HANFORD, CA (February 11) -- Although the economy has slowed, making it tough for some teams to turn in the corner in their quest to acquire sponsorship, many Pennzoil World of Outlaws competitors are preparing for 2002 as the off-season heads...
HANFORD, CA (February 11) -- Although the economy has slowed, making it tough for some teams to turn in the corner in their quest to acquire sponsorship, many Pennzoil World of Outlaws competitors are preparing for 2002 as the off-season heads down the home stretch.
The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series opens its 25th season at Kings Speedway February 22nd.
Defending series champion Danny Lasoski, fresh from his International Race of Champions invitation, is getting ready for an even busier season. Drivers with aspirations of replacing him on the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series throne include 2001 runner-up Mark Kinser, 16-time series champion Steve Kinser, Craig Dollansky, Donny Schatz, Joey Saldana, Tim Shaffer, Stevie Smith, Brad Furr, Danny Wood, Jason Meyers, Randy Hannagan, Jac Haudenschild and P.J. Chesson. Former full-timers Andy Hillenburg, Paul McMahan and Johnny Herrera are also threats to win any time they compete with the world’s premier sprint car racing series.
"Last year was an unbelievable season for us," Lasoski said during the off-season. "With Tony Stewart putting forth the effort to put a team out there and bringing in J.D. Byrider, Hamm America, American Compressed Steel and Massey Motorsports and putting them together, it was just a dream season for me.
"To win the Knoxville Nationals and the World of Outlaws championship in one year is unbelievable. We pinch ourselves every day. It was a total team effort, from Jimmy Carr putting together a great crew, having Kistler Engines, Hoosier Tires and Eagle Chassis and all those guys putting forth a 100-percent effort. It made my job a lot easier.
"I’m very proud to represent not only the World of Outlaws, but all of dirt track racing in the IROC series."
Saldana, Shaffer, Smith, Wood, Meyers, Haudenschild and Herrera have joined new teams since the 2001 season finale. Saldana returns to his #17 HEM Saw Eagle, while Meyers goes back to his family’s #14 sprinter. Shaffer moved to the Beef Packers team, opening the seat in the #11H Vivarin Maxim for Smith. Wood jumped behind the wheel of the Casey’s General Stores car after Herrera decided to race for NASCAR crew chief Billy Wilburn. "The Wild Child" is back with Guy Forbrook, with whom he enjoyed tremendous success several years ago.
Mark Kinser, who finished only 30 points behind "The Dude" in the closest points battle in Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series history, is eager to start racing for his third championship.
"I feel like a prizefighter who went through the 12th round and they make a decision," Mark said. "We got everything but the trophy. We’re going to go after them again this year. We want to win every night; I think that showed last year. Maybe we’ll have a little bit more game plan for the home stretch."
Despite rumors swirling around him about parking his #11 Quaker State Maxim, "King of the Outlaws" Steve Kinser has no thoughts about retirement.
"I don’t want to quit," Kinser said. "I’m enjoying racing as much as I ever have. It gets a little tough sometimes. The schedule really doesn’t bother me. I enjoy traveling now probably as much as I ever did. There for a few years, I got a little burned out on it, but not any more.
"We went to a new Maxim chassis in the last five races and things started working really well. That’s something to look forward to (running the new Maxim chassis for all of 2002). We changed some things with our motor program that helped, too. We’ll just keep working on it and see what we can do."
Dollansky, who ranked in the top five throughout the 2001 season after claiming the inaugural World of Outlaws Gumout Series title the year before, is pleased to have a new crew preparing the #7 Polydome Maxim.
"I hired D.J. Lindsey, the crew chief for Dale Blaney the last two years," Dollansky said. "I worked with him back in’ 96 and we worked pretty well together. He’s very experienced and very knowledgeable. I look forward to working with him again. My brother, Troy Dollansky, who worked with us last year, will be coming back with us as well. I look forward to having him back."
Schatz, fresh from another outstanding run in Austrailia, is eager to become the sixth driver to win a Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship.
"Our ultimate goal is to win the championship," Schatz said. "I thought we had a chance at a top-three finish in the points. You have to overcome all the bad nights. The good nights take care of themselves, but the bad nights is when you need to pick things up. Danny and are definitely the best at that. Hopefully, you’ll see us up there a little more this year, pushing a little harder. That’s a goal of mine -- to be more consistent."
Consistency is the goal of every team as the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series embarks on its 66-event schedule that includes 106 dates at 44 tracks in 26 states.