Tony Stewart Racing teammates each score WoO win at Volusia Speedway Park.
If the opening weekend of the 2014 World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series is any indication of what’s in store for the rest of the season, it’s going to be a phenomenal year. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz each picked up a victory during the 43rd annual DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., which featured three extremely entertaining nights of action.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the season,” said the 20-time WoO series champion. “The guys on this Bad Boy Buggies team (crew chief Scott Gerkin, car chief Gary DuBois and crewman Mark Angerett Jr.) worked really hard this winter to get us ready to come down here. There’s nothing better than winning races. I felt like I had a good car all weekend and, tonight, it just kept getting better and better. The track was really fast and the only real hiccup we had was figuring out what to do on that final restart. You hate to lose one on a restart. I didn’t think anyone could pass me when I had a clear track. We got the win and that’s what counts.”
Schatz made a statement of his own Saturday night racing the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J from his 11th starting position to victory in the 30-lap A-Feature. The five-time WoO champion posted the drive of the weekend coming from midpack and taking the lead with seven laps remaining to score his sixth career WoO A-Feature main event at the half-mile, dirt oval and 148th of his career.
“I can’t thank my crew (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman) enough on this STP team,” Schatz said following Saturday’s victory. “We had some issues the first couple of nights trying to find the right balance. Nobody gave up and we just kept working together. I can tell you that was a lot of fun, being to drive through the field. The car was awesome. I could go just about anywhere on the track. That was the key. I always believe getting that first win as quickly as you can really helps. We put one on the board. Now, we just have to keep working and get number two as fast as we can.”
The TSR teammates competed Thursday at Volusia in a UNOH All-Star Circuit of Champions event to open their seasons. Schatz raced from 10th to fourth while Kinser was unable to finish after breaking a bolt in his steering unit. In Friday’s WoO opener, Kinser qualified eighth and raced to victory in heat four. He started the 30-lap A-Feature fourth, but his right-rear tire began losing air midway through the race and he dropped back to finish 11th. Schatz qualified 21st and earned his spot in the A-Feature by winning the B-Feature. He moved forward throughout the race and finished 12th.
Saturday, Schatz was one of the final cars in the qualifying order and posted a solid lap to rank fifth overall. He finished fifth in the opening heat and started the A-Feature 11th. The Fargo, N.D., racer was on the move early, advancing from 11th to sixth during the first 11 laps of the race. He methodically gained positions as the race reached the middle stages and closed on leaders Daryn Pittman and Cody Darrah with 10 laps remaining. He took the lead on lap 23 and pulled away to take the win.
Kinser turned a strong lap in qualifying Saturday, as well, and ended up seventh overall in the field of 37 cars before transferring into the A-Feature by finishing fourth in heat three. He lined up right behind Schatz to start the main event and made up several positions late in the race to finish seventh.
Sunday’s finale began with both TSR cars qualifying inside the top-14. Schatz timed in ninth and Kinser 14th before each went out and won their respective heat races. They finished third and fourth in the dash, respectively, and started the 30-lap finale next to one another in row two. The teammates would battle during the opening lap before Kinser surged ahead and passed Paul McMahan for second. Kinser took the lead from Pittman on lap five and led until a caution slowed the action on lap 22. Pittman took the lead back on the ensuing restart and led lap 23, but “The King of the Outlaws” regained the top spot with a classic slide job the next lap. He led the final six laps and brought the standing-room-only crowd to its feet when he took the checkered flag.
Schatz remained in the mix throughout the race by tracking both Kinser and Pittman. He closed on Pittman several times but couldn’t make a pass for the runner-up spot. He finished third to give him consecutive podium finishes to close out the event.
The TSR teams will return to Indiana this week and begin preparation for the six-week western tour that begins in Las Vegas with the FVP Outlaw Showdown March 5 and 6.
Tony Stewart Racing