2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: Craig Dollansky Concord, NC--Dec. 6, 2006 -- For Craig Dollansky the 2006 season was a work in progress. After a slow start to the year that saw some back luck befall the team, some changes were made and they...
2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: Craig Dollansky
Concord, NC--Dec. 6, 2006 -- For Craig Dollansky the 2006 season was a work in progress. After a slow start to the year that saw some back luck befall the team, some changes were made and they all paid big dividends during the stretch run of the campaign. The team hit its stride in the heat of the summer, and the veteran driver finished a career best second in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series championship standings.
The native of Elk River, Minnesota scored a career best six A-Feature wins to go along with two preliminary feature victories, as well as racking up 33 Top-Five finishes, along with 47 Top-10's in the 56 A-Feature events that were contested.
Dollansky picked up his first win of the year April 15 on the blazing fast high-banks of the quarter-mile at Tri-State (Ind.) Speedway. His next trip to RacinSoles Victory Lane came at the famed Eldora Speedway on June 3. This was his first of two victories at the half-mile, with the other coming in the Knight Before the Kings Royal on July 14. In between those triumphs, he picked up nine more Top-Five finishes as he continued his ascent in the point standings.
"We definitely started the year out pretty slow and dug ourselves into an early hole, but I was happy with how things went after the first part of August," said Dollansky, driver of the Karavan Trailers Maxim. "We definitely had the team headed in the right direction. We had a lot of good runs and quite a few wins in that stretch too. We had a strong end to the year, and we prepared ourselves for 2007."
A memorable win came for Dollansky on July 21, the second of the preliminary nights at the Williams Grove Summer Nationals, when he bested a very strong field of cars, to put himself in a good position for the finale the following night. He also picked up a preliminary feature win during the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California on September 7.
Prior to that victory, Dollansky turned in another dominating performance in the Golden State, at Calistoga Speedway in the Harvest Classic to score a $12,000-win to open up the month of September. After his prelim win at the Gold Cup, he scored three third-place finishes, before visiting the winner's circle at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in one of the most dominating performances all year, leading all 40 laps in a race that started off with heavy fog engulfing the quarter-mile.
"We would have liked to have made a little more of a race out of it for the championship, but with the position that we got ourselves in early, that put it out of reach in trying to do so," he commented. "Over the last few months of the season, we kept that range a lot tighter. We were really focused on finishing off the year strong and having things in place for 2007. I'm definitely feeling pretty good about that stuff, especially the equipment, personnel and everything. I feel like we are where we need to be, and I am looking forward to next season."
Already with one of the strongest teams in the pit area, Dollansky added veteran crew chief/mechanic Rob Hart for the stretch run of the year. After a solid Top-10 run in the Knoxville Nationals, the team was set to head west for the Gold Rush Tour, which would see them solidify the second position in the standings. Beginning at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway on August 25, the team ran off a string of 10 straight Top-three finishes capped off by the win at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway.
"We were running pretty good and then we brought Rob (Hart) on around the Knoxville Nationals," explained Dollansky. "The month prior to that, things were really starting to pan out, with Dave Yingst coming onboard to help out and to get some of the stuff sorted out with the team. We made a chassis change earlier in the year and those are things you don't want to do in the midst of a racing season, but we did it. Dave really helped me get things sorted out. Some of the changes along with Dave coming on board helped things really start to gel around July. Then Rob came on in the middle part of August, and we had been on track running strong each night. That's what you need to do in a championship run, be there every night. I'm pretty happy with the personnel we have here now. We are really looking forward to 2007."
Over the course of the season including preliminary features, Dollansky finished third an amazing 19 times. This consistency helped him to battle for wins night in and night out, and paid off to the tune of the $100,000 he received for finishing second in the championship standings.. He led 283 laps over the course of the season, the third most in the series, along with accumulating over $243,000 in season winnings.
"Anytime you are in the Top-three or Top-four, you know that you are in a good position to have a chance to win the race," he stated. "I think we won about four races in that stretch (of finishing in the Top-three), and in 31 or so races, we had 26 Top-three finishes. When you are running up front like that, that is where you need to be running. That's when you are going to win races, when you are up in that area."
Not only was Dollansky fast when the feature rolled around, but on most nights he was quick from the second the team rolled the car off the trailer. He set fast time on three occasions during the 2006 season, with an average car count of 41 machines per event. He also shared the top honors with eight dash wins that earned him eight pole positions.
"We had a few races that we should have won and ended up a little short," recalled Dollansky. "We had a few where things just didn't go our way. All in all, there is probably a lot of teams that would like to have those types of finishes. You don't take anything for granted, and anytime you are that far up front, it is not a bad thing."
After finishing fourth in points in 2004, Dollansky improved to third in 2005. After his runner-up finish this season, he had one goal in mind for 2007, and that is to improve one more spot in the standings.
"We just have to stay on pace like we are now," said the veteran driver. "We have to keep working hard like we are with our race team, with everybody doing their jobs. We just have to try to prepare ourselves properly for 2007. Going into 2007, I don't look for us to make wholesale changes like we did this year. That's behind us, and we can go forward with business as usual."
Looking to keep his momentum heading into next season, Dollansky recently departed for New Zealand, where he will compete in four races over the course of December. He won his first time out last weekend at Springs Speedway near Auckland, New Zealand.
Next Up: The series of season reviews for the Top-15 in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series continues with Donny Schatz.