2009 Season Review: Joey Saldana Concord, NC--December 2, 2009-- They sky was the limit for Joey Saldana and his Kasey Kahne Racing team in 2009, as they entered the season with very high expectations and they certainly lived up to those, as ...
2009 Season Review: Joey Saldana
Concord, NC--December 2, 2009-- They sky was the limit for Joey Saldana and his Kasey Kahne Racing team in 2009, as they entered the season with very high expectations and they certainly lived up to those, as the veteran driver won a career high 20 A-Feature events and 21 times overall en route to a third-place finish in the World of Outlaws championship standings.
Among the wins for Saldana was his second $50,000 Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in California, along with the $20,000 inaugural Ironman 55 at I-55 Raceway in Missouri, as well as two victories at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway, both of which were live on SPEED, along with winning both nights of the Oil City Cup at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton and both nights of the Boot Hill Showdown at Dodge City Raceway Park in Kansas. He also was victorious twice at Lone Star Speedway in Texas, and added single wins at Volusia Speedway Park, Thunderbowl Raceway, Silver Dollar Speedway in the Mini Gold Cup, Virginia Motor Speedway, Lawrenceburg Speedway, U.S. 36 Raceway, Skagit Speedway and Deer Creek Speedway.
"It was a great year," said Saldana. "We figured out how to win races and put up numbers. We worked hard all winter on our package and changed a number of things. We changed chassis and crew chiefs. We came out strong and won a lot of races. We just had too many DNF's (Did not Finish) and that's what costs you championships. We definitely know we can win races and that's the hard part out here with these guys, because the competition level is tremendous."
Saldana put his name in the record books as just the fifth driver ever to win at least 20 A-Feature events in a season with the World of Outlaws, joining 20-time series champion Steve Kinser, three-time titlist Sammy Swindell, two-time champ Mark Kinser and Doug Wolfgang. He broke into the Top-10 on the all-time win list as well this past season and is currently ninth with 59 A-Feature triumphs dating back to 1995.
"There has only been a few guys that have ever done that," noted the native of Brownsburg, Indiana of reaching 20 A-Feature wins. "That's a number that is hard to achieve and we have done that. We can go into this winter knowing that we can win 20 races with the Outlaws and that's what it takes. That is what it takes financially to do this and to keep your sponsors happy."
With one of the strongest fields ever assembled following the series full-time in 2009, Saldana led all drivers in lap led with 477, which was a career high and also was 120 more laps than series champion Donny Schatz who led the second most laps. Saldana also led the series in earnings, picking up over $350,000 aboard the Budweiser Maxim.
"It's tough everywhere you go and then you throw in the local guys that are tough," stated the second generation driver. "It's tough to race the whole series and to come out and win 20 races against these guys in a huge accomplishment not only for the team but myself. It was a great year. I'm just disappointed in where we finished in the points, but that's how it goes. We just have to figure out how to not get so many DNF's."
For the 2009 season, Saldana was reunited with Crew Chief Willie Kahne, who was his crew chief back in 2006, his first year at Kasey Kahne Racing. The pair gelled again quick as Saldana was victorious on the second night of the season during the Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway. They wound up winning at 15 different tracks over the course of the season and have won 27 World of Outlaws A-Feature events in the two full seasons that they have been together.
"It important to be with someone with some consistency," explained Saldana. "I've been with this team for four years and we have had five different crew chiefs. It's hard to race at this level when you have guys like Donny Schatz and Ricky Warner and Steve Kinser and Scott Gerkin. The guys that have been together longest succeed. You see it with D.J. Lindsey and Jason Meyers as well. The longer they are together the better they are. Hopefully Willie (Kahne) will stay with me for more than a year at a time and we can get something working where we can get a good flow going and know when we are at the race track what we want out of each other and finish every race. Having him back was huge and going to Maxim chassis was huge. We went in a positive direction this year and got good results. We just have to figure out how to finish races."
Saldana won a couple of times this past season with his car owner, NASCAR star Kasey Kahne in attendance, once at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway in the shadows of the teams new state-of-the-art shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, along with a triumph at 34 Raceway in Iowa. Saldana doesn't see it as any added pressure when Kahne is there, as he puts enough pressure on himself to perform at his peak ability each time he climbs into the No. 9 machine.
"We have Budweiser and Kasey Kahne and they want results and they deserve results," Saldana said. "If you are out there running in the back every night, Budweiser is not going to be on the side of your car. We definitely did what we needed to do to keep our sponsors happy this year and they'll be back next year and that's huge right now with how the economy is and racing in general."
Saldana recently wrapped up his season in New Zealand, winning the $20,000 International Sprint Car Classic over fellow World of Outlaws driver Craig Dollansky. Saldana finished 2009 with a total of 23 overall victories, which was a career high.
"I went to New Zealand for just a week," shared Saldana. "Normally I go to Australia and New Zealand for a month, but this year I just went there for one race and came back home. I want to focus on racing with the World of Outlaws for two good months and I have never really done that before. I know that if I am out working hard to make myself better that my team will be at the shop working to get better as well. As long we all have the same goal and are working hard hopefully we can achieve a championship."
For his strong 2009 season, Saldana was recently named to the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association All-America Auto Racing Team for the second time in his career in the "Short Track" category on the Second Team.
"It's definitely an honor," said Saldana of being named to the All-America Team. "The biggest thing for me is that the World of Outlaws get recognized being on a team like that. That's huge for our sport to receive that. We had a really good year in '07 and made the team and I felt like this year we had a really good year too. You definitely have to run well to be recognized and we have done that in two years and hopefully we can continue to run that well in the next few years."
The 2010 World of Outlaws season kicks off on February 5-7 with the 39th annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park, where Saldana was victorious last season on the second night of the three-day event and has two career wins.
By the Numbers Joey Saldana 2009:
3- Track records set by Saldana in time trials this past season
4- Consecutive seasons that Saldana has driven for Kasey Kahne Racing
5-Times that Saldana was fastest in time trials in 2009
6- Wins in the Crane Cams Dash to earn pole positions for Saldana last season
9- Times in his career that Saldana has finished in the Top-10 of the World of Outlaws standings
10.918- Track record set at Silver Dollar Speedway in California on March 13, 2009
12.420- Track record set on July 29, 2009 at Ohsweken Speedway in Canada
12.825- Track record set on April 17, 2009 at Paducah International Raceway in Kentucky
16 Different tracks that Saldana was victorious at this past season
20- A-Feature wins for Joey Saldana this past season
21- Total wins for Joey Saldana including a preliminary feature win in 2009
59- Career A-Feature wins which is ninth all-time
477- Laps led by Saldana in 2009 to lead the series
8838- Points earned by Saldana to finish third in the championship standings this past season
367,535- Dollars earned by Saldana in 2009 to lead the series