2007 World of Outlaws Season Review: Kerry Madsen
Kerry Madsen experienced every kind of emotion this year in his first full season on the road with the World of Outlaws. He had the exultation of winning his first World of Outlaws event in just the second event of the season, but that quickly turned to mourning as his car owner Dave Helm passed away mere days later. He also experienced the heartbreak of leading all but the final ¼-lap at Black Hills Speedway, en route to a runner-up finish.
Through it all, the native of St. Mary's. NSW, Australia persevered, and in the process claimed the 2007 World of Outlaws Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year. He won two A-Feature wins on the season, to go along with 23 Top-10 finishes, and finished 13th in overall championship points, with veteran and well respected crew chief Sonny Kratzer turning the wrenches.
"It was an ok year," said Madsen. "I think we were capable of a lot more. We had a few problems and some stuff we were not doing real well. Overall, it could have been better and could have been worse. We just took what we got."
For Madsen, the 2005 Knoxville Raceway track champion, who has always been used to racing against top of the line competitors, he had the chance each and every night to compete against the best sprint car drivers in the world.
"I enjoyed every minute of it and the competition," noted Madsen. "From that side, it probably was my toughest year. You'd have to ask the guys that have been out here for 10 years about if it was the toughest season ever. I loved every minute of it."
After winning on the second night of the season during the Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Madsen firmly entrenched himself atop the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year standings. Consistency throughout the season helped him claim the rookie title by a convincing margin, capping the year off with his second win with the series in his first-ever visit to Perris Auto Speedway in California.
"To be honest we never really set our goal to be the rookie of the year, but it's a cool deal to have," he said. "It was one of those deals where if you ran well it would take care of itself. Now that we won it, it's pretty cool."
Madsen will always remember his win at Volusia because it was his first with the series, but more importantly because it was the final World of Outlaws win for his car owner Dave Helm, who was one of the most respected owners in all of sprint car racing.
"That was unreal," said Madsen. "It was a surreal weekend. Being able to win a race early before Dave's passing probably was the highlight of the year."
Late in the season, Madsen and the Selma Shell Racing team for whom he drove took part in the inaugural Dave Helm Memorial at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California, which is just 30 miles from the team's shop, where Helm called home. Madsen took part in a ceremony on the front straightaway that honored the Helm family, as did a number of other drivers and crew members that had been associated with the team over the years, and he also turned some laps on the high-banked 1/3-mile in tribute to one of sprint car racing's biggest ambassadors.
"I was looking for a better run than fifth and we had a better car than that, but I kind of made a mistake and lost a bunch of spots," said the always focused driver. "It was still good to run well there in front of Dave's family and his friends. That is where the team is based, so that was a good run."
Despite having some very strong runs cut short by flat tires and other problems, Madsen gained priceless experience, visiting well over 50 tracks that he had never been to during 2007. Along the way, he set fast time three times including setting a new track record at the famed Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix and at the storied Orange County Fair Speedway in New York. He won the Crane Cams Dash twice to earn pole positions in A-Feature events, as well as picking up the KSE Race Products Hard Charger Award on five occasions.
"When you run a hundred races a year, you know that you will have some bad luck," he explained. "We just had a bit too much."
Madsen geared up for the 2007 World of Outlaws season by contesting a very ambitious schedule in his native land last winter, winning five times, including a victory in the Grand Annual Classic. When the final numbers were tallied, the always determined driver competed nearly 100 times over the course of the last 12 months.
"No doubt about it, it helped," he said of his off-season racing. "We raced the weekend before in Australia, then Florida. It is a help, but most of these guys are so good that it's not a big deal, but I think it helps."
Just days after being awarded the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award, Madsen returned to Australia to compete in the opening two rounds of the World Series Sprintcar season. He won at Perth Motorplex on November 14 after winning a duel with two-time defending World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz. He plans to return down under after the holiday season.
Madsen also recently joined forces with VerMeer Motorsports Inc. and will make another full run with the World of Outlaws in 2008. He was part of the team from 2004-2006 and won a Knoxville Raceway track championship with them. The team is based out of Pella, Iowa, just a short drive from Knoxville.