View from the Stands (2/21/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
It looks like we have a good field of cars this year in the World of Outlaws with twelve full time teams traveling. I don’t see anyone competing with the clear favorite Donny Schatz, especially now that the series is back to Hoosier tires this season. The five time champion will likely make it six in 2013. But the race behind the #15 car should be an interesting one as I see no clear cut team who is above the others.
With Craig Dollansky putting together a solid 2012 campaign and leading the points after 2/3 of the season before Schatz went on a run the last 1/3 of the season, I think the Crowd Pleaser (Remember when he was the “Slingshot”) might be the one guy to give him a run for his money. The other contender is Daryn Pittman in the KKR #9 car this year. Pittman is in his prime, eager to be back on the full time WoO tour, and motivated for sure. But will he gel with Kale Kahne and KKR is the question. They were fast last week in Florida, but it’s a 90 race schedule.
I have this feeling this is a pivotal season in the WoO. I think we will see Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell start sliding down the point standings, and we will see Kraig Kinser, Jason Sides, Kerry Madsen jump in the standings. Steve is in the twilight of his career. I sincerely hope the King can muster up one more championship, but I don’t see it happening. Sammy is still the most technically sound (mad scientist) in the pit area and his cars are fast, he will win races and set a lot of quick times, but consistency is his downfall. I really think Kraig and Sides will have breakout seasons. I look for Madsen to steadily improve as well.
I’m not sold on Cody Darrah yet. He drives hard, but his job is likely on the line this year. He has to win races and try to get into the top five in points or he will be replaced. KKR has too much invested to keep a driver who isn’t winning races. And there are plenty of other talented drivers out there to replace him (Tim Kaeding, Shane Stewart, Paul McMahan).
Joey Saldana is a wildcard this year in the rebirth of the Motter 71m team. Although Joey knows the cars and engines well, it’s hard to believe a new team can just come out and compete for a championship in its first year on the road. I think they will win a few races, but I think this is a 2-3 year building process.
Great to see 7 time Knoxville Raceway track champion Terry McCarl pick up a Outlaws win last week at Volusia to start the season! Let’s hope he can pick up a win back home when the “Knoxville Regulars” take on the Outlaws May 11 and June 15.
I hope Schatz doesn’t run away and hide from the rest of the field, but that’s my gut feeling. It should be a good season, and I’m thankful for all the media coverage today on Twitter and the Race Monitor app.
Here are my WoO pre-season power rankings: 1. Donny Schatz, 2. Craig Dollansky, 3. Daryn Pittman, 4. Kraig Kinser, 5. Jason Sides, 6. Kerry Madsen, 7. Sammy Swindell, 8. Cody Darrah, 9. Steve Kinser, 10. Joey Saldana, 11. Chad Kemenah, 12. Bill Rose
I will have my Knoxville (KCCS) season preview coming in a few weeks, so check the website often.
Who is ready for some chicken bites? April 20th can’t come soon enough!
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Eric can be contacted at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricArnoldBHG.