Saldana Recalls First World of Outlaws Win at I-96 Speedway in 1995 Joey Saldana has won a lot of races in his career, but one that will always stick out in his mind came on July 24, 1995 at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan. On that...
Saldana Recalls First World of Outlaws Win at I-96 Speedway in 1995
Joey Saldana has won a lot of races in his career, but one that will always stick out in his mind came on July 24, 1995 at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan. On that night, he held off Steve Kinser and Stevie Smith to earn his first career World of Outlaws win. He led all 30 laps of the A-Feature, after winning the Crane Cams Dash to earn the pole position.
At the time, Saldana was competing predominately with the All Star Circuit of Champion in the Midwest and ran just a handful of World of Outlaws races that season. He will have a chance to return to I-96 Speedway on Friday, July 27 as the series makes their lone visit of the season to the Great Lakes State.
"That was a pretty cool win," said Saldana, driver of the Open Joist Mopar-powered JEI. "I was driving for Art Wendt and was still trying to make a name for myself in sprint car racing. I never expected that year to win a World of Outlaws event. We had a great year in 1995 and won something like 22 races, with 18 of those wins coming with the All Stars. To get my first Outlaws win was huge. That led to me driving for Gary Stanton with the Outlaws the following season. That was pretty neat and I look forward to going back there."
Saldana would go on to win the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award in 1996, driving for Stanton. In Saldana's last visit to I-96 Speedway in 2005, he finished third. He has always enjoyed racing in Michigan and compares what he did in 1995 to what Brian Leppo did last Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway during the Cleveland Brothers Summer Nationals, when he beat the World of Outlaws.
"That year I was really good in Michigan," he recalled. "In fact, I never lost a race in the state. I had run I-96 two or three times with the All Stars and when the Outlaws came in, I had a good set-up and had something they didn't. It was kind of like us going to Williams Grove (Speedway) now when the local guys have a little edge on you because they race there so much."
Since his win in 1995, Saldana has gone on to win 30 more World of Outlaws A-Feature events, including nine this season. He is just outside the Top-10 on the all times wins list. The second generation driver is quick to point out how tough the competition has been the last few years with the series and how meaningful it is to win a race with the series. He still is able to apply much of the knowledge that he learned in his first couple of seasons with the series when he takes to the track each night.
"The biggest change for us over the years has been the tires," explained the native of Brownsburg, Indiana. "The tires have changed so much, but other than that the cars are really the same. There are more people making parts for the race cars now and a few things on the car look different. All in all, the cars are 98 percent the same as they were back then. The racing and level of competition has gone up a lot since then though."
While the series did not compete at I-96 Speedway last season, Saldana believes he will be able to use his past notes and knowledge of the track to quickly get up to speed. With four of the last five World of Outlaws events having been contested on half-mile tracks, his team has a good baseline to refer to.
"It's a place that I like racing at," he noted. "It's a big flat half-mile, kind of like Rolling Wheels (Raceway Park in New York) where we ran good earlier this year. Hopefully we can go to I-96 and have another good finish."
Saldana and his Kasey Kahne Racing added a couple of new crew members last month and he believes they are all gelling very well. Also, long time crew member Justin Adams assumed the role of Team Director and makes most of the calls on race nights. They head to I-96 Speedway second in points, with 41 Top-10 finishes on the season and lead the series with seven fast time honors.
"Things were kind of crazy earlier this year," noted Saldana. "When you start the year off with a crew chief and the crew chief is no longer here you have to start moving people around and making things happen. That makes it tough on everyone. We're doing a good job. This team is working very hard. We are running consistent and if we can just stay close maybe we will have a shot at it."
After competing six straight nights last week and three times in four nights this week, Saldana is looking forward to getting a few days away from the track to return home after this weekend's events. He is quick to point out just how demanding the second East Coast swing of the season was to not only him but all of his team.
"It will be good to get a few days off," he said. "After running all of those nights in a row on the East Coast, with the competition with the Pennsylvania guys, it is tough on everyone mentally. It shows how tough the series is as well and how high the competition is. The mental part of it is just as tough as the physical part of it. Sometimes you just need to sit back and relax and reflect on what has been going on."
On Friday, July 27 at I-96 Speedway reserved tickets for adults will be $30 in advance and $32 the day of the race, with reserved tickets for those 12-under $15. General admission tickets for adults will be $28 in advance and $30 the day of the race. General admission tickets for children 6-12 will be $12, with kids 5-under free. For ticket information call 815-344-2023 or visit www.slspromotions.com.