World of Outlaws Sprint Series Geared Up For Pennsylvania Colorado Springs, CO -- May 18, 2005 -- A World of Outlaws Sprint Series racer not in Victory Lane at the end of the night? It's rare when that happens, but it certainly does happen. Even...
World of Outlaws Sprint Series Geared Up For Pennsylvania
Colorado Springs, CO -- May 18, 2005 -- A World of Outlaws Sprint Series racer not in Victory Lane at the end of the night? It's rare when that happens, but it certainly does happen. Even the best collection of sprint car racers in the world can be beaten.
More often than not, when a local or regional racer steps up to knock off one of the touring superstars, that driver hails from Pennsylvania. With big-budget teams, experienced drivers, challenging tracks and a multitude of events in short order, Pennsylvania will present the touring teams of the World of Outlaws Sprint Series with their first sustained test of 2005.
Beginning with the Preliminary Feature of the Commonwealth Clash on Friday night at Lernerville Speedway, the Outlaws will race six times in nine nights before taking one day off to begin a trek across New York. After Lernerville, the series crosses the Keystone State for Thunder in the Hills May 24 at Grandview Speedway, then makes a two-night stop May 26-27 at Williams Grove Speedway and follows that with a dip May 28 into Maryland for a one-night show at Hagerstown Speedway.
While the Outlaws have been racing everywhere from Australia to Florida to California and back East again, the Pennsylvania Posse has been fine-tuning its machines and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the series, much like a hungry pack of wolves. At Lernerville Speedway, Ed Lynch Jr. has been using the weekly shows more as test sessions for the Commonwealth Clash than anything else, but he still has two wins in four races. At Williams Grove, Fred Rahmer already has four wins and a runner-up finish. Last May at Williams Grove, Rahmer won a Preliminary Feature and Don Kreitz Jr. captured the A-main to become the first non-World of Outlaws Sprint Series regulars to combine for a double-feature sweep.
"The Pennsylvania Posse are the toughest local contingent we will face all season," said Danny Lasoski, the 2001 series champion and a former winner at Williams Grove. "There are a handful of cars out there just as fast as the rest of us with some great drivers behind the wheel. A lot of those guys race three to four times a week just like we do but on the same tracks over and over. Track experience is a huge advantage for any team, and our record at Knoxville Raceway proves that theory. You run enough laps at a place you know exactly what to expect and how to make the car react to the track conditions. When you put talented drivers with tons of track experience in some great equipment, you'll see those guys give us a run for the money. There are already 18 wicked-fast cars running every show with the World of Outlaws, you throw in 15 more fast cars and it will be a dogfight every night to get in the show. There will be some great teams watching the features from the pits and it is our job to make sure the Bass Pro Shops car is not one of them."
Brian Paulus, a native of Mechanicsburg, Pa., who left the region to tour with the Outlaws, grew up watching driver after driver establish himself in the region.
"The reputation in Pennsylvania has been so strong since the beginning of racing that through the generations, every couple of years a new guy comes out and is racing against guys who had to learn against some of the best," said Paulus, a Mean 15 racer who owns the track record at Williams Grove. "So then they got to become the best and then younger guys had to race against them. It's just the competition level has been so strong. When I was a kid, I was watching guys that were outlaws before Outlaws were Outlaws. Then the Outlaws became an organization and some of the guys like Bobby Allen and Rick Ferkel went out and traveled, but some of the other guys who were racing with them maybe financially couldn't travel so they stayed in Pennsylvania. They were as good as those guys but through circumstances never got to go. So as years went on, the ones who were kids began racing those really good guys. It's just years of repetition against good competition."
Paul McMahan, a Mean 15 racer who thrilled the Lake Ozark Speedway crowd earlier this month with a late-lap battle for second against Steve Kinser, believes Pennsylvania has always been a premier racing locale, enticing drivers to move there from across the country.
"Pennsylvania is a place when you look back in history, that's where everybody came from," McMahan said. "People like Jan Opperman came from California to run in Pennsylvania. Gary Patterson, they all wanted come to Pennsylvania because if it wasn't the Outlaws, that was the next best competition to race against. It's not like it just happened, it's been that way for many, many years. Al Hamilton ran with the Outlaws for many years and he's got great equipment. Jeff Shepard in the Apple Chevrolet car that has won tons of races with Greg Hodnett in it before. Fred Rahmer, Keith Kaufman, the list goes on."
And of all the tracks on which the World of Outlaws race, none leaves the drivers scratching their heads more than half-mile Williams Grove. With its long straightaways and hairpin turns, some of the Outlaws admit the Posse might have an advantage there more than at any other track in the country.
"The biggest part of Williams Grove is that it's a little different racetrack than probably any other racetrack in the United States," said Steve Kinser, a 19-time Outlaws champion who has been to Victory Lane at the Grove 36 times. "It is a track that if you run there every week it does help you to get a good setup. It is a hard racetrack, especially for people who haven't run it very much. -- When you get to Williams Grove, you better have things going good for you. I've gone there while I was running good and had trouble. You got to watch it."
Donny Schatz, a Mean 15 racer who has three victories this season, found the best solution to racing at Williams Grove was to avoid the hype. Eight victories later, he might be onto something.
"I went to Williams Grove for years and people told me it was a tough place with tight little corners, big long straightaways and you had to drive it so differently," said Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. "I told myself that for a couple of years and then finally, I blocked everything out and just told myself that it really wasn't that different and just another racetrack. -- It's not as difficult as everyone makes it sound, the big key is to create your own driving style there. You have to drive a little different there. It's all about finding the best way around. I've been very fortunate there the past few years, but believe me there have been times where I've been as bad there as I've been good. I'm really proud to say that we've won a couple of National Opens and quite a few other Outlaw races there, and the Grove has been very good to me."
In all, this short-yet-hectic stretch will allow teams to really see how they stack up in fierce night-after-night competition. By the time the calendar flips to June, some teams will be wondering what happened while others could be riding a wave they hope will carry them back to Pennsylvania during the big money events later in the summer.
"This will be the first swing of this kind for the 2005 season," said Jason Meyers, a Mean 15 racer from Clovis, Calif., who picked up his first victory of the season in the series' last race, May 7 at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. "It will definitely separate the men from the boys. Every element, from late nights to tough competition, will test a team's strength and abilities."
But for most of the teams, this stretch marks the return of what they love to do most -- race. After two consecutive rainouts and a season of competing only on weekends so far, the teams are eager to pick up the pace.
"It's good that we're getting to race more than just one or two nights a week," said Jason Sides, a Mean 15 racer from Bartlett, Tenn., who scored a top-five in the series' last outing. "The more laps we get to run, the better off all of us are."
After all, it's only natural.
"This is what the Outlaws are about, being able to go night after night and do your best," said Brandon Wimmer, a Mean 15 racer from Fairmount, Ind., who is finishing his final exams this week to graduate from high school before heading out on tour for the rest of the season. "That's been part of the Outlaws ever since it started. It's part of the history of the World of Outlaws."