Famed dirt ovals Jackson, Knoxville next up for Steve Kinser, Donnie Schatz
Tony Stewart Racing drivers inviding the Midwest
Throughout his remarkable career in motorsports, Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser (in photo) has blazed a trail that has become the pinnacle for all Sprint car drivers to aspire to. There are few venues on the World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series tour that can match the mystique of Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, a place where Kinser has made some of his most historic laps. History will continue this weekend when Kinser and his TSR teammate Donny Schatz attempt to build on their impressive lists of accomplishments with stops Friday at Jackson (Minn.) Speedway and Saturday at Knoxville.
“The King of the Outlaws” is in the midst of his final run at a 21st WoO championship in a season dubbed the World of Outlaws Salute to the King Tour. His season-long journey continues with stops at pair of tradition-filled dirt tracks as he pilots the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim in search of his fourth career WoO A-Feature win at Jackson and chasing his 35th career WoO A-Feature triumph at Knoxville Saturday.
Schatz has been making history of his own during the past decade, winning five WoO championships and experiencing unparalleled success at Knoxville. The Fargo, North Dakota racer leads the Outlaws into action as the championship standings leader aboard the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J. Schatz swept the Jackson-Knoxville weekend last June en route to his career-best 23 WoO A-Feature wins in 2013.
Previous success at the dirt ovals provides both drivers with added confidence entering the weekend. Kinser has won three of the eight WoO events staged at Jackson. The 20-time WoO champion first came home victorious at the half-mile track in August 1988 when he claimed the coveted Jackson Nationals. The next WoO race at Jackson was 16 years later, and he made it two in a row there by winning in 2004. He picked up his most recent A-Feature at the facility in May 2010. Kinser has won the sport’s premiere race – the Knoxville Nationals – a record 12 times and ranks third all-time with 58 career wins at Knoxville. He’s just two behind one of his long-time rivals Doug Wolfgang for second. With his victory last June, Schatz became a two-time Jackson winner, after claiming his initial win in September 2006 as he was marching toward his first WoO championship. A month earlier, he won his first Knoxville Nationals crown and has become almost “Kinserque” in the event since winning seven Nationals in the last eight seasons. Last year, Schatz won the first two Outlaw stops at Knoxville before becoming first driver to win the Nationals A-Main after transferring through the B-Main. In the 50-lap finale, Schatz started 21st and led the final nine laps on his way to one of the most impressive drives in Nationals history.
The TSR teammates head into the weekend with 35 of the 92 scheduled WoO race nights in 2014 complete. Schatz leads reigning WoO champion Daryn Pittman in the point standings by six markers. Schatz has won five A-Features and has earned a series-best 23 top-fives and 31 top-10s. Kinser, who got off to a tremendous start winning the third A-Feature of the season and earning four straight podium finishes, is looking to end a streak of finishes outside the top-10 as he chases career WoO A-Feature win number 578. The Bloomington, Indiana native ranks seventh in the championship standings
For Friday’s event at Jackson Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. For more details, contact SLS Promotions at (815) 344-2023, or visit www.slspromotions.com.
Saturday at Knoxville, the grandstands will open at 6 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. For more details, contact Knoxville Raceway by calling (641) 842-5431, or visit www.knoxvilleraceway.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 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:
With this being your final season chasing a championship, there have been quite a few reminders of some great times in your career. What are some of your favorite memories of Jackson and Knoxville?
“We’ve been fortunate to win a lot of races at Knoxville. That started when I was a kid and I went over there with my dad. Camping on the fairgrounds and seeing him compete against the very best. The Nationals was always the race you wanted to win. You remember all of those special times. It’s such a hard race to win and you have to have so many things go your way. We had trouble during our qualifying night back in 1980 and I was able to work out a deal with Bob Trostle and ended up winning my first Nationals. As a competitor, you always looked forward to those big races. When you can go out there and put it all together, there isn’t a better feeling. Winning in 1997 from 14th is something I’ll never forget. It was just our night and, of course, winning my last one in 2002, you just cherish those races. Honestly, seeing Kraig (Kinser, son) win in 2005 might be one of the best memories. As a parent, there is nothing like seeing your kids experience success. Knoxville has been a great place for us. As far as Jackson goes, that’s a track with some good history, too. The Jackson Nationals was one of those big races a few weeks after the Nationals that guys would really target. We were able to win one of those (in 1988) and actually have been really fast up there almost every time. I’ve always preferred those big, old half-miles and both tracks just fit Sprint car racing really well.”
Does the notion of having two races on bigger tracks where you’ve had previous success allow you and your Bad Boy Buggies team to look forward to getting the results you are hoping for?
“That’s our plan. We had a bad stretch of luck there with blown tires while leading heat races. The last couple of weeks, we haven’t been able to qualify where we need to. It’s just been one thing after another, so hopefully we’ve got that out of our system. I know (crew chief) Scott (Gerkin), (car chief) Gary (DuBois) and (crewman) Mark (Angerett) continue to work really hard. We’d love to get back to where we were at the start of the year when we were contending for wins. We’ve had a good starting point for Jackson in the past. Hopefully, we can put a complete night together and head to Knoxville with some momentum.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J:
Last June, you swept the Jackson-Knoxville weekend. What’s it going to take to duplicate that this weekend?
“It’s going to take everything we’ve got. The STP crew (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman) has been doing a great job the last few weeks, and we’ve gone from fighting for top-fives to being in the hunt for wins. Last Friday, we had a really good night at I-80. We gave it everything we had and finished second. We know it’s tough to win these races. Last year is over, so winning both of those races doesn’t mean anything this week. Both tracks are big and fast. And, it’s going to be important to follow the same formula. You have to start the night with a good car in order to qualify in position to make the dash. We’ve seemed to pick up our qualifying efforts lately, Lakeside withstanding, and that’s given us a good shot. If you can get in the dash, your chances of winning are much greater.”
Saturday marks your first time back to Knoxville since last year’s Nationals. Are there words to describe why you have become so good there during the last 10 seasons?
“It’s just been a combination of a lot of things over the years. We worked hard to get good at Knoxville and just kept plugging away. We had several close calls with running second in the Nationals and then got that first one and have kept trying to get better every time we go back. I think I said last year I wished it was closer to home because it feels like home. Everyone on our STP enjoys going there. It’s a first-class facility and we know we are going to have a chance to race. They do a great job with the track surface. Honestly, as a competitor, you want to have a chance no matter where you start. I know I’m looking forward to Saturday. It’s our only race there before the Nationals, so we’ll be trying some things, I’m sure. The bottom line is we are going there to win. That’s been our mindset for quite some time. It’s just become a way of thinking. Knoxville is a great place to win. We’re going to do everything we can Saturday to win there again.”
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