By Bill Klingbeil
INDIANAPOLIS (June 14, 2012) – The last time Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz competed on North Dakota soil, the result was a photo finish that left fans cheering in appreciation. That battle royal was last August at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, when Kinser and Schatz highlighted the thrilling World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series event by exchanging the lead nine times in the final 10 laps. This weekend, Kinser and Schatz return to the Roughrider State looking to resume their battle both on the track for wins and in the WoO championship standings.
The North Dakota doubleheader opens Friday with the Outlaws’ 10th-ever race at River Cities and Saturday returns to Red River Valley Speedway in Fargo for the first time since 2009. The Fargo stop has been a staple on the Outlaws’ schedule since 1981 and, thanks to hard work by the Schatz family, the series will hold its 60th race on the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.
Kinser, who has won WoO A-Feature races at River Cities in each of the last two seasons behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim, leads the series into North Dakota holding a 10-point advantage over Schatz in the standings. Schatz, who finished second twice last year at the 3/10-mile dirt oval driving the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, returns to his home state looking to end a 15-race winless streak.
North Dakota has been good to Kinser throughout his career. His first win in Fargo came in 1982, and he’s added 14 more at Red River Valley and a pair of wins at River Cities. The 20-time WoO champion has eight straight top-10 finishes at River Cities and finished inside the top-10 in his each of his last four starts at Red River Valley.
Schatz caught the racing bug as a child watching Kinser do battle with Sammy Swindell and Doug Wolfgang. He made his WoO debut in July 1993 at Red River Valley and became a WoO winner in his home state for the first time at Red River Valley in July 2002. The four-time WoO champion won again at his home track in June 2006, when he swept both the preliminary and A-Feature. The following year, the Outlaws made their debut at River Cities, when Schatz finished third in June 2007 and followed by winning WoO stops in Grand Forks the next two seasons.
Kinser and Schatz are coming off a busy week that included three WoO races at three tracks. Kinser charged from 17th to eighth at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway Tuesday, and from 21st to seventh Friday at Clay County Fair Speedway. Schatz finished sixth at Kokomo and, like Kinser, charged through the field at Clay County, racing from 22nd to eighth. They closed the week at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, where Schatz finished fourth and Kinser came home 14th.
Friday at River Cities 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 River Cities Speedway at (218) 773-3002. The official Web site of River Cities Speedway is www.rivercitiesspeedway.com.
Saturday at Red River Valley Speedway, the grandstands will open at 4 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. For more details, contact Red River Valley Speedway by calling (701) 356-5377, or visit www.redrivervalleyspeedway.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:
Last year’s race at Grand Forks may have been one of the best all season. What do you remember about it?
“Those are the kind of races that make our sport great. Donny and I had a great race. We really wanted that one badly. It was just after the Knoxville Nationals, and we didn’t have a very good week there. The Bass Pro Shops guys went back to the shop and we came to Grand Forks with a new game plan and it worked. I know Donny and I traded the lead quite a few times and the fans loved it. Heck, I loved it. I’d sure like to have another race like that this week. I’d bet if we’re in the same position, we’d both do everything we could to win again.”
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim (continued):
Saturday marks the Outlaws’ return to Fargo for the first time in a couple of seasons. It was regular stop for years and now you are going back. How important is to have established markets?
“I always enjoyed racing at Fargo. The fans would come out every year and support the event in a big way. They knew we’d always be there every summer, and you kind of got to know a lot of the fans, both at the track, at the hotel and around town, as well. It was always fun coming and racing there, too. We won a lot of races on that big track and part of me is wishing it was a still a half-mile. I’m happy Danny (Schatz) and his family got involved and brought the Outlaws back. Hopefully, we can get it re-established as a regular stop and get the fans behind it like they were for so many years.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
Early in your career, you put more emphasis on the races in Fargo than maybe some of the others. How were you able to change your approach and ultimately win there on a consistent basis?
“I think early in my career I wanted to run well at home so bad that sometimes that got in the way. I was out on the road full-time getting my butt kicked by those guys and, when I was home, I wanted to make everyone there proud. I had to learn to try and treat it like another race. Yeah, there were more family, friends and fans cheering for you in Fargo, but it still got back to doing the right things with the car throughout the night. I was never going to be able to have has many laps as guys like Steve (Kinser) and Sammy (Swindell). Once we finally won in 2002, some of the pressure came off and we just tried to keep building on that. We won again in 2003 and then swept the weekend in 2006. We let a few get away in there, too, but the biggest thing was just maturing as a driver and as a team.”
Ever since the Outlaws started racing in Grand Forks, you’ve been one of the guys to beat. What makes you so good there?
“It’s just about having a good combination of car, motor and shocks. Don Mack and his crew do a great job of providing a really good track for us to race on. We’ve had some really good runs there and had some decent luck, as well. It might not be my hometown, but I still want to win in Grand Forks every time we race. In talking with a lot of the Outlaw competitors, I’m pretty sure most of them really enjoy racing there. We’re hoping they’ll feel the same way about Red River Valley Speedway after Saturday night. My family has put a lot of time into making it a facility that provides good racing and a quality experience for the fans. I just hope after four or five years my stats on the new 3/8-mile in Fargo are close to what I’ve done in Grand Forks.”
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.