Series 2008 driver preview: Joey Saldana

2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Joey Saldana Each year when Joey Saldana begins a new racing season, it is his goal to win more races and finish higher in points than he did the year before. For the past two...

2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Joey Saldana

Each year when Joey Saldana begins a new racing season, it is his goal to win more races and finish higher in points than he did the year before. For the past two seasons, he has done this. In 2006, he was third in points with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series with seven wins and he bettered that in 2007 with a runner-up finish in the championship standings on the strength of 13 total wins.

Saldana, and his team have one main goal this year and that is to move up one more spot in the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series standings. That quest will begin at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida this week in the 37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals.

Saldana made two separate trips across the world during the winter to compete. First, he went to New Zealand, where he was victorious at TeMaurua Raceway. Then he competed at Tyrepower Parramatta City Raceway in Australia against a number of fellow Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws drivers, where he finished third and fifth. In between those two trips, he also made a visit to the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Oklahoma, as a teammate to his car owner, Kasey Kahne. This past weekend, he competed at East Bay Raceway Park with the American Sprint Car Series.

"I'm pretty fortunate to have a career as a race car driver and sometime you have to sacrifice a little bit, especially when you are missing Christmas with a four year old son," explained Saldana, of his trips during the winter. "For me it pays over the course of the year running in the off-season. It makes me a better driver and just being behind the wheel is good. It helps you feel better physically and mentally and for me, it just seems like something I need to do."

Saldana finished a career-best second in championship points last season, on the strength of 13 overall wins and 66 Top-10 finishes. He was one of just three drivers that led more than 300 laps of feature racing competition in 2007. He led the series in fast time honors, stopping the clock first on 11 occasions in time trials, in addition to winning the dash six times to earn the same number of pole positions in feature events.

"We felt like we gave a few points away in 2006 and we came out last year (in 2007) and were a lot stronger as a team than we were in our first year," explained Saldana. "We just have to come out and build on what did well in 2007 and that is finish races and run up front."

Saldana has had a great deal of success at Volusia Speedway Park where he will compete this week in the season opening three events, earning seven wins during his career at the half-mile, including picking up a win with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in 2006, as well as with the All Star Circuit of Champions last season.

The Kasey Kahne Racing team for whom he drivers will be led on the road again this season by Justin Adams, who moved into the roll of crew chief last spring, after a reorganization of the team. The rest of the crew will remain the same as well from last season.

"The crew looks good for this year and we have some stability," explained the native of Brownsburg, Indiana. "Knowing that the crew that was with me last year will be with me this year is a very good thing. The crew is dedicated to Kasey Kahne Racing and they are dedicated to me as their driver. When you go in, knowing that you have guys that are behind you 100 percent, I think you perform better on the race track."

With 80-plus races on the schedule, Saldana will have ample opportunities to add to his 34 career A-Feature wins with the series. Of the tracks on this year's schedule, he has won at 24 of them.

"I enjoy racing and I enjoy the sport," said Saldana. "I love what I do. I'm very fortunate to get to do what I do. Every race and every time I get behind the wheel is a blessing. For me, I look forward to every race. If it was 190 races I would enjoy it. I feel like I am getting better as a driver and our sponsors are great and our team is great. For me, it's a great time to be driving a World of Outlaws sprint car."

With another stellar field of cars following the series full-time in 2008, Saldana knows the team will have to be on their game each and every time they enter the pit area. After winning 13 times last season on a wide variety of tracks, they are confident in the package they have each time they enter the pit gate.

"If you are going to have a shot at winning the championship, you have to feel mentally that you can win any race and that you have 23 other guys wanting to beat you to win that race," he said. "If you don't feel that or don't think you can get the job done, then you won't be in contention for the title. It looks like you have to win about 15 to 20 times to win a championship out here. For us, we had a great year last year and won 13 races, but that means we have to win about five more to have a shot in November."

The 2008 season will mark Saldana's third consecutive behind the wheel for Kasey Kahne Racing. The team is confident in the foundation that they have built the last two seasons on the road with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series.

"We believe that we are a team that can go down to the wire and win a championship," he shared. "We feel like we have paid our dues and done we have needed to do to be at that level. Hopefully we can go out and do that. As long as you go out and do what you need to do, you can get the job done."

-credit: woo

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Justin Adams , Joey Saldana