By Bill Klingbeil
INDIANAPOLIS (May 2, 2012) – Getting behind the wheel of any racecar takes a lot of nerve. Jumping in one that weighs in the neighborhood of 1,200 pounds and possesses more than 900 horsepower can be a little overwhelming. There isn’t much that intimidates the adrenaline junkies known as the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series, but if there were a track that might, it’d be the famed high banks of Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The speed, coupled with the G-forces a driver feels circling the half-mile dirt oval owned by Tony Stewart, pushes the limits of bravery. It’s the thrill of being the best at Eldora that outweighs any sort of reluctance from the best Sprint car drivers in the world.
Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz have learned to respect the famous high-banked dirt oval through years of competition at the track with the Outlaws. Both have conquered Eldora in the past and each is eager to again experience that unique feeling of accomplishment in victory lane Friday and Saturday as Eldora hosts the Outlaw Thunder by Goodyear weekend.
Kinser will push the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim to the limit right up on the famous concrete wall that circles the track. The 20-time WoO champion is seeking his first triumph in 2012 and, with 41 career WoO wins at Eldora, this might be the right weekend to end a victory draught. “The King of the Outlaws” is a six-time WoO winner during the month of May at the “Big E,” and one of those came in May 1978, when he earned his first-ever WoO triumph. This year will be the 35th consecutive season Kinser has competed with the Outlaws at the historic track and his numbers there are unmatched. In 149 career WoO starts, he has finished in the top-five 101 times and has 124 top-10s. His most recent win came in July 2010 when he earned a seventh Kings Royal crown thanks to a final-lap slide job.
Schatz is also looking to end a winless streak at Eldora behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J. The four-time WoO champion has five career WoO victories at the track. His most recent win came in July 2009, the night he picked up his second Kings Royal title. The Fargo, N.D., racer has been extremely consistent the previous 25 WoO races at Eldora, finishing inside the top-10 in 24. Friday night, he’ll be making his 81st WoO start at the facility. The four-time WoO champion is hoping to duplicate wins that came in May 2008 and 2009. Each of those victories catapulted him into the WoO championship standings lead, a position he would not relinquish the remainder of the season.
This weekend’s stop at Eldora is the first of three WoO stops at the western Ohio speedplant. Kinser and Schatz will actually make a fourth stop at the track in 2012. The two were recently named to the field of the Feed the Children Prelude to the Dream June 6. The charity race includes stars from NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and Motocross. Both Kinser and Schatz will be making not only their first appearance in the Prelude, but also their first-ever starts in a Dirt Late Model.
Schatz enters Eldora following last Wednesday’s victory at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway and a sixth-place finish Saturday at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway. The victory at Farmer City pushed him back on top of the WoO standings by five markers, but Sammy Swindell’s triumph at Knoxville allowed him to regain the lead over Schatz. Through 13 of 78 scheduled races, Swindell leads the standings and carries a seven-point advantage over Schatz entering the Eldora doubleheader.
Kinser charged from 22nd to finish seventh at Farmer City and raced to an 11th-place finish at Knoxville. The run at Farmer City was the fourth time in 2012 that Kinser passed at least eight cars in the main event. He ranks fourth in the standings, 58 points back of Swindell.
For both events this weekend at Eldora Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. EDT and the grandstands open at 3 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information on the event, contact Eldora Speedway by calling (937) 338-3815, or visit www.eldoraspeedway.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/Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim:
With the calendar turning to May, it means a return to Eldora Speedway. What are your thoughts heading into Eldora?
“I’ve always said that Eldora is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m pretty happy we are getting to race there this week. Maybe that will help us get going a little better. We’ve had some problems the past few weeks and haven’t been quite as competitive as we’d like. It seems like we either qualify well and then can’t take advantage of it in the heat, or we qualify badly and can make up enough ground in the heat. We don’t have much consistency right now. The competition out here makes it hard when you aren’t consistent. Two nights at Eldora might be just what we need to get us headed in the right direction.”
Your consistency through the years at Eldora is pretty remarkable. It’s not the easiest place for drivers to succeed. What’s been your secret?
“Well, it wasn’t that great last year so, hopefully, the numbers will turn around this year. It’s just a special place. It was really one of the first big tracks I ever saw. I went over and watched my dad race and just loved the speed the guys made. When I finally got to race there, the feeling always stuck with me. It’s just a fast racetrack. It doesn’t have to be real heavy to run well. I’ve had my share of bouts with the wall but, more often than not, we’ve been able to get right up near the fence making some incredible speed. It’s changed a little over the years. Some guys have found a way to make the bottom work but, for the most part, the key to doing well is a lot like it was when I first started. You have to use the momentum to your advantage and, when you have the chance to put a slider on somebody, you can’t hesitate. I’m excited to be heading back to Eldora this weekend.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
With 13 races in the books, you continue to battle for the top spot with Sammy Swindell. Do you expect that battle to continue this weekend at Eldora?
“I’m pretty sure Sammy’s going to be right up there all year, but its way to early to be worrying about the standings right now. I’ve always said that if we concentrate on winning that the rest of the stuff will take care of itself. Look at last week, I won at Farmer City and took the points lead. Sammy won at Knoxville and he got it back. Just win races and that other stuff will follow. There are a lot of guys who run well at Eldora. Joey (Saldana) is about as good as anyone racing there and, last spring, we passed him for the lead, so I’m confident we can be a factor. You know Sammy and my teammate (Steve Kinser) will be right up there on the wall. Sometimes Eldora brings out the best in guys. It’s going to be a competitive weekend and I’m sure that’ll continue throughout the year.”
Is there any additional pressure on you at Eldora since Tony Stewart owns the track?
“We don’t have any added pressure from any outside sources. Our goals are set at a point where we know what we need to do to reach them. Tony has given us a great opportunity. We have marketing partners like STP, Armor All and Chevy are are really behind us. We want to succeed every time we race. This week, it just happens to be at Eldora and we just want to get ourselves in a good position to pick up a win. Eldora is a very tricky place. You can be really good and really bad, and not be that far apart.”
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.