KING SPORTS HIRES 'KING OF THE OUTLAWS' By Richard Day CHICO, CA (September 18) - Long live "The King" ... may he rule stock car racing as he has the World of Outlaws' sprint car series.
KING SPORTS HIRES 'KING OF THE OUTLAWS' By Richard Day CHICO, CA (September 18) - Long live "The King" ... may he rule stock car racing as he has the World of Outlaws' sprint car series. These sentiments have been repeated around sprint car racing circles ever since the news of Kinser's decision to move from dirt to pavement hit Thursday. His new boss, Kenny Bernstein, owner of the #26 Quaker State Ford Thunderbird, has high hopes that "The King of the Outlaws" excels on NASCAR's Winston Cup tour as well. "I'm delighted to have Steve Kinser join the Quaker State/King Racing team," Bernstein said. "Steve has incredible talent and is one of those rare drivers who can excel in just about any form of racing." Kinser, the World of Outlaws' champion 13 times in the series' first 16 years, is one of a handful of racers who passed their Indianapolis 500 rookie tests in one day. As the first sprint car driver invited to the International Race of Champions, Kinser won at Talladega Superspeedway - only his third race in IROC competition. "This is a dream I've had for a long time," Kinser said. "I've been anxious to go Winston Cup racing on a full-time basis. The Quaker State team is a very solid, professional operation, and I think this is the opportunity I've been waiting for. I have a lot of learning to do, and the Quaker State/King Racing team will give me the chance to develop. "There are a lot of things I need to do before next season even starts. Hopefully, I can get some laps in later this year." Kinser becomes the fifth full-time driver for the Quaker State/King Racing team since its creation in 1985. He succeeds Brett Bodine, who will leave the team at the conclusion of the 1994 Winston Cup season after a five-year tenure. "We're going to get film of every Winston Cup race this year, and study those with him," Bernstein said. "We're going to do everything we can for him so when he goes to a race track he has as much knowledge as can possibly have. He won't just be going in there running the race car." Kinser's three-year contract with the Quaker State/King Racing team insures his total concentration on NASCAR Winston Cup racing. "I'm going to finish this season, then all of my time is going to be devoted to Winston Cup racing," Kinser said. "There won't be any jumping back and forth (between stock car and sprint car racing). I've committed myself to running the #26 car and that's all." "This should be positive for all parties involved," World of Outlaws President Ted Johnson said. "It won't be easy jumping from sprint car racing to Winston Cup, but considering how well he did in the IROC series, Steve should represent the Quaker State team well. His move to NASCAR is positive for the World of Outlaws and sprint car racing, too. "I think it's way overdue. Sprint car racing is where the racers used to come from and go into NASCAR and Indy Car racing. Steve's been a great champion, and we wish him well." Karl Kinser, Steve's car owner and crew chief for 17 years, is looking forward to performing those same duties for his son, Mark, next season. "My first reaction to the news was that he should have been down there a long time ago," Karl said. "He's going with a good team, so it should work out good for him. I think he'll do great down there. "I look at it like the old saying, 'sweet sorrow.' We've run together for a long time and we won a lot of races. I told him, 'You won't be able to work the hell out of me next year, I'll watch you on TV.'" Sammy Swindell, who spent the first half of the 1993 season racing on NASCAR's Busch Grand National tour, knows how Kinser feels about the move. "It's going to be a different experience for him, that's for sure. I wish him a lot of luck." Like his older brother, Jeff Swindell has tried his hand at stock car racing as well. His reaction was quite a bit different from those of his fellow World of Outlaws racers. "A lot of guys are saying, 'That's great, it'll be a lot easier to win the championship next year.' That's not what I'm here for ... I wanted him to stay here so I could beat him one year before he left. I'm really happy for him, and I wish him a lot of luck. Hopefully, he'll drag a few of us down there with him in the next couple of years so it will feel like home." Dave Blaney, who has battled Kinser for the World of Outlaws championship the last two years, said, "I think it's great. He deserves it, and I hope he does well." "It's the greatest thing that ever happened," Kenny Jacobs said. "I couldn't be happier for him. He's deserved it for years. I think he'll do well, maybe not at first but eventually, because he's a great racer. I'm happy for him ... in my heart and in my back pocket." Stevie Smith, runner-up in the 1992 Copenhagen-Skoal Shootout point standings, said, "I wish him all the luck in the world. He's a great sprint car driver, and I think he'll do well. He deserves what he's getting. He always wins a big sum of money, so it's going to leave a lot for the other drivers. We sure wanted to beat him before he left." "I'm happy for Steve, but I don't want him to leave because he keeps me motivated," Andy Hillenburg said. "Beating him is what motivates me ... he's the best." Greg Hodnett, the World of Outlaws' 1993 Rookie of the Year, also had an intriguing reaction to the news. "He's deserving, and he'll do our sport proud. He's the best ever. "I'm going to miss him though. I learned a lot from him by talking to him and watching him. He's a smart racer, I'd like to be like him someday. "One good thing about it ... all that money he's been winning is going to be spread around to the rest of us." So "The King of the Outlaws" ends his incomparable sprint car racing career with 10 Knoxville Nationals championships - five more than anyone else in history - and nine Gold Cup Race of Champions titles among his 380- plus "A" Feature victories. In pursuit of his 14th World of Outlaws championship, he is 314 points ahead of Blaney with eight events remaining on the 1994 Copenhagen-Skoal Shootout schedule ... and in his sprint car racing career. Long live "The King." WoO*eot