Tony Stewart Racing Pike County, Houston preview
Event: Pike County, Houston:
STEVE KINSER & DONNY SCHATZ
Tony Stewart Racing Tandem Leads Outlaws Back to the Bayou
INDIANAPOLIS (February 22, 2011) -- Every competitor wants to start a new season the best possible way, by winning right away. Early season victories can provide a lot of momentum for a campaign, and 20-time World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series champion Steve Kinser knows a lot about winning. The Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) driver won the first two WoO A-Feature events of the 2011 season aboard the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/JD Byrider/Chevy Maxim. And he, along with his TSR teammate Donny Schatz, will be aiming for victory this weekend as the Outlaws return to action in the Deep South with a pair of single-night programs at Pike County Speedway in Magnolia, Miss., and Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.
Kinser's surge to kick off the Outlaws' 34th season included the two victories and a second-place finish in the 40th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park (VSP) in Barberville, Fla. With that start, Kinser has jumped ahead early in his quest for a 21st championship. Friday's event at Pike County marks the series' first visit to the 3/8-mile dirt oval in southern Mississippi since the spring of 2007. Kinser finished third on that evening and will be looking to match his performances from the 1997 and 2005 seasons at Pike County. In 1997, he won a thriller by outlasting his cousin Mark Kinser and, in 2005, Kinser once again battled to the end of the 35-lap race before scoring his 515th career triumph.
Nearly one year prior to that 515th win at Pike County, Kinser collected his 500th A-Feature win at Houston Raceway Park. The quarter-mile dirt track, which is now known as Royal Purple Raceway, has been very friendly to the Bloomington, Ind. native. "The King of the Outlaws" won the first A-Feature at the facility when it opened in March 2000 and has five additional wins, including that 500th he recorded in March 2004. A problem in qualifying during last year's visit to the track kept him from scoring his 15th consecutive top-10 finish there.
For Schatz, the weekend in the Gulf Region is an opportunity to put his disappointing results from the DIRTcar Nationals behind him. The highlight of the opening weekend was his miraculous run from 17th starting position to a runner-up finish in the season's second A-Feature aboard the No. 15 TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J. A pair of finishes outside the top-10 weren't the results the four-time WoO champion was hoping for to begin his 15th season with the Outlaws. Schatz scored a career-best second-place finish at Pike County in March 2007 as he chased Joey Saldana to the finish line. The goal for Friday is to make Pike County Speedway the 52nd dirt track where he's won a WoO A-Feature.
Kinser and Schatz, together, have won more than half of the feature races contested at Royal Purple Raceway. Schatz won in March 2005 and then dominated the program in March 2007, winning his heat, dash and leading all 35 laps of the main event. He has scored seven consecutive podium finishes at the track, which includes his charge in April 2009 from the 14th starting position to finish second.
Through three nights of action in the 2011 WoO campaign, Kinser leads the championship standings with 446 points while Schatz ranks eighth, 64 points back.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/Chevy/J.D. Byrider Maxim:
You wanted to get the 2011 World of Outlaws season off to a good start. Two wins and a second was pretty impressive. Is that what you were expecting?
"We always expect to win, but with the caliber of cars we are competing against, winning two out of three is pretty good. The first night, we were super fast. The second night, we just kind of got lucky. And, the third night, we were able to get out of there with a good finish. I said before the season started that the work done in the shop over the winter is really key. These Bass Pro Shops guys (crew chief Scott Gerkin, crewmen Gary DuBois and Mikey Kuemper) worked really hard to give me some fast cars. My hat goes off to them. It's a great feeling to come out of the box strong, and it pushes everyone to keep getting better. We know it's a long season, but we are thrilled with the way things started."
This weekend, it's back to work at Pike County Speedway and Royal Purple Raceway. What are your expectations for the weekend?
"We'd like to keep winning, that's for sure. I know everyone will be trying to win, too, so it's just continuing to do all the little things that add up -- qualifying well, getting into the dash and being good in the feature. Pike County is a pretty racy track, and we've always run well there. I enjoy going to that area of the country. Any time you can go back to a track where you haven't been in a few years, it's fun. The fans really come out and support us. We've had some really good races there and hopefully that'll continue.
"As far as Houston goes, it's just such a great facility and it's always a pleasure to run there. We've won quite a few races there, too. The only time we really had any trouble there was last spring. We qualified badly and just never could get going. We're looking forward to bouncing back down there and having the kind of night we're used to having there."
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J:
Over the years, you've had mixed results in Florida to start the season. The finishes this year certainly weren't what you were hoping for. Is the best plan to simply look forward from here?
"You have to. We can't go back and change the results. The only thing we can do is figure out how to be better when we hit the track in Mississippi on Friday night. The main thing is knowing what went wrong and figuring out how to fix it. We couldn't qualify down there and, with this series, you just can't spot guys that kind of track position. The STP guys went back to the shop in Indiana and got back to work. We're pretty sure we've identified the problem, so we'll start back at square one. We've got a lot of races ahead of us. If we can have a good weekend down in Mississippi and Texas, that'll help."
The good news is that the upcoming schedule includes places where you've been extremely successful. What kind of advantage do you have going to a track where you've been strong in the past?
"I'm not sure anyone can have an advantage over a guy like Steve Kinser. He's been the best in this game for a long time. And then you see his team go down to Florida and get two wins and a second right away. I'd say they've got a pretty good advantage right now. We're all motivated to get going that well. I know our team (crew chief Rick Warner, crewmen Steve Swenson and Bob Curtis) is looking forward to getting back to the track.
"We'd like to put a win on the board and build some momentum. The last time we raced at Pike County (eventual winner) Joey (Saldana) got to the rubber first and we ended up finishing second. We know what the car needs to do to be fast there, and we'll try to get ourselves in a spot to contend at the end of the race. Following that, we'll head over to Houston, which has a really nice facility and see if we can get back to victory lane there. We've been good there in the past, and we need another strong showing before we head out to Las Vegas next week."
Tony Stewart Racing Barberville event summary
Pike County report, results 2011-02-25