Steve Kinser wraps up stellar 2005 season with champion's hardware Norman, OK -- Oct. 27, 2005 -- The 2005 World of Outlaws Sprint Series season was one of the most competitive in the series' 28-year history. With 18 full-time teams trekking ...
Steve Kinser wraps up stellar 2005 season with champion's hardware
Norman, OK -- Oct. 27, 2005 -- The 2005 World of Outlaws Sprint Series season was one of the most competitive in the series' 28-year history. With 18 full-time teams trekking across the country week after week, night after night, the racing was extraordinary.
Now that the checkered flag has waved, the awards passed around and the parties are over, teams finally have a chance to catch their collective breath by having the first week without a World of Outlaws race since late March.
With as impressive a season as Steve Kinser posted in 2005, he might not have wanted it to end with his champion's check and trophy presented Monday at the World of Outlaws banquet at the Palms Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. In winning his 20th championship, Kinser earned 20 main-event wins and six preliminary victories, not to mention being inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. His biggest victory as a driver came in the Kings Royal, but ask Steve and he'll say the highlight of his season came at Knoxville when his son, Kraig, captured the Nationals for the first time in his career.
Kinser wrapped up the title at Manzanita Speedway in mid-October, the same night he picked up his 20th victory and the 533rd win of his career. By the time the season finale ended Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kinser had built a 543-point lead in the championship standings, thanks in part to 48 top-fives and 61 top-10s. In all, he totaled $499,300 in winnings, but the most impressive statistic of Kinser's season is that only once in 91 races did he have to transfer through the B-main to reach the main event.
"That's what we started the year for," said Kinser, a native of Bloomington, Ind. "My guys have worked hard all year. Everybody out here works hard. This is probably one of the roughest circuits you could possibly run. There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes with these racecars. It's good to win a championship not for your sponsors or yourself, but for the guys who work on these teams. That's what it's all about, giving them at the end of the year. They worked hard for it and they deserve it."
There are very few dirt tracks where Kinser has not raced and won, yet even though he knows the characteristics of so many different facilities he still watches a track throughout the night as if he was racing there for the first time. He paces and he wanders, all the time thinking about what he's going to do when the green flag waves, what he will do when he hits traffic, and how he will hold off the hard chargers behind him.
To have that opportunity to watch and learn and pace all night is because of the effort his crew, led by Scott Gerkin, puts into the No. 11 Quaker State Maxim every night. Still, their preparation on race night begins as soon as the previous season ends.
"A championship starts long before the season begins," Kinser said. "It makes it pretty hard on everybody, especially the last few years when we went to Australia [in January] and haven't had a lot of time off there. I've been sort of fortunate enough that I've been able to leave Scott and Randy [Kinser] at home and get good enough guys down the line that can help me in Australia for the time I'm over there. I can't really let those guys go with me because we're doing our motors in-house and stuff. There's a lot of extra work we have to do to get engines ready."
Year after championship-winning year, Gerkin has proven himself to be one of the best in the business. While he might have doubted a few years ago that Kinser would achieve his 20th title, he never doubted one second during 2005 that his driver would end up on top.
"It's really big for me," Gerkin said. "People around the shop kind of talked about winning 20, they were talking about it two or three years ago maybe winning 20 championships. I kind of thought maybe that was kind of out of reach because he was getting up there in age, but this year he probably raced as hard as I've ever seen him race. There were nights when we've had to come from the rear and he had to salvage the night for us. The guys, Ian and Jamie, have done a fabulous job this year in keeping the car to where we didn't have any mechanical problems. We finished pretty much every race other than a couple of races where we crashed. It's just been a really great year. You couldn't ask for anything more."
But despite all his success as a driver, Kinser's most memorable night of the year came as a car owner. While he finished seventh in the Knoxville Nationals, Kraig led all 30 laps to capture the prestigious event in the second Steve Kinser Racing Maxim. Father and son wound up in each other's arms on the front stretch at Knoxville Raceway, taking in the moment because with Kraig working on a burgeoning career in stock cars, it's possible that's a moment that won't be duplicated in the near future.
"I would have to say Kraig winning the Nationals was the highlight of my year," Kinser said. "He's run good all year. He still goes through some periods where his consistency lacks just a little bit, but the gap just keeps getting smaller and smaller. It's sort of a shame that he's probably going to go another direction because he's got himself in a situation where he's probably capable of winning a championship in the next couple of years, and once he gets there he'd be capable of winning quite a few I think. But we don't want him jumping back and forth, either. I hope when he does do some pavement racing that he has some time to stay there and run quite a bit because no matter what type of racing you do, you need to get laps and experience at what you're doing. It's not going to benefit anybody to jump back and forth from dirt cars to pavement cars. Once you get established, you can come back and play a little bit, but when you're learning a new career you have to be there all the time."
No doubt Kraig had one of the best teachers in the history of the sport to show him the way, and now that instructor has a 20th title as proof.