LOOKING BACK: The World of Outlaws Sprint Series from Down Under to the Big E Rossburg, OH -- June 6, 2005 -- From Donny Schatz's January victory in Australia to Sammy Swindell's win Saturday night at Eldora Speedway, the World of Outlaws Sprint...
LOOKING BACK: The World of Outlaws Sprint Series from Down Under to the Big E
Rossburg, OH -- June 6, 2005 -- From Donny Schatz's January victory in Australia to Sammy Swindell's win Saturday night at Eldora Speedway, the World of Outlaws Sprint Series has thrilled packed grandstands around the globe in 2005.
Including eight Preliminary Features, the Outlaws have raced 33 nights this season. Swindell's victory wrapped up the series' first run through the East that featured 10 races on 16 nights in four different states.
There have been 10 different drivers to win an A-feature event, led by 19-time series champion Steve Kinser's 10 victories. In addition, there have been eight Preliminary Features with six different winners, including three drivers who have yet to win an A-feature. That means 13 different drivers have visited Victory Lane this season in 33 races. And that means competition is at an all-time high.
Kinser's strong run on the recent East Coast swing, where he won features at Lernerville, Grandview, Williams Grove and Lebanon Valley, has him in the points lead in his quest for a 20th championship. Heading into the next section of the season, Kinser leads Craig Dollansky by 233 points and Jason Meyers by 274 points. Kraig Kinser and Danny Lasoski round out the top five.
One thing became quite clear during the first part of the season. Never before has it been so important to post a quick lap in time trials and have a smooth setup for the heat races. Failing to make it through a heat leads to a long night, and a distant chance at victory. Making it into either of the Dashes for a shot at the front row is critical to a team's overall success because every A-feature winner this season has started somewhere in the top four rows.
The most common position on the grid for an A-feature winner this season has been the outside of Row 1, where seven drivers have raced to victory. There have been six winners from the pole and six winners from the inside of Row 2, while two drivers won from the outside of Row 2 and two drivers won from the inside of Row 3. There also was a winner from the inside of Row 4 and a winner from the outside of Row 4.
With the level of competition so close, here's an alphabetical breakdown of how each of the 19 full-time touring drivers has performed as the series continues its busy month of June on Thursday night at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., followed by races at June 11 at Sheboygan County Fair Park, June 14 at Kokomo Speedway, June 17-18 at Eagle Raceway, June 22 at Missouri State Fair Speedway, Knoxville Raceway and Huset's Speedway:
* Craig Dollansky, second in points, is running strong once again, posting six top-10s in the eight races through Pennsylvania and New York, including a victory in the Preliminary Feature May 26 at Williams Grove. He has an A-feature win, two Preliminary victories, 12 top-fives and 19 top-10s this season.
"We won three races so far and there were probably a few other ones that we were close to being able to win," said Dollansky, of Elk River, Minn. "Things started off pretty well but we got into a slump the last month. We were struggling with some things with the car and we got that back in order now and we were able to go to Williams Grove, and win and that's the toughest place in the country to go win a race. It's a good feeling to go into a place like that and be able to win. It's showing that the things we found that we're doing different now with our racecar have improved so I'm real happy with that and encouraged about going forward."
* Tim Kaeding, 10th in points and leading the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year battle, has been one of the most exciting racers on the circuit, posting four top-fives and 10 top-10s, often by racing the cushion to the front. He finished second in April at Eldora after charging from deep in the field and repeated that performance Saturday with a third-place run at the Big E after starting 15th.
"Hopefully from here on out we'll be to pick up our game a little bit more," said Kaeding, a native of San Jose, Calif. "The biggest thing right now is a lack of experience right now on my behalf. I'm just trying to keep up and keep learning every night, just watch what everybody else is doing.
"As long as we don't tear stuff up and have bad nights, we'll be all right. We just got to start finishing. That's the biggest thing [car owner] Dennis [Roth] wants us to do right now, be a little more consistent every night. Hopefully we'll go back to Eldora and get another decent finish out of it and just keep going from there. I think if we get a couple of good finishes under our belt, I think it will pick all of our confidence back up."
* Kraig Kinser, fourth in points, has continued to improve on his 2004 rookie-of-the-year season. Kinser, who won back-to-back features in early April, has nine top-fives and 15 top-10s, including a third-place run in the April feature at Eldora.
"We were running real strong at the beginning of the year," said Kinser, of Bloomington, Ind. "If I could change anything for the next two-thirds of the racing it would probably be the consistency. We got the good runs, but I think we just need to work on staying in the top-10 every night. You've got Dollansky and Meyers and now Schatz and Danny are starting to get in the hunt, too, so it's going to take consistency to see who wins that battle from about second to sixth. Hopefully we can get up front and stay consistent and maybe catch a few points on the old man by the end of the year."
* Steve Kinser, first in points, had a strong run through Pennsylvania, counting wins at Lernerville, Grandview, Williams Grove and Lebanon Valley among his 10 A-feature victories. He has 18 top-fives and 25 top-10s. On top of that, he was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Saturday in Knoxville, Iowa.
"You always hope you're going to run good," said Kinser, of Bloomington, Ind. "You always think you're going to run that good, but usually you don't get out and run that good all the time with the competition there is right now, so we're real happy with the way our season has gone so far.
"You don't look back on this racing a whole lot. We're just fortunate that things have been going pretty good for us. Our race team is still in pretty good shape. In another month, we'll know basically where we're at and what's going on. We look like we should to be able to continue running good all year."
* Danny Lasoski, fifth in points, has shaken off early season engine woes with a Preliminary Feature victory at Knoxville Raceway and a strong showing on the Pennsylvania swing. He has two Preliminary Feature wins, six top-fives and 15 top-10s.
"Right now, we as a team, which means Paul Kistler with Mopar, Jimmy Carr, myself, Eagle chassis, everybody on this Bass Pro Shops team is working real hard to find exactly what we're missing," said Lasoski, of Dover, Mo., who is coming off a fourth-place run at Eldora. "Mopar brought out a new block and we're trying to get the horsepower and the reliability the same. We went through a lot of engines so far this year and everyone is working their tails off to make this happen. Well, all of a sudden we go to places like Knoxville and Williams Grove, and I like the big, fast racetracks and any place we go right now where I don't put a pull on these motors it seems we're able to keep up.
"What sticks in my head is the bad luck we've had. Building on that bad luck, I guess I'll take hand-in-hand, when you have a team with as much confidence as our team has, we go through the worst times and they still have confidence we're going to figure this thing out. That's the sign of a great crew. Jimmy Carr, Todd Splain and Mike Kuemper, they don't give up. If I get down, or my confidence level is down, they're the first ones to pump me back up. There's no amount of money that can replace that. It's priceless."
* Terry McCarl, 14th in points, posted a season-best second-place run at Hagerstown a few days after a top-five run at Grandview. A six-time Knoxville Raceway champion, McCarl has three top-fives and eight top-10s in A-features this season. He also posted top-four runs in the preliminary and main features in April at Knoxville.
"Going home and running top-four both nights was a highlight," said McCarl, of Altoona, Iowa. "Although on one hand we were expecting to do a little better there, it's still good to do well. Grandview was good, too, because we had a great car all night. I'm very optimistic. It's our first year and I've got a real young crew and we've never been on the road together. Our goal was to run top-10 in points this year and I think we still have a real good shot at it.
"The highlight of my year really has been how well we've been time trialing and qualifying, how well my motors are, because that's a real key to the Outlaws. We've actually qualified too well. I think that's the most important thing about the Outlaws, good running motors."
* Paul McMahan, eighth in points, wrapped up a strong month of May that started with an impressive third-place run in Eldon, Mo., by posting top-five runs at Hagerstown and Lebanon Valley. He has four top-fives and 11 top-10s.
"We've been pretty good," said McMahan, of Nashville. "We didn't start off the greatest but at the beginning of May everything really started turning around for us. We still had a little bad luck but our finishes are getting better and the bad luck is going the other way. Hopefully it's our swing of good luck right now and we can finish out the season that way.
"My guys get along great and I get along great with my guys. We're kind of gelling as a team more and more each day. I got the same crew chief back but I've got two new guys. That's a big thing, just communication with everybody. We're getting better, we're getting stronger and our motors seem to be running real well. Ever since that race at Lake Ozark Speedway, everything's been going pretty good for us. We were contending for a win there and just about everywhere else we've been up front."
* Jason Meyers, third in points, has been consistent from the beginning of the season. He posted victories May 7 in Granite City, Ill., and June 3 in Hartford, Ohio, but one of his most impressive races was the A-feature May 27 at Williams Grove when he charged through the field from 25th to eighth. He has eight top-fives and 20 top-10s.
"We're real happy with the start of our season," said Meyers, of Clovis, Calif. "We kind of look on where we were at this time last year and we're definitely ahead of where we were. Our motor program has been very good to us this year. Charlie Garrett and Don Ott have done a great job in helping us improve our program. Those guys are part of our team. They may not be here every night, but they're part of our team and that's what makes us go as fast as we do.
"We've been consistent. We have a lot of top-10s and that kept us up there in the points. We're third in the points right now and, of course, by the end of the year we want to be in first. Catching Steve Kinser is going to be really, really rough but I think it can be done. I think a good team can do it and we're just trying to get better every night right now. We started out really well. I think we've got something to build on. We're getting to the busy time right now. A lot of points can be either made up or lost in the next couple of months. We're going to keep our focus and keep working hard and hope we don't have any parts failures or no falling out of races."
* Brian Paulus, 15th in points, had a dominating victory at June 1 at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, his first of the season. Paulus has posted two top-five runs and six top-10s.
"Our team is growing and we're getting faster every week," said Paulus, a native of Mechanicsburg, Pa. "We know what we're starting to expect out of ourselves.
"I love being able to put wins on the scoreboard. I'm focused right now on staying consistently in the top five, worst-case scenario in the top 10. The whole Pennsylvania Swing we had a top-five car every night and we kept having little problems develop. Instead of running top-five, we were running 27th and 28th. We left Pennsylvania knowing we had a fast car."
* Daryn Pittman, seventh in points, has been quick from the drop of the green flag on the season. He won April 23 in Wichita and finished in the top 10 on each of the five race nights during the recent Pennsylvania Swing. He has five top-fives and 11 top-10s on the season.
"We didn't start off as good as we hoped, but we got some decent finishes and a win," said Pittman, a native of Owasso, Okla. "The past two weeks have been really, really good for us. We raced as good as we ever have both nights at Williams Grove. Hopefully we can keep it going. Our results maybe don't show it, but I feel like over the past five or six races we've been way better than we have been all year."
* Travis Rilat, whose team is 17th in points, made an immediate impact when he became the fourth different driver in Rick Wright's No. 35 machine. In his second race for the team, Rilat earned the quick time in Granite City, Ill., and has finished in the top-15 twice.
"Probably just getting the opportunity to get out here has been my highlight," said Rilat, of Forney, Texas. "Everything hasn't been all that well so far, but we're going to make it good. The team is coming around. I think with a few more races under our belt and working together we can hopefully turn this car around to a top contender."
* Joey Saldana, ninth in points, came on strong during the East Coast run, starting with a Preliminary Feature win at Lernerville, then posting a runner-up finish at Grandview, a top-five at Lebanon Valley and concluding the trip with a top-10 at Eldora, all in addition to a string of Dash victories. Saldana also busted the track record in April at historic Knoxville Raceway, where he his father also was a track record holder. In all, Saldana has five top-fives and 11 top-10s in A-feature events.
"We fought the first 20 races of the season and just didn't know what was going on with our motors," said Saldana, a native of Brownsburg, Ind. "I need to thank Ron Shaver. He took one of our motors found a lot of things wrong. Most of these engine builders out here, they don't want to help too many other people and Shaver helped out Charlie Fisher a ton. Charlie took that and ran with it. Obviously it helped us out tremendously. Setting the track record at Knoxville was huge, then coming out and winning at Lernerville, it definitely shows our motor program is better."
* Donny Schatz, sixth in points, is second on the win list with three victories. Schatz carried the momentum from a season-ending victory at Las Vegas into the 2005 season, when he won at Australia, Las Vegas and Houston. On June 1 at Lebanon Valley, Schatz raced from 11th to second for his seventh top-five of the season to go with 12 top-10s.
"I really don't know that we've hit our highlights yet," said Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. "We may have won a couple of races, but we didn't feel good when we won them. In Australia, it felt really good there but getting home at Vegas and Houston when we won we still didn't feel very good. I think we're making steps in the right direction, and I guess sometimes you go through that stuff. That's the unfortunate part about racing, but that's what makes it competitive. Without having disappointment, you don't have the enjoyment."
* Tim Shaffer, 11th in points, has scored two victories, most recently in the series' debut at Lake Ozark Speedway. Shaffer has four top-fives and nine top-10s, including a 10th-place run in the A-feature at Williams Grove.
"Looking back on my situation, we're building a team and having fun," said Shaffer, of Aliquippa, Pa. "It's been a long time since I've been with a team like that. We're getting better and better. It's been a great year.
"I'm just big on this because I believe 100 percent on looking back and seeing the team excel and grow and be stronger. The wins are great, that's what we're here for, but I think if we can be stronger and gel together better we're going to get more wins down the road. The key thing is that everybody is having fun on the team. That is so important out here because we race so much I want everybody to have fun."
* Jason Sides, 16th in points, consistently raced his way through the heats and into main events during the challenging run through Pennsylvania, when he also added crew chief responsibilities to his workload. Sides, of Bartlett, Tenn., picked up a top-five in Granite City, Ill., and at Williams Grove qualified for the preliminary and main events with quick runs in time trials. In addition to his top-five, Sides has three top-10s and won the pole Friday night at Sharon Speedway.
"Every time you go there it's a learning experience," Sides said of his strong qualifying runs on the tough Williams Grove half-mile. "We'll know next time maybe what to do or not to do, or try something different. Every time we go there we try something different."
* Jason Solwold, 17th in points, just completed his first run through Pennsylvania and New York with the Outlaws. Solwold, another rookie-of-the-year candidate, has two top-fives and five top-10s, and also earned a runner-up finish in the Preliminary Feature April 8 at Eldora.
"It's been fun and frustrating," said Solwold, of Mt. Vernon, Wash. "I've heard Steve talk about it, too. You're going to run good for a while and then you're not going to run good for a while and you're going to beat your head against the wall to try to figure out why you're not running good. We're capable of running in the top 10. It just seems like with this series, all except for Steve, everybody kind of shuffles around. One night you're in the front, one night you're in the back."
* Shane Stewart, 12th in points, has been consistently strong, trading the lead for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year honors with Kaeding. He has one top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, including back-to-back top-10s in Eldon, Mo., and Granite City, Ill., and a ninth-place run Saturday night at Eldora.
"I think the Rudeen No. 26 car has run pretty good," said Stewart, of Bixby, Okla. "I sometimes feel like we're at Cedar Point on a rollercoaster. Any time you put a young group together, it's tough. These guys are the best of the best and sometimes you forget that until you come to a place like Williams Grove and see really good cars sitting in the pit area. That's really when it sinks in. Everything is so close in qualifying right now. A tenth here or a tenth there and you're in the Dash or out of the Dash. That was one of the goals I set for myself, was to try to get in as many Dashes as I can. We've been in a few and we've missed a few. Obviously one of my main goals at the end of the year is to be in the top 10 in points. I think we're all going to look back at this season, at least the young guys, and really appreciate what we had to endure to get better."
* Despite missing the first four races because of a hangup with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Brooke Tatnell has climbed to 13th in driver's points thanks to several impressive runs, including a couple of runner-up finishes at Pike County and Tri-State. He has seven top-fives and 12 top-10s, including five top-10 runs in a row heading into Thursday's race at I-96 Speedway.
"For a first-year team, I think we've been incredibly fast," said Tatnell, of San Souci, New South Wales, Australia. "It's not like we've fluked into a couple of good finishes. We've been racing harder and racing faster than we probably ever have. Right now we're trying to race and contend for wins, not just race to contend for survival. Our good runs have been really good, the bad runs have been 19th on back. There's no ninth to 14th bracket. We're either top-five or 19th to 20th, and on those nights something's gone wrong. It's definitely been a good year to come out. I think we definitely showed we're worthy of being out here."
* Brandon Wimmer's high school graduation ceremony was Saturday in his native Indiana, but the rookie-of-the-year candidate spent the day racing at Eldora, where he won a heat race. On the recent swing through Pennsylvania, Wimmer was the second-quickest in time trials twice to go with his fast time and pole position earlier this year at Houston Raceway Park. Wimmer, 19th in points, has two top-10 runs this season.
"The high point would have to be the Houston race where we went out and qualified good, made the Dash and started on the pole in the feature and led a couple of laps," said Wimmer, of Fairmount, Ind., who was running back and forth between racing and finishing high school for the first five months of the season. "Qualifying second-quick two nights in a row [in Pennsylvania] in the last couple of weeks has been really good, too.
"Just getting out here and running the whole time and not having to worry about going back to school and doing that [is a relief]. Now I can look forward to running the whole season, going out West, going to a couple of new tracks. It's going to be a fun summer."
* In addition to the 19 full-time racers on the World of Outlaws Sprint Series circuit, several other drivers have had impressive performances with the series this season. Sammy Swindell, a three-time series champion, posted A-feature victories at Hagerstown and Eldora, as well as a Preliminary Feature win at Eldora. He has nine top-fives and 10 top-10s. -- Kevin Swindell, Sammy's son, became the youngest racer in Outlaws history to post a top-10 finish when he accomplished the feat as a 15-year-old in the season-opening Outlaws Down Under II event in Australia. Kevin Swindell also won his first Dash at Hagerstown and posted a top-five June 1 at Lebanon Valley Speedway. -- Jeff Shepard stole the stateside season opener from the Outlaws when he won a feature at Volusia Speedway Park.