Outlaws, TMS Dirt Track Attract Media Throng By Richard Day FORT WORTH, TX (January 23) -- The Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track is less than a year old, but it is already making a name for itself, thanks to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws ...
Outlaws, TMS Dirt Track Attract Media Throng
By Richard Day
FORT WORTH, TX (January 23) -- The Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track is less than a year old, but it is already making a name for itself, thanks to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series.
Tony Stewart, the winningest driver in NASCAR Winston Cup racing in 2000 and a new Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series car owner this year, said it best Tuesday at the Texas Tour 2001 Media Day: "There were more people at the dirt track session than there are at the Winston Cup session."
Stewart joined Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series President Ted Johnson and his new driver, Danny Lasoski, as the series met the press in the TMS Media Center.
Stewart, who became the only winner of USAC's triple crown (silver bullet, sprint cars and midget championships) in 1995, is pleased to join the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series as a car owner.
"I didn't grow up around stock car racing," Stewart said. "I didn't necessarily grow up around Indycar racing, either. I grew up around dirt late model, midget and sprint car racing. As my career has gone on, something that has always been very, very important to me is not forgetting where I came from. That's why I got involved in the USAC Silver Bullet Series as a co-owner with Bob East. Now, with the friendship I've had with Danny through the years and the friendship I've built with Ted, I've gone to a lot more World of Outlaws races than I ever went to growing up. The more I was around Ted's series and the more I watched them run, the more I wanted to somehow become a participant. I formed a partnership with Danny and JD Byrider and Hamm America came on as sponsors, so now I have the great opportunity to go racing without being a driver. I can participate as an owner. I'll have the same butterflies he will have when he goes out for the "A" Feature I would have if I was driving. The nice thing is that Joe Gibbs (his Winston Cup car owner) doesn't get too upset, because I'm not driving the car. The other thing is, he likes me to spend money. He likes us to be financially strapped. He figures we'll race harder if we have a lot of bills.
"When Danny and I first started talking about this, I realized I have been in the same positions he's been. He was telling he how he hates to see November roll around and he leaves with his helmet bag in one hand and his seat in the other. He doesn't really know who he's going to be driving for the next year or know if he's saved enough money to make it through the winter before he starts racing again in February. I've been in that situation. With me being his car owner, I want to help him with his future. That's why we started this race team. Not only will I be able to participate in open-wheel racing which has been very good to me, but I can also help Danny and his family.
"Our only goal this year is to have a good time. As competitive as both of us are, that's probably going to last through the first hot- lap session. Then we'll get back down to business. At the same time, it's going to be a lot of fun for me. It will be a release to get away from Winston Cup racing and not worry what I do for a living." "The Dude" was equally excited about racing with his friend. "Not only is Tony my best friend, now he's my boss," Lasoski said. "I'm sitting up here next to two of my bosses; one is the series boss and one is the boss of my team. We put our team together over the winter. Jimmy Carr is our crew chief. Everything else is the same -- Eagle chassis, Hoosier tires and about the same motor program. There have been a lot of tough days the last couple of weeks getting everything ready, but we're looking forward to it. I think we're going to be a great team with the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series.
"I'm leaving for Australia later today to race a week and then we'll come back and go to Florida. I'm sure he (Stewart) will be cracking whip on everybody; I'm glad I'm going over there.
"I was really glad to be fortunate enough to win the first race (the Southern Bleacher Classic) here at Texas Motor Speedway. I think it's a fantastic facility. I was really amazed when all the people showed up (almost 30,000 over two days). It was standing-room-only. We knew when SMI put it together, it would be the best."
When asked if he would like to see the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series schedule reduced, Lasoski said, "I really don't. I enjoy racing. I'd race every night of the week if we could, but it would hard to talk Ted into that. Other years, we have zig-zagged across the United States, but this year he's done a lot better job with the schedule. We're excited about getting the season started with our new team."
Johnson reduced the schedule several years ago, only to have drivers come to him and ask, "What are we supposed to do now?"
"These guys love to race and they do a great job of staying on top of their game," Johnson said. "They race hard and they race all over. They race a lot, sometimes five times in seven nights. One of these years, the schedule will be cut down. We've raised our purses, but promoters still want races.
"Back in 1977, we never thought the World of Outlaws would grow this big. We definitely started thinking about it in 1990. Then, when we signed our joint venture with TNN (in 1996), we knew we were on the right track. From there, Pennzoil came on board as our title sponsor and then we exploded growth-wise.
"This year, we'll have 70 live radio shows on the Sprint Car Network. They will broadcast from time trials all the way to the "A" Feature. Right now, they have 104 stations throughout the United States. We'll also continue to be on the world wide web and on the Armed Forces Network. Our races will be broadcast to 187 outposts.
"We're excited to have 18 shows on TNN this year. We've added another one here, so there's two here. There's also a few in Charlotte. We're televising from Eagle Raceway for the first time. It'll be the first short-track (smaller than 3/8-mile) race we've ever done. It'll be exciting on the high banks. There will be a lot of action, so TNN's people will have to stay on their toes to keep up. We're also televising from Lernerville Speedway for the first time. That's a good race track the produces lots of passing and plenty of close racing. We're excited about our television schedule for 2001."
When asked about the relationship between the World of Outlaws and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., Johnson said, "It's been a good marriage. The tracks are state of the art; our guys are getting spoiled. They park their rigs on pavement and they park their motor homes on pavement. They don't get dirty any more. It's really good; I enjoy it, too. I'm not wallowing around in the mud any more either. These tracks have made other tracks upgrade, too. They're paving more and putting in more seats. We have a "Little Bristol" being built right now at Eagle Raceway. They're putting in stands that go 40 rows high. It's already high-banked like Bristol Motor Speedway, so you're almost looking at a copy, except it's a one-third-mile track. They intend to put 20,000 people in there this year, which is up from 10,000. What SMI started our other tracks are starting to copy, which is a total plus for racing. We're happy with what's going on with the SMI tracks. SMI has helped take racing to a higher level."