Outlaws show All-American perseverance in 2001

The tragic September 11th attacks on the United States brought Americans together like never before. The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series saw many of its teams battle through adversity as well in a season that put sprint car racing's premier...

The tragic September 11th attacks on the United States brought Americans together like never before. The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series saw many of its teams battle through adversity as well in a season that put sprint car racing's premier organization to the test. The series canceled a major event in the wake of the worst disaster in our country's history, yet recorded the highest attendance in its history. Almost two million fans saw 20 different drivers visit victory lane, including seven first-time winners. Danny Lasoski faced a 63-point deficit with five events remaining, but passed Mark Kinser to win the closest championship race in the series' 24-year history. Kinser won four times as many "A" Features, but consistent feature finishes and the J.D. Byrider team's never-quit attitude allowed "The Dude" to outscore the two-time champion by 30 points. "We flipped that car at Charlotte, and they turned a DNF into a 14th and kept me in it," Lasoski said. "I learned something from 'The King' (Steve Kinser) a couple of years ago. He won a championship when he only won four or five features, and the consistency is what we tried for all year long." Lasoski first took the points lead from Andy Hillenburg on March 9th while winning the 28th Annual Spring Nationals preliminary feature at the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series birthplace, Devil's Bowl Speedway. "The Dude" was 84 points ahead of Kinser when Mark slipped into fourth place in the standings with a 16th-place finish at I-55 Raceway March 24th. Sweeping the Southern Bleacher Classic at Texas Motor Speedway the following weekend started the five-race winning streak that pushed Kinser into the points lead, however. Lasoski returned to his racing roots -- Knoxville Raceway -- and reclaimed the points lead with an "A" Feature victory April 28th. "Mopar Mark" went home to his native Indiana and regained first place May 11th when he won the main event at the Terre Haute Action Track. Kinser led the point standings for almost a month before Lasoski returned to first place with a preliminary feature victory at O'Reilly Auto Parts Motor Speedway in Topeka, KS. Kinser raced into third place from outside the ninth row in the second preliminary feature at the Eagle Nationals to reclaim the points lead. Mark also won the Eagle Nationals title for the fifth time. "The Dude" enjoyed another outstanding weekend at Knoxville Raceway during the Iowa Classic June 29-30, tying Kinser for the points lead with a preliminary feature victory and taking the points lead with a runner-up run in the finale. Kinser returned to first place just three days later when he won his fifth "A" Feature in the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series' last six visits to Huset's Speedway. Lasoski tied "Mopar Mark" for the points lead with a sixth-place finish in the first preliminary feature in the Duel in the Dakotas at Red River Valley Speedway July 5th, then surged into first place with a seventh-place run in the second preliminary feature. Kinser regained first place with a victory at Route 66 Raceway July 13th, only to have "The Dude" pass him again with a runner-up run at -- where else? -- Knoxville Raceway three days later. A runner-up run in the "Night Before The Kings Royal" race at Eldora Speedway on July 20th pushed Kinser back into first place in the standings. Lasoski gained eight points on "Mopar Mark" a week later while winning his second Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals title in four years. Kinser led the points race for the next 22 events before six straight finishes of 12th place or worse -- along with Lasoski's consistency -- foiled his bid for a third Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship. "Mopar Mark" and Lasoski exchanged the points lead 11 times between April 14th and July 20th (27 events). Lasoski took Yogi Berra's old cliché -- "it ain't over 'till it's over" -- to heart, however, and regained first place with a sixth-place finish at the Devil's Bowl October 27th. It didn't matter that Kinser finished two positions ahead of "The Dude" in the Mopar Parts World Finals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the final race of the season. Lasoski had already taken care of business with a fifth-place finish in the preliminary feature the night before. Kinser led the series with 16 "A" Feature victories, 37 top-five finishes, 406 "A" Feature laps led and $444,920 in purse earnings. Among his more impressive main event victories were first-time triumphs in the Kings Royal and the Gold Cup Race of Champions. Tying Craig Dollansky with nine fast-times marked the seventh straight season Mark either led or tied for the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series lead in that category. Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year award winner Jeff Shepard exchanged the lead with Sammy Swindell six times during the Second Annual Channellock Challenge at Bristol Motor Speedway before begrudgingly settling for second place. Shepard came back three months later, however, and drove Guy Forbrook's #5 Wirtgen Maxim to his first "A" Feature victory at Central State Fair Speedway. He won the Harvest Classic at Calistoga Speedway four events later. Paul McMahan won the first main event of his Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series career at State Fair Motor Speedway March 23rd, starting outside the front row and leading all 25 laps. Brad Furr battled through 96 races before winning the first feature of his career. The Rookie of the Year candidate led all 30 laps in the preliminary feature as TNN: The National Network televised opening night of the Mopar Parts World Finals. Not only did Danny Wood win the first main event of his career at Lernerville Speedway in late September, he won again at Port Royal Speedway two days later. The Norman, OK, racer also pulled off a last-lap pass of Johnny Herrera to win the "A" Feature at his home track, State Fair Speedway. Jason Meyers became the first driver to win the first main event of his Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series career at Knoxville Raceway when he led all 30 laps from the pole at "The Home of the Nationals" July 16th. Steve Kinser raised his career "A" Feature victory total to a seemingly insurmountable 451 by driving his #11 Quaker State Maxim to victory in six main events. "The King of the Outlaws" finished third in the point standings, tying the second-lowest ranking in years he has raced on a full-time basis. Dollansky, the defending World of Outlaws Gumout Series champion, ranked among the top five in the point standings throughout the season. "The Crowd Pleaser" drove Karavan Racing's #7 Polydome Maxim into the top 10 in 40 "A" Features, including 18 in the top five and victories at Devil's Bowl Speedway and Red River Valley Speedway. Donny Schatz drove the #15 Parker Stores J&J to six "A" Feature and four preliminary victories. "The Minot Missile" recorded 37 top-10 finishes, including 24 in the top five, and ranked fifth in the point standings. Joey Saldana started the season in his father's car, then started driving Dennis Roth's #83 Beef Packers Eagle in May. The 1996 Rookie of the Year raced into the top 10 37 times, including 17 in the top five and a victory in the Winter Nationals at Devil's Bowl Speedway. Tim Shaffer was the series' most consistent driver in August and September, driving the #11H Vivarin Maxim into the top 10 in 14 straight "A" Features. Among his 18 top-five finishes were "A" Feature victories at the Terre Haute Action Track and Portland Speedway. Stevie Smith survived a slow start and eventually finished ninth in the point standings, the 12th straight season he has ranked in the top 10. The 1990 Rookie of the Year drove his #19 Ingersoll-Rand Maxim to victory in six main events and three preliminary features. Dale Blaney raced for his brother, 1995 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champion and current NASCAR Winston Cup racer, Dave Blaney. Dale drove the #10 U.S. Print/MBNA/Mopar Maxim into the top 10 21 times, including four in the top five and a victory at Tri-City Speedway. Although Daryn Pittman didn't visit victory lane following a Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series race, he recorded two top-five finishes in addition to winning the Gumout Series championship. Shane Stewart, who led the Gumout Series with seven victories, won successive Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series preliminary features at the Talladega Short Track and Devil's Bowl Speedway. Five drivers suffered injuries that caused them to miss at least one event, but their teams persevered and finished in the top 21 in the point standings. Hillenburg, who opened and closed the season with main event victories, put together the most outstanding of his 14 years with the series despite suffering a concussion that kept him from competing in the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals. Hillenburg drove his #2 Luxaire J&J into the top 10 in 40 "A" Features, including 26 in the top five and seven "A" Feature victories -- all career highs. He also led the point standings for the first time in his career. A broken right leg suffered during the Harvest Classic main event at Calistoga Speedway ended Randy Hannagan's season September 2nd. A second-lap crash in the first corner with Stevie Smith and Dollansky fractured Hannagan's tibia and fibula. "The Hurricane," who won the first "A" Feature of his Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series career at I-55 Raceway March 24th, underwent surgery and intense physical therapy and vowed to return for the 2002 season. Herrera missed only two events after suffering a broken left shoulder during the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals. Herrera crashed with Ed Lynch, Jr., as he tried to avoid Mike Goodman and Kasey Kahne on the back straightaway early in the Channellock "B" Feature. The 1987 Rookie of the Year recorded six top-10 finishes -- including two runner-up runs -- in the last 10 events to finish 17th in the point standings. Swindell suffered multiple injuries when he collided with a push truck during the qualifying session at the 10th Annual Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway. The three-time series champion suffered a fractured right ring finger, a cracked kneecap, broken bones in his left hand and contusions to his head and groin area. After his brother, Jeff, came out of retirement to drive his #1 Channellock Stealth in the "Night Before The Big One" event at Eldora Speedway, Sammy showed incredible courage while racing in the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals. Brian Paulus received similar hand injuries when he slammed into the outside retaining wall during the hot-lap session at the Channellock Challenge June 9th. Paulus drove P and P Motorsports' #28 Verdelli Farms Maxim in eight events following the crash and finished 21st in the point standings. Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series Founder and President Ted Johnson epitomized the American spirit when he closed the series' Awards Brunch with the following statement: "Let's never forget what happened September 11th. They're trying to change our country, but we're not going to let them."

-WoO

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Andy Hillenburg , Tim Shaffer , Brad Furr , Mark Kinser , Danny Lasoski , Kasey Kahne , Donny Schatz , Steve Kinser , Sammy Swindell , Craig Dollansky , Brian Paulus , Daryn Pittman , Jason Meyers , Joey Saldana , Paul McMahan , Randy Hannagan , Shane Stewart , Dave Blaney , Johnny Herrera