World of Outlaws Wrap-up: Texas Two-Step Weekend Tight at the top: Joey Saldana used his two wins over the weekend to move into the third spot in the World of Outlaws championship standings with 11 nights of the 80-plus race season in the books.
World of Outlaws Wrap-up: Texas Two-Step Weekend
Tight at the top: Joey Saldana used his two wins over the weekend to move into the third spot in the World of Outlaws championship standings with 11 nights of the 80-plus race season in the books. The native of Brownsburg, Indiana is just four markers behind Steve Kinser who is second, as they both chase Donny Schatz, who has a 24 point advantage over Kinser. Jason Meyers is fourth in points, with Saldana's Kasey Kahne Racing teammate Craig Dollansky climbing to fifth after picking up a couple of Top-10 finishes over the weekend.
Focused on the team: Saldana now leads the series with five A-Feature wins in the first 11 races of the season, which matches his win total for the entire 2008 campaign. He and his Kasey Kahne Racing team led by veteran crew chief Willie Kahne are focused on winning races and continuing to fine tune their program. Saldana along with his teammate Craig Dollansky, are the only drivers that use Mopar engines on the World of Outlaws circuit.
"Out here you just have to go and race your own race car," shared Saldana. "You can't worry about anybody else. If Donny Schatz is winning 20 races, who cares. I have to worry about the Budweiser No. 9 car and that is what I'm doing. I really don't care what anyone else is doing. We are focused on this team and right now it's really paying off."
Back in the great state of Texas: Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws champion, visited Texas for the first time in the World of Outlaws inaugural 1978 season and has been competing with the series in the state ever since. The last few seasons, the series has only raced a handful of times, but changed that trend this past weekend with the pair of events. Kinser finished third at Lone Star Speedway on Friday night and was fifth at Houston Raceway Park. He has won multiple times at both facilities over the years. He leads the series with 10 Top-10 finishes this season in 11 starts, with six of those being Top-Five performances.
"It's good to be back in Texas," said Kinser on Friday at Lone Star Speedway. "It's good to see that they had a good crowd tonight. It was a pretty good race and I look forward to coming back."
Running up front: Donny Schatz, the three-time and defending World of Outlaws champion finished second on both nights of the Texas Two-Step weekend, and extended his lead in the series championship standings to 24 markers over 20-time series champion Steve Kinser. The pair was separated by just 11 markers heading into the two races. Schatz began the weekend by setting fast time for the fourth time this season which earned him five bonus points in the standings.
"We were a Top-Three car and that is what you have to be, fighting for the win," said Schatz after a runner-up finish on Friday night at Lone Star Speedway. "Joey (Saldana) is pretty tough to beat on stuff like that, but we have another race tomorrow. I think in the long run we are definitely better than we have been showing."
A strong first showing: The weekend opened with the World of Outlaws return to the all-new Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, Texas for the first time since 2004. A huge crowd packed the grandstands in what was the first major event at the facility with Sam Hafertepe Sr. and his wife Lisa at the helm. The couple along with their son Sam Hafertepe Jr. and entire staff put in countless hours during the off-season and early spring to prepare the facility and racing surface for the event.
"It went real well," said Hafertepe Jr. "We hadn't seen the Outlaws in Texas for so long, especially that area, so it was great to have a big crowd like that. There were a few things that didn't go as planned, but we'll just make it better for next time. Hopefully we'll be able to schedule one before the end of this year. There are some open dates later this year, so maybe we'll be able to do it again."
A familiar face in a new place: Brian Ellenberger, a contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award this season, recently welcomed veteran crew chief Sonny Kratzer to his team. Kratzer is the reigning World of Outlaws Crew Chief of the Year and worked with Kerry Madsen for the last couple of seasons. The team utilized Goodyear tires this weekend, which is a trademark for Sonny Kratzer led teams.
Another familiar face in a new place: Sam Hafertepe Jr, who is in his third full season on the road with the World of Outlaws, recently welcomed a new crew chief as well, with veteran Chris Straight joining the team. Straight had worked for the Parsons Motorsports team for the past several seasons, serving as crew chief last year for Tim Shaffer and then Paul McMahan. He began this season as a crew member for the team. For a large portion of his young career, Hafertepe has served as his own crew chief handling setting the car up himself.
"Friday night was out first night together, so he was kind of feeling me out and I was feeling him out," explained Hafertepe. "I think we'll mesh together pretty well. It's nice to have someone turning wrenches for me and let me get more focused on just driving. He's been to all of these places several times and that makes it easier on me, if the car is halfway decent when we show up to these places."
Fast right off the bat: Danny Lasoski, the 2001 World of Outlaws champion picked up two Top-Five finishes over the weekend, coming home fifth at Lone Star Speedway and third at Houston Raceway Park. He did it in a brand new race car build by his team, led by crew chief Barry Jackson, the owner of JEI Chassis. With the solid weekend, Lasoski climbed up to the eighth spot in the World of Outlaws championship standings on the strength of six Top-Five finishes as he chases his first win of the season.
"This was the first weekend for this new JEI XP1 Chassis," said Lasoski. "We are very proud of it. Paul Kistler has been working very hard on our motor program. Driving for Lonnie Parsons and Casey's General Stores is such an honor. If we keep plugging away, we'll win one of these pretty quick. I'm very proud of the guys. Everyone has been working very hard."
A long way from home: Toni Lutar competed with the World of Outlaws both nights this past weekend in Texas and has been in attendance at each of the last eight series events at six different tracks in four states. The veteran driver calls White Rock, British Columbia in Canada home, which is 2,477 miles from Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas, where the series competed on Saturday night. It was his third career trip to the state of Texas, and he competed in the World of Outlaws last event at Lone Star Speedway in 2004, as well as at Houston Raceway Park that same season.
Work 'N Woody fires up the internet: Eric Malies, who took over the reigns of owning and operating Work 'N Woody, the Official Push Truck and Safety Vehicle of the World of Outlaws this season, recently debuted a web site that can be accessed via www.worknwoody.com/. The site contains bios of both Malies and Work 'N Woody, as well as a new online store where fans can purchase t-shirts, die-casts and decals. Fans can also get in touch with Malies through the web site and he will begin to blog on the site later in the season.
Up next: The World of Outlaws return to the Midwest for a pair of events at bullrings this coming weekend, beginning on Friday, April 17 at Paducah International Raceway in Kentucky followed by a stop at I-55 Raceway in Missouri on Saturday, April 18.