From Tony Veneziano
BARBERVILLE , FL — The start of the racing season every February is always a chance to see if teams can carry momentum from the previous year, change their luck, or just try all of the new adjustments they’ve made to their cars. It’s the first chance to really shake down new equipment under a high-stress racing environment.
This year at the DIRTcar Nationals By University of Northwestern Ohio, though, the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series stars, together with the O’Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series, are faced with a wild card in one of the most important areas of competition — tires.
Beginning this year, and after extensive testing and development, Goodyear will provide the dominant tire in 410 Sprint Car racing. Both the Outlaws and All Stars will require all cars to run Goodyears on the rear wheel positions. Considering the 2009 championship battle between Donny Schatz and Jason Meyers wasn’t decided until the final night of the season, every lap will be key this year at the huge Volusia Speedway Park event. The pits will be intense as all of the drivers realize every point from the first green flag of the year could make a difference in the title chase in November.
A full week of Sprint Car racing during the DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH kicks off on Feb. 2 with a test session, followed by two nights under the All Star Circuit Champions banner before the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series takes center stage Friday through Sunday (Feb. 5-7).
Adding to the pressure of performing well right out of the gate, Goodyear is posting a midseason $55,000 point fund that will be distributed following the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup Twins on July 20 at Lernerville Speedway.
Joey Saldana, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing and led the World of Outlaws with 20 main event wins last year, is confident about opening the 2010 campaign with Goodyear tires on his No. 9 machine. The second generation driver has raced and won on Goodyear rubber in the past, and believes he and his team will adapt quickly this season.
“I think some people think it’s going to be a big deal,” said Saldana, of Pittsboro, Ind. “It’s no different than it was eight years ago when Hoosier came in. You’ll just have to figure out what your race car needs. Obviously it’s a different tire, so you’ll have to do some different things than you did last year to get your car to do what it did last year. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Goodyear makes a good tire and it’s the same for everybody. Everyone has the same tire and has to work to figure out what will make their car go fast.”
Danny Lasoski, the 2001 World of Outlaws champion from Dover, Mo., has had much success racing with Goodyear tires. The sixth winningest driver in World of Outlaws history, Lasoski is piloting the No. 6 Casey’s General Store car once again and is looking forward to kicking off a new era for Goodyear at the DIRTcar Nationals.
“They did their homework and we tested them last year and you could tell a little bit of difference, but not a ton,” Lasoski said. “I don’t think it will be that big of a transition.”
Jason Meyers disagrees. Meyers, who missed winning the 2009 crown by a mere 19 points in the closest title race in history, has been working hard all winter with his Elite Racing crew to prepare for the impact new tires will have on his car. The team, which already designs and builds its own chassis, aims to learn as much as it can about the new Goodyear tires at Volusia. The grueling nine-month, nearly 80-event World of Outlaws race season is unforgiving. Struggling with tires and car setup at Volusia can cause a team trouble in the championship standings well into the summer.
“We’ve taken a lot of steps this winter to be ready for it, but I think it will be quite a bit different,” shared Meyers, a native of Clovis, Calif. “I hope that we have prepared enough. I think it will be a real big difference and change a lot of things, from the way you set your car up to the way you build your wings and even the way you build your cars for that matter. It’s a change they have made and we’ll adjust and embrace it and we’ll have to work hard to make sure our cars are as good as they have been in the past.”
In 32 years of World of Outlaws racing, 19 championships were won by cars and drivers using Goodyear tires, more titles than any other manufacturer in series history.
To purchase tickets online for the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park visit: http://www.DIRTcarNationals.com or call Volusia Speedway Park at 386-985-4402. Every ticket purchased is a FREE Fan Pit Pass.