STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ Outlaw Champions Set To Begin Title Chase at Volusia Speedway Park INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 2, 2010) --With the state of Florida being the focal point of the sporting world over the next two weeks, it seems ...
STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ
Outlaw Champions Set To Begin Title Chase at Volusia Speedway Park
INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 2, 2010) --With the state of Florida being the focal point of the sporting world over the next two weeks, it seems only appropriate that the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series begins its 32nd season in the Sunshine State with possibly the most competitive collection of teams in short-track racing. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) headlines that race lineup with arguably the best driver duo the sport has ever seen.
Sprint car racing icon Steve Kinser and four-time defending WoO champion Donny Schatz will carry the TSR colors at dirt tracks across the U.S. in 2010. Kinser and Schatz have combined to win the last eight Outlaw titles and are the only two drivers in series history to win at least four titles. Each begins his quest to add another championship this weekend during the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park (VSP) in Barberville, Fla. The three nights of racing at VSP kick off a schedule that includes nearly 80 nights of action.
Schatz will be looking to make it five straight WoO titles this season and once again will pilot the TSR No. 15 Armor All/STP/ParkerStore J&J. The Fargo, N.D. resident scored a dozen WoO wins last season en route to his championship, including his 100th career WoO "A" Feature at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan, N.D. His four-year run at the top of the Outlaw ranks has produced 66 WoO wins, during which he also became only the second driver -- joining Kinser -- to win four consecutive Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals.
Schatz's TSR Armor All/STP crew will be comprised of crew chief Rick Warner, crewman Shane Bowers and Steve Swenson. The trio spent the past three months building an arsenal of equipment for Schatz to use in the wars ahead. Schatz himself stayed sharp behind the wheel by winning three of his seven winged Sprint car races in Australia, including his eighth $50,000 Scott Darley Memorial win and third consecutive $30,000 Australian Open victory.
Kinser, the winningest driver in Outlaw history with 552 career WoO "A" Feature wins, is looking at 2010 as a great opportunity. The 20-time champion from Bloomington, Ind., will be driving the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/JD Byrider Maxim with a lot less pain than he had in 2009. Offseason surgery to repair a bulging disc has the former Indiana High School state champion wrestler hungry to get back into the seat of a Sprint car. He is also eager to return to his winning ways and challenge for a championship after finishing fifth in last year's WoO title chase.
Joining Kinser at TSR on the No. 11 team will be longtime crew chief Scott Gerkin and crewman Gary DuBois. Travis LoGrande is the newest member of the Bass Pro Shops team. The trio, along with Kinser, hope a strong start to the 2010 season will allow them to reach their goal of double-digit wins, which Kinser has done 25 times during his career.
Two of Schatz's WoO victories came during last year's opening weekend at VSP. He has three career WoO wins, eight podium finishes and 10 runs in the top-10 in his 13 career Outlaw starts at the track. In all, he has won eight times at the half-mile dirt oval. He scored his first career All-Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) victory at VSP in February 2006. Last season, he won the opening ASCoC feature in thrilling fashion. After starting 16th, he was involved in an opening-lap accident and then rejoined the field in 23rd. The 30-lap race went nonstop from there, and Schatz charged from the back to win the race. He won another ASCoC feature the following night before capturing the opening WoO feature and event finale two nights later. A similar start would go a long way toward championship number five for Schatz.
Kinser started his most recent WoO championship by dominating the action at VSP. In 2005, "The King" raced three times at the track to begin the season. He finished second in an All-Star feature before racing to second in the WoO 2005 opener the following night. In the event finale, he was the fastest qualifier in the field of 43 cars, won the dash, and led 27 laps of the 30-lap main to score his 514th career WoO triumph. Kinser has made 11 WoO features at VSP, scoring five top-five finishes, including a charge from 18th to fifth in 2008.
For all three WoO events at Volusia Speedway Park, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. EST, and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for the race can be purchased by calling Volusia Speedway Park at (386) 985-4402. For more information on the event, visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend's races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, "Voice of the Outlaws," calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/Chevy/J.D. Byrider Maxim:
Joining Tony Stewart Racing and getting rid of some pain that has been bothering you for a while has to make you excited about the season. What's your outlook?
"I'm happy to be driving for Tony Stewart Racing and look forward to getting out there and start racing. Our sport, like everything, is tough right now, so to have the opportunity to go and drive for Tony is really a great chance. It takes some of the ownership burden off me, and now I have the chance to go out make some money and make this thing work.
"I had surgery a few months ago to take care of some back and neck pain, and I tell you I feel better than I have in three or four years. I guess I didn't really know that I was having that much trouble with it, but I feel really good right now."
Even though you've been through quite a few changes, are your goals the same as they have been for most of your career?
"Our goal is to win the championship, plain and simple. That was our goal last year and we started off pretty well and just sort of fell flat. I feel like we found some things later in the year. Of course, other people probably did, too. I'm pretty sure we're going to be a contender. We'll start out the year and try to do our best. Everyone will know after the first couple of months who's going to be the strongest cars.
"I'll say you can pretty much count (TSR teammate) Donny (Schatz) as one of the guys you have to beat if you want to win the championship. He's been awfully good the last few years. Some of those other guys just keep getting closer every year. Joey (Saldana) is getting closer. Jason Meyers has been getting closer.
"The race team I have, which will be the guys coming with me to the Bass Pro Shops car, has won a lot of championships. They know what it takes. We've been working hard the past few years to win championships, but it just hasn't happened for us."
This won't be your first season having a teammate. Whether it was Brad Doty back in the mid-1980s, your son Kraig, and Tim Kaeding a few years back, you always seemed to have good seasons. Do you think that will continue now that you are teammates with Donny Schatz at Tony Stewart Racing?
"I'm sure we'll be pushing one another to be the best. Over the years, me and Donny have gotten along great. Donny's probably one of the cleanest race drivers I've ever competed against, to be honest with you. He does win championships. He knows what he has in a racecar on any given night and always will race you clean. He knows if he doesn't have his stuff right that they have to keep working on it to get it better.
"He's really turned into an exceptionally good race driver, especially the last five years. It's amazing how good he has been going. It's just something that everyone out here racing with the Outlaws has been dealing with and we're going to do our best. I think Scott (Gerkin) and Ricky (Warner) will work really well together, and I honestly think this teammate deal is going to be good for both of us."
Every year, the season starts in Florida and, every year, it seems to get tougher and tougher. What makes it tough and why is it important to do well?
"It's a tough situation, that's for sure. You come to Florida and everybody has spent the winter getting his stuff ready. They're all ready to race somewhere. It doesn't matter if it's paying $10 or $100,000, they want to be down there racing and see if all the work they did over the winter puts them in the best situation for the season.
"It's always good to have a good start. Everybody wants that feeling that the hard work over the winter paid off immediately and to get your season off to the kind of start that keeps everyone motivated. If you are going to chase the World of Outlaws, it's really important to run three solid nights and leave Florida with a good feeling about where you are."
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
You've been on top of the sport for the last four seasons. What is going to take to stay there this season?
"It's going to take a lot of things. We're going to have to be consistent like we have been, and we're going to have to be even better than we were. It did get pretty tight there at the end last year, and that's not how we want it. We fell out of two races last year that we thought were absolutely ridiculous, and if you have two last-place finishes, that's something I can't live with if we lose a championship. My crew worked hard all winter so that we can hopefully avoid those problems again.
"I think we are in the best position we have ever been in to compete for a championship. They changed the tires and my guys seem to adapt to change a little bit better than everyone else. We're all pumped up and ready to go."
You've recently returned home from another solid Australian tour. This time, you had a teammate down there and that's been kind of the norm for you since coming to TSR, right?
"Going to Australia is one of the fun things that I get to do and, this year, to have (car owner) Tony (Stewart) come over and race with me was a lot of fun. I not only got to race against him, but he was my teammate. We learned a lot about each other and spent a lot of time together.
"He's very sharp and he's more than just a driver. He is a smart businessman and a good motivator. I learned a lot from him, especially in the time we had away from the track and the approach to take on things. We worked together well at the races and I wish he could have had a few better finishes. He did a great job there and we had a lot of fun."
Speaking of teammates, this year, Steve Kinser is driving for Tony Stewart Racing, as well. So you get to be teamed up with one of the greatest drivers to ever sit behind the wheel of a Sprint car. Is that a pretty exciting thought?
"To have a teammate like Steve Kinser, what else could you ask for? He is 'The King.' There are no ifs ands or buts about it. It's pretty cool to have him under the Tony Stewart Racing banner. We're still going to have to beat each other on the track, but now we have a closer affiliation. When they told me he was coming to the team, I thought, 'Wow, this is going to be unbelievable.' He is the premier driver in our sport. I'm glad to be his teammate and I'm looking forward to racing with him."
Florida has been a good place for you the past few years. What's been the key for your fast starts down there?
"It's been lot of things. My guys have worked hard this winter to make sure that I am going to be in a good situation. Volusia is a very tricky place. Track conditions can be totally opposite from night to night, and that's where having a great crew comes into play. You just have to keep doing things that keep you a little bit ahead. I'm looking forward to getting going, and trying to get our first win of the season.
"You have to remember that racing in Florida is unique, and often what works down there won't work anywhere else. Making sure you understand what is going on and analyzing what you do learn in Florida is key. We've got a couple of All-Star races and three Outlaw shows so, hopefully, we can get it figured out right away and get off to a good start to the season."