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Awards banquet report

WORLD OF OUTLAWS HONORS OUTGOING 'KING' AT AWARDS BANQUET By Richard Day DALLAS, TX (October 23) - Amid the "20,000-Leagues-Under-The-Sea" motif Vice President Stacy Johnson orchestrated for the World...

WORLD OF OUTLAWS HONORS OUTGOING 'KING' AT AWARDS BANQUET By Richard Day DALLAS, TX (October 23) - Amid the "20,000-Leagues-Under-The-Sea" motif Vice President Stacy Johnson orchestrated for the World of Outlaws' 17th Annual Awards Banquet Sunday night at the DoubleTree Hotel-Park West, series champion Steve Kinser was like a fish out of water. "The King of the Outlaws," in a league by himself since Ted Johnson founded the series in 1978, had run his final Copenhagen-Skoal Shootout race only hours before. The Awards Banquet was his final opportunity to say all of his "thank you's" and "I'll miss you's" before moving his family to North Carolina and his career to the NASCAR Winston Cup ranks. It seemed like everyone named "Kinser" was there to help honor "The King" - wife Dana, children Stevie Ann, Kraig and Kurt, father Bob and his wife, Mihalia, and cousin, car owner and crew chief Karl. Steve's mother- in-law, Helen Whitehorse, also sat at the guest of honor's table. Brad Doty, a Coors Light teammate of Kinser's in the late 1980s, received a standing ovation when Johnson announced he was in attendance. Rookie of the Year, one of the few awards Kinser never received during his World of Outlaws career, was presented by Jack Elam, owner of J&J Auto Racing, to Sid Blandford. "I'd really like to thank my parents," Blandford said. "They supported me 100 percent. I'd also like to thank Avenger Chassis, Earl Gaerte and the teams. The camaraderie on the World of Outlaws tour is like none other. It was a pleasure racing with you all." Snap-on Tools Field Manager Rusty Pattillo presented Two Winners Racing team manager Scott Benic with the Snap-on Tools Mechanic of the Year award. "I'd really like to thank Tom and Kay Wimmer," Benic said tearfully. "They've stuck by me for a long time. I'd also like to thank (team co- owner) Bob Kramer and Tony Leatherman. Tony was a great help to me in the pits." Jerry Johnson, manager of marketing services for Ecowater Systems, had nothing but praise for the World of Outlaws. "It's been a great year - the best in our 65-year history. Much of that success can attributed to the World of Outlaws." The 31 new track records World of Outlaws racers set in 1994 can be attributed to Ecowater's Fast-Time Award. Johnson added that Ecowater Systems will be back to sponsor the Fast-Time Award again in 1995. Dave Bowman, the banquet's master of ceremonies, announced that he is "very close to securing a television series for the World of Outlaws in 1995. The World of Outlaws is very much in TNN's plans. The same is true with ESPN. I feel like an expectant father waiting for his child to be born." Steve Beitler, the 12th-place finisher in the car owner points, was the first to receive a point-fund check. "I've been here six years and I didn't think there would be a second one. The series has improved in many ways over the years. Local drivers are struggling to make the top five now." Greg Hodnett, last season's Rookie of the Year, "saw the light" after teammate Joe Gaerte suggested he wear glasses while racing in early August. "It helps to see," Hodnett, the ninth-place finisher in the driver point standings, said. "It also helps to have a support system. Kele & Associates - Roger and Betty Johnson - have been great sponsors and friends to me the last two years. "Robert Hubbard and J.C. Bayless also did a great job for me in the pits. I'm only as good as the car - I'm not Steve Kinser." Hodnett presented the Knoxville Nationals' Hard-Charger Award to Hubbard and Bayless. "We had a humbling year," seventh-place car owner Dan Motter said. "We came up last year as a first-year car owner and ran in the top five. I thought, 'This is a piece of cake.' "We've not finished as well as we wanted to a lot of times, and we found out that this is really a tough series. There are some really strong competitors racing with the World of Outlaws. You don't buy yourself a victory here. It takes a real team effort of everybody working together and everything coming together. We learned a lot of things this year that will help us come back stronger in 1995. We're going to keep fighting until we win this thing. "I'd really like to thank Ecowater, our sponsor. They have 700 dealers in the U.S., and they had 88 percent dealer participation with their World of Outlaws program. "Kenny (Jacobs) didn't have the year we wanted, but we're still great friends. With him as our driver, we've never missed an "A" main in 230 or so races. "We brought in Joe Houck, better known as "Tubie," in September. We're glad to have him as part of our team." Jack Elden, owner of the #22 Pennzoil Maxim that finished sixth in the point standings, said his insurance agent would like to thank his driver (Jac Haudenschild). Elden thanked the team's crew members, Darrell Green from Australia and Mitch Wilson. Haudenschild followed his car owner to the podium and said, "I'd like to thank Jack and Carol Elden. I've had this ride longer than any other ride in my career." Jeff Swindell had some parting words for "The King of the Outlaws" when he accepted his fourth-place point fund check. "It's been great running with you all these years," Jeff said. "You showed me the aggression of a tiger. I'm just proud that the Swindell family beat you in your last sprint car race. "I'll be pulling for you next year. I'll be pulling for you when you go to new tracks and knock the walls down. I'll also be pulling for you when you win your first race. I sincerely believe you will win next year. Good luck." Andy Hillenburg, who edged Swindell by one point in their battle for third place in the driver point standings, thanked Elam "for building the safest car in the business. I've been putting that to the test since 1988." Casey Luna, runner-up on the car owner point standings for the second consecutive year, emphasized that nobody in the 250-seat banquet hall was a loser. "Nobody here has lost," Luna said. "Everybody here has gained, just for being a part of the World of Outlaws. This is the greatest thing I've ever done in my life. I'm proud to be a part of this group. "Everybody has been saying how great it is that Steve Kinser has been given the opportunity to go Winston Cup racing. Well, Steve Kinser is taking thousands of fans to NASCAR, and we're all a part of that. "I'd like to thank our sponsors. I give Vivarin to my driver, and I take a lot of Tums. We're hoping to take on Preparation H next year." Dean King presented Crane Cams and Cam Dynamics' Circle of Champions Award - an award given in honor of A.J. Foyt - to Karl Kinser. "I've won a lot of races with Steve in the last 17 years ... then he comes up to me and says he quit. "Steve will do great down there with the boys (on the Winston Cup tour). He knows his way around a race track, and he'll do well." Ted Johnson, who met "The King of the Outlaws" at the series' first race on March 18, 1978 at Devil's Bowl Speedway, reminisced about his years with Kinser. "Seventeen years ago, I went up to Steve at the same track we were at today and told him I was starting the World of Outlaws. He looked at me kind of funny, and I told him it would only cost him $10 to become a member. He gave me the $10, and he won a lot of races since then." Johnson added that in 1995 the World of Outlaws would start presenting an award in honor of Kinser, "the sprint car racer by which all others are measured." The award will be voted on by the World of Outlaws' drivers following each season, with the winner receiving $5,000 and the attractive award. After watching a dramatic music video of his career, it was Kinser's turn to say good-bye. "First of all, I'd like to thank my sponsor, Valvoline, and Maxim Chassis," Steve said. "They've put good cars under me for quite some time now. "Most of all, I'd like to thank the family I'm going to miss. It's sad to leave a family I've been around for such a long time. "Karl has been a very special person to me. I'm probably going to miss him the most. "I hope I can go down and do well. And if I come back to racing sprint cars, I hope it's because I want to come back, not because I didn't go down there and do what it takes. "I've been wanting to go down and race a Winston Cup car for a few years now. I always wanted to run a green car. I thought it would be the U.S. Tobacco car, for some reason, (as he looked toward Copenhagen-Skoal Motorsports Coordinators Johnny Hayes and Mike Heaton). I got the closest one I could find to it. I have one with more green than it, I think. We're going to be running for Quaker State next year. "It's going to be quite a change for me. I think the biggest thing is missing all the good times I've had racing with you guys over the years. "My father has been taking me to open wheel races all my life. It's been a part of my life, it's all I've ever known. Anything that had wheels on it, I raced. It didn't matter what it was, I tried to run it as hard as I could. "I'm going to go down there with the same attitude. I'm going to get in there and try to get my feet in the door without getting any toes chopped off, and hope everything works out. I think I have a good race team. I'm going to do the best I can." Kinser's parting words were, "Thanks, I love you all." Hayes followed Kinser behind the microphone and dished out his usual ration of one-liners. Pointing to the caricature of Kinser in his Valvoline uniform made of balloons, he said, "This is what Steve Kinser will look like after running Bristol." Hayes praised the World of Outlaws' drivers as "some of the sharpest, well-spoken people I've ever been around. I'm really impressed with the quality with which you express yourself and the way you handle yourself in front of people. This means they're excellent for sponsors. That's very important, the way the sport's going today. "I don't think there's anything close to as exciting in motorsports today as watching the World of Outlaws. I've always said to everyone in the business that the World of Outlaws is the best-kept secret in America. Kenny Schrader, Rusty Wallace, all the top Winston Cup drivers, worship World of Outlaws racing. So when Steve Kinser walks in there, he's walking in well-respected. Schrader, who ranks fourth in Winston Cup points, has told me that he could not carry Steve Kinser's helmet bag. That's the kind of respect Steve has going in. "The thing I like most, it's going to give you World of Outlaws racers an opportunity. I hope you guys realize the opportunity he's about to get. All of a sudden, car owners who are running out of race car drivers down south, are looking at the World of Outlaws because of Steve Kinser. "He will have success. He will not have instant success. He will run great on superspeedways starting out, he will struggle on the short tracks. It will take him three-to-five years to be "the man," or be one of the top drivers. "I've talked with Steve about setting realistic goals - you don't go out and kick (Dale) Earnhardt's butt. It's not that easy to win out there. One strong point that he has - Harry Gant, a great race car driver, drove his first Winston Cup race when he was 39 years old. Harry Gant would call Steve Kinser a high-school boy. "He's going in with great experience and talent. He's got a good, solid race team to drive for. I think he's starting out in an ideal situation. "I think the Andy Hillenburgs, the Stevie Smiths, and the other guys around here, are going to follow right behind you. I think Ted Johnson is going to be searching real hard for race car drivers in a few years. Ted's put together a great show. I hope there are people to fill you guy's shoes because I really feel like this is the best racing in America. "Everybody who talks about World of Outlaws racing always praises it. This comes from the A.J. Foyts of the world, really top-quality competitors. You'all are well-respected, as respected as any form of motorsports. You don't get the national attention at this point, but there are people working on that. Once that happens, I think the series will move up to the next league and the sponsors will come in stronger. Then drivers may want to run with the World of Outlaws the rest of their lives. "Why you guys drive these things, I guess you're all a little crazy. Richard Petty said, 'These guys are insane,' when he was at the Knoxville Nationals. It took his breath away. "I'm really impressed with the series, and we're really excited to have Steve and Dana Kinser coming to North Carolina. Now he's going to have 45 people working on his race car, instead of three. It will take him years to learn their names, and as soon as he gets to know them they'll move on to another team. "Now Steve will sign 5,000 autographs a weekend and he'll make 10 appearances a week, plus drive a race car. He has a lot of fun ahead of him." After presenting Steve and Dana with championship rings, Hayes told Steve, "I've got one thing that I didn't want to admit to you. The current Winston Cup car owners are excited to see you come because they don't figure you're going to beat them right off. The current World of Outlaws car owners and drivers are tickled to death to see you go. They all chipped in for the sponsorship on you new car, so be sure to thank all the guys before you leave tonight." The gala ended with Hayes putting his arm around Kinser and saying, "Here is one of the great heroes, legends. He's one of the big ones - A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, Steve Kinser. He's in a league by himself. No matter what he does the rest of his life, what he's done to this point will make him forever the greatest that ever lived." Then everyone in the room toasted "The King of the Outlaws." WoO*eot

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