STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ Tony Stewart Racing Looking for More Gold in California INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 8, 2010) -- In every season there are games that have just a little more juice. Whether it's the NFL's season opener pitting the ...
STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ
Tony Stewart Racing Looking for More Gold in California
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 8, 2010) -- In every season there are games that have just a little more juice. Whether it's the NFL's season opener pitting the defending Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints against the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings, or Saturday's contest between legendary college Football powers Penn State and Alabama, there's added adrenaline in the air. In dirt-track racing, the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series stars race 70 nights each season, but only a handful of races can generate that fevered atmosphere. The Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, Eldora Speedway's Kings Royal, the Williams Grove National Open, and the Gold Cup Race of Champions annually stand out as the races every Sprint car driver wants to win.
Tony Stewart Racing's (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz have been extremely successful in the sport's biggest races throughout their careers and, this weekend, each will vie for another big-race win as the WoO concludes its annual Gold Rush Tour with the 57th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif.
Winning the sport's biggest races isn't easy, and sometimes the most difficult part is being in position to win. At Knoxville, the qualifying night programs test every team's will with a unique point structure. The Kings Royal heat races are some of the toughest 10 laps a driver will endure in a season. With the stacked field of cars at Williams Grove, just making the field of 24 is an accomplishment. The Gold Cup is the crown jewel of West-Coast Sprint car racing and challenges a driver's skill with the rigors of circling one of the tightest quarter-mile dirt ovals in the country.
On Thursday, Kinser will begin the quest for his 13th Gold Cup crown behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/JD Byrider Maxim. The 20-time WoO champion is in the midst of a terrific season, which already includes his seventh Kings Royal triumph in July. And last Saturday night, he won $20,000 at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash., to give him eight WoO A-Feature wins this season. "The King of the Outlaws" won the Gold Cup at Chico the first two times he raced in northern California in 1978 and 1979, and he has been a force at the event the last three decades. In 1983 and 1984, he won back-to-back Gold Cups again and, between 1986 and 1988, he scored three more. He won the race again in 1990 and 1992 and, a decade later, won consecutive Gold Cups in 2002 and 2003. His most recent Gold Cup win came in 2005, the season he won his 20th WoO crown. Kinser enters this year's Gold Cup locked in a torrid battle for the 2010 WoO title, trailing Joey Saldana by only six points for the top spot.
On top is where Kinser's TSR teammate, Donny Schatz, has been since the 2006 WoO season. During his four-year reign as WoO champion, he has won a number of the sport's biggest races. This weekend, he'll try to earn another driving the TSR No. 15 Armor All/STP/ParkerStore J&J. Schatz has been labeled a big-race performer. He is a two-time winner of the Kings Royal, a four-time National Open champion, and he's won four consecutive Knoxville Nationals. During the 2007 campaign, the only major Sprint car race he didn't win was the Gold Cup. This season, he would like to duplicate his 2004 performance at Chico, when he led all 30 laps of the opening-night preliminary feature and took a flag-to-flag victory in the 40-lap finale two nights later to earn his first Gold Cup title. Consistency was the key during the 2004 Gold Cup weekend, and in the last four weeks of racing, Schatz has been extremely consistent. Since his runner-up finish in the Knoxville Nationals, he has finished second or third in five of his six starts.
The Gold Cup program format has been altered and, this year, each competitor will race on Thursday and Friday night. Points will be awarded for qualifying, heat and feature finishes. The drivers who accumulate the most points will be locked into starting positions inside the top-six rows for Saturday night's 40-lap finale. With a reward of $50,000 on the line to the winner, the competition certainly will be at its best.
For each of the three races at Silver Dollar Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. PDT with the grandstands opening at 5 p.m. On Thursday and Friday, hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday-night hot laps will begin at 7:30 p.m. For more details and ticket information, call Silver Dollar Speedway at (916) 969-7484 or visit www.silverdollarspeedway.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, aswell 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:
You enter the Gold Cup following a thrilling win at Skagit Speedway on Saturday. How much of a role does momentum play in Sprint car racing?
"Momentum is a huge part. Winning races is what we try to do every night. If we win one, the goal the next race is to make it two in row. If you are winning races, that means everything is working the way it should. The driver is confident. The crew is motivated to keep digging deeper. That momentum helps you stay on your game. We've had a good year pretty much all year and won some races, but we haven't been able to put a string of wins together. This weekend is our last race on this western swing and it's a pretty good haul back to Iowa for the next race. Winning this weekend would make that drive a lot easier for everyone on this Bass Pro Shops crew. We're trying to win a championship and, if we can continue winning races and stay up front for these last dozen or so races, we should have a heck of chance."
You've won seemingly everything there is to win in Sprint car racing. The Gold Cup and Silver Dollar Speedway are pretty unique. What is it that makes racing in the event special?
"It's definitely the biggest race in California, and it's always fun to go out there and run. You never know what's going to happen. It's an exciting little racetrack. I always look forward to going there and, hopefully, we have everything ready to go and have a strong run. This year, we are going to race an extra night, so we'll see what happens. They usually have a pretty big car count and that will make it pretty tough racing all those guys every night. The payoff is really good, so we're excited to see what we can do."
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
During this year's Gold Rush Tour, the Armor All team has been extremely consistent. What's been the biggest reason for that?
"We've just been racing. Since the Knoxville Nationals, our focus has been on trying to get the Armor All car better every night. We had some bad luck the first night at Minot and then on Saturday at Skagit, but every other race we've been right there. The TSR crew (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Shane Bowers) has been doing a good job giving me a car that I can race just about anywhere on the track. We've had some podium finishes, which are good, but we want wins. We're excited to have three nights of racing at Chico and, hopefully, we can get over the hump and get to victory lane. I know if we can keep running second and third that we'll get to the top spot before long. Hopefully, we can do it this weekend."
Since your rookie year with the Outlaws in 1997, you've raced in the Gold Cup. Is it one of the weekends you look forward to?
"It's the West Coast's biggest race and the bottom line is that the Gold Cup is fun. This western swing always is one of my favorite times of the year. We have been fortunate enough to win the Gold Cup before, and that year we did everything right from the prelim night right down to Saturday night. With event points like it has, everything is important. I've kind of had a mild presence there since I won it in 2004. We've been pretty good there a few times and have passed some cars but just haven't had that winning performance, and that's what we want now. Our goal is to get ourselves as good as we can and try to be in a position Saturday night to get a Gold Cup victory."