High hopes abound as 2001 WoO season approaches

By Richard Day HANFORD, CA (February 15) -- As Steve Kinser delivered his 16th Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship acceptance speech last November, one could almost hear the other drivers at the series' awards banquet say to ...

By Richard Day HANFORD, CA (February 15) -- As Steve Kinser delivered his 16th Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship acceptance speech last November, one could almost hear the other drivers at the series' awards banquet say to themselves, "I'm going to be up there next year." Well, "next year" is here and everybody is full of hope again. Johnny Herrera won the season opener in Craig Cormack's new #20 Eagle at Kings Speedway last February, only to have Danny Lasoski race to victory in four of the next five races. It was seven events before Kinser visited victory lane, but single-digit finishes in 27 of the first 28 "A" Features gave him the points lead he never relinquished.

When Kings Speedway hosts the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series' season opener for the fourth straight year February 23rd, the slate will be clean and every driver will have a chance to dethrone "The King of the Outlaws." The series' February 24th race at Perris Auto Speedway will be its only visit to the semi-banked, 1/2-mile oval in 2001.

Kinser, a seven-time winner at Kings Speedway, has never won in Lake Perris. "The King" was ultra-consistent last season, recording 51 top-10 finishes -- 41 in the top five -- in 61 main events. He drove his #11 Quaker State Maxim to victory in 10 "A" Features and five Preliminary Features.

Sammy Swindell, Kinser's nemesis since the Ted Johnson founded the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series in 1978, will race a limited schedule this season. Although he won't battle for the championship, he will be one of the drivers to beat every time his #1 CHANNELLOCK Stealth is on the race track.

Mark Kinser, Steve's cousin, has won two Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championships in the last five years. He has led the series in "A" Feature victories the last two years and fast-times the last six. He has never driven the #5M Mopar Maxim to victory at Kings Speedway, but won the first five main events the series ran at Perris Auto Speedway.

Lasoski's championship aspirations depend on how quickly his new, Tony Stewart-owned team meshes. Jimmy Carr will maintain the #20 J.D. Byrider Eagle as "The Dude" races for his first Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series title. Forty-seven top-10 finishes, including 32 in the top five and 10 "A" Feature victories, put Danny fourth in the point standings a year ago.

Stevie Smith, who finished fifth in the 2000 point standings, would dearly love to give Ingersoll-Rand its first Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship. He has come close several times, finishing in the top 10 all 11 years he has raced with the series. Smith drove his #19 Black Bandit into the top 10 44 times, including 27 in the top five and five victories last season.

Joey Saldana surprised everybody, including himself, with a sixth- place finish in the point standings last year. He was the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series' hottest driver in early September, winning "A" Features at Central State Fair Speedway, Kings Speedway and Watsonville Speedway. Saldana drove his father's #17 HEM Saw Eagle into the top 10 35 times, including 17 in the top five.

Dale Blaney was pleased to have brother and 1995 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champion Dave Blaney as his car owner again. He also reunited with crew chief D.J. Lindsey. Dale won the first Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series "A" Feature of his career at Farmer City Raceway in mid-June and claimed the $50,000 first prize in the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway a month later.

Andy Hillenburg hopes to start 2001 racing like he raced in mid- season last year. After suffering through mechanical woes early in the year, Hillenburg moved into eighth place in the point standings by driving his #2 Luxaire J&J to Preliminary and "A" Feature victories at Heartland Park Topeka and the Bud Carson Memorial at State Fair Speedway in June.

Herrera would like to duplicate last year's season-opening victory at Hanford's semi-banked, 1/3-mile oval. He followed the flag-to-flag triumph with Preliminary Feature victories at I-80 Speedway, Knoxville Raceway and Eldora Speedway. Although the team was mired in inconsistency, Herrera maintained a top-10 ranking in the standings by finishing among the top 10 in 33 main events.

After racing with Jack Elden for nine years, Jac Haudenschild joined Dennis Roth's #83 Beef Packers team during the off-season. He won the Silver State Shootout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in typical "Wild Child" style last March, passing Smith during the final lap for the $20,000 victory. Haudenschild also won a main event at I-55 Raceway and successive Preliminary Features at Calistoga Speedway.

Tim Shaffer ignored bad luck and a painful, off-track injury on his way to a 12th-place finish in the 2000 standings. He won another main event at Eldora Speedway and the opening-night Preliminary Feature at the Gold Cup Race of Champions. The 1999 Rookie of the Year also won the Preliminary Feature in the O'Reilly Texas Showdown at Texas Motor Speedway.

Donny Schatz, the 2000 Vivarin Perseverance Award winner, hired Kenny Woodruff to maintain the #15 Parker Stores J&J before the Amoco Knoxville Nationals and recorded top-10 finishes in eight of the next nine events. Schatz won the Williams Grove National Open and the Preliminary Feature in the TALK.com Outlaws Championship at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

With 10 top-10 finishes -- two in the top five -- and Preliminary Feature victories during the Gold Cup and the Winter Nationals -- first-year driver/owner Daryn Pittman drove his #3 J&J into 13th place in the 2000 point standings. He worked hard to acquire additional sponsorship during the off-season and will run his own team again in 2001.

Danny Wood, the oldest Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner in history, will start his second season with the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series with two new crewpeople. Rob and Kathy Hart will maintain the #21W Pepsi Avenger as Wood races to improve his 14th-place ranking of a year ago.

Brian Paulus worked as hard as anybody in auto racing during the off-season. He moved his racing operation to Dallas and changed the paint scheme on the #28 Verdelli Farms Maxim to include "salad" all year long. Paulus will still mix some USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet events into a steady diet of Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series races.

Randy Hannagan, the 1995 Rookie of the Year, returns to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series with added sponsorship from K&C Drywall. Despite racing only a little more than half the races last season, Hannagan drove his family's #1x Eagle to nine top-10 finishes, including two in the top five, to rank 19th in the point standings.

Paul McMahan, the runner-up in the inaugural World of Outlaws Gumout Series points race, returns to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series in Warren Johnson's #U2 United Expressline Eagle. He finished among the top 10 in 10 main events and in the top five three times to finish 20th in the 2000 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series standings.

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Tony Stewart , Warren Johnson , Andy Hillenburg , Tim Shaffer , Mark Kinser , Danny Lasoski , Donny Schatz , Steve Kinser , Sammy Swindell , Brian Paulus , Daryn Pittman , Joey Saldana , Paul McMahan , Randy Hannagan , Dave Blaney , Jac Haudenschild , Johnny Herrera
Teams Williams