View from the Stands (5/6/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
If you have the racing blues due to the bad weather like I do, at least this coming Saturday, May 11 the World of Outlaws will be at Knoxville Raceway! The Outlaws are headlined by five time series champion Donny Schatz and twenty time champion Steve Kinser.
Schatz is off to a slow start by his standards currently sitting third in the series point standings, but has two wins. His first ten races he had an average finish of 9.3, and his last nine that has lowered to 6.7. Once Schatz and crew chief Ricky Warner dial-in the new Hoosier tires they will tough to beat as usual. Schatz is the defending and five time champion of the Knoxville Nationals and will be the favorite on May 11. Season Stats: Wins-2, Top five-7, Top ten-13, Avg, finish-8.7.
Over the winter Daryn Pittman was hired to race the Kasey Kahne Racing #9 and is off to a strong start leading the points and has a series leading four wins. Through nineteen races Pittman has an impressive sixteen top ten finishes, the most of anyone on the WoO tour. Stats: Wins-4, Top five-13, Top ten-16, Avg, finish-5.5.
Schatz’s and Pittman’s best competition at Knoxville on May 11 will likely be the 2012 Nationals runner-up Brian Brown, who nearly won the Outlaws race Saturday at Eldora before Daryn Pittman passed him with only a handful of laps remaining. Brown has competed with the WoO on twelve occasions this season and has recorded five top ten’s. Look for Brown to make a strong showing on his home track at Knoxville!
Paul McMahan is driving the #51 this season and sits second in the point standings with one win. The Pennsylvania based CJB Motorsports team is looking to make their mark in their debut season with the Outlaws, and McMahan is in the prime of his career. Stats: Wins-1, Top five-9, Top ten-12, Avg, finish-8.6.
Joey Saldana has changed rides and now wheels the 71m Motter Motorsports machine. It’s been about a decade since the Motter team has fielded a sprinter. The resurrected 71m is off to a good start sitting fourth in points, but still looking for their first win. Stats: Wins-0, Top five-5, Top ten-12, Avg, finish-9.4.
Sammy Swindell is fifth in points and has collected one win so far. Look for Sammy to be on top of his game at Knoxville. Stats: Wins-1, Top five-4, Top ten-11, Avg, finish-9.7.
David Gravel started the season racing in Florida in his family owned #89G sprint car. When Bill Rose was injured in the third race of the season, Gravel was hired to fill in and he has put himself sixth in the point standings and is now on the full time tour. Stats: Wins-0, Top five-4, Top ten-10, Avg, finish-10.1.
Craig Dollanksy (former Knoxville Regular) has two wins this season, but sits seventh in the Outlaws points. I would look for Dollansky and his #7 team to make big strides in the coming weeks and improve that position. The wins are there, and the consistency will follow. The Minnesota native always performs well at Knoxville. Stats: Wins-2, Top five-4, Top ten-10, Avg, finish-10.4.
Cody Darrah is currently in eighth in the WoO points. In his third full season with the Outlaws, Darrah has struggled this season, but has been close to winning on a couple of occasions. With his teammate Pittman leading the points, you have to think that Darrah will improve soon. Stats: Wins-0, Top five-2, Top ten-7, Avg, finish-12.3.
Steve Kinser finds himself ninth in the point standings with one feature win. In nineteen races he has one top five finish. The 58 year old “King of the Outlaws” is not off to a good start. It was only three years ago that he was competing for the win at the Nationals when his engine let go while running third. But he failed to qualify for the Nationals A main last season. Is the King’s age finally catching up with him? I wouldn’t ever count him out of winning more races. Stats: Wins-1, Top five-1, Top ten-7, Avg, finish-13.1.
2005 Knoxville track champion Kerry Madsen has been struggling this season, sitting eleventh in the points is not where I expected him to be. The team missed three features earlier in the season and has recently made a change at crew chief. Madsen won his first race of the season last Friday at Eldora, but followed that up with a finish of twenty-fourth the following night. The Keneric #29 team is based out of Knoxville and they won the June Outlaws event in 2012 at Knoxville, so I am sure they are excited to be back racing on their home turf. Stats: Wins-1, Top five-3, Top ten-8, Avg, finish-14.3.
2005 Knoxville Nationals champion Kraig Kinser isn’t off to the start he hoped for with only eight top ten finishes, and not making the feature at Merced, CA. After improving each of the last three seasons in the points by finishing tenth, eighth, and sixth from 2010-2012 respectively, it appeared that the 11K team was gaining momentum. It is still early in the season, but hopefully Kraig can win some races and rebound. Stats: Wins-0, Top five-3, Top ten-8, Avg, finish-13.5.
Jason Sides started the season strong with five straight top ten finishes, but has since struggled and missed the feature on a few nights. Sides is a talented driver with not as much funding as most teams on the tour. He hasn’t had the best of luck at Knoxville historically, but hopefully he can turn that around this weekend. Stats: Wins-0, Top five-2, Top ten-7, Avg, finish-15.3.
Although Tim Kaeding isn’t considered a full-time driver with the Outlaws, he has been the most impressive of anyone on the tour. In fourteen starts TK has three wins, nine top five’s, and eleven top ten’s. His average feature finish was 4.6 before last weekend, best of anyone on the tour, but he didn’t have a good weekend at Eldora with a twenty-sixth, and sixteenth place finishes. Look for Kaeding to be tough at Knoxville.
I would also keep a lookout for Lucas Wolfe in the Todd and Susan LaHaise #82. Wolfe is off the full-time Outlaws tour this season, but has found a solid ride. This car has performed well at Knoxville in the past, including winning the Knoxville Nationals Friday “Hard Knox” feature with Justin Henderson in the seat. Wolfe finished eighth and twelfth last weekend with the Outlaws at Eldora.
The “Knoxville Regulars” will be on hand to try to defend their home track, which hasn’t been an easy task over the years. There have been 132 World of Outlaws features (not including the Knoxville Nationals) at Knoxville Raceway since the series started racing here in 1979, and only twice has a “Regular” weekly competitor came away with a victory (Lasoski 1993, McCarl 2009).
Terry McCarl won an Outlaws race earlier this season in Florida, so he will be in contention for a win and looked good at the season opener. Brian Brown clearly has a chance to get the win. Bronson Maeschen won the Capitani Classic last August with several of the Outlaws competitors in that field. Mark Dobmeier won an Outlaws feature last year at Huset’s Speedway. Brooke Tatnell is a “Regular” this year and won an Outlaws feature in the 2010 season at Knoxville. Davey Heskin has finished in the top ten twice within the past three years at the Nationals, and he always qualifies well. Ian Madsen was really fast in the Nehring #18 at the season opener, as was Dusty Zomer. The chances of one of the “Regulars” beating the Outlaws, is higher than ever!
The Knoxville 360 class will be racing as well on May 11. See you in the stands!
Knoxville Raceway World of Outlaws career feature wins (not including Knoxville Nationals): 26-Steve Kinser, 24-Sammy Swindell, 14-Danny Lasoski, 14-Mark Kinser, 11-Doug Wolfgang, 9-Jac Haudenschild, 5-Donny Schatz, 5-Stevie Smith, 3-Craig Dollanksy, 3-Joey Saldana, Tied with 2; Brad Doty, Dave Blaney, Johnny Herrera, Terry McCarl. Tied with 1 win; Bobby Davis Jr., Brooke Tatnell, Danny Smith, Jason Meyers, Jeff Swindell, Keith Kauffman, Kerry Madsen, Kraig Kinser, Shane Stewart, Tim Green.
*Eric can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @_EricArnold.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Knoxville Raceway.