By Bill Klingbeil
INDIANAPOLIS (June 1, 2011) – The World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series championship hardware won’t be handed out until early November, but if a team wants to be a factor, success in June, July and August is vital. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz know all about heating up during the summer, and their 24 total WoO championships back that up. As the calendar turns to June, the Outlaw title battle is being hotly contested, as evidenced by the fact just 67 points separate the top-five in the standings. And things will continue to evolve with four consecutive two-race weekends scheduled throughout the heartland.
The first stop in June is the state of Kansas as the Outlaws return to the historic Belleville (Kan.) High Banks on Friday night for the first time since July 2, 1981. On Saturday night, the traveling WoO racers will head to the eastern border and make their 10th appearance at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
Kinser is the only full-time WoO racer who competed in the Outlaw race at Belleville 30 years ago. On Friday, Kinser will drive the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/ Chevrolet Maxim, and he’ll be looking to better his second-place finish from 1981. He is the defending race winner at Lakeside after leading the final 19 laps en route to scoring his 556th career A-Feature triumph at the half-mile dirt oval last June. Kinser has finished inside the top-five in all nine WoO events contested at the track.
Schatz, driver of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, used consistency during the month of May to join the 2011 championship battle. The four-time WoO champion earned six top-seven finishes during May, including his first WoO A-Feature triumph of the season at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park on May 21. That victory was WoO career A-Feature win number 106 for Schatz and moved him to within one victory of tying Doug Wolfgang for fourth on the all-time WoO win list. Schatz, who will make his debut at Belleville on Friday, will be looking to match Wolfgang in career wins, and also to join him as a WoO Belleville winner. Wolfgang won the WoO race at the track in 1981. Schatz has four previous starts at Lakeside. Last season, he finished sixth in the A-Feature at Lakeside and his best finish at the track came in 2003, when he finished third.
Throughout the 33-year history of the Outlaws, winning races has always been key to earning championships. Twenty-time WoO champion Kinser has repeatedly said that, by the beginning of June, the championship contenders will have established themselves. Traditionally what they do in June has a big effect on their title aspirations. In 19 of his 20 championship seasons, Kinser has visited victory lane during June. In 1990, he won seven WoO A-Features and, in 1983, he won six. Twice he picked up five wins in June (1991 and 1994). There have been only three occasions (1978, 1998 and 2000) when he didn’t win multiple events during the month of June and, later that season, went on to claim a WoO crown. June success has also helped Schatz earn WoO championships. In each of his four championship seasons, he has scored at least one WoO triumph in June. In 2008, he won six times, including three consecutive WoO A-Features to start the month. With eight scheduled opportunities during June, both TSR drivers are looking to secure wins, now, which hopefully will result in another title at season’s end.
Last weekend’s results tightened the 2011 WoO championship standings. On Saturday night, Kinser and Schatz finished second and third, respectively, in the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway to close the gap on point leader Joey Saldana. On Monday at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., Schatz earned his series-leading 11th top-five finish and moved into second in the standings, trailing Saldana by only 12 points. Kinser couldn’t avoid an opening-lap, eight-car crash at I-96 and suffered a hand injury, as well as his second DNF of 2011. Despite having minor wrist surgery on Tuesday, Kinser expects to be racing this weekend. “The King of the Outlaws” ranks third in the standings, 35 points behind Saldana.
Friday at Belleville High Banks, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. For more details, contact the track at (785) 527-2488. The official Web site of Belleville High Banks is www.HighBanks.org.
On Saturday at Lakeside Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, contact Lakeside Speedway at (913) 299-2040. The official Web site of Lakeside Speedway is www.lakesidespeedway.net.
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/Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim:
Last weekend didn’t end well for you and the Bass Pro Shops team. Is it difficult to get through the time between races after an accident like the one you had on Monday night?
“Any time you have a bad night at the track, you want to get right back out there and kind of erase that thought, if you can. I guess, in this case, having a little time off probably was best. I know the car will have to be replaced and the driver is going to need some time to feel better. I was in quite a bit of pain on Tuesday, but we spent some time with a doctor here and I think he’s got me fixed up. By Friday, we should be all ready to go and get back to racing again. The Bass Pro Shops guys have already got another car put together. And we’re ready to see if we can get back out there win some more races.”
This weekend offers you a chance to go to a track for the first time in a long time, and return to one where you won the most recent race. The schedule seems to change each year. Is that another fun thing about racing with the World of Outlaws?
“I’m looking forward to the weekend. I know a lot has changed since 1981 when the Outlaws raced at Belleville. I was still pretty young and just getting going with my career. Open trailers, guys racing night after night just heading from one town to the next. Ted (Johnson, WoO founder) had us going from one place to the next. We had a pretty good season going that year (winning nine consecutive races in June) and I think we ran second at Belleville. It’ll be fun to go back there and race again. I always like going to places where we haven’t been for a while. Any time we can get out in front of our fans, it’s a good thing for me. As far as Lakeside goes, I just hope we are as good as we were there last year. The Bass Pro Shops car was so good. I could drive high, low or just about wherever I needed to. Those are the nights that are really fun.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
After a really difficult start to the 2011 season, you and your STP team seem to be really coming together. Are you surprised that you’ve been able close the gap on the championship standings leader so quickly?
“We aren’t winning races regularly, so I wouldn’t say we are quite all the way together. Our expectations are pretty high but, after the start we had, I’d say we are getting closer. Consistency is the key. If you can consistently win races, then you can compete for a championship. The last few weeks, we have at least been in contention for wins. We charged from 18th to second in Oklahoma, raced from eighth into the lead at Eldora, and nearly led wire-to-wire at Attica for the win. Last weekend, we came from ninth to third at Charlotte and I was, at worst, a second-place car at I-96 Monday but had a bad restart and we didn’t finish there. It’s about fine-tuning things, now. Hopefully, we’ll start getting those wins we are looking for. That’s what matters right now.”
Historically, you have had a lot of success in the heat of summer. This weekend, you are heading to Kansas and the forecast is calling for some warm temperatures. What is it about the summertime that helps your program?
“A lot of it has to do with the racetracks. We have a really good slick-track package and, when it’s hot and the sun is shining all day, these dirt tracks tend to dry out. When the tracks dry out, the racing comes back to the driver and car control. When it’s wet and fast, most of the time the driver just has to mash the gas pedal and steer the car. When it gets slick, there is quite a bit of throttle control and a lot more goes into getting your car to drive forward. The STP crew (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Bob Curtis) has done a great job all season giving me a good car. We’re hoping the weather stays hot for a while and we can have a lot of slick tracks to race on.”
About Armored AutoGroup
Armored AutoGroup Inc., headquartered in Danbury, CT, is primarily comprised of the Armor All® and STP® brands. Armor All’s® current product line of protectants, wipes, tire and wheel care products, glass cleaners, leather care products and washes is designed to clean, shine and protect interior and exterior automobile surfaces. STP’s® offering of oil and fuel additives, functional fluids and automotive appearance products has a broad customer base ranging from professional racers to car enthusiasts and ‘‘Do-it-Yourselfers’’. The company has a diversified geographic footprint with direct operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and the U.K. and distributor relationships in approximately 50 countries. For more information, please visit www.armorall.com and www.stp.com.
About Bass Pro Shops Group
Bass Pro Shops -56 retail stores in 26 states and Canada visited by over 109 million people annually, international catalog and internet retailing, American Rod & Gun wholesale division selling to over 7,000 independently owned retail stores worldwide, Outdoor World Incentives also selling Bass Pro Shops gift cards through over 132,000 retail outlets across America and a restaurant division with 26 locations. For more information regarding Bass Pro Shops store locations, products or special events, please visit www.basspro.com. To request a free catalog call 1-800-BASS PRO.
Tracker Marine Group – Manufactures and sells Tracker, Nitro, SunTracker, Tahoe, Grizzly and Mako boats through Bass Pro Shops retail stores and over 400 dealers worldwide.
Resort Group – Big Cedar Lodge and other resort properties including restaurants and golf course. Visit www.bigcedar.com for more information.