Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz hope to be leading the pack of Outlaws during this weekend’s California doubleheader.
INDIANAPOLIS – California is a long way from Pamplona, Spain. And man-handling a 900-plus-horsepower Winged Sprint car around a quarter-mile, dirt oval might not be as nerve-wracking as being chased by raging bulls, but it’s probably close. This week’s adventure on the World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series campaign is a pair of races on California bullrings where the drivers will be challenged at every turn.
Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz hope to be leading the pack of Outlaws during this weekend’s California doubleheader starting Friday at Merced Speedway and in the Mini Gold Cup Saturday at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico. Both former champions have proven they can lead the pack and charge through the field early in the 2014 campaign.
The 20-time WoO champion leads all drivers with 57 career A-Feature wins in California and 22 of those have come at Silver Dollar Speedway. He’ll be looking to make Merced the 143rd track where he’s scored an A-Feature triumph when the Outlaws make their fourth appearance at the quarter-mile, dirt oval. Only Kinser’s longtime rival Sammy Swindell has been able to conquer the bullring, winning the previous three A-Features.
For Schatz, he’s hoping the calendar year being an even one will be good fortune as he returns to Silver Dollar Speedway. In the last four years, the driver of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J has had both excellent results and some nights he’d rather forget. In 2010, he won the A-Feature during night two of the annual Gold Cup, but he failed to finish the same event in 2011. In 2012, he won the Mini Gold Cup in March and followed that with an opening-night triumph in the Gold Cup and second in the finale. Last season, the five-time WoO champion failed to finish twice in three Chico starts. The Fargo, N.D., racer is still seeking a night at Merced where he’s battling for the victory. He’s finished fifth, 15th and ninth in his three previous starts.
The first nine WoO A-Features of 2014 have been extremely competitive with seven different drivers claiming victories. Both TSR drivers scored wins in Florida and Schatz picked up his second March 6 in Las Vegas. He nearly had victory number three last Saturday at Stockton but came up a car length short at the finish line. Schatz started eighth and charged to the front, leading laps during the middle stages of the 30-lap race. He retook the lead again on lap 28, but was narrowly beaten to the finish line by Kerry Madsen.
Heading into this weekend’s races, Schatz remains second in the 2014 WoO STP championship standings, trailing Paul McMahan by six markers. Schatz leads the series with seven top-five finishes. Kinser is 30 points out of first and ranks fifth overall.
Friday at Merced, the grandstands open at 5 p.m. PDT. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at Silver Dollar Speedway, where the grandstands open at 5 p.m. and hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim:
This weekend marks the halfway point of the California Tour. Have things gone as you had hoped they would? “We haven’t been too bad. We’re qualifying inside the top-10 and that is normally a good thing, but it can be bad. The first three races, you haven’t seen a whole lot of passing in the heats, and if you aren’t on that front row, your chances aren’t quite as good. We moved up last week at Stockton almost to the point where I thought we had a shot at winning the thing, but we kind of dropped back there at the end. We’ve been consistent but not quite as good as we were both in Florida and Las Vegas. Another weekend on these little tracks may help us get just a little bit better.”
Saturday’s Mini Gold Cup is the first of two visits to Silver Dollar Speedway. How much different is it racing at the track in March versus September? “The biggest thing is the weather and how it affects the racing surface. When we get there in March, the weather has generally been pretty nice and not that demanding on the track. That kind of allows it to come in as the night goes on. When we get back there in September, the track has been under intense sun and heat all summer and it really makes it tough to keep it from really drying out and taking rubber. It’s kind of always been that way. You still attack the track the same way. It’s a little track where things happen really fast and you have to put yourself in the right place at the right time. We’ve had our share of good runs there but it’s been a while. I’d like to have a shot at getting another win there this weekend.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J:
In two of the three races during the California Tour, you’ve been in contention for the victory. Despite finishing second twice, have you been encouraged by your team’s performance so far? “I’d say we’re disappointed we weren’t able to win those two races. The STP guys did a great job being prepared for this California run. These smaller tracks can be tricky and difficult to maneuver around, but they’ve given me a very competitive car. We just had some problems with lapped traffic the first night at Tulare and the second night, honestly, we just qualified so well that it hurt us. Last Saturday, I was really excited to be able to drive right to the front. I felt really good until the yellow and then it took some time to get back to the lead. We just came up a little short there at the end, but we’ll keep digging. We’ve got five more races in California and we’re hoping to be up there battling for wins in all five.”
With stops at Merced and Silver Dollar Speedway this weekend, what sort of challenges do you expect? “We’re expecting the same things we have to deal with every night. You have to be able to move around the track. Track position is really important at both of those tracks. We’ve been to Merced three times and really haven’t been what I would call spectacular. The good news is we’ve got a really good baseline with our car, so we should be closer to where we need to be. As far as Chico goes, we’ve been better there in the last few years and came out with some good finishes and, at the same time, had some bad luck. That’s all part of racing. Our expectations for the weekend are still the same. Go out and try to set quick time and then take the rest of the night as it comes. We’ve made a point of trying to make sure we’re having fun every step of the way, and I know we’re all looking forward to getting to Merced.”
Tony Stewart Racing