Tony Stewart Racing Teammates Head to California with Momentum
INDIANAPOLIS – There are many obstacles on the road to success for the drivers and teams that compete with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series. This competitive group is filled with adrenaline chasers and, with each stop on the 92-race slate, there is a new challenge. This weekend’s doubleheader at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., offers the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) tandem of Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz an opportunity to continue their impressive beginning to the 2014 campaign at one of California’s most competitive dirt ovals.
It’s appropriate that Tulare’s high-banked, 1/3-mile dirt oval is the first California stop in the World of Outlaws “Salute to the King Tour.” The action is fast and furious at Thunderbowl for the 900-plus-horsepower, 1,400-pound Winged Sprint cars. Since Kinser won the Outlaws’ debut at the Central California track in September 2003, the battles for victories have been fierce with 10 other drivers coming out on top.
Kinser will be looking for his second triumph of the season Friday behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim, which would be the 578th WoO A-Feature win of his illustrious career. The 20-time WoO champion has enjoyed a great deal of success on California soil. The Bloomington, Ind., native earned first won in California back in September 1978 at West Capitol Speedway just outside Sacramento, and his 2003 victory in Tulare was the 491st A-Feature win of his career. “The King of the Outlaws” has won a total of 52 WoO A-Features in the Golden State. He has amassed 12 top-10 finishes in 16 WoO starts at Tulare and also won a pair of National Sprint Tour races at the facility in February 2006.
Schatz, driver of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J, won at Tulare in October 2007 and is seeking his third triumph of 2014 after winning earlier this season at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and last week at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Last March, the five-time WoO champion looked to be on his way to a second career WoO A-Feature victory at Thunderbowl. The Fargo, N.D., racer led the first 14 laps of Friday’s 35-lap A-Feature at Tulare before hitting a rut in turn one that knocked out his front end. In his 16 WoO starts at Tulare, Schatz has six top-five finishes and nine top-10s and also claimed a preliminary feature win in October 2005.
Through six 2014 WoO STP Sprint Car Series events, Schatz ranks third in the WoO championship standings, eight points behind leader Paul McMahan, and heads to Tulare with five consecutive top-five finishes. Kinser is fourth, 15 markers out of first, and has finished on the podium four consecutive times.
For both events this weekend at Thunderbowl Raceway, the pit gates will be open throughout the day while the grandstands open at 4 p.m. PDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit www.thunderbowlraceway.com or call 559-688-0909.
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/Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim:
It’s been a terrific start to the 2014 season. With the way you and your team are competing, you probably can’t get to the next race fast enough?
“Yeah, it’s been great for all of us. It’s just a statement about how hard these Bad Boy Buggies guys (Scott Gerkin, Gary DuBois, and Mark Angerett Jr.) worked in the offseason. Our goal was to come out and be competitive and hopefully have a chance to win some races. So far, we’re right there. We got that first one in Florida, and last week led a race in Las Vegas. We know things can change quickly, but we’re excited to get to Tulare and run a bunch of races in California. We’re all pretty excited about our start, for sure.”
Racing in California is a little different than racing in Florida, or even last week at Las Vegas. What’s the biggest challenge when you get to the California bullrings?
“The tracks for the most part are a lot smaller. You are racing in and out of the corners so quickly. Lapped traffic plays a big part in the outcome. You have to be able to run all over the racetrack. Fortunately, we’ve have a car so far this season that I’ve been able to move around in. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ll be racing a lot of cars out there that are familiar with those tracks. It starts with qualifying and getting into the dash. It’s tough to win these races when you don’t start in the top-10.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J:
Winning has been you and your team’s mantra for the last several seasons. In the first six races of 2014, you have two wins and five top-fives. It’s not six wins in six starts, but are you happy with how the season has started?
“We’re happy we have a couple of wins, but it’s the other nights that we’re not happy about. The first race of the year in Volusia, we were a little bit off and that was kind of the same deal at Las Vegas. This STP team (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson, Eric Prutzman) has proven that it can get the car better each night. The second two nights in Florida, we were really good, and the same can be said last week for Las Vegas and Tucson. We’re realistic to know that we can’t win every night, but we also expect to have a chance. We’re getting better with our qualifying program and that’s helped us as far as starting position goes. All in all, we’re in a better position than we were last year and have a chance to have a better season, and that’s a positive.”
Returning to California means back to the bullrings and smaller tracks. Are you looking forward to battling it out on the short tracks in seven of the next nine races?
“It’s been a while since the Outlaws have been on a short track. Maybe Fremont last September. Fortunately, I spent about a month in Australia racing at Supercheap Auto Archerfield Speedway. It’s a short track and we did a lot of testing. The good news is we won five out of six races and learned a lot in the process. We’ve have some good runs in California in the past and we’re hoping to duplicate that this spring. We’re looking forward to getting back to Tulare. Last year, we felt like we let one get away from us and we’d really like to get this five-week run in California started with a couple of really good runs.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine