
“I’ll probably be a little more rested. I say that, but then realize I am coming from Las Vegas. Back in January, I raced in Brisbane with the World Series Sprintcars at Supercheap Archerfield Speedway and, a few hours after we finished the race, I flew from Australia to Phoenix. A couple of hours after I landed, I was at the drivers meeting for a Dirt Late Model race. I enjoyed trying to figure out the best way around the track. I have a lot of fun. Mark Richards was there helping me a little bit, and it’s just something I do for fun, but anyone who knows me knows that, if I’m doing something, I want to be good at it. Last March for the Outlaw race, the track surface didn’t warrant a whole lot of passing and we started midpack. We’ve had some good runs in the Sprint cars at Tucson in the past, so we’re hoping to have another fun night there.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine