World of Outlaws Honors Sprint Car Racing's Best
LAS VEGAS, NV (November 2) -- The O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series gathered many sponsors, promoters and fans to honor sprint car racing's most outstanding teams during its 25th Anniversary Awards Banquet Sunday at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.
"In many ways, the 2003 season was a microcosm of the entire existence of the World of Outlaws," said the series' public address announcer, Johnny Gibson, who emceed the banquet. "There was excitement and triumph, heartbreak and astonishment, controversy and cooperation. There were tough times to be sure, but those facing opposition displayed the dedication and the perseverance necessary to overcome the obstacles and continued to strive for excellence. We've seen growth and change, not only this year, but over the course of the last quarter-century. We've visited the finest facilities that short-track racing has to offer, and some of the most historic. We staked out new territory, we made new friends and become reacquainted with some we hadn't seen in a long time.
"The one thing that has remained constant has been the greatest sprint car drivers in the world displaying their incredible talents before millions of appreciative fans across America. Their skill and determination, combined with the efforts of the track owners and operators, the World of Outlaws staff and officials, the manufacturers and, in some way, shape or form, everyone in this room, has enabled sprint car racing to be etched into the consciousness of the motorsports industry. The term 'milestone' is used perhaps too often today, but the Silver Anniversary of the World of Outlaws certainly fits the description of that word and the definition, which is a significant point in development. Although there are many people who deserve applause and recognition for their efforts to bring this series to its current position, those same people will be the first to tell you that the best is yet to come."
The World of Outlaws thanked title sponsor O'Reilly Auto Parts, along with series sponsors Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Featherlite Trailers, Hoosier Tires, MBNA America and Yahama for their generous support.
Greg Stephens of Motorsport Video sponsored the Hard Charger Award for the first time in 2003. He honored Ted Johnson with a special video presentation that included interviews with former drivers, car owners and promoters that deeply touched the series founder and president.
"I didn't expect anything like that," the emotional Johnson said. "That really touched me. It's been a fun ride. There have been plenty of people who have worked hard for us. Our staff has always worked hard. I appreciate what everybody does in the office and at the race track. I really appreciate the drivers. They have meant a bunch to me. I appreciate the car owners. They sacrifice themselves, their money and everything else to help make the World of Outlaws what it is. The sponsors mean a lot to me, too. The fans have also been great. We've always had the fans there. Even in bad weather, they always show up. We appreciate them. The ones I appreciate as much as anybody and have had more fun with are the mechanics. The crew chiefs are the ones who have to sweat and do the hard work.
"The World of Outlaws has been extremely competitive. When they make the statement our drivers are the best, I agree with them. You guys drive a race car harder and you make moves I think are impossible. What I enjoy most about this is that I never get tired of a sprint car going in a circle. You guys drive them the best and I appreciate it."
Johnson introduced Wade Sherman, Senior VP of Programming of The Outdoor Channel, who signed a three-year television contract with the series in September.
"Thank you very much for allowing us to be a part of this great racing series," Sherman said. "The Outdoor Channel is very proud to be associated with you folks for the next three years. As Ted has already mentioned, you do things with race cars you shouldn't be able to do. I've always been a big fan. I live near the track in Lake Perris (CA). I enjoy the racing. More importantly, this is a good decision for The Outdoor Channel. This kind of racing is so popular; we have received more emails, letters and phone calls when we made this announcement than about any other thing we've ever done. It had to be more than 1,000. We're very pleased to be your new television partner for the next three years. We're going to work very hard to televise World of Outlaws sprint car racing the way it should be."
World of Outlaws Director of Administration Carlton Reimers presented Jason Sides with the 2003 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. The manufacturers that make the award possible are Crane Cams, Eagle Chassis, J&J Auto Racing, Maxim Chassis, MSD Ignitions, Schoenfeld Mufflers, Shaver Racing Engines and Weld Racing.
"I've had a really good year," Sides said. "We've come close to winning a few races, but we didn't quite get there. We couldn't be out here with the World of Outlaws if it wasn't for our car owners, Wayne and Dorothy Rhodes. I'd also like to thank Aramark Uniforms, Ozark Motor Lines, Hoosier, Maxim and everybody else who has helped us."
Johnson announced D.J. Lindsey of Karavan Motorsports as the Mechanic of the Year.
"We thought hard and long about this award and one name kept coming up," Johnson said. "D.J. worked especially hard this year. He had three drivers he crewed for. He started out with Craig Dollansky. Then he had Kasey Kahne in the car for a little while and finished up with Jason Meyers. As far as I'm concerned, D.J. Lindsey did a super job."
Lindsey managed the #7 VMAC Maxim's on-track operations as Karavan Motorsports finished third in the car owner point standings.
"I have to thank Karavan, Scott Boyd, Craig and Jason, Lindsey said. "I appreciate it; thank you."
Stephens presented Donny Schatz with the Motorsport Video Hard Charger Award.
"You should rename this the 'You Stink at Qualifying Award,'" Schatz said.
Reimers announced the drivers and car owners receiving point fund awards for their 2003 rankings.
"I always say I'm up here giving it out," Reimers said. "I don't give it out; it's well earned. I just hand it out."
Finishing seventh in the point standings were car owner Dave Helm and driver Paul McMahan.
"I want to thank Dave for giving me the opportunity," said McMahan, who started driving the #11H Vivarin Maxim in early May. "I also want to thank Vivarin and Selma Shell. Charlie Garrett built me a great motor all year long. My guys -- Sonny Kratzer, 'Scuba' (Steve Swenson), Scotty (Miller) and Kyle (Meyers) -- were great, too. My first night in the car, I hadn't gone 10 laps and I already destroyed one. My hat's off to those guys for giving me such a great race car. Thanks to O'Reilly's for sponsoring us and the Outlaws for giving us the chance to race."
Sides ranked sixth in the driver standings, while car owners Wayne and Dorothy Rhodes finished eighth in car owner points.
"I want to thank our car owners, Wayne and Dorothy Rhodes," Sides said. "Without them, we couldn't do this. Congratulations to Steve (Kinser) -- 18 times (championships), I can't even fathom that."
Schatz ranked fifth in driver points and gave his father, Danny, fifth place in car owner standings by passing Sher-Don Motorsports in the season's final race.
"I want to thank everybody at Parker Stores," Donny said. "They make this program possible for us. I don't think anybody understands how much time and work the sponsors put in to make this happen for us. We couldn't have any better people behind us. My guys -- Tyler (Swank) and Chad (Lambert) -- did a great job. My mom and dad take a lot of time away from their businesses to give me the opportunity to do this and it's pretty awesome."
"I want to congratulate Ted," Danny Schatz said. "I want thank our partner, Bellerud Trucking, J&J Auto Racing, Shaver Engines and all the people who have helped us so much. We're very delighted to be able to race with the competition level we have with the World of Outlaws. It's wonderful to be able to compete against the skill that all of you have. Hopefully, if this organization changes or remains the same, the level of competition will never change. I'd like to congratulate Steve Kinser. You're one terrific race car driver. We'd like to beat you every night, naturally, but just to be able to race with you is probably the greatest accomplishment most of us can have. Diane (Schatz) supports the racing really well. I hope Don doesn't get as nervous at the wedding next week as he did tonight, and I'm sure things will change as that goes along."
Daryn Pittman ranked fourth in the driver standings while Sher-Don Motorsports finished sixth in car owner points.
"Congratulations Steve (Kinser)," Pittman said. "Eighteen times; that's unbelievable. I have to thank Donnie and Sherrie (Wooburn) for giving me the opportunity to drive for them the last couple of years and giving us a great car. Thanks to my crew: Joe Gaerte, 'Bingo' (Eugene Jenkins), 'Glenno' (Glenn Ingliss). They worked a lot of hard hours and I know the results we had wouldn't have been possible without that. We're looking forward to doing better next year."
"It's been a great opportunity to race with you guys," Donnie Woodburn said. "The competition is just superb. I want to thank Daryn for the opportunity to get up here and know we can be competitive. We're looking forward to next year."
Jason Meyers and Dollansky represented Karavan Motorsports. Meyers, who drove the #7 VMAC Maxim for five months while Dollansky recovered from a back injury suffered in mid-May during an Infiniti Pro Series race, ranked ninth in the standings. Dollansky, who ran the final three races of the season, finished 22nd in driver points. Their efforts allowed Karavan Motorsports to finish third in the car owner point standings.
"There are plenty of people to thank for this," Meyers said. "Between (car owner) Scott Boyd, Craig Dollansky, D.J. Lindsey and Brian Sundby, we have a really great team. I've told this story 100 times this year. I woke up on a Sunday morning and my cell phone rang. It was Scott Boyd on the line and he asked, 'Do you remember who I am?' I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'Well, Craig got hurt yesterday and we need somebody to drive the car. Craig would like for you to fill in for him.' I was at home (in California) racing and doing other things. I had just gotten married and I had a lot going, but this was a dream deal. I asked my wife, 'What should I do?' She looked at me and just said, 'Go.' She's the reason I'm standing up here tonight. I had a lot going on, but this is what I had always wanted to do. It was only temporary, but it was another shot at getting out here competing with the best. Anything I've ever done, I've wanted to be the best at it, and when you want to drive a sprint car you want to race with the World of Outlaws. To come out here and compete with everybody has been awesome this year. I can't thank Craig enough for the opportunity. I know it wasn't under the best circumstances, but I think it turned out great for all of us. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given this year.
"Congratulations to D.J. When they started to the present the Mechanic of the Year Award, I leaned forward and told Craig, 'They should give that to D.J. this year,' and he told me, 'They did.' He's an awesome guy. Craig has a great team here, between his car owner, crew chief and Brian.
"Everybody is asking me what I'm doing next year. We're working toward putting a solid team together so we can come out and race. I want to be out here again, not just to race, but to be out here and win. Everybody keeps talking about how long Steve (Kinser) will race. I hope he keeps running because I want to keep racing against him. I love racing with the World of Outlaws."
"Thank you Ted Johnson for the steps you've taken this year. I know you're doing everything you can to take this to the next level to make it something we can continue to do for years to come. What you've done in 25 years is unbelievable. I think you've taken the right steps to help us all grow into something like NASCAR some day. I look forward to racing with the World of Outlaws for many years."
"I want to congratulate Steve," Dollansky said. "I guess one thing I'd like is for everybody to quit asking him when he's going to retire. I think all you're doing is making him angry. He's getting out of hand really.
"I want to thank Jason for the great job he did for our race team. He's truly a talented driver. I hope it's created an opportunity for him so he can get his race team out here and do well. I'd like to thank D.J. -- you definitely deserve that award -- and Brian Sundby. You couldn't ask for two better guys. They work really hard. Our car owner, Scott Boyd, is second to none: a great car owner, a great friend and a great businessman. I want to thank my wife, Julie, for helping me get back. It was a long road, one I hope I never have to take again. It's good to be back with the most exciting racing there is with the best drivers in the world. I'm just happy to be part of it. I have a lot of respect for Ted Johnson and what he does. Thanks to The Outdoor Channel for coming aboard and giving us something to help market our race teams for our sponsors."
Joey Saldana finished third in driver points, while father Joe Saldana's team ranked fourth in the car owner standings.
"First of all, I need to thank Craig Cormack with Eagle Raceway and Doug Harris with HEM Saw," Joey said. "Without their support, I could never race at this level. If it wasn't for my dad helping me the last few months helping me out financially, I wouldn't be here. Thank God I got a check tonight, because I'm sure he wants it. I have a flight going home tonight and I'm sure he'll be there to pick me up.
"My guys -- Davey Whitworth and Jamie Coats -- gave me 110% all year. They had all the reasons to give up on me and they never did. Thanks to everybody who helped us, and I hope to be back next year."
Danny Lasoski exchanged the points lead with Kinser five times, but was the runner-up for the second straight year. His car owner is defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart.
"Congratulations to Steve (Kinser) and your crew," Lasoski said. "The main reason I'm here is to try to beat you. We tried in IROC (International Race of Champions), too. We had a good time all summer and it was sure exciting for us.
"Without our great sponsors -- J.D. Byrider and The Home Depot -- we couldn't have done this. Kevin Miller with Mopar made a big difference in our engine program. Paul Kistler had never built Mopar engines before, but he did and we had 28 quick times. It didn't get us as many victories, but that thing would sure run. Thanks to Tony and Cathy Ross and Vern and Connie Massey for sticking with me. They're definitely assets to our team.
"Thanks to my best buddy, Jimmy Carr, and Todd Splain. You guys are the best. I know there a lot of great crew chiefs out here, but in my mind you're second to none. There's no way we could do without you. I love what I do and I want to be the best. To do that, you have beat these guys, so we're going to come back next year and try again."
All 300 people in the banquet hall gave a standing ovation when Reimers announced the 2003 champion: "Still the King, Steve Kinser."
"You don't win races without good race teams," Kinser said. "You win more races in the shop than you win on the track, so I want to thank my team. (Crew chief) Scott (Gerken) organizes the team and puts in a lot of hard work. Willie (Ator), Gary (Dubois), Ian (Swanger), my brother (Randy), my dad (Bob) and my whole family are really good to me. Andrea Williams keeps us all straight when we're at home. We have a great race team. They give me a lot of confidence when we go through the gate.
"I want to thank Quaker State, Maxim Chassis, Hoosier Tires, Sander Engineering and all the product sponsors we have.
"I watched my father race and I've had a love for racing my whole life. Growing up, I knew I was going to race cars, and I've been fortunate enough to be able to make a living doing it. I'm having as much fun now as I have in my whole career. It's been a lot of fun all year. I don't want to quit. I'd just as soon go ahead and keep racing.
"I want to thank Ted for all the good times we've had over the years. He's been a good friend. He's going to be around the sport, and I plan on being around a few more years myself. I'm one of the few who's been here from the start in '78. I've had a lot of good times, met a lot of good people, a lot of great race fans and a lot of great sponsors. I've had opportunities to drive other kinds of cars -- Indy cars and stock cars -- and opportunities to fly with the Blue Angles jets. But there's nothing more exciting and fun than fighting a sprint car around a little bullring, a half-mile or a mile track, with a wing or without a wing. A sprint car is an animal all its own that has given me a lot of pleasure over the years. Second to having my family, my wife and kids, it's been the biggest love of my life."
The O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series has loved having Steve Kinser for 26 years, too. Long live "The King" and all the other drivers, sponsors, car owners, crew members and fans who make the series the best in sprint car racing.