INDIANAPOLIS – After a nomadic first two months of the 2013 World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series schedule that included races in Florida, Nevada, Arizona, California and Texas, the best Winged Sprint Car drivers in the country will spend the next four weekends in Middle America chasing checkered flags at dirt tracks of all sizes. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz are each recent winners on the tour and both are looking to make return trips to victory lane this weekend when they make the season’s first appearance in the Midwest.
Kinser and Schatz will battle the rest of the Outlaws first at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway Friday and, the following night, they’ll compete for the 10th consecutive season at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. Schatz drove the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J to victory last Friday at Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif., while Kinser led all 30 laps of the A-Feature behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim Tuesday at El Paso (Texas) Speedway.
Eleven different drivers have claimed the first 15 races this season. A statistic that underlines just how tough the competition is within the series. The results from Paducah have been similar during the seven WoO events staged at the 3/8-mile, high-banked dirt oval. Jeff Swindell won the inaugural WoO stop back in 1998, and Andy Hillenburg was triumphant in 2001. The track has been a regular April stop since 2007 and, in each of those races, a different driver has come out on top. Neither Kinser nor Schatz has been able to score a win in Paducah, but both have been close. Three times Kinser has earned a podium finish. His best finish was second back in the 2001 event and the 20-time WoO STP Sprint Car Series champion finished third in 2008. Last season, he started 10th and raced to fifth in the 30-lap main event. Schatz has earned five consecutive top-seven finishes at Paducah. His best shot at victory came in 2009, when he stalked leader Jason Meyers for a majority of the race and, just as he made a pass for the lead, a caution nullified his bid for the top spot. He finished second that night. The five-time and reigning WoO STP Sprint Car Series champion finished sixth last season.
Tri-State Speedway has always been a favorite stop for Kinser during his 34-year WoO career. He started winning at the quarter-mile, high-banked dirt oval early in his career, including 10 wins in 10 events during the 1978 season. The Indiana hero loves racing at the track, which is less than two hours from his Bloomington home. Eight of his 22 career wins at the track have been in Outlaw competition and his three most recent wins have been flag-to-flag triumphs. Last season, he finished fifth in the 40-lap A-Feature.
Schatz will return to Tri-State for the 15th time in his career Saturday. The Fargo, N.D., racer earned his best finish of fourth at the track in the fall of 2010, when he led 21 laps of the main event before finishing fourth. Last season, he started sixth but was forced to the back of the field on lap six with a broken shock. He recovered nicely, racing his way from 22nd to ninth to earn his 11th career top-10 at the track.
Wins for both drivers and a pair of podium finishes for Schatz highlighted the results from last week’s WoO action. With 15 of the 85 races scheduled for the 2013 WoO STP Sprint Car Series run to the championship, Schatz has two victories, five top-fives, 11 top-10s and ranks fourth in the WoO championship standings. He has 1,991 points, which ranks him fourth overall, and he is currently 167 markers behind leader Daryn Pittman. Kinser has earned one win, four top-10 finishes and has accumulated 1,826 points, which ranks him 11th.
For Friday’s event at Paducah International Raceway, 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 Paducah International Raceway at (270) 898-7469 or visit the track’s official Web site at www.paducahracing.net. Saturday at Tri-State, the grandstands will open at 4 p.m. CDT. Qualifying is schedule to begin at 6:30 p.m. More information and ticket details are available at www.tristatespeedway.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 STP Sprint Car 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 live results from the track.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim:
After a difficult run through California, how rewarding was it to earn Tuesday night’s victory at El Paso Speedway?
“It felt really good to have that kind of night. We really haven’t been even close to competing at the level we want to be for most of the year, but last weekend (crew chief) Scott (Gerkin) and Gary (DuBois) found some things that they felt like would help. We qualified the best we have all year at Hanford (fifth) and, even though we backed up a little in the feature, we felt like we were gaining on it. Being able to come back Tuesday and qualify as good as we did (third) and then lead every lap of the A-Feature was a big confidence boost. It helped me. It gives the crew something to feel good about and maybe it’s something we can build on this weekend.”
The season has already included races in Florida, Nevada, Arizona, California and Texas. How nice will it be to be back close to home racing in Kentucky and Indiana this weekend?
“We’re looking forward to being able to sleep in our own beds, that’s for sure. The early season travel is something we all kind of get used to but, when things aren’t going great on the track, it makes things just a bit tougher. Winning Tuesday gave all of us something to feel good about and made the drive home from Texas a lot easier. I always enjoy racing close to home. Paducah is a few hours away, but you always enjoy the first time you get to race in the Midwest. It’s the first race of the year for a lot fans and that’s something I have always liked – getting to see familiar faces at the races. Our goal for the weekend is to continue building from last week. We’ve been to Paducah quite a few times, recently, and I always like racing at Tri-State. It’s kind of like one of my home tracks. It’s been a few years since we’ve won there. I’d sure like to change that Saturday.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
The 2013 season has 15 races in the books. How would assess the start of your season?
“We’re not thrilled with some of the finishes, but understand that it’s a long season. This is a championship team, and we’ve been through quite a bit during the last few years. There have been some things that have happened that I feel cost us a chance at winning. To have only two wins so far is a bit disappointing, but we know as long as we keep plugging, certain things will happen. Racing has a way of working out like that. Some of the tracks we’ve been at this year haven’t allowed for a lot of passing, so starting up front has been key. We’ve done that a little more, recently, and I think that is going to be key for the next month or so. When the weather warms up, the tracks seem to slow down and that usually makes racing a little better. Now isn’t the time to get too worried about the championship standings. I don’t mind being where we are right now. The biggest thing is to figure out the best way for us to get our car working the way we want with these new tires. We’ll get there. The only thing we can do is try to have as much success as we can in the next 15 races and then can see where we are at that point.”
This weekend, the schedule takes you to Midwest for the first time this season. How much different are the tracks you are heading to this weekend compared to where you’ve been racing the past few weeks?
“The weather plays a factor on track conditions no matter where you are. We had some pretty good weather out in California and, for the most part, the tracks were pretty wet. Last Friday at Hanford, the track got really slick and I think there were eight or nine passes for the lead. That’s the kind of racing we are hoping for this weekend. Paducah can be one of those places that gets slick so, hopefully, we’ll have similar conditions there again and can put on a good race. Tri-State is just one of those racy little quarter miles where you’ll have a couple of different grooves. A driver has to be able to run all over – high, low and through the middle because you are in traffic pretty quickly there. We haven’t won at either track before and we’d certainly like to be in contention each race.”