Series 2009 driver preview - Joey Saldana

2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Joey Saldana Concord, NC-- February 2, 2009--With all of the bad luck from last season behind him, Joey Saldana and his Kasey Kahne Racing team are ready for the 2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car...

2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Joey Saldana

Concord, NC-- February 2, 2009--With all of the bad luck from last season behind him, Joey Saldana and his Kasey Kahne Racing team are ready for the 2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series campaign to begin later this week and are very optimistic for the upcoming season.

The native of Brownsburg, Indiana will have a familiar face back on the road with him this season turning the wrenches, as Willie Kahne returns as crew chief. The pair won seven times and finished third in points in 2006, their first year together, which also happened to be Saldana's first season at Kasey Kahne Racing. For the past couple of years, the longtime sprint car mechanic served as the overall Team Manager for Kasey Kahne Racing back at the team's headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina.

The 2009 season begins on Friday, February 6 with the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park, a track that Saldana has won at in the past.

"I'm very anxious to get the season going," said Saldana. "Willie (Kahne), who is Kasey's cousin, will be my crew chief again this year. I am excited to just get back racing. I'm ready to go. I have been working out all winter. I was in New Zealand for three weeks racing and had some success there, so hopefully we can keep that going here in the states."

Click Here to listen to Joey Saldana and a number of other World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series drivers as they gear up for 2009.

Saldana competed in New Zealand during the off-season for the third consecutive year. He won once at Springs Speedway to earn his third career victory in New Zealand and was the overall title winner in the International Sprint Car Series events held during December. He finished third or better in all of his starts on Kiwi soil.

"You are behind the wheel or a sprint car and racing, but the tracks there are totally different than the tracks we race on here," he explained of racing in the off-season in New Zealand. "I enjoy racing and when I get the opportunity to race in New Zealand or Australia, I try to always take advantage of that."

Saldana will have a teammate this year in veteran Craig Dollansky, who has joined Kasey Kahne Racing to pilot the No. 19 machine. They have been teammates in the past while racing in New Zealand for the Salter Motorsport team.

"Craig is a very good driver and he has been doing this for a while," shared Saldana. "It's nice to have someone that is working with our team and with the same equipment and who you can appreciate what they have done in the past. We have been together for the past three seasons in New Zealand and I think that will help us with a head start on where we'll be here this year racing."

Saldana and his team will utilize a Maxim chassis this season which is a change from the last few years. They will again have Mopar power under the hood this year as they embark on the always grueling World of Outlaws schedule which stretches from February until early November and will consist of 80-plus races from coast-to-coast.

"I haven't driven a Maxim in four years, but they build a great race car and know what they are doing," he noted. "They are definitely winning with Steve Kinser, Daryn Pittman and Jac Haudenschild. They definitely know how to win at the World of Outlaws level and have been doing that for a long time. Kasey Kahne Racing had to make a change and we felt like this was something all the teams needed to do. Craig has driven them for a long time and had success, so hopefully that translates over to the No. 9 car as well and I don't think the transition will be that big."

Last season Saldana was one of just five drivers that led more than 200 laps of feature racing competition with the World of Outlaws. His biggest win of the season came at Skagit Speedway in Washington, the home state of his car owner, where he pocketed $25,000 for his second career victory at the high-banked bullring. With another solid field of cars following the series full-time in 2009, Saldana looks for the competition to be ratcheted another notch up again this year.

"It's tough no matter what," said the second generation driver. "I've been out there have been nine cars full-time and I have been out there when there was 21 cars full-time and it has been tough each season. I think the road itself is tough, traveling all over the place and being away from your family. The team has to sacrifice a lot and put in a lot of hard work. The competition will always be tough. Donny Schatz is the man to beat right now and Jason Meyers was tough last year, as was Steve Kinser, Jac Haudenschild, Craig Dollansky and numerous guys."

Saldana finished fourth in the championship standings last season, after a runner-up finish in 2007. He won five times last year and racked up 45 Top-10 finishes, with 31 of those being in the Top-Five. He was running at the front and leading several races, including the Kings Royal when he had bad luck fall his way with tires going flat or mechanical problems out of his control. .

"I foresee another great year with the World of Outlaws," he said. "Hopefully we can be in the hunt for the championship and that is our goal. That was our goal last year and has been it for the last three years and we have come up a little short. The biggest thing for us is to finish races. If we don't finish races, we can't finish up in the points. I think we addressed that problem in the off-season and we look to run up front this season."

The 2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series seasons kicks off February 6-8 at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida with the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH. . For more information on the event, including tickets, http://www.dirtcarnationals.com.

-credit: woo

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Donny Schatz , Steve Kinser , Craig Dollansky , Daryn Pittman , Jason Meyers , Joey Saldana , Jac Haudenschild