2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: February/March Concord, NC--Dec. 11, 2006 -- The 2006 World of Outlaws season was one of the most competitive in the history of the series. The year saw 17 different drivers, including during preliminary ...
2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: February/March
Concord, NC--Dec. 11, 2006 -- The 2006 World of Outlaws season was one of the most competitive in the history of the series. The year saw 17 different drivers, including during preliminary features, visit RacinSoles Victory Lane, along with 26 different drivers leading laps. Donny Schatz led the way with 17 A-Feature and two preliminary feature wins, followed by Craig Dollansky, who claimed six A-Feature and two preliminary feature victories, and Joey Saldana who picked up seven A-Feature triumphs.
Chad Kemenah, who was competing full-time with the World of Outlaws for the first time in his career, was the first to visit the winner's circle in February at Volusia Speedway Park, as the 35th Annual Winternationals took the green flag.
Kemenah entered 2006, having claimed four straight titles racing with the All Star Circuit of Champions. The native of Findlay, Ohio had won his first World of Outlaws race during the 2005 season at I-55 Raceway in Missouri.
Knowing how tough the competition would be night in and night out, Kemenah started the season off with a bang, setting fast time on opening night, along with winning the dash to earn the pole position for the 25 lap A-Feature.
He used a strong start in the main event to power his way to a wire-wire-victory, with Donny Schatz coming home second. Ironically Schatz held off Kemenah for a win two nights before at Volusia in an All Star event.
"We were pretty good and that's all because of my crew," said Kemenah, after his win on February 9. "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."
Even though he led every lap and received the maximum amount of points possible for a race night, since he set fast time and led the most laps in the feature, Kemenah knew he still had eight-plus months of racing left, and the competition would get tougher each night.
"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."
On the following night a Volusia, Joey Saldana won a three-car battle with Jac Haudenschild, who led the first 24 laps of the race from the pole position, and Fred Rahmer to earn the victory. Saldana in only his second start for the Kasey Kahne racing team, won a drag race to the start/finish line edging Haudenschild by a tenth-of-a-second, before a packed grandstand, in one of the most thrilling finishes of the season.
"We got to lapped traffic before that yellow and I moved to the top and I ran (Fred) Rahmer down pretty good," said Saldana after his win. "I was like, 'Well if we get to lapped traffic that's something I can try.' We were getting through there and Fred got caught by a lapped car and I stayed on the bottom. When I got to Jac I knew he wasn't going to lift. I didn't want to show him my nose because I knew he'd be going to the top. I just hung in there and ran it as hard as I could for two laps. I think he was being real conservative because there was a hole coming off of Turn 4 on the bottom. Luckily he was conservative enough that I got a run on him, got beside him and won the race."
After finishing third in the season opener, Saldana inched to within one point of the lead in the championship standings, after Kemenah the point leader finished ninth.
After a couple of weeks to regroup and travel across the county, the month of March opened up for the series in the desert of Arizona with the Cactus Classic.
The famed half-mile at Manzanita Speedway was first on the docket, as 43 cars signed into the pit area, with Brooke Tatnell topping them all in time trials. Later in the night, the native of San Souci, NSW, Australia won the first dash to earn the pole position for the 30-lap A-Feature.
He used a strong start to lead the first six circuits, before 2001 World of Outlaws Champion Danny Lasoski got around him. Schatz then charged past Lasoski on a lap nine restart. Lasoski retook the lead on the following lap, as Schatz's machine suffered mechanical problems that forced him to the work area..
Lasoski was able to lead the rest of the way, holding off a hard charging Tatnell, along with Terry McCarl.
"The racetrack for me went from the top in the first part to the middle to the bottom," said Lasoski, who reunited with car owner Dennis Roth for the 2006 season. "Schatz got by me and showed me there was a little bit quicker way. I passed him back and didn't see him, he must have had trouble, then we got into lapped cars at the end."
After a solid seventh-place finish, Saldana took the championship point's lead, after Kemenah came up one spot short of transferring from the B-Main to the A-Feature. McCarl with his third-place run moved into the second spot in points, with Daryn Pittman, Tatnell, and Schatz just behind him.
The series first ever visit to USA Race Park in Tucson was next on the agenda. Paul McMahan used his outside front row starting spot to take the initial lead, one that he would never relinquish, holding off a hard charging Donny Schatz for the win.
"Any time you're out front it's always good," said McMahan after his win. "It's the first time we've been here so none of us knew what to expect. It's actually a real racy joint. It's a beautiful facility and it holds a lot of people, that's the major thing because we need to get a lot of fans to come to all our races. We've got to keep these fans happy and keep them coming back."
Pittman used a fifth-place finish to jump into the second spot in championship point standings behind Saldana, with Schatz up to the third-spot, only 12 points out of the lead.
After the Cactus Classic was in the books, the series headed north up Interstate 15 for a pair of events at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway. High winds and frigid temperatures greeted the competitors.
Jeremy Campbell, the youngest driver racing full-time with the Outlaws in 2006, showed quickly that he would be a force to be reckoned with all season, as won the first dash to earn the pole position for the 25-lap A-Feature. He led the first 15 laps of the race, before encountering heavy lapped traffic, in which Schatz masterfully worked his way to the lead, and claimed his first win of the season. This marked the fourth time in his career that he won on the half-mile, to set a new track record. In addition to this, he took the championship point lead over Joey Saldana, who was ninth in the event, and Terry McCarl, who came home fourth.
"We're just glad tonight is over," said Schatz, a native of Fargo, N.D. "It was miserable conditions for everybody. We were good enough to come from seventh to win. My car was pretty good. It was free and lapped traffic helped. We were in the right place at the right time. Jeremy set a real good pace. He did a good job leading."
Leading his first ever World of Outlaws laps made a big impression on Campbell, as he gained the confidence needed to compete night in and night with the series.
"I'm happy but I'm disappointed at the same time," said Campbell a native of Monroe, Mich., who contended for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by Maxim Racing and ButlerBuilt. "I was so close. The lapped car got in the way one time and that's all it took. I just pushed up to the wall. I tried to get it back down as quick as I could but it wasn't quick enough. It felt awesome running out front of everybody."
One more night of racing in "Sin City" was in store, with high winds, and cold temperatures, again plaguing the evening, along with some persistent snow flurries.
None of that mattered for three-time World of Outlaws Champion Sammy Swindell, as he powered his way to his 267th career victory. He became the sixth different winner in first six events of the season. Swindell took the lead from polesitter Jac Haudenshild on the 11th-lap and held off a determined Schatz and McCarl at the finish.
"The track was a lot different Thursday night," said Swindell, after his win. "On the original start it didn't take off at all and I went back to third. I was watching those guys and looking for the best way to go forward. When I was in the dash, the line was the top in Turns 1 and 2 and the bottom in Turns 3 and 4. There weren't a lot of guys who could hit the bottom in Turns 1 and 2 but they were all on top in Turns 3 and 4. You always want to run the shortest line you can but also the one with the most grip."
As the series headed back East to Batesville (Ark.) Speedway to finish off the month of March, Schatz held a 15-point lead in the standings over both Saldana and McCarl.
Schatz and McCarl battled heavy lapped traffic during the middle stages of the 30-lap event, with Schatz taking the lead on lap 17 and going on to score his second victory of the season. After earning four points for being the second fastest in time trials, Schatz was able to extend his lead over McCarl in the championship standings to 19, as the series headed to I-55 Raceway the following night to open up the month of April.
Up Next: A review of the World of Outlaws Sprint Series events from the month of April.