Luck has a way of finding you in Las Vegas. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser entered this week’s two-night Las Vegas World of Outlaws (WoO) Nationals presented by J.D. Byrider hoping to continue his incredible start to the 2011 WoO campaign, while his TSR teammate, Donny Schatz, was seeking a change in fortune after struggling in the first five races. The cards turned out in the favor the TSR contingent was aiming for as Kinser raced to victory in Thursday night’s 30-lap A-Feature finale, while Schatz parlayed a strong third-place finish in Wednesday night’s opener with a charge for 12th to third on Thursday night. The wild card of the program was the results of two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Tony Stewart, who jumped in a third TSR entry and raced his way to 10th-place finish in Thursday night’s 30-lap A-Feature finale.
Kinser is off to one his best career starts in WoO competition, winning four of the first seven main events. In his second season driving the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/ Chevy Maxim, “The King of the Outlaws” is setting a blistering pace. Following Wednesday night’s 10th-place finish, Kinser was determined to be a factor throughout the night on Thursday. He earned his first fast qualifier award of 2011 by turning a lap of 15.119 seconds around the half-mile dirt oval. He finished second in the dash and took advantage of his outside front row starting position in the 30-lap main event by grabbing the lead at the drop of the green. The 20-time WoO champion set a terrific pace in the race, which was only slowed by a pair of late caution flags. In the end, he fought a last lap challenge from Joey Saldana, Wednesday night’s winner, and Schatz, to score his seventh win at the Las Vegas oval and 566th career WoO A-Feature win.
“Any win is a good win, but you always like to be the guy standing here at the end of the night,” admitted Kinser, who added to his point lead with the triumph. “We didn’t have a very good night on Wednesday. We got involved in a couple of crashes and ended up hurting a car, so the Bass Pro Shops crew worked hard all day putting a new one together. It’s a really fast car and this is a great way to thank them. We also wanted to do well for everybody involved with this Tony Stewart Racing team. Tony’s been racing with us and we had some people from J.D. Byrider here. It’s always nice to do well when the people making this all possible are here to enjoy it with you.”
Schatz ventured to Las Vegas looking for a change of luck after scoring only one top-five finish in the season’s first five races. He quickly served notice that the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J was going to be a factor. In Wednesday’s qualifying session, Schatz turned the fastest lap of the night to capture his first fast time award of the season. He would later finish second in the dash and challenged eventual winner Joey Saldana in Wednesday’s 30-lap A-Feature, before eventually finishing third.
Wednesday’s results were building blocks for a strong run on Thursday night for Schatz. An early qualifying slot hindered his chances at a second straight top qualifier award, and he ended up14th overall. The results of qualifying earned Schatz a mid-pack starting position in Thursday’s main event. The four-time WoO champion made one of his patented charges during the first 20 laps of the race. He worked his way up to third and made several bids for second. With three laps to go a caution bunched the field, Schatz restarted third and continued his battle for second with Saldana and Sammy Swindell. On the final restart, he made a final run at Saldana and Kinser, but couldn’t make the low groove work and he followed the duo to the finish line.
“We made some progress and will take a couple top-three runs,” said Schatz. “I don’t know if we needed the late yellows either night. It seemed like we were closing in on Joey the first night, and tonight I was coming to Steve and Sammy. Maybe the lapped traffic would have played into our favor. It didn’t work out that way, so we’ll take what we got and keep working until we get that first win.”
The mid-week races provided Stewart, who is in town to compete in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, the chance to join his TSR drivers in action with the World of Outlaws for the first time since last July. He was fast behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/ Chevy Maxim topping the speed charts in several practice sessions. In Wednesday’s program, he timed in sixth overall, but only completed four laps in the main event after a mechanical problem forced him to end his race prematurely. The following night, he went out extremely early and didn’t quite make the lap he hoped to and ended up 16th fastest. A fifth-place finish in the first heat earned the Columbus, Ind., native the 16th-starting spot in Thursday’s finale. He ran a smooth race, working his way forward to finish 10th.
The results of the Las Vegas World of Outlaws Nationals presented by J.D. Byrider improved Kinser’s lead in the 2011 WoO championship standings. He has 1018 points and leads Saldana by 35 markers. Schatz remains sixth in the standings and trails Kinser by 93 points. The TSR teams will return to action on Saturday, March 12 at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., for the Mini Gold Cup Race of Champions.