Tony Stewart Racing Opens 2011 Outlaws Campaign
Kinser Scores Two Wins, Schatz Picks Up a Runner-up Finish in Florida
Tony Stewart Racing's (TSR) Steve Kinser kicked off the 2011 World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series campaign with a nearly perfect weekend of action in the 40th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. The 20-time WoO champion raced the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevy/Maxim to a pair of victories and a runner-up finish as the Outlaws began their 34th season. The highlight for TSR's Donny Schatz was his thrilling charge from 17th to second in Saturday's WoO A-Feature aboard the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy/J&J.
For the seventh consecutive season, "The Greatest Show on Dirt" began its racing season in the Sunshine State, and for the second straight year, Kinser was impressive around the half-mile dirt oval. In Friday's opener, he led all 30 laps of the main event to capture his 562nd-career WoO A-Feature win. The following night, the Bloomington, Ind., native found himself in the right place at the right time. After starting third in the 30-lap A-Feature, he maintained the fourth position for much of the race. With three laps remaining, race leader Craig Dollansky lost an engine and, moments later, second-place-running Cody Darrah blew a right-rear tire. On the ensuing restart, Kinser was able to clear his son Kraig and lead the remaining laps to score back-to-back wins. In Sunday's finale, Kinser earned the pole position and chased Dollansky again during the first 20 laps of the main event. He fell to third at one point, but later followed eventual winner Jason Sides around Dollansky to regain second, where he would finish.
"It's so important to get off to a strong start," Kinser admitted. "These Bass Pro Shops guys worked really hard in the offseason. To come down here and not only win a race, but win two and finish second in the other race, is a huge reward for their efforts. Now, we'll head back to the shop for a week or so and see if we can keep it going in Mississippi in a couple of weeks."
For Schatz, a four-time WoO champion, the season didn't get off to the same kind of start. The team struggled to qualify and, each night, the Fargo, N.D., driver was forced to start deep in the field. On Friday night, he raced from 18th to 15th and, on Sunday night, he started 20th and came home 17th. Saturday's run from 17th to finish second behind Kinser was vintage Schatz. He maneuvered through traffic masterfully on the dry-slick surface and, just prior to the caution flag flying for Dollansky and Darrah, he was about to pass both Kinsers. The second-place finish was his best result of the weekend.
"We had high expectations coming down here but things didn't go as planned," Schatz said. "Sometimes, it's just better to forget about what happened in Florida and move on. We've won a lot of races down here in the past but, other than Saturday night, we weren't as competitive as we need to be. It's a long season and, right now, our focus is trying to fine-tune our qualifying program so that we won't have so much track position to overcome."
With the strong start, Kinser leads the WoO championship standings with 446 markers. Schatz ranks eighth, 64 points back. The TSR team will return to action Feb. 25 at Pike County Speedway in Magnolia, Miss.