'King of the Outlaws' Wins ...
'King of the Outlaws' Wins #500 at Houston Raceway Park
BAYTOWN, TX (March 27) -- The wait is over. Steve Kinser, the undisputed king of sprint car racing, has won his 500th World of Outlaws Sprint Series "A" Feature.
The defending and 18-time series champion drove his #11 Quaker State Maxim past pole-sitter Brooke Tatnell late in the 10th lap of the Fifth Annual Texas Shootout at Houston Raceway Park Saturday, and held off a furious last-lap charge by Donny Schatz to claim the milestone victory by half a car-length.
"I'm just glad to get this one over with so we don't have to hear about it any more," Kinser said in victory lane. "Donny Schatz is one of those guys who gets better the longer the race goes on. I got to running the bottom of three and four pretty good through the middle of the race, but when I saw him beside me there, I really didn't know what to do. I didn't know if the top was any good, so I tried to stay low and block him, but I ended up missing the bottom. We were all pretty bottled up in traffic though.
"I have to thank Scott Gerkin. He's the best crew chief out there right now, and he and all the guys on my team do so much to give me a great racecar night-in and night-out. Scott builds all my motors, and for a bunch of country boys from Indiana, I guess we don't do too badly. I want to thank my wife Dana and my kids Stevie, Kraig and Kurt. I wish Kurt could have been here tonight, but he's busy wrestling and boxing and living his own life.
"I'm just grateful to have a family that loves sprint car racing as much as I do. I always wanted to drive a racecar, but I figured I'd have to get a job and be lucky enough to race at home on the weekends. The World of Outlaws started just about the time that I did, and it seemed like back then I was one of the youngest guys in the pits. Now here I am one of the oldest, but winning races still means everything to me. I want to thank Quaker State for all they've done for me since I started my own race team (in 1995). They've been a big help in me being able to keep racing and winning. Maxim Chassis, Hoosier Tires, Jones Engineering, Sanders -- they all give me the best equipment you can have. Most of all, I want to thank the fans. You've been great the whole time, and it's been a pleasure being able to race for all of you."
The victory, Kinser's fifth in seven main events at Houston Raceway Park, pushed him 50 points ahead of Schatz in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series point standings.
"The King of the Outlaws," the fourth-fastest qualifier in the 30-car field, earned the privilege of starting the 30-lap "A" Feature on the front row by winning the Second Dash Race.
Tatnell, the only Australian driver to ever win a World of Outlaws Sprint Series main event, drove the #66 Trop Artic Maxim into the lead as the green flag fell in the "A" Feature. Shane Stewart, a first-time winner at Thunder Valley Speedway Friday, hit the outside retaining wall early in the opening lap and lost 12 positions. Stewart stopped the severely damaged #4M Ol' Glory Maxim on the back straightaway the next time around and retired to the pit area.
Tatnell raced away from Kinser as the race resumed, and opened a 10 car-length advantage by the seventh lap. "The King of the Outlaws" gained on Tatnell in lapped traffic, and passed him for the lead with an inside move in the fourth corner three laps later.
Jason Meyers, who won the February 28th Snap-on Tools Shootout at Perris Auto Speedway after Kinser lost the lead with a flat tire, started inside the sixth row. The 2000 World of Outlaws Gumout Series Rookie of the Year drove the #14 Elite Landscaping Maxim past five cars during the first 14 laps, and took fifth place from Kraig Kinser midway through the race.
Schatz steered his #15 Parker Store J&J around Brian Paulus and Tatnell during laps 16 and 18, while "The King of the Outlaws" opened a straightaway advantage. Meyers raced past Paulus in the low groove between turns three and four to take over fourth place late in the 22nd lap.
Schatz closed to within 10 car-lengths of Kinser within three laps, and narrowed the gap to five car-lengths by lap 26. The 1997 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year caught Kinser in dense lapped traffic with 1½ laps remaining. Schatz raced wheel-to-wheel with "The King of the Outlaws" through the first three corners during the final lap, but Kinser beat him under the checkered flag for the $10,000 victory.
Tatnell finished in third place, ahead of Meyers, Paulus, Craig Dollansky, Danny Lasoski, Paul McMahan, Daryn Pittman and Steve Kinser's son, Kraig. Tim Shaffer drove the #83 Beef Packers Eagle past eight cars to finish 15th.
Joey Saldana paced the qualifying session with a 104.949-M.P.H. lap around Baytown's semi-banked, 4/10-mile oval.
Kinser and Lasoski will represent the World of Outlaws in Friday's International Race of Champions event at Texas Motor Speedway, then compete in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series' NGK Spark Plugs Shootout Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.