By Tony Veneziano
With the 2010 Gold Rush Tour just about to kick off for the World of Outlaws, there is plenty to watch for down the stretch with 21 races remaining on the season and another of the closest point races in series history taking shape. Joey Saldana holds a slim nine-point advantage over 20-time series champion Steve Kinser, with Jason Meyers third only 46 markers out of the top spot and Donny Schatz is still within striking distance in fourth. A total of 11 races will comprise the Gold Rush Tour at six tracks in four different states and one Canadian Province. Following that swing, just 10 events will then remain before the 2010 series champion is crowned at the World Finals in Charlotte on November 6.
• Will there will be a first time champion in 2010 with Joey Saldana and Jason Meyers battling it out or will Steve Kinser claim his record 21st title or can Donny Schatz take his fifth straight championship?
• The 2009 title was decided by just 19 points. Will it be single digits that determine the 2010 title winner? The point lead has been in single digits 15 times this year, with Joey Saldana holding the top spot for the majority of the season. Each of the four drivers at the top of the standings has been out front at one point or another this season.
• The Gold Rush Tour opens at Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota this coming weekend. Can Donny Schatz, who was born and raised in Minot, score his first win with the series at his home track? He has come close in the past to scoring that elusive victory at Nodak, including battling for the lead in 2007 before contact ended his night. Four different drivers have been victorious in the series four races at the recently reconfigured 3/8-mile that boasts a brand new state-of-the-art grandstand.
• How will the drivers adapt to the new format at the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway that will see each and every driver compete all three nights? Events points will be tallied as in the past, with the totals accumulated on the first two nights of racing setting the lineups for the alphabet of features in the finale, with $50,000 again awaiting the victor of the 40-lap finale at the always racy ¼-mile bullring.
• Will this be the year that Jason Meyers wins the Gold Cup Race of Champions in his home state of California? The Clovis native has won a preliminary feature during the event in each of the last two seasons and was out front of the main event in 2008 when he got tangled up with a lapped car.
• Will there be a ninth consecutive different winner at Grays Harbor Raceway in Washington on Labor Day? Mother Nature won last season, but in the last eight races for the World of Outlaws at the track, eight drivers have visited Victory Lane.
• Jason Meyers scored the then-richest win of his career at Skagit Speedway last season in the $20,000 finale. Can the veteran hit pay dirt again at the always racy high-banked three-tenths-mile or will one of the hometown drivers from the Pacific Northwest steal the gold?
• Can Donny Schatz gain ground and get back in contention for his fifth straight title? Jason Meyers made up over 80 points last season during the Gold Rush Tour and Schatz currently is 165 markers back with 21 point paying races remaining on the season and plenty of qualifying bonus points to be had in time trials.
• Will Joey Saldana’s dominance of the Oil City Cup at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton continue? The current World of Outlaws point leader won both nights of the event last season, leading all 70 laps of the feature events. He leads the series with 10 A-Feature wins this season as he chases his first title.
• Danny Lasoski leads all drives with three wins at Cottage Grove Speedway in Oregon. Can the 2001 series champion return to victory lane at the high-banked ¼-mile as he chases his first win of the season?
• Clay County Fair Speedway in Spencer, Iowa produced one of the most thrilling races of the 2009 campaign, with Jason Meyers and Joey Saldana battling it out on the last lap, with Meyers taking the lead high off turn two, with both drives nearly going off the track. Is another last lap pass in store this year at the historic fairgrounds?
• Deer Creek Speedway in Minnesota also played host to one of the best races last season with Joey Saldana and Donny Schatz mixing it up late in the going, with Schatz coming out on top. Can Schatz repeat at the track and continue to gain ground in the title fight? Will Minnesota native Craig Dollansky take the win? Can Steve Kinser add another track to the amazing list of facilities he has won at over the years?
• Eldora Speedway hosts the World of Outlaws one final time this season. Joey Saldana has won two of the four races at the track in 2010, while his teammate Paul McMahan also scored a win, as did Steve Kinser. All four of the title contenders have won at Eldora and match up pretty well at the high-banked half-mile. Will it be a veteran in Victory Lane at the famed track or will a young gun such as Lucas Wolfe, Kraig Kinser or Sam Hafertepe Jr. steal a win?
• After winning the finale of the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway in July, will Joey Saldana be able to make it two-in-a-row at the always racy high-banked track in the Commonwealth Clash or will one of Western Pennsylvania’s best drivers, who will be challenging the World of Outlaws including Knoxville Nationals champion Tim Shaffer and perennial contender Ed Lynch Jr., snag a win in the Saturday night shootout in Sarver?
• What impact will the National Open at Williams Grove Speedway have on the 2010 title fight? With one of the largest fields of the year expected will any title contenders have to use a provisional and start at the back? The two night event will certainly be the wild card in the 2010 title chase, with both nights being full racing programs, offering full points in the standings. Can a World of Outlaws driver snap the eight-race Pennsylvania Posse win streak at “The Grove?”
• The World of Outlaws return to Super DIRTweek again this season with an event at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, New York. Can Steve Kinser keep his perfect 27 for 27 streak of Top-10 finishes at the track alive? Will an invader win at the sprawling 5/8-mile like last season when Tim Shaffer did?
• From the largest track on the circuit at Rolling Wheels, the World of Outlaws return to one of the smallest, Tri-State Speedway in Indiana for a makeup event that was postponed by rain in April. Can Steve Kinser win another at Tri-State Speedway in his home state of Indiana? He won last season with the World of Outlaws at the high-banked ¼-mile and has 22 overall wins over the years at the track. With most tracks in the Midwest finished racing at that time of the year, a stout field of car should be in attendance.
• Will the 2010 tight fight come down to the final two nights of racing in the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte like it did last year? In six races during the World Finals, five different drivers have won, with each of the four drivers involved in the title fight being among those chauffeurs. Jason Meyers in the only driver that has won twice during the World Finals.
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Chizmark & Larson Insurance, Goodyear Tires (Official Tire), SuperClean (Official Cleaner-Degreaser), VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel); in addition to contingency sponsors, Jake’s Custom Golf Carts, KSE Race Products, Penske Shocks, R2C Performance, Racing Electronics, S&S Volvo; Engine Builder’s Challenge participants Don Ott Racing Engines, Kistler Engines, Shaver Specialties and Speedway Engines; and Chassis Builder’s Challenge participants J&J Auto Racing, Maxim Racing and XXX Race Company.