Series season opener news 2011-01-27
Outlaws Know Quick Start at Volusia Key to Championship Race
DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH kicks off battle for World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series crown
CONCORD, NC - Jan. 27, 2011 - Points. In motorsports, those numbers are what separate champions from the rest of the field. The past two years on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series tour, the margin between title contenders has never been closer for a longer period of time.
Those points earned on the first night of the season Feb. 11 at Volusia Speedway Park are just as important as the points that will be earned on Nov. 5 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in the season finale. Last year at the DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio, Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser put themselves in the title chase with Jason Meyers, Joey Saldana and Jason Sides by topping the World of Outlaws events during the 12-night kickoff to the 2011 dirt track racing season.
Meyers needs a strong start at Florida to begin his title defense because Schatz and Kinser, with 24 championships between them, know what it takes to win a crown. And nobody will be as motivated as Saldana, who is trying to give car owner Kasey Kahne his first World of Outlaws crown.
All that leads into a breakdown of the Outlaws, by their 2010 finishing order, entering the season opener Feb. 11 at Volusia:
* Can Jason Meyers pick up where he left off in Charlotte? Meyers dominated the World Finals in November, capturing both A-mains to become the first Californian to win the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series championship. A single-car operation that prides itself on its teamwork and dedication to winning against bigger multi-car teams, the Elite Racing Team with Meyers behind the wheel won't rest on its 2010 accomplishments, which led to Meyers being named Driver of the Year by the North American 410 Sprint Car Poll. Determined to repeat like the champions before him, Meyers knows he will need a strong effort at Volusia to continue the momentum he had at the end of last season.
* Donny Schatz had a huge surge down the stretch last season to close within striking distance of Meyers at the World Finals and carried it into the winter with big wins in Australia. In the past, that combination has led to a strong start for Schatz at Volusia, where he earned a World of Outlaws victory last season, and could spell trouble for the rest of the field as the North Dakota native aims for his fifth title. A new-look color combination on the #15 machine might be just the spark he needs.
* Steve Kinser was rejuvenated last season, coming ever so close to an unreal 21st championship and refueling the legend for another title run. Kinser earned a victory last season at Volusia on the series' second night and that momentum combined with his new Tony Stewart Racing ride helped keep the King of the Outlaws at or near the points lead throughout the season. A resurgent Kinser created a buzz everywhere the Outlaws raced, highlighted by his spectacular Kings Royal last-lap victory. Nobody knows the value of a strong start more than Kinser, and he'll no doubt be ready to roll Feb. 11.
* Ask many experts and Joey Saldana is their pick to win his first World of Outlaws championship in 2011. The Kasey Kahne Racing driver was atop or near the top of the standings for nearly the entire 2010 season, winning a series-high 13 races, before a freak accident in the fall at Eldora cost him a night of racing and made it almost impossible to have a shot at the title. Saldana is one of the best racers at Volusia every February, finishing on the podium seemingly every night. Another strong start by Saldana and it could be trouble for the rest of the Outlaws in '11.
* Jason Sides started coming on strong at the end of the 2009 season and had a breakout year in 2010, winning on tracks requiring many different skills and finishing in the Top Five in points for the first time in his career. That success will no doubt raise Sides' expectations this year. To contend he knows a fast start is crucial, and he has continued to put the pieces in place to be a threat to win every night. Don't be surprised to see Sides, one of the most fan friendly drivers in Sprint Car racing, take the next step toward a title this season.
* Paul McMahan's 2010 season will be one he never forgets. He took over the Kasey Kahne Racing #91 Great Clips ride after Cody Darrah was injured in an off-track accident and turned in one of the best seasons of his stellar career. McMahan was tied with Meyers to lead the series with 10 quick times and tied with Schatz to lead the series with 8 pole positions. McMahan moves into the #83 car this year in a partnership between Kasey Kahne and longtime car owner Dennis Roth. A strong showing at Volusia will guarantee an even bigger battle for the World of Outlaws title in 2011 as the series races its way west in March to McMahan's - and Roth's -native California.
* Every season opener at Volusia, Craig Dollansky is one of the drivers keep an eye on. A quick start in 2009 launched him to the top of the standings and he'll look to duplicate that performance as he begins his second season in the Big Game Treestands #7 car. One of the most intense drivers in the pits, Dollansky is primed to attack the championship race this season after a strong winter of competition Down Under.
* Lucas Wolfe is ever so close to winning his first World of Outlaws race, and Volusia is exactly the type of big, fast track where he can accomplish that feat. A native of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and the 2008 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year winner, Wolfe set three track records in 2010 as he's progressed up the standings in each season he's toured with the Outlaws. Kerry Madsen earned his first World of Outlaws win during the 2008 DIRTcar Nationals, this might be the year Wolfe does the same thing.
* The World of Outlaws 2001 champion Danny Lasoski will unveil a new ride at Volusia, and his competitive edge will no doubt make him a force. He's had success in the past and if anybody knows the importance of starting fast and finishing strong it's Lasoski.
* Kraig Kinser , the 2005 Knoxville Nationals champion, moves into the #6 Casey's General Stores car in 2011. A fast start at Volusia will be the spark he needs to climb into the wide-open championship race.
* Like Wolfe, Sam Haferetpe Jr. also is on the verge of his first World of Outlaws victory. The Texas native topped time trials six times last year to go with three pole positions and three track records. He's fast everywhere but seems especially quick on the big, high-speed half-miles like Volusia. A victory at Volusia could launch Hafertepe's career to the next level.
* Always a fan favorite, Jac Haudenschild earned five World of Outlaws victories in 2010. He enters Volusia, where he's gone wheel-to-wheel for some of the most exciting finishes in recent years, knowing he's one of the drivers everybody will be watching. His high-side racing style combined with the fast top-side at Volusia makes the Wild Child a threat to win on every night.
* Chad Kemenah knows how to get around Volusia, having raced to victory on opening night in 2006. The Ohio native and four-time O'Reilly Auto Parts All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series champion came one strong in the fall and will look to carry that momentum into the DIRTcar Nationals.
* No driver progressed more in 2010 than Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year winner Ben Gregg. Following a year on the road with Outlaws, Gregg will no doubt put that experience to work at Volusia.
* Canadian Toni Lutar fulfilled a life-long dream in 2010, touring with the World of Outlaws at every event. Like Gregg, the experience will help Lutar take on the expected huge field of Sprint Cars at the DIRTcar Nationals.
* Cody Darrah will be the front-runner for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. An injured knee sustained in a car accident on his way to the track for the 2010 opener prevented Darrah from climbing into his Kasey Kahne Racing ride. A year later, Darrah is ready to restart his career with the Outlaws. Only 21 years old, Darrah has already earned a World of Outlaws victory at his home track of Williams Grove in 2009, a season when he turned heads with his on-track performance and caught the eye of Kasey Kahne. Everybody is eager to see how Darrah will compete in 2011, but no one doubts he'll be one of the fastest racers on the tour right off the trailer at Volusia.
So will Meyers be able to make it two in a row? Can Schatz add a fifth trophy to the display case? Will Kinser get his coveted 21st crown? Or will Saldana, Sides, Dollansky, McMahan or another Outlaw win their first title? The story of the 2011 season begins Feb. 11 at the 40th DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park. Tickets are available by calling the event ticket hotline at 386-985-4402 or by clicking the Buy Tickets button at www.DIRTcarNationals.com, the official online home of the DIRTcar Nationals that includes news, directions and lodging information.
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