By Bill Klingbeil
INDIANAPOLIS (June 5, 2012) – This won’t be just another week for Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz. For the two drivers perched atop of the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series championship standings, these next five days may be memorable in more ways than one. With three WoO races scheduled and only 30 points separating the two in their marathon to the 2012 WoO championship, this week’s results may set the tone for the battle within the war. Kinser and Schatz will start Tuesday with a race at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway and close the week with races Friday at Clay County Fair Speedway in Spencer, Iowa, and Saturday at the legendary Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.
As if three nights of action on a quarter-mile dirt oval (Kokomo), a 3/8-mile dirt oval (Clay County) and a half-mile dirt oval (Knoxville) weren’t enough, the TSR drivers will also spend Wednesday evening making their Dirt Late Model debuts competing in the eighth annual Feed the Children Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
It’s appropriate that Kinser and Schatz start the week in Kokomo, a track that was part of the WoO schedule during its first year in 1978. The quarter-mile dirt oval in central Indiana may be the epitome of grass-roots racing – a dirt track that weekly racing brings out fans from all ages to see wheel-to-wheel competition on a surface that traditionally offers multiple lanes of racing typically resulting in fantastic finishes. Tuesday’s race will mark the third and final 2012 stop in the Hoosier State and first time the Outlaws have competed at Kokomo in five years.
Kinser, who’ll be behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim, made his home-state fans proud by racing to victory in the series’ first stop at Kokomo in August 1978. The 20-time WoO champion was also victorious there in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1988. In his last visit in June 2007, Kinser made up for a poor qualifying lap by racing from 22nd to seventh in the 40-lap A-Feature.
Schatz remembers that June 5 night back in 2007. He was coming off his first WoO championship, leading the WoO standings and surging with a series-best seven wins. It was his third race at that track. In that 2007 race, he started fourth and quickly worked his way to second. He took the lead on lap 20 and raced to a large advantage before the race was slowed by a caution seven laps later. The caution erased his lead and opened the door for Joey Saldana to take a shot at him on the ensuing restart. Saldana got the best of Schatz that night and he ended up finishing second. It was one that got away and he’d like to have a shot at redemption on Tuesday.
After Kokomo, the two drivers will venture over to Eldora Speedway Wednesday to be part of Tony Stewart’s annual charity all-star race. In the eighth annual Prelude To The Dream, they’ll join stars representing NASCAR, NHRA and INDYCAR in a battle for dirt supremacy on the half-mile clay oval. HBO Pay-Per-View® will present the event live in high-definition to the entire nation. Net proceeds from the telecast will support Feed The Children, a U.S.-based charity that domestically has helped more than 365,000 families since 2009 through its Americans Feeding Americans Caravan.
Friday, it will be back to business in the Winged Sprint cars with a return to Clay County Fair Speedway. This will be the first time the series makes an appearance at the 3/8-mile oval for a June event. Since 2007, the Outlaws have contested events at the track during the fair in September and will again this year when they make their second stop at the track later this season.
Schatz has been fast at the track since that first stop back in 2007. The Fargo, N.D., racer won the A-Feature in both 2007 and 2008 and was sixth in 2009 for his only finish there outside the top-three. He finished third in 2010 and again last year after leading the first 11 laps of the 30-lap main event.
Kinser has had mixed results at the track. It was in 2010 when he led 22 laps of the A-Feature and earned a career-best second at the track. Last season, he flipped late in the race during a double-file restart.
A second stop at legendary Knoxville Raceway closes the week. In April, Kinser made his 174th career WoO start at the track and Schatz started his 71st WoO feature. Kinser qualified seventh but couldn’t crack the top-two in his heat and was forced to start the 25-lap A-Feature 12th. “The King of the Outlaws” was looking to add to his 58 career wins at the famed track, but could only climb to 11th.
Schatz also was looking to add to his impressive list of accomplishments at Knoxville. The defending Knoxville Nationals champion started 15th and worked his way up to fifth before finishing sixth. Schatz has nine career WoO feature wins at the track and he’s been remarkable there in the last decade during sport’s premier event, the Knoxville Nationals. He has finished in the top-two in 10 of the previous 12 Nationals A-Mains.
For the Outlaws’ return to Kokomo Tuesday, the pit gates will be open at 2 p.m. EDT and the grandstands open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For more details, visit www.kokomospeedway.net.
Friday at Clay County Fair Speedway, the grandstands open at 5:30 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. For more details, visit www.CDR-Promotions.com.
Saturday at Knoxville, the grandstands will open at 6 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. For more details, contact Knoxville Raceway by calling (641) 842-5431, or visit www.knoxvilleraceway.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:
Variety seems to the only way to describe the week ahead for you. How do you approach a week like this?
“You have to be prepared. First, you have to make sure you are ready for each night. The Bass Pro Shops guys have been working hard to make sure our team has everything we need in order. Then, it just comes down to being good on the racetrack each time we get on it. We haven’t been to Kokomo for a few years, but we’ve got a pretty good game plan in place. We’ll see what we can do and then head over to Eldora and have some fun. Tony has given us a chance to be part of his event and we want to do our best. I’ve never raced a Dirt Late Model, so it should be fun. After that, we have to get on the road to Spencer and keep things going there on Friday and see if can have a better result at Knoxville Saturday.”
The season is in full swing and you are racing more regularly as summer approaches. Is it easier to get into a rhythm when you are racing more?
“It seems like you can get into a groove when you are racing more. Whether you are running good or bad, you always have another chance. It’s been a different season. Nobody is really out there dominating. You’ll see guys put a few good nights together and then someone else will be up front. We had a really good couple of weeks in May and that helped us get on top of the standings. We just have to keep working hard and see if we can be the guy up front a little more often. Everybody is searching for the answer and trying to be the first one to find it. Racing more often probably gives you hope that you’ll get there faster.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
With so many races, it’s probably difficult to remember details from five years ago, let alone five weeks ago. With races at Kokomo, Spencer and Knoxville this week, do you think about any of the past results you had at any of those tracks before you get there?
“You have memories of every place, sometimes good and sometimes bad. We always try to follow the idea of leaving the results at the track when you head out of town. If you don’t, you’ll drive yourself crazy. So much has happened since the last time we raced in Kokomo. I was driving for my parents, and we were having a great season. We went on to win all the big races that year and ultimately the championship. Do I remember why we finished second that night at Kokomo? No, but I know we kept plugging away and got better. Same deal with Spencer last fall. We had a tough swing through the West, so it felt good to get out front and lead the race. We ended up not winning but went on to finish the year strong. As far as Knoxville goes, I think everyone remembers how many times we finished second before finally winning the Nationals. What happened in the past doesn’t have a lot of impact on what happens in your next race, so don’t let it weigh on you much before each race. You just try to do your best that night.”
It’s not often you get the chance to race something other than a Winged Sprint car. How excited are you for Wednesday’s Prelude?
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’m honored that Tony (Stewart) and the folks at Eldora Speedway asked me to be part of the event. I had the chance last week at Lawrenceburg to shake down my STP car. Darrell Lanigan is a really nice guy and one heck of driver, so I know we’ll be in top-notch stuff. I’m looking forward to competing with some of the other drivers, too. I knew Jimmie Johnson when he was working his way up the ladder. I’ve met Ron Capps before and watched him race. I actually raced against Clint Bowyer in a Modified event a few years back in Sedalia, Mo. It’s really going to be a great experience. I’m not 100-percent sure of what to expect, other than it’s going to be a great event and I’m excited to be part of it.”
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.