Joey Saldana Builds Family Team to Succeed with Outlaws
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - It seems to be the wave of the future for the successful teams in the Pennzoil World of Outlaws. The idea is that the driver has something to do with the ownership of the team. Current WoO stars Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, ...
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - It seems to be the wave of the future for the successful teams in the Pennzoil World of Outlaws. The idea is that the driver has something to do with the ownership of the team. Current WoO stars Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Stevie Smith, and Andy Hillenburg all own their race teams while Mark Kinser and Dale Blaney drive for family members. A few years ago Joey Saldana decided the World of Outlaws was a goal of his and this year, he has team up with his father to chase the WoO tour with a family team. "You look at Stevie Smith and Craig Dollansky," said Saldana, the 1996 WoO Rookie-of-the-Year. "They went out and started their own teams and it helped both of them land sponsorships. We're just trying to do the same thing. Right now, the World of Outlaws offers drivers a chance to make a pretty good living and hopefully, we can stick around here for a while." Saldana grew up in the racing community while his father, Joe, raced sprint cars through the Midwest before a career in Indy cars. Joey wasn't influenced by the early days of dirt racing but it was the afternoons on pavement that inspired the Brownsburg, IN native to jump in the driver's seat. "When I was old to enough to know what was going on, my father was racing Indy cars and that's really what I wanted to do," explained Saldana. "I had raced a sprint car on dirt for a little while, and in 1993, I competed in five races on pavement just trying to get my foot in the door, but with the cost involved we couldn't justify going that direction. As a family we didn't have the finances to follow a similar pattern that Jeff Gordon did, so I stuck with winged sprint cars and the next year I got my first full-time ride." Saldana began his career racing the bull-rings of Indiana like Bloomington Speedway. The family owned #88 team would often venture to Ohio and Illinois so that Joey could learn the tricks of the trade on bigger tracks. In 1994, Saldana was offered a full-time ride with Tim Hughes to drive his #94 on the All-Star tour. He spent most of the season in the #94, but finished that season with Warren Johnson's U2. The first season on the road taught Saldana a lot, and in 1995, he joined Art Wendt's team and took the #77 to 18 All-Star wins. He also beat the World of Outlaws at I-96 Speedway for his first career WoO victory, and let everyone know that he was for real. "1995 was special season for me," said Saldana. "We proved to a lot of people that we were a legitimate threat. That season gave me the confidence to go on the road with Outlaws in 1996." In 1996, Joey Saldana complete an entire season with the Outlaws beginning the season with Dennis Roth's #83 Beefpackers Team and finishing the season in Gary Stanton's #75 Mopar. Saldana defeated Lance Blevins in the WoO Rookie-of-the-Year chase and a runner-up finish to Mark Kinser in the Historical Big One highlighted the season. The 1997 season got off to a terrible start as Saldana destroyed two cars in two nights in Phoenix and left Stanton's team and the Outlaws. He drove for Steve Mox for the rest of 1997 season and for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. Saldana won a number of All-Star races during the last three years and also won a WoO preliminary feature at Eldora. His goal was to get back with the Outlaws and following the 1999 season his father helped make that possible. "This has been something we've been talking about for a while," said Saldana, on forming Saldana Motorsports. " My dad has always tried to back my racing career, but he seemed to be a little harder on me when I was driving for other people. I think he felt like I was putting in the effort so we decided to build a team. This is such a demanding sport. Usually you have to start with an existing team with existing knowledge, but so far we've just put are heads together worked through the bumps." The Saldana #17 Team ranks eighth overall in the WoO Standings with six Top-five finishes and 11 Top-Tens. Saldana came close to winning his first race of the season at I-80 in May, but a tire A lot of teams would feel good about the start that the HE&M Saw sponsored team has had, but not Saldana. "I don't think we've had a great season," claimed Saldana. "Success is winning and we've been consistently up front. To be successful you have to run up front every night and with the Outlaws that's almost 100 nights. These guys are the best in the business and to come out here with a new team and new sponsors is a tall task. If we can stay around where we are in the points right now and maybe win a race or two, then I think we'll consider this season a successful one." The team has continued to show improvement and with the season's biggest races just ahead Saldana knows they are on the right track. In the back of his mind, he'd also like to show his appreciation to his father by winning a big race. His father Joe, claimed sprint car racing's crown jewel in 1970, the Amoco Knoxville Nationals, and Joey would like nothing more than to be the first father/son duo to win the Nationals at Knoxville. "It would be a great honor to follow in my father's footsteps and win the Amoco Knoxville Nationals," said Saldana. "I don't think it's ever happened before and it'll probably be a while before Kraig Kinser (son of 11-time Champion Steve Kinser) is ready to do it. I think we've got a shot at it, but I think our team would be thrilled with a Top-Five finish. That's the biggest race of the season and to finish that well would really give us confidence in what we're doing."
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