Bill Klingbeil: INDIANAPOLIS (March 27, 2013) – There’s something to that old saying, “Being in the right place at the right time.”
Through the first 10 races of the 2013 World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series campaign, the right place to be when the A-Feature begins is within the first four starting positions. Eight of the 10 winners have started inside the first two rows and, when the traveling Winged Sprint car stars invade Merced (Calif.) Speedway for their fifth of nine stops this spring in the Golden State, being in the top four spots when engines fire for Friday’s 40-lap A-Feature would seem to be the right place to be at that particular time
Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) championship duo of Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz will look to stop three-time WoO STP Sprint Car Series champion Sammy Swindell’s stranglehold at the 1/3-mile dirt oval. Swindell, who led 39 of 40 laps when the Outlaws made their debut at the track in April 2011 and led all 40 last season, remains the only WoO winner at the facility. He started fourth in 2011 and from the pole last season.
Schatz, who has lined up the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J inside the top four to start three A-Features this season, will be looking to pick up his second victory of 2013 and the 126th of his career Friday. He earned his first triumph of the campaign after starting second at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas on March 6. Bad luck struck the Fargo, N.D., racer on the other two occasions he started near the front this season. The night after winning at Las Vegas, he found himself running second early before pulling out to a commanding lead midway through the race. Unfortunately, his left-front tire was cut by debris on the track and he had to finish the race with a flat. One week later, he led the first 14 laps of the main event at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., before contact with a treacherous hole in the first turn ultimately resulted in a broken front axle. The five-time and reigning WoO STP Sprint Car Series champion finished fifth two years ago at Merced and came home 15th last spring.
Kinser heads to Merced in search of his first victory of the season behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim. The 20-time Outlaw champion had his best finish of 2013 last Friday at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Dirt Track, racing to an eighth-place finish in the 30-lap A-Feature after winning the second heat and earning a position in the six-lap dash. “The King of the Outlaws,” who will be looking to capture his 575th career A-Feature triumph, has posted two top-10s at Merced, finishing seventh in 2011 and 10th last season.
Last Friday, Schatz raced from 13th to third at Stockton, joining Kinser in the top-10. The TSR tandem each ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time Saturday at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. Kinser was one of the later cars to qualify on the rapidly slowing surface and timed in 29th out of 42 competitors. That placed the Bloomington, Ind., racer deep on the starting grid for both his heat race and the B-Main. Despite starting 23rd, he was able to climb to 13th in the A-Feature. Schatz was running seventh in the main event and was looking to make a pass for sixth when he encountered a much slower lapped car in the middle of turns three and four. The contact caused Schatz to go end-over-end and concluded his night with a 19th-place finish.
Through 10 WoO STP Sprint Car Series events this season, Schatz has one victory, three top-fives and six top-10s and ranks fifth in the WoO championship standings. Schatz has accumulated 1,292 points and is currently 138 markers behind leader Daryn Pittman. Kinser has a pair of top-10 finishes and has racked up 1,186 points, which ranks him 12th.
For Friday’s event at Merced Speedway, the grandstands open at 1 p.m. PDT. Qualifying is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. For tickets and more information, visitWorldofOutlaws.com/tickets or call 877-395-8606.
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 STP Sprint Car 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/Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim:
The competition within the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series is certainly fierce. Do some of these smaller tracks, like Merced, equalize the field?
“The small tracks that stay moist and fast don’t make it easy for guys to do a whole lot of passing. If the track slicks off a little bit, then it’s more of an equalizer. But, right now, I’d say there are so many cars so equal that you really have to start up front to have a decent chance at winning. We haven’t been able to put ourselves in that position, yet, but we’re getting closer.”
This will be your third race at Merced. Will the experience you gained there the last two years help you Friday?
“Hopefully the track hasn’t changed much since last year. I know the first year it was really narrow and they kind of made it a little wider last year. Dirt tracks are never quite the same from one night to the next but, like I said, we’re focused on trying to get our program to where we can be making the dash regularly and be starting a little closer to the front. Seeing what’s happened the last two years at Merced (the winner coming from the first two rows), I’d say starting up front would be a huge key if we are going to have the kind of night we’re hoping to have.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
With 10 races in the books, do you feel like your STP team is headed in the right direction?
“I’d say for the most part we have been pretty decent. We’re not happy about the (three) DNF’s or some of the luck we’ve had, but we know it’s a long season. If you are going to have to have problems, having them now is better than later in the year. The guys have worked hard and I’ve tried to do my best in the cockpit. Last weekend, we were able to come up through the field at Stockton (13th to third), but at Chico we had a lapped car going a lot slower than the leaders and that just ended badly for us. We know, as long as we keep working hard, the wins will come. That’s where our goals start. When the wins come, everything else seems to take care of itself.”
Friday’s race at Merced will be the fifth of nine in California this spring and the third time in the last three years you’ve been there. Can Friday be a turning point for this swing?
“We’re hoping it’s the start of a string of podium finishes. Some things happened both in Tulare and Chico that killed some of our mojo. That can all change pretty quickly. We had one of the better five-race stretches through California last fall with five top-four finishes. Two of those came at Antioch and Calistoga and that’s where we are going next weekend. It’d help us a bunch if we can land in the dash Friday and maybe get the right inversion pill. That seems to be part of it right now. Having luck go your way. I’m a believer in working hard and making your own luck, so we’ll see what happens. Merced has been a little tricky the first couple of times we’ve been there, but I know my guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Jim Oare) will give me a car capable of going forward.”