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Tony Stewart Racing Merced, Calistoga preview

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Merced, Calistoga

STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ
Tony Stewart Racing Concludes Outlaws’ California Spring Break

INDIANAPOLIS (March 30, 2011) – For the first time in eight seasons, the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series stars have spent an early portion of their season competing in the Golden State. This weekend, the traveling Outlaws are set to conclude their five-race tour of California with an inaugural race at Merced (Calif.) Speedway on Friday and a return to the picturesque Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway on Saturday. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz are each looking to race their way to victory and finish the California tour with some momentum.

Kinser entered the California tour on a roll after posting one of the most successful starts in the 33-year history of the Outlaws. The 20-time WoO champion won four of the first seven WoO A-Features behind the wheel of TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevy Maxim and was looking to match his 2004 start that included seven wins in the first 10 races. The California tour began on March 12 with the Mini Gold Cup event at Silver Dollar Speedway, and things didn’t go as planned for Kinser as he finished outside the top-10 for the first time in 2011. The following weekend, he qualified outside the top-12 at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway in Hanford and Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, making his chances to add to his victory total much more difficult.

The good news for Kinser: Friday’s event at Merced will mark the first time the traveling Outlaws will compete at the quarter-mile dirt oval in central California. On 58 previous occasions, Kinser has been the Outlaws’ first winner at a facility. He scored number 58 last July by claiming the Outlaws’ first A-Feature at Autodrome Drummond in Drummondville, Quebec. Kinser has 50 WoO A-Feature wins in California, including five at Calistoga Speedway. His first WoO A-Feature triumph at Calistoga came in August 1987, and he reeled off four Harvest Classic wins in five years from 1991 to 1995. His most recent victory was a preliminary feature win to open the 2005 Harvest Classic.

While Kinser is looking to regain momentum this weekend, his TSR teammate Donny Schatz is focused on continuing to build on his recent string of podium finishes. The driver of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J has four consecutive top-three finishes and seems to be gaining ground on his first win of the year. Schatz was the Outlaws’ first winner at New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway in 2001 and Clay County Fairgrounds Speedway in Spencer, Iowa, in 2007. The four-time WoO champion is looking to add Merced Speedway to that list on Friday night. Schatz is a four-time winner at Calistoga, including his 2005 Harvest Classic victory. That win came after a spirited duel with Kinser.

Mother Nature played havoc with the Outlaws during their most recent weekend of action in California. The March 18 event at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway was halted just before the green flag was waved for the 35-lap A-Feature. WoO officials are seeking a future date to complete the program. The following night, at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, the program moved along quickly as the threat of rain was present throughout the night. Schatz timed in fourth in the field of 26 cars and raced inside the top-five all 35 laps of the A-Feature and finished third. Kinser’s night began with him turning the 18th-fastest lap in qualifying, but “The King of the Outlaws” was able to race his way from 17th to sixth, which earned him the KSE Hard Charger Award.

Kinser is currently tied for the lead in the 2011 WoO championship standings through nine of 71 WoO race nights. He has accumulated 1,280 points by virtue of his four wins, five top-five finishes and eight top-10s. Schatz has earned four consecutive podium finishes and ranks fourth with 1,217 points, 63 behind Kinser.

Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/Chevy/J.D. Byrider Maxim:

The World of Outlaws schedule early in the year has several breaks between races. Does that make it more difficult to build momentum?

“We race for a living, so we’d like to be racing every weekend. The weather early in the year doesn’t always make that possible. I think once we get to mid-April, things get pretty regular until October. You just have to work your way through February and March. We started in Florida and raced five straight nights. When you are running well, that’s great, but if things aren’t going well, it isn’t. We started great down in Florida and then kept it going in Mississippi, Texas and Las Vegas. There was a little time off before we started this California swing, and then the weather has made it tough, too. It does become pretty hard to get a rhythm going when you race one night and then have 10 days before your next race. We’ll finish up this weekend, head home and get ready for things to stay pretty busy for the rest of the season.”

Throughout your career, you have been extremely successful winning the first time you race with the Outlaws at a particular track. What’s your secret to being the first guy to win at new tracks for the series?

“I don’t know that we have any secret. I’d say it’s more a result of having a great team around me. The Bass Pro Shops guys (crew chief Scott Gerkin and crewmen Gary DuBois and Mikey Kuemper) are the best in the business. We’ve raced at a lot of places through the years. They give me a good car to start the night with and almost always keep getting it better as the night goes on. I enjoy going to new places. Being the guy who comes out on top first just makes it that much better.”

Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J:

This weekend’s action includes races at a facility you’ve never competed at (Merced) and one that you haven’t been to in a few years (Calistoga). Will your approach be different than if you were heading to a couple of places where you race numerous times in a season, like Eldora, Knoxville or Williams Grove?

“The approach is always the same in that you have to figure out how to be fast enough to put yourself in a position to win at the end of the night. Everyone has a book of notes for places we’ve raced in the past. Things have obviously changed some since 2007, when we last raced at Calistoga, but we remember what the place is like. It’s big, fast and you have to pay close attention to the surface. We’ve always raced there in early September and, with it being early April, that may change some things. The bottom line for both nights is that we’ll look at the track before the program starts and try to find a good starting point for hot laps. Once you make a few laps, you usually have a pretty good idea of the direction you need to go.”

You are currently in the midst of a streak that includes four consecutive podium finishes. Two of those came at the half-mile track in Las Vegas and the other two came on smaller California tracks. Does the fact that you’ll be racing on both types this weekend enhance your chances of continuing the streak?

“We’re still just trying to get better every time we hit the track. The only streaks we worry about are winning streaks. Right now, we’re in a bit of a drought. You start with one win, and that’s our focus. The beauty of racing with the Outlaws is that you race at so many different places that you have to figure out how to be good at all of them. I started my career racing on smaller tracks and then learned how to succeed at the bigger places. We’ve had a lot of success over the years on the half-miles. Our package for the smaller places continues to get better. Qualifying is the priority at both races this weekend. On Friday night, we’ll be racing on a bullring and anything can happen. We had a good night at Silver Dollar Speedway a few weeks ago, and our goal is to improve our results from second to first. The two nights we raced in Las Vegas helped us with our big-track strategy. We set quick time the first night and were running near the front the entire A-Feature. The second night, we were able to charge through the field from 12th. I’m excited for both races. We’d like to end this run out here in California with a couple more good nights.”

-source: tsr

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Tags calistoga, merced, stewart racing, tsr, world of outlaws