Four champions reflect on Florida: Look ahead to 2009 Concord, NC-- February 16, 2009--For the first time since 1997, four former and current World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champions are starting the year on the tour, making the field one...
Four champions reflect on Florida: Look ahead to 2009
Concord, NC-- February 16, 2009--For the first time since 1997, four former and current World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champions are starting the year on the tour, making the field one of the strongest in the 31-year history of the series.
Donny Schatz, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Danny Lasoski, have combined to win 27 series championships dating back to 1978 and have won a combined 989 A-Feature events with the series, with Kinser the all-time winningest driver, Swindell second, Schatz fifth and Lasoski sixth.
Schatz, the three-time and defending series champion, began the 2009 campaign in impressive fashion during the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, winning two of the three events for the World of Outlaws, as well as two of the three races for the All Star Circuit of Champions.
Schatz won on opening night with the World of Outlaws on February 6, as he took the lead from Jason Sides on the 11th lap of the 30-lap contest in heavy traffic and led the remainder of the distance. After an eighth-place run the following night, the North Dakota native wrapped up the six days of racing at Volusia with another win, charging from the fourth starting spot to take the lead on the opening lap and never looking back.
The most impressive performance of the week for Schatz came in the season opener for the All Stars on February 3, where he was relegated to the rear of the field after getting caught up in a first lap accident. He then proceeded to pass every car in the field to pick up the win over the next 25 laps. He would follow that up with a victory the next night as well with the All Stars.
By virtue of his four wins during the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, Schatz is one of 14 drivers eligible to be the Alltel DIRTcar All Star. Each driver that won a feature event during the 12 nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park is eligible with fans voting online at www.alltelallstar.com through February 28 or by texting their vote to 247253 with the corresponding letter for their driver of choice which can be also be found at www.alltelallstar.com.
"The weather got warmer every night and that was a bonus," said Schatz. "There were a few nights where it was just cold. Six nights in a row is a lot to race anytime, especially in Florida. Speedweeks was starting and the NASCAR racing was starting and we wanted to put on the best show we could for these people. We had a lot of people at the races, including the boss (Tony Stewart) on the final night and we just wanted to put on the best performance that we could. We just seem to be doing things right and hopefully we can keep that momentum up."
Schatz left Florida atop the World of Outlaws championship standings as he chases his fourth consecutive title. The series heads to Las Vegas in a couple weeks, a track that Schatz has won at five times in his career, including in the series most recent event at the half-mile in 2006. He has 25 career Top-10 finishes at Las Vegas and has won in each of the last three seasons (2004-2006) that he has competed at the track.
"We'll go into the next race having won the last one, but we forget about things like that," he noted. "We leave here and forget about it and know that we have to work hard to get to the next one and we have to work harder when we get there to win the next one. They never get easier and my guys are good at that. They'll go home and tune things up. We have three great race cars in the trailer and they all have won races. We'll build on that and hopefully we can do that the whole year."
Steve Kinser, the 20-time series champion, finished ninth or better in all six nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park, with three of those being fifth-place performances. He finished the week with a stellar run from the back on Sunday night to finish fifth, after electing to start shotgun on the field due to an engine problem. He passed cars nearly every lap in a 24-lap green flag run after an early caution, at which time he had pondered pulling off the track.
"We had something wrong," explained Kinser. "We don't know if it was a fuel problem or what, but it wouldn't even run at all. I elected to go to the tail because I was afraid I would cause a wreck. I was just going to hang in there and run a few laps and pull in and that first yellow came out and it acted like it started running a little bit better. I kept hanging around and it came in a little bit, but it never came in right. It was so sick it could barely spin the tires. I just went ahead and kept running and the car itself was pretty good and we came back up through there somehow. It just goes to show you don't need a whole lot of horsepower sometimes."
After the first three World of Outlaws events of the season, Kinser is just 21 points behind Schatz as he chases his record 21st series championship. The next stop for the series is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the native of Bloomington, Indiana has six career wins and 31 Top-10 finishes. Of the first 15 tracks on the World of Outlaws schedule in 2009, Kinser has won at 14 of them.
"I'm pretty happy with how things went," said Kinser of the week at Volusia. "We had a fast race car almost every night. It is important to start good in Florida. "It's an important place to race and every race is important nowadays."
Sammy Swindell, the three-time World of Outlaws champion, had a strong start to the 2009 season at Volusia Speedway Park, finishing fifth in the season opener last Friday night and he followed that up with a ninth-place performance on Saturday. The native of Germantown, Tennessee was quickest in time trials on Saturday as well with a stout field of cars in attendance. He also picked up a Top-Five finish, coming home third on the first night with the All Star Circuit of Champions at the half-mile, where he was competing for the first time since 2005.
"We've been learning a lot and getting caught up on things," said Swindell. "To come out and finish third the first night was good. We tried some things after that and learned a few more things. It's just getting the thing smooth and getting all the parts working together. It's not too bad for coming down here with a whole new scenario and run in the Top-Five and Top-10 most of these nights. I think we are capable of being in the Top-10 each night."
Swindell is currently 10th in the World of Outlaws championship standings, just 16 markers out of the Top-Five as the series returns to The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday, February 26, where he has four career wins and nearly 30 Top-10 finishes, with 23 of those being Top-Five performances. He and his Tom Rolfe Racing team are gearing up for the West Coast swing and will reassess their plans after the first dozen or so races of the season.
"We're planning on running all of the races through the end of April," said Swindell. "That's the commitment that Tom and I made with what we had. With the problems that we had with the (shop) theft, we have had a lot of people step up with products and things that got us down to Florida. It's going to be a struggle for us to run a lot of races because we don't have the equipment right now. In a couple of months some things could happen, so we'll just see what happens. The only guarantee we have right now is that we'll run through April and we'll see what happens."
Danny Lasoski, the 2001 World of Outlaws champion, opened 2009 with a new team, as he tackles the circuit this year behind the wheel of the familiar No. 6 machine for longtime owner Lonnie Parsons. The native of Dover, Missouri began the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH driving his own No. 33, netting a fourth-place finish on the opening night for the All Star Circuit of Champions and was 10th the following night.
"We actually did better the first few days in my own car, and we then found a few things in the Casey's General Store car that will make us better for the whole year," said Lasoski. There was a couple of little things wrong and I think the last couple days we stumbled on to something."
Lasoski heads to Las Vegas, where he has won six times in his career, 57 points out of the Top-10 in the championship standings. He looks to build momentum during the upcoming Western swing for the series, which features a number of tracks that he has had a great deal of success at over the years, including another blazing fast half-mile at Manzanita Speedway in Arizona.
"We dug ourselves a whole running the way we did the first two nights," he shared. "We just have to win some races early to get back in this point deal."
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series returns to action on Thursday, February 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which will mark the series first visit to the half-mile since the 2006 season finale.