Knoxville series spotlight - Joey Saldana

Saldana Gears up for Knoxville Nationals with Two Events at the Famed Half-Mile this Weekend Knoxville, IA-- June 5, 2008--Ever since Joey Saldana began racing sprint cars, it has been a goal of his to win the Knoxville Nationals at the famed...

Saldana Gears up for Knoxville Nationals with Two Events at the Famed Half-Mile this Weekend

Knoxville, IA-- June 5, 2008--Ever since Joey Saldana began racing sprint cars, it has been a goal of his to win the Knoxville Nationals at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Iowa. Each time he races at the legendary half-mile he learns more about the track and continues to find things make his car faster as well.

He has finished second in the event in each of the last two years and will have two chances this weekend for his team to fine tune their set-up in preparation for sprint car racing's biggest event, as the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series visits Knoxville Raceway this Friday and Saturday.

Saldana has three career wins at Knoxville, including in 2006 with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. He finished second in the series first visit to the track this season and also has been the runner-up in each of the last two Knoxville Nationals.

He will look for his first series win of the 2008 season this weekend, with the cameras from SPEED capturing all of the action for broadcast on June 15 and June 21.

"I love racing there," said Saldana of Knoxville Raceway. "We finished second there earlier this year, and it seems like every time we go to Knoxville, we run second to Donny Schatz. Hopefully we can improve on that and get our car a little better to get a win at Knoxville. It's definitely a great place to race. The atmosphere is great and it gets you ready for the (Knoxville) Nationals. Hopefully we can get another solid Top-Five run there and learn from what we are doing and go back to the Nationals and be competitive."

While some drivers and teams will try some radically different set-ups than they normally would run this weekend, as they seek to gain knowledge for the Knoxville Nationals, Saldana and his Budweiser/Open Joist team will stick with a proven set-up as they look for their first Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series win of the 2008 season.

"We are so different than everybody else that we just have to figure out what works best for us," explained the native of Brownsburg, Indiana. "We are the only Mopar out there, so we are working with some motor stuff. We'll try a different motor combination before the Nationals and this weekend will be a good time to try it. We had such a good solid run there the first time we were there. It will be a good comparison motor-wise. I know we'll try some motor stuff, but car stuff we just need to get that back to basics where our cars works and will roll around the track and race these guys."

There are many reasons why Saldana would like to win the Knoxville Nationals, but first and foremost is that he would join his father Joe as one of a select number of drivers that have won the biggest race in the sport. If Joey was to win the event in August, he and his father would join Steve and Kraig Kinser as the only other father/son duo to have won the race.

"Winning the Knoxville Nationals catapulted his career to the next level and put him in an Indy car and changed his life forever," shared the second generation driver about his father. "You may not go to the next level by winning the Nationals now, but it changes your whole demeanor of going to the race track and how people think of you as a driver. It puts you in an elite group of people. It would be huge to win that race and it would be huge for any driver to win it."

Saldana has finished in the Top-10 in each of his last nine starts at Knoxville. Among these strong runs was a win in 2006 with the World of Outlaws, as well as six Top-Five finishes. In his career at the half-mile, he has 40 Top-10 finishes.

"It takes a lot of motor, but it also takes a good handling race car," stated Saldana when asked what it takes to be fast at Knoxville. "We've been close and we just have to figure out what it is that we have to get better for that last five or 10 laps of the races there. We're definitely going to do what we can to make ourselves better. I know I do what I can to make myself better every race. Hopefully we can go there and I can do even better than last time and that would mean getting a victory."

Saldana enters this weekend fourth in World of Outlaws championship points on the strength of 12 Top-10 finishes, with eight of those being in the Top-Five. He finished second in both events last weekend in the state of Ohio. With a large portion of the early part of the season being interrupted by rain, Saldana and his team have tested a couple of times this year, in addition to racing in central Pennsylvania to get some extra laps in. He also competed with the All Star Circuit of Champion at Eldora Speedway in late April, picking up a win.

"It's been tough for us, because we just need to race," Saldana noted of the weather. "We need to race as much as possible to figure out what we are doing with our race car. When you have something different than everyone else and you are not racing, then you are sitting around thinking about what everyone else is doing and what you should be doing. All you really need is to race and go back to basics and figure out what your car needs. You car is telling you what you need every time you hit the race track, you just have to figure it out. If you are not racing then you don't know and you are just guessing. Then you come to the race track and you are doing things that you shouldn't be doing. Hopefully we can keep racing and the rain leaves us alone."

With a strong field of cars expected for both nights of racing at Knoxville, Saldana is quick to point out how important time trials will be, especially if there are more than 40 cars present, which by rules would give the competitors one, single lap on the clock. He has stopped the clocks first three times this season which have him tied for the series lead in that category. Saldana was quickest at Eldora Speedway last weekend, in addition to Virginia Motor Speedway and at Lernerville Speedway.

"It takes a good qualifying effort," he said. "It will probably be one lap of qualifying and that is your whole night there. You can't mess that up. If you get through that and put yourself in a good position in your heat, then anything is possible. You definitely have to get through qualifying first and that is the most difficult part."

On Friday, June 6 at Knoxville Raceway, general admission tickets for adults will be $25, with general admission tickets for children $12.50. Reserved tickets for adults will be $27, with reserved tickets for children $13.50.

On Saturday, June 7 at Knoxville Raceway, general admission tickets for adults will be $25, with general admission tickets for children $12.50. Reserved tickets for adults will be $27, with reserved tickets for children $13.50. For ticket information visit www.knoxvilleraceway.com or call (641) 842-5431. There will also be an autograph session behind the grandstands each night at 5 p.m. Central featuring World of Outlaws drivers.

-credit: woo

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Donny Schatz , Joey Saldana , Kraig Kinser