STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ Tony Stewart Racing Tandem Looking To Capitalize in Northwest INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 31, 2010) -- "You can't win the race on the first lap, but you sure can lose it on the first lap." It's the adage often heard when ...
STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ
Tony Stewart Racing Tandem Looking To Capitalize in Northwest
INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 31, 2010) -- "You can't win the race on the first lap, but you sure can lose it on the first lap." It's the adage often heard when something has gone wrong early in the race, and one that rings true in more ways than one. Sprint car racing is just what the name suggests: fast, quick and oftentimes over before you realize it. However, earning a championship in the sport's premiere series, the World of Outlaws (WoO), is more like winning a marathon.
In a season of 70-plus races, there are plenty of first laps, but those final laps are the ones that count most. The laps in the 2010 season are winding down, and the 33-year-old series is in the midst of one of the tightest title battles the series has experienced. With only 17 races remaining, the results of this week's four-race trek through the northwest may make the difference in who is standing on top at season's end.
Tony Stewart Racing's (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz are focused on being the last one standing. Kinser is chasing his 21st WoO title and is currently only 26 points out of first. Schatz has a bigger mountain to climb in order to claim his fifth consecutive WoO title as he trails by 149. This week's schedule includes four nights of racing starting Wednesday at Cottage Grove (Ore.) Speedway. The Labor Day weekend begins with consecutive nights of racing at Skagit Speedway in Burlington, Wash., on Friday and Saturday nights, and concludes at Grays Harbor Raceway Park in Elma, Wash., on Monday.
Both TSR drivers have been WoO feature winners at all three of this weekend's venues. Winning races is the quickest way to make a move in the championship chase. For Kinser, the week provides more opportunities to chip away at Joey Saldana's lead in the WoO standings. Following last Friday night's feature at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta, Kinser closed the gap to eight markers, the closest the difference has been since July 14, when Kinser had the lead by four points over Saldana. For Schatz, who not only is chasing Kinser and Saldana, but also Jason Meyers, the challenge is to continue putting strong finishes on the board and hope that the other three have trouble.
Cottage Grove will always be a special place for Schatz. The quarter-mile dirt oval, which is nestled in the tall trees of scenic Oregon, was the site of his first career WoO A-Feature in August 1998. He had recently turned 21 years of age and was continuing his second season on the WoO trail when he found himself battling WoO legends Kinser and Sammy Swindell for the win. More recently, Cottage Grove has been a turning point in his chase for WoO titles. In 2007, Saldana had closed the gap to 41 points and Schatz charged from 14th to finish second to keep his lead in the standings by 32 points. The following year, Schatz and Meyers were locked in a battle on top of the standings and the two raced wheel-to-wheel for the Cottage Grove victory. Schatz won and Meyers was involved in a late-race accident, helping Schatz build his lead to 104 markers. Last August, Schatz and Meyers were so close at the top of the standings that, prior to the 40-lap A-Feature, it looked as though Meyers had a legitimate shot at leaving Cottage Grove with the points lead. In true championship style, however, Schatz raced from 20th to finish third to keep Meyers at arms length in the standings.
Kinser has made plenty of good memories in his 15 starts at Cottage Grove over the years. He won the August 1995 race and then again in August 2000. The 40-lap A-Feature in August 2004 will be one he never forgets as the Bloomington, Ind., native battled his 19-year-old son, Kraig, for the victory. The win for Kraig Kinser was his first-ever Outlaw triumph and duplicated a one-two father-son finish Steve Kinser had with his father, Bob, in Kokomo, Ind., early in his career. Since that runner-up finish, Steve Kinser has posted a pair of top-10 finishes, including last season, when he finished eighth in the 40-lap main event.
The schedule for this year's northwest swing has been altered from previous years. Traditionally, the Outlaws would race in Washington first and then head to Oregon. But this year, the two nights of racing at Skagit will follow the Cottage Grove race. Kinser first raced in the Seattle area during the 1979 WoO season, finishing second and third in the two-day Skagit Dirt Cup event that summer. His only win at the track came in a preliminary feature at the 3/10-mile dirt oval in August 1995. He has started 14 races at Skagit and finished inside the top-10 on 10 occasions. Schatz will be making his 10th start at Skagit on Friday night. After finishing third in his debut in August 2002, he won the opening-night feature in August 2006. In 2008, he finished fourth in the finale and, last season, he charged from 21st to finish sixth in the A-Feature.
Grays Harbor has been staple on the Outlaws northwest swing since the mid-1990s. Kinser won his sixth start at the 3/8-mile dirt oval and finished inside the top-four in his first seven starts at the facility. He won three races in a row between August 2004 and August 2005, and it
would have been four in a row had Schatz not passed him late for the victory in the 2005 finale. The victory for Schatz was the first of five late-season triumphs that proved to be the foundation for his championship dynasty that began in 2006.
Schatz comes into the week with a streak of three consecutive podiums, following third- and second-place finishes last weekend at Castrol Raceway. Kinser bounced back after an 11th-place finish on Friday night and finished seventh in Saturday night's 35-lap finale. "The King of the Outlaws" has seven wins in 2010 and leads the series with 47 top-10 finishes, while Schatz has three WoO triumphs this season to go with 27 top-five and 41 top-10 finishes.
On Wednesday at Cottage Grove, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. PDT with the grandstands opening at 3 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details and ticket information, call Cottage Grove Speedway at (541) 942-7561 or visit www.cottagegrovespeedway.com.
Friday and Saturday at Skagit, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. PDT with the grandstands opening at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details and ticket information, call Skagit Speedway at (360) 724-3567 or visit www.skagitspeedway.com.
On Monday at Grays Harbor, the pit gates will open at 1 p.m. PDT with the grandstands opening at 3:30 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. For more details and ticket information, call Grays Harbor Raceway Park at (360) 482-4374 or visit graysharborraceway.com.
Race fans unable to attend this week'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:
You've been through just about everything in your World of Outlaws career. One of the things you haven't been involved in is a three- or four-team race for the championship down the stretch. How much fun is it to be right in the thick of things with only a few races to go?
"Honestly, I enjoyed having about a 400-point lead heading west so you could just race and enjoy the travel. That's when you could keep trying to get better. You didn't have to worry about if things didn't work and you could start working on some things for the following year. I'm glad we are right in the hunt for this championship. It's been a few years since we've been in this position, and that's what you put out there at the beginning of the year. You want to have a chance to win the championship. It's been a really good year for us, but I feel like I've given away a few wins. Who knows, if I would have won those, maybe we are up 30 or 40 points instead of being down by that much. Joey (Saldana) and Jason (Meyers) have been running well for the last few years, and you know Donny (Schatz) and his guys aren't out of it, either. I'm sure it's going to be exciting for all the fans, but as teams and drivers, it's going to take a strong finish to come out on top."
Four races in six nights is something that the World of Outlaws was famous for in the past. It doesn't happen much, anymore. But as a racer, it has to be something you look forward to, right?
"Well, racing is what we do. Racing 100 nights wasn't uncommon for us for quite a few years. You want to get in a racecar every day as a driver, especially when you have your program going so good that you know when you roll the car out of the trailer that it's going to be fast, no matter where you race. The travel and maintenance can take its toll on the crews, but they want to race just as much. This swing through the northwest was something (the late) Fred Brownfield really enjoyed putting together. Unfortunately, we lost Fred a few years ago, and I'm really glad we still come through here and race. We've made a lot of friends in this area through the years and we always look forward to getting out here and seeing them. Hopefully, we can have a really good run through here and give them all something to get excited about."
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
Cottage Grove Speedway will always be a place you remember. Does it really feel like 14 years have passed since that first win?
"I'll always remember that race and that night. For as long as I could remember, I knew I wanted to be a World of Outlaws racer. My parents gave me that opportunity, and I had to earn the respect of guys like Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Dave Blaney. It was hard that first year in 1997 and things didn't go a whole lot easier that second year, but we finished fourth in the Knoxville Nationals and that kind of gave us something to build on. We didn't do much in Washington but just found ourselves in the right spot at the right time in Cottage Grove. Steve and Sammy were battling it out for the lead and we just stayed with them and ended up winning the thing. It took us a while to get back to running up front there. After I went off the track while leading and we charged from deep in the field to finish second (in 2007), we've been pretty good there. Two years ago, we won and, last year, we came from way back to finish third. We've had a lot of good memories over the years and, hopefully, we can have another good night there on Wednesday and start off this swing on a good note."
With only 17 races remaining, the championship chase is getting tighter and tighter. Right now, you are kind of on the outside looking in on the three guys ahead of you. What can you do to get back in this title fight?
"The only thing we can do as a team is try to win everything. Hot laps, qualifying, heats, dashes and feature events. If we start winning and can keep winning, maybe we can close the gap. Those three guys (Joey Saldana, Steve Kinser and Jason Meyers) are going to have to run into some trouble for us to have a chance. We kind of dug ourselves this hole with some bad luck throughout the season and we need to do everything we can to try and catch up. If we can have a really good week and get this thing to double digits, maybe they'll start looking over their shoulders a little bit. It starts with us, though. We have to dominate from here on out and see where we are by the middle of October."