Tony Stewart Racing Teammates Tackle Highbanks in Oklahoma, Missouri
INDIANAPOLIS – The final weekend of April marks the World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series’ first stop in America’s Heartland. After starting the month with consecutive weekends of racing in California and spending last weekend in the Lone Star State, Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz continue the 2014 journey from coast to coast with stops Friday in northeast Oklahoma at the Salina Highbanks and contest their first race in the Midwest Saturday just south of St. Louis at Federated Auto Parts I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo.
For Kinser, Friday marks his only Oklahoma stop during this year’s World of Outlaws “Salute to the King Tour.” Kinser, driver of the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim, is making one final run at a 21st WoO championship and hoping previous success in the Sooner State will lead to another memorable outcome. The Bloomington, Ind., native has earned 16 of his 577 career WoO A-Feature triumphs in Oklahoma. “The King of the Outlaws” first won on Oklahoma soil in 1980 at Lawton Speedway, and his most recent victory came at Outlaw Motor Speedway near Muskogee in April 2005. Friday’s race at Salina will mark only the third time the Outlaws take to the 3/8-mile, high-banked, clay oval. In May 2011, Kinser finished third and last April came home sixth.
TSR’s Schatz travels to Oklahoma with one career WoO victory in Oklahoma. The win came at State Fairgrounds Speedway in Oklahoma City during the spring of 2003 and was his 15th career WoO A-Feature triumph. Last Friday night at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas, the five-time WoO champion earned his 150th by racing the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J to victory in the opener of the Texas Outlaw Showdown presented by American Racing Wheels. In the Outlaws’ 2011 debut at Salina, Schatz put on an incredible drive charging from 18th to finish second. Last spring, he came home 13th.
Saturday’s race at I-55 is the first of 2014 in the Midwest and the 40th night of WoO competition on the 1/3-mile high-banked, dirt oval. “The Greatest Show on Dirt” first raced in April 1987 and has made at least one stop a year at the I-55 facility since 1996. Kinser won the second-ever stop at I-55 late in the 1987 campaign and was also a winner in 1988, 1992 and 2003. He’s looking to reverse his fortune of late this weekend. In his previous three starts, he hasn’t been able to crack the top-10. Meanwhile, Schatz has been the model of consistency at I-55, earning 16 consecutive finishes inside the top-eight. The Fargo, N.D., racer has finished second in his three most recent appearances, including last year’s run from 13th in the Ironman 55. Schatz earned his only career victory at the track in April 2006.
As the touring series closes out the month of April, the standings continue to be in state of flux. Schatz has led the standings after five of the 17 races that have been completed. He has remained inside the top-three since his victory March 6 at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He heads to Oklahoma third in the standings with 2,388 points, 10 behind leader Daryn Pittman. Schatz has earned three victories, leads the series with 11 top-five finishes and has 14 top-10s. Kinser continues to rank seventh overall with 2,246 points and has earned one victory, five top-fives and 10 top-10s.
Friday at Salina, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT and the grandstands will open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For more details, call the track at (918) 434-7223 or visit salinahighbanksspeedway.com.
Saturday at I-55, the pit gates and the grandstands will open at 2 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, contact I-55 Raceway by calling (636) 479-3219 or visiting www.I55raceway.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/Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim:
The schedule continues with this weekend’s stop in Oklahoma, a state where the Outlaws have a strong history. You’ve been very successful through the years in the Sooner State. What are your thoughts heading into Friday’s race at the Salina Highbanks?
“It’s always good to be racing in Oklahoma. We’ve had so many good nights at tracks all over the state since the Outlaws started, but we’ve only been to the Salina Highbanks a couple of times. We ran third the first time we were there (in 2011) and we’re always looking to do a little better. It’s just a matter of being able to get around there the best. If the track widens out, then you can use the top, middle and bottom. You like it when a banked track gets slick so you can use it to your advantage with slide jobs to get past guys. With the caliber of competition we have right now, you have to be somewhat close to the front and have a car that is capable of going forward. I know the Bad Boy Buggies guys will be excited to be back at Salina and, hopefully, we’ll see another great crowd there.”
In the return to the St. Louis area Saturday night, what sort of obstacles do you have to deal with a challenging place like I-55?
“It’s a tough place to win at for sure. We haven’t been able to do quite as well there as we did across the river in Granite City (at Tri-City Speedway), where we won quite a few races (22). The track is fast. You have to get up on the wall and be able to move through traffic. Everyone gets around there pretty well, so it comes down to the driver making the right decisions. You only get so many opportunities to gain positions so, obviously, you have to take advantage of every one of them. We’ll start with the same formula we do every night. You have to get qualified in a good position so you can have a chance in the heat race. With the new format, you have to win the heat now to make the dash. Pevely has been a place where you can see some passing for position early in the night, so that should help everyone. The feature is 40 laps, so you do have some time, but you can’t spot the guys up front too much track position. We’re looking forward to it. This will be the closest race we’ve had to home so far this season and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of familiar faces there.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J:
Last weekend, you reached another milestone by earning your 150th career WoO A-Feature victory. How quickly did you turn your focus on the next milestone?
“All those numbers are really for everyone else to worry about. The numbers we worry about are our wins each season. We’re sitting on three and honestly feel like we should have a couple more. It goes to show how tough getting wins in this series is. I will say it was really cool to win my first race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway last week with a number of the original Outlaws there at the track. It’s really an honor to be able to be part of the World of Outlaws and last weekend kind of underscored that. We were aiming for two wins last weekend but things didn’t go our way Saturday night. We’re heading to Salina looking to win for the first time there and get our fourth win of the season. It’s that simple.”
Winning has been your mantra for quite some time, and you’ve been very close at I-55 the last couple of years. Finishing second three straight times proves that you are close to being where you want to be. Do recent results there push you to be one spot better this weekend?
“The last race at any track is always behind you. Finishing second twice there late in 2012 didn’t really help us in last year’s Ironman 55. The track is pretty tricky and you have to be able to move around. The top is always going to be fast and it’s just a matter of whether a driver can get the bottom and middle going good enough to keep up. The STP guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman) have done a really good job giving me a good car all season and I know we’ll have a really good chance both nights this weekend. It’s been a long time since that 2006 win at I-55 and we’re going to do whatever we can to break that streak of seconds by finishing first Saturday.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine