By Bill Klingbeil
INDIANAPOLIS (May 22, 2012) – There is something special about being an American on Memorial Day weekend. It’s a time to remember and honor those who protect and serve this country. The sport of auto racing is just about as American as it gets and, on Memorial Day weekend, the sport traditionally takes center stage nationally with major events in Charlotte and Indianapolis. The World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series brings its grassroots short-track racing heritage to both regions beginning with Friday’s Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C., and concluding Monday with an event at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.
Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz lead the Outlaws into this weekend of opportunity. Kinser, driver of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim, intensified his pursuit of a 21st WoO championship by winning his second race of the season last weekend in New York and, by doing so, climbed atop the championship standings. Schatz, pilot of TSR’s No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, comes into the weekend as defending race-winner at both The Dirt Track and Lawrenceburg. Schatz, who has led the WoO championship standings five times in 2012, swept a pair of races at The Dirt Track in last fall’s World Finals and was victorious in the Outlaws’ most recent stop on the high banks of Lawrenceburg in June 2009.
After dominating last year’s World Finals, Schatz is optimistic that a return visit to the 4/10-mile, semi-banked dirt oval will be the cure to what is currently ailing his STP-backed team. The four-time WoO champion is the only driver to compete in all 29 WoO races staged at The Dirt Track, which opened in May 2000. He has won on the red clay six times, earned 20 top-fives, and finished inside the top-10 25 times. The Fargo, N.D., resident has finished inside the top-eight 16 consecutive times at Charlotte. He has twice won the May Outlaw Showdown. The first was in 2007, when he fell back as far as 10th before charging back past leader Paul McMahan with only a handful of laps remaining. In 2010, Schatz fended off several challenges from Joey Saldana to score the Charlotte victory. Last May, he raced his way from ninth to finish third behind McMahan and Kinser.
Kinser has been extremely consistent at The Dirt Track in his 28 starts. His first victory came in October 2000, and that win was part of a nine-race stretch where he didn’t finished worse than fourth. His most recent victory in Charlotte came when he closed the 2007 WoO campaign by winning the World Finals finale. Last season, he finished second in May’s Outlaw Showdown and again came home second to close the year, following Schatz to the finish line. Those results give him eight career runner-up finishes at the track, and “The King of the Outlaws” comes in on a hot streak, winning two of the last four WoO races.
Back home in Indiana is just where Kinser will be happy to be on Monday for the Outlaws’ second 2012 stop in the Hoosier state. Monday’s event will be the ninth time in WoO history the Winged Warriors compete at the southeastern Indiana dirt oval. In the first eight WoO races, eight different drivers have been victorious, starting with Kinser’s win in 1979 when the Outlaws made their debut in Lawrenceburg.
When Schatz raced to victory at Lawrenceburg in June 2009, Indiana became the 28th state where Schatz earned a WoO A-Feature triumph. The STP driver out-dueled Jason Meyers and Saldana for the win and continued a string of top finishes at the track. In 2004, he finished third after a race-long battle with Danny Smith, and he charged from 14th to fourth in 2006.
Kinser’s victory Saturday at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y., was his 572nd career WoO A-Feature win and pushed him into a tie with Sammy Swindell for the top spot in the championship standings. His run from 25th to 11th Sunday at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway allowed him to open up an 18-point advantage on Swindell heading into Charlotte. Schatz made a similar run through the field Sunday, racing from 26th to 10th to keep contact with Kinser in the standings. Schatz ranks third and trails Kinser by 32 markers with 21 of 78 scheduled races in the books.
Friday’s Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte is expected to be contested in front of a sellout crowd of more than 15,000 spectators, as well as a national television audience with SPEED airing its first WoO event of 2012. Ralph Sheheen, Brad Doty, Bobby Gerould and Matt Yocum will bring fans the action during SPEED’s live broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. EDT.
Friday at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the pit gates will open at 1 p.m. EDT with the grandstands opening at 4:30 p.m. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. For more details, contact The Dirt Track at (800) 455-3267. The official Web site of Charlotte Motor Speedway is www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
Monday at Lawrenceburg, the pit gates will open at 3 p.m. EDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details and ticket information, contact Lawrenceburg Speedway at (812) 539-4700 or visit the track’s Web site at www.lawrenceburgspeedway.com.
Race fans unable to attend this week’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 victories on consecutive Saturdays, you have not only gotten back into the points chase, but you’ve opened up a lead. Does this validate the claim that winning races is the most important aspect in chasing a title?
“I’d say that winning is what you need to concentrate on. These past two weeks, we’ve been able to get ourselves in a little better position to win and, thankfully, we’ve come through. It wasn’t that long ago that I felt like I might be losing my chance at being in the championship hunt, but you can see how quickly things can change. We had a good night and Sammy (Swindell) and Donny (Schatz) struggled and it helped us jump right back in there. Now, we have to keep ourselves in the hunt every night and capitalize on the opportunities. We’ve got two wins and we’re on top, but I know it’s going to take quite a few more in order to win this thing.”
Friday night marks your return to Charlotte. Last year, you had a pair of seconds, so you have to be excited about heading back?
“We are definitely looking forward to Friday night. Charlotte is a pretty fast place and, as long as the track opens up a little bit where we can do some passing, it should be a really good show. It’s a big stage for us with all the NASCAR people in town for the (Coca-Cola) 600. We want to make some new fans and the best way to do that is by putting on a good show. Last year, I felt like we had a really good package for Charlotte and, hopefully, we can start with that and be right where we need to be. It’s been a long time since I won there, so we’d like to snap that streak if we can and make all the people involved with Tony Stewart Racing proud.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
The first quarter of the season is now over. Has the season gone as planned?
“We planned on being a lot better than we have been. Last fall, we went to Talladega (Short Track in Alabama) and then Charlotte to close the year and really had a good package. We finished second at Talladega and won both nights at Charlotte and really felt like we were headed in the right direction. This year, we tried some things early in Florida that didn’t seem to lead us where we wanted. Rick Warner and Steve Swenson are working really hard to get us back where we can be a contending team. We’re not there, yet, but we’ll get there. I guess the positive is that I don’t feel like we’ve even come close to where we can be and things are still right there for us. I’m sure hoping we have a lot better second quarter and that leads to an incredible second half of the season.”
You’ve had more success than any other driver at The Dirt Track. What has been the secret to your success there?
“I don’t know that we have a secret, but Charlotte just seems to be one of those places where our combination works. We race there twice a year. First in May, when the weather is just starting to get hot, and then we close the year there in November. In May, it always seems to be about the time things start going good for us and, in November, it’s like we’ve been working on things for the upcoming year and they are really coming together. I love racing there. The people come out and support the event. The energy and buzz about the event is something that really adds to the race. We race to win and, fortunately, we’ve been able to win a few races in Charlotte. Right now, we could really use a good night and I can’t think of a better place than Charlotte for us to get things back the way we need them to be.”
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.