Chad Kemenah Charges to World of Outlaws Sprint Series Season Opening Victory Barberville, FL -- Feb. 9, 2006 -- The World of Outlaws Sprint Series launched a new era in sprint car racing in grand fashion Thursday night at Volusia Speedway Park...
Chad Kemenah Charges to World of Outlaws Sprint Series Season Opening Victory
Barberville, FL -- Feb. 9, 2006 -- The World of Outlaws Sprint Series launched a new era in sprint car racing in grand fashion Thursday night at Volusia Speedway Park as Chad Kemenah held off Donny Schatz to capture the 2006 season opener.
Kemenah, who won the past four All Star Circuit of Champions titles, has been one of the fastest cars throughout the 35th Annual Winternationals, setting the track record earlier in the week and posting the quick time Thursday night in the Underground Utilities Inc. Eagle.
With Kemenah setting the early pace, Chad Layton, Joey Saldana and Schatz raced back-and-forth and top-to-bottom on big half mile before catching traffic. When the three cleared the lapped cars, Schatz emerged in second and set his sights on Kemenah.
But Kemenah maneuvered cleanly through the field and locked his machine back into the bottom groove to take the $10,000 checkered flag just ahead of Schatz's ParkerStore J&J to kick off the World of Outlaws 29th season.
Saldana was third in the Dodge/Curb Records JEI with Layton in the Apple Dealerships Maxim and Brian Brown in the NOS Energy Drink/Mafia Motorsports Maxim rounding out the top five.
Brooke Tatnell charged from 14th to finish sixth in the Garlic Jim's/Castrol Eagle as Greg Wilson in the All Star Plumbing and Heating Maxim, Greg Hodnett in the Wirtgen J&J, Lance Dewease in the Vogele JEI and Daryn Pittman in the Titan Garages and Carports Maxim completed the top 10.
The night belonged to Kemenah in his debut as a full-time World of Outlaws competitor. After winning his first World of Outlaws race last season, Kemenah is one of six racers competing for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award in 2006. By not only winning Thursday night, but also earning five bonus points for leading the most laps and another five bonus points for being the fastest qualifier, Kemenah already has a 14-point lead in the standings as the teams chase a share of an $850,000 point fund.
"We were pretty good and that's all because of my crew," said Kemenah, a native of Findlay, Ohio, who finished second to Schatz in an All Star event Wednesday night at Volusia. "Wednesday night Donny got by me at the end and I was trying not to let that happen again. These guys are just great to race with. It makes it really, really fun. We're off to a great start, but we'll keep a level head, too.
Despite an accomplished career, Kemenah knew competing in the World of Outlaws series would be a challenge, making his victory in the opener all the more sweet.
"It's kind of a make believe story to think that," he said about expectations of winning right away. "No doubt about it, my starting spot helped, but you still have to be fast enough to stay there. I guess it's just the best way to get started."
For Schatz, who posted eight main-event victories in 2005, to grab the runner-up position, he had to recover from a tough qualifying session.
"We kind of dug ourselves out of a hole and came up smelling like roses after qualifying 10th and pulling a zero invert," said Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. "It was a decent finish.
Schatz used the traffic running in the low groove to blast from fourth to second with 12 laps down.
"It was going to take stuff like that to be able to get through there," Schatz said. "I had been trying to make the top work in Turns 3 and 4 and Joey got a run there. I just darted out and got a run through the rubber and got past all of them at once. It made the race for us."
Saldana has continued to shine during Race Weeks in his new Kasey Kahne ride. At one point during the second dash, Saldana split the leaders to go three-wide into Turn 1. He was fast again in the main event, sliding around the half-mile oval on the cushion.
"I felt me and Schatz were pretty much the same and when we got to lapped cars, we both moved around on the track and gained position," said Saldana, the 1996 World of Outlaws rookie of the year. "I almost got him when he got bottled up, but there's really not much you can do. When it did come down to racing, I felt good that we could move around and pass cars."
With Mean 15 racer Jason Martin healing an injury from a race two weeks ago, Brian Brown has climbed aboard the No. 36 NOS Energy Drink/Mafia Motorsports Maxim and has also been one of the fastest cars during Race Weeks.
"Dan [Martin] and Jason and all the crew with NOS sponsorship made me feel like family," said Brown, of Higginsville, Mo. "They let me do what I want with the car and we've been fast right out of the get-go. You can't really expect much more out of a team that's been together only two days to run with Donny Schatz and Joey Saldana and Chad Kemenah.
"We're on cloud nine right now, hoping just to build on our momentum. I couldn't be more happy than how we're going right now."
The World of Outlaws wrap up their season-opening events Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park before heading West for the annual Cactus Classic on March 3 at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix and the series' inaugural appearance March 4 at USA Race Park in Tucson, Ariz., with 4:30 p.m. autograph sessions featuring several Mean 15 racers preceding each event. The Outlaws will invade The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a two-day event March 9-10 in conjunction with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series weekend. The Mean 15 racers will sign autographs at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 10, in the midway near the LVMS 1.5-mile oval.
The World of Outlaws Sprint Series is brought to the fans across the country by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire and The Outdoor Channel. Promotional Partners include AMB i.t., Choice Hotels, Hot Stuff Foods and The University of Northwestern Ohio. Contingency sponsors include DART Machinery, MSD Ignitions, and Wrisco Industries.
VOLUSIA SPEEDWAY PARK NOTEBOOK
* FAST QUALIFIER: Chad Kemenah paced the 35 cars that went through time trials in the Underground Utilities Inc. Eagle with an AMB i.t.-timed lap around the half-mile oval in 14.129 seconds. Kemenah shattered the track record on Tuesday night in an All Star Circuit of Champions event when he turned a lap in 13.164 seconds. In a new rule for 2006, the top five fastest qualifiers on a single-day event are awarded points, with five points going to the quickest car and driver in time trials sliding to one point for the fifth-fastest qualifier. Brian Brown was second quick, with Greg Wilson, Chad Layton and Kaley Gharst rounding out the top five in time trials.
* SCHEDULING: The World of Outlaws Sprint Series 2006 race schedule can be found in many places on the Internet, including at USAToday.com, but a new feature at www.dirtmotorsports.com/sprint allows users to view the schedule in sections or from beginning to end.
* A BUSY WINTER: DIRT MotorSports and many World of Outlaws Sprint Series racers and teams had an extremely eventful off-season. DIRT was represented at several industry events and conventions, including the annual Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando, Fla., the RPM Promoter's Workshops in Reno, Nev., and the annual Eastern Motorsport Press Association gathering near Philadelphia. The racers kept busy, too, with Donny Schatz posting eight victories and dominating in Australia, where Brooke Tatnell clinched the World Series Sprintcars title and the Australia Sprintcar Championship crown. In addition, Craig Dollansky took the checkered flag in a New Zealand event while Daryn Pittman earned a win in Australia. Back in the United States, Terry McCarl, the World of Outlaws leading qualifier in 2005 with 12 fast times, won two of three events at East Bay Raceway Park to be crowned the King of the 360s and the King of the 410s.
* VICTORY PARADE: Chad Kemenah's victory Thursday night was the first World of Outlaws feature victory of the 2006 season. In 2005, there were 17 different main-event winners. Including preliminary features, 22 different drivers visited Victory Lane in World of Outlaws events in 2005.
* HALF-MILE WINNERS: Volusia Speedway Park is a half-mile oval. Thursday night's event was the first race of the 2006 season, meaning Chad Kemenah is the only driver this season to win on a half-mile circuit.
* ON TELEVISION: Following the action on Thursday night, several World of Outlaws Mean 15 racers -- and many fans, as well -- made their way to the Mobile Media Center to tape another episode of The Outdoor Channel's "Elbows Up!" program, which is set to air at 8 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 22. Hosts Johnny Gibson and Brad Doty were joined by special guest Ernie Saxton as they interviewed racers about their off-season activities and plans for 2006. In addition, all the action from the season-opening events at Volusia Speedway Park can be seen on The Outdoor Channel at 8 p.m. Eastern on March 1.
* QUALIFYING EVENTS: Paul May, Fred Rahmer, Jeff Shepard and Terry McCarl captured heat race wins. -- Chad Kemenah and Chad Layton won the dashes to lineup the top six rows of the main event. -- Daryn Pittman raced to victory in the B-main.
* UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws wrap up their season-opening events Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park before heading West for the annual Cactus Classic on March 3 at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix and the series' inaugural appearance March 4 at USA Race Park in Tucson, Ariz., with 4:30 p.m. autograph sessions featuring several Mean 15 racers preceding each event. The Outlaws will invade The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a two-day event March 9-10 in conjunction with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series weekend. The Mean 15 racers will sign autographs at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 10, in the midway near the LVMS 1.5-mile oval.