World of Outlaws Wrap-up: Riverside International Speedway & Tri-State Speedway What a battle: The battle at the top of the World of Outlaws championship standings continues to rage on, with the Top-Five drivers separated by just 71 points after...
World of Outlaws Wrap-up: Riverside International Speedway & Tri-State Speedway
What a battle: The battle at the top of the World of Outlaws championship standings continues to rage on, with the Top-Five drivers separated by just 71 points after 14 nights of racing. Steve Kinser used his first win of the season on Saturday night to move into the top spot for the first time since 2005, as he chases his record 21st title. He holds a 31-point advantage over Joey Saldana who used a runner-up finish on Saturday night to move up a couple of spots. Donny Schatz, the three-time and defending World of Outlaws champion is third, 36 markers out of the lead, with Jason Meyers fourth, 56 points out of the top spot and Jason Sides rounds out the Top-Five, 71 markers behind. All five spots in the Top-Five changed over this past weekend's two events at Riverside International Speedway and Tri-State Speedway.
Ratcheting up the level of competition: With his win on Saturday night Steve Kinser became the seventh driver in the first 14 events thus far in 2009 to pick up an A-Feature win with the World of Outlaws. A total of 15 different drivers have led laps in A-Feature events, with Joey Saldana on top of that list. There have also been 12 different drivers win the Crane Cams Dash to earn pole positions, while seven drivers have been fastest in time trials.
"I've been out here a lot of years, and I think this is the strongest field ever assembled" said 2001 World of Outlaws champion Danny Lasoski. "You certainly have to be on your game each night to run up front."
Truly the Class Track: Tri-State Speedway has been known as the "Class Track" for many years and it certainly lived up to its name as the ¼-mile kicked off its 2009 season on Saturday night. Steve Kinser, who has numerous races at the track in his career, added another victory to that list in exciting fashion before packed grandstands on both sides of the track. The 20-time series champion had very high praises for the track preparation at the ¼-mile in his home state of Indiana, which is always meticulously manicured throughout each night to provide great racing.
"This place was prepared great tonight," noted Kinser after winning on Saturday night. "It had a middle, a bottom and a top on it. It was a great race track to race on. Tommy (Helfrich) did a great job and his family always does a great job with this place. It was just a fun race. It wouldn't have been as fun if we would have finished second, third or fourth like where I have been finishing, but we got away with a win."
Gaining ground: Joey Saldana used a runner-up finish at Tri-State Speedway to move up to second in the World of Outlaws championship standings behind Kinser. Saldana, who leads the series with five A-Feature wins this season, has eight Top-10 finishes, with six of those being Top-Five performance as he chases his first World of Outlaws championship and the first title for Kasey Kahne Racing.
"We've been fast all year and have been in position to run second, third and fourth," said Saldana on Saturday night. "We're just not finishing races. Tonight we did what we have been doing and we had a good finish. Hopefully we can keep doing that."
Continuing to build momentum: Jason Sides continued his strong start to the 2009 season finishing third on Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway earning his 10th Top-10 finish in the first 14 races of the year. The native of Bartlett, Tennessee is currently fifth in points, just 15 markers behind Jason Meyers who is fourth. Sides began the weekend by finishing sixth at his home track of Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Arkansas.
"For the most part it's been a very good start to the season," said Sides. "We've had some luck go our way and we are still learning some things to do on the car and this and that. This really is the time of year you want to hit your stride. Between now and next week, we have to get a strong run at Knoxville and make sure that our stuff works there. Hopefully that will be a good test for the (Knoxville) Nationals."
Moving on up: Kerry Madsen used a fourth-place finish at Tri-State Speedway, along with a seventh-place effort at Riverside on Friday night to move up a couple of spots to the ninth spot in points, and is just one marker out of the eighth spot. The 2007 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner has six Top-10 finishes this season.
"We felt like we made some gains," noted Madsen. "Last weekend, we were just out to lunch, actually embarrassingly bad. We went home and thought about some stuff we feel like we are making some gains back. Hopefully we can keep these consistent runs up and maybe I can get a few wins."
A good training ground: Tim Kaeding has always excelled on tight, high-banked bullrings like Riverside International Speedway where he won in his debut on Friday night with the World of Outlaws, after cutting his teeth on the tight, tacky bullrings in California. Kaeding and his Roth Motorsports team based out of California will continue to pick and choose races this year as they prepare for a full run at the World of Outlaws title in 2010. He has veteran crew chief Guy Forbrook turning the wrenches on his car along with fellow sprint car veteran Ray Brooks.
"That little place reminds me of the stuff back home, with the little ¼-mile bullring," said Kaeding after his win at Riverside. "You have to be on it and get after it."
Racing with heavy hearts: Tony Bruce Jr. was racing with a heavy heart on Friday night at Riverside International Speedway after longtime family friend and supporter J.P. Flan passed away earlier in the week. Bruce wanted nothing more than to pick up a win for his friend and nearly did, leading 22 laps before finishing second. He also turned the fastest lap in time trials at the 1/4-mile of the stout 38-car field that was in attendance. Bruce wrapped up the weekend by finishing ninth at Tri-State Speedway in Indiana on Saturday night.
"This is a good run for us," said Bruce on Friday night. "I want to dedicate it to one of my good friends (J.P. Flan) who passed away on a few days ago. We're going to his funeral tomorrow and I just want to say thank you to him and his family. I wish them all the prayers in the world."
A new combination: Brooke Tatnell made his first World of Outlaws start of the season on Friday night aboard the aptly numbered No. 21AU for Titan Racing owned by Australian Reeve Kruck. Tatnell finished third on Friday night and the team recently added veteran crew chief Rob Hart to their stable as they'll continue to pick and choose their races this season, continuing this coming weekend with the World of Outlaws events at Huset's Speedway and Knoxville Raceway.
"We're working to get everything in place and we'll keep building on it," shared Tatnell. "We have an Australian race team here and we have Rob (Hart) helping us. He is married to an Australian so he'll fit in with us."
Just like riding a bike: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is running a partial schedule in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway Racing this season returned to his home track of Riverside International Speedway on Friday night and finished a very solid fourth after lining up 10th in the main event, after having some trouble that prevented him from running the Crane Cams Dash. It was just his second start in a sprint car this season.
"We're very happy with how it went," stated Stenhouse. "Dad (Ricky Sr.) had this thing working perfect. I enjoyed coming back here. I have made a lot of laps around here and it was good to add a few. It took a few laps to knock the rust off, but once it came back, it was there."
Fast all weekend: Randy Hannagan was fast both nights this past weekend and was in contention for wins in both races. He started on the pole at Riverside on Friday night and finished fifth to earn his third Top-Five finish of the season with the World of Outlaws. He led the first 24 laps on Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway before a mechanical failure ended his night.
"That's what I grew up on and we have our program working really well right now," noted Hannagan of his success on short tracks with the World of Outlaws this season. "We're able to show where we needed to be in the past and we now we're there. We'll just keep trying to build on it. I look forward to all the other short track and the big tracks as well. We have been good on them also. We'll just see what we can do. I have to wish my brother (Terry) a happy birthday. His birthday was on Saturday. We really wanted to get a win for him."
Photo Gallery: The Media Gallery section of www.WorldofOutlaws.com continues to be updated after each event. Visit www.worldofoutlaws.com/sprint/MediaGallery.aspx to see Photo Galleries from 2009 World of Outlaws events. A Photo Gallery from this past weekend's two races at Riverside International Speedway and Tri-State Speedway will be online within the next couple of days.
Up next: The World of Outlaws make their first trip to the Upper Midwest this coming weekend, beginning on Friday, May 1 at Huset's Speedway in South Dakota, followed by a stop at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Iowa on Saturday, May 2.