Pittman poised to continue his climb in the World of Outlaws. OWASSO, OK (February 14) - When Daryn Pittman unstrapped from the ...
Pittman poised to continue his climb in the World of Outlaws.
OWASSO, OK (February 14) - When Daryn Pittman unstrapped from the #21 Sher-Don Motorsports sprint car last November at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he completed the most successful season in his career. Like most young stars, Pittman wasn't satisfied, so he traveled to Australia to pursue a championship.
After becoming the first American driver to claim the coveted World Series Sprintcars championship in January, the 24 year-old sprint car star returned to the US with his 2003 goals fresh in mind while preparing for the upcoming O'Reilly's World of Outlaws season opener at King's Speedway in Hanford, CA on February 21.
"I'm really excited and confident about the season," claimed Pittman, who will pilot the #21 Sher-Don J&J sprinter again this season. "I don't feel like our team is ready to be considered a major threat to win the championship, because I've never finished in the top ten with the Outlaws. We had a really good season last year, and I know people kept telling me that we were in the top three in point average all year after missing a few races early in the season. Our goal for 2003 is to finish in the top five, and I honestly think we can run there if things go well and I can be consistent."
After finishing 11th in last season's World of Outlaws standings and winning a career-best six "A" feature events, Pittman journeyed to Australia to compete in the prestigious World Series Sprintcars series.
"The main reason I wanted to go Australia was to win the World Series title," continued Pittman, who drove the Titan Racing entry to victory lane six times. "No American had ever done it before and there were some great guys that tried like Donny Schatz, Joey Saldana, Brad Furr and Randy Hannagan. To be able to go over there and be the first was what we wanted to accomplish. The biggest thing was to get hooked up with the right team, and I feel honored to be the first American to win it."
Winning championships is something new for Pittman, who worked his way up to the World of Outlaws by learning his trade in quarter midgets on up through sprint cars. He earned the Rookie of the Year with the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) in 1996. Pittman then captured the Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year in 1998 before being hired to chase the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year title in 1999 while driving the #47 Casey's General Store entry. He won his first sprint car championship during the 2001 season when he conquered the World of Outlaws Gumout series.
"Winning any championship is big," continued Pittman, who was ranked the #1 driver in the 2003 "Salute to the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic" poll, as selected by the voting panel of the Australian National Sprintcar Poll. "As I grew up racing whenever I would get good enough in a particular class to start winning consistently, my dad would always move me up to the next class.
"The first championship that I actually won was the World of Outlaws Gumout Championship. I didn't race at a local track or with an organization long enough to actually win a championship, so the World Series Championship is only the second title that I can put on my rÃ©sumÃ©. It was really important for me to learn how to run consistently to keep the championship in sight. Hopefully, this will be something that will help me in the future."
One major change to this year's Sher-Don Motorsports program that should help Pittman is the addition of Mopar Engines that are being built by Joe Gaerte and the staff of Gaerte Engines. Pittman and Gaerte began talking about the possibility of trying a Mopar at the 2002 Knoxville Nationals. Two months later, both were standing in victory lane at the Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway in just their fourth night with the experimental Mopar Engine. They worked with the motor during the final month of the season and tested a new one at the season finale in Las Vegas.
"We were thrilled with the Mopar Engine that we raced the final 11 shows with," said Pittman. "Winning at Charlotte may have helped Mopar with their decision to come on as an associate sponsor. We got the chance to run a Mopar with the new Cylinder heads at Las Vegas and it was hands down the best motor that I ever ran. It showed on the dyno and felt better on the track. All of our motors for this year were built based on that feedback, so I'm really confident in the motor package and we'll have an advantage there.
"We'll also continue to work with J&J Auto Racing. Jack Elam and everyone at J&J builds the best sprint cars. They're obviously fast, but the safety, durability and craftsmanship are second to none."
Getting off to a good start is important, but for a young team like the Sher-Don Motorsports group, it's paramount. In 2002, Pittman won the second race of the season at Perris Auto Speedway, which helped the team feel like a contender. A back injury caused by a freak qualifying accident two weeks later at the new Hollywood Hills Speedway forced the team to miss six events and ended any aspirations of finishing in the Top Five of the WoO standings. Pittman and the team did bounce back and had a very impressive season winning races at Hagerstown Speedway, I-55 Raceway, Eldora Speedway, Calistoga Speedway and at Charlotte. He knows the key to reaching his 2003 goals begin with a good start.
"I've always struggled at Hanford, and last year was no different," said Pittman. "I was running fifth and ended up spinning out, so it looked like we'd get off to a slow start. We were able to come back the next night and get our first win of the season, which was a big confidence boost for us. You want to get a strong start and stay at the top of points, because it's so hard to climb up in the standings. If you can get a good start, and be consistent things usually work out. There's no doubt having a good first three weekends is a big key to anyone's season as far as the points go.
"The big thing is trying to consistently finish in the top five every night and try to get that first win as quick as you can. If nothing else that first win will let everyone know you're out there to win races and that you'll be tough to contend with all year."
Joe Gaerte will have an expanded role with the team and serve as Crew Chief. Sean Young, who joined the team midway through last season, will again be the lead assistant to Gaerte. Bingo Jenkins has joined the team to help with regular maintenance. Pittman has set some strong goals for the group as they embark on the season that will include 72 events over 100 dates at 50 tracks in 27 states during the nine-month season.
"You base goals on what you accomplished the previous year," said Pittman. "My goal for 2002 was to win five races and there were a lot of people that told me that was a little far fetched, but I knew it was possible. We ended up winning six, so the goal this year is to come out and win 10 races. With the program and people we have, I think that is a very real and legitimate goal for us."
One other obstacle that the newly crowned World Series Sprintcars champion must overcome is a recent trend of tough starts for WoO drivers that spent off-seasons racing in Australia. "Everybody says that racing all winter should help you stay sharp, but past performance from a lot of the guys that went to Australia hasn't been really good," concluded Pittman. "Who knows maybe we can come out strong and break that string kind of like winning the World Series title. I feel like the more I get the car the better I feel, and I just want to get better every year until we are a championship contender."