Tony Stewart Racing's Dream Team Hopes to Dominate at The Dirt Track at Charlotte
While Tony Stewart will look to defend his crown in the May 22 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the famed 1.5-mile superspeedway, his Tony Stewart Racing team will be focused on the four-tenths-mile clay oval across the street for the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown, May 28, at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Tony Stewart Racing burst onto the World of Outlaws scene by winning the championship in its first season in 2001, one of only three teams to claim the coveted World of Outlaws crown in the last nine years.
However, championships are the exception in racing, so when news broke in December that the man many call “Smoke” was adding 20-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car champion Steve Kinser to his team, it underscored the mantra that winning is what matters. Stewart’s move added Kinser and his 553 World of Outlaws main event victories to a stable that already included four-time and reigning World of Outlaw champion Donny Schatz and his 100 victories.
“I really feel like a proud father,” said Stewart. “The way I see it is that in the sprint car world, I’ve got the ‘Dream Team’ driving for me. I’m just really proud as a car owner to have guys like this. I know I’ve got two guys who can go out every night and win races, and both of them have a great shot at the championship.
“Ever since I started with a World of Outlaws team in 2001, we’ve had a lot of success with the program,” continued Stewart. “Winning a championship that first year pushed us to always continue to improve. A couple of years ago, we started a second team and brought Donny on board. It was a great decision and we’ve had a lot of success with him.”
From Stewart, you’ll often hear the philosophy of having the right people in the right places to do the right jobs. Last season, when things weren’t clicking with one of his Outlaw teams, he knew a change had to be made. Relationships are important to the Columbus, Ind., native, and Stewart had high hopes for fellow Indiana racer Kraig Kinser, who he hired following the 2007 season.
“At the end of last season we felt like we needed to make a change in our Bass Pro Shops car,” said Stewart. “It kinda put both Steve and I in a box, so to speak, but what ended up working out is that Kraig went over to Steve Kinser Racing, and we got Steve to come run for us.”
“Honestly, I had to think about coming and driving for Tony a little bit,” said Steve Kinser, sprint car racing’s most accomplished driver. “We were talking about a ride that my son had, and I had to be convinced that was the right thing to do. We talked about it quite a bit and I’m certainly glad Tony was persistent enough to make it a reality.”
Just as he did when courting Schatz, Stewart agreed that keeping a championship combination together was important. Kinser kept his crew intact and will continue building on the chemistry he has with crew chief Scott Gerkin, with whom he’s worked exclusively since 1995.
Schatz, meanwhile, is certainly hoping things stay the same after claiming four consecutive World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series titles, but the Fargo, N.D., racer is relishing the opportunity to team with a sprint car icon.
“I’ve been fortunate to win four championships,” explained Schatz, who began his World of Outlaw career in 1997. “It’s obviously about the people you surround yourself with. If you can build yourself a great program and be around people you like to be with, you tend to be successful.
“Tony Stewart Racing gave me the opportunity to continue my championship streak with a core group of people, and now we’ve got the all-time champion and his crew as teammates. I hope that we can go down to the end of the year and be fighting neck and neck for a championship.
“Steve is obviously the best to ever sit in a sprint car. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. We both have that drive to win. Our competitiveness doesn’t seem to cross that line, so it’s actually a lot of fun. We’ve raced each other very hard, but very respectfully as well.”
The stars of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series return to The Dirt Track at Charlotte as part of Coca-Cola 600 Race Week for the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown on May 28. The winged, 800-horsepower, open-wheel, sprint cars will take to the four-tenths-mile clay oval to compete for a trip to Victory Lane at The Dirt Track and $12,000-to-win.
In addition to sprint car racing, the FASTRAK Crate Late Model Series will battle it out in the FASTRAK Triple Crown scheduled to follow the night’s main event.
Gates will open at 4:30 p.m. and drivers will participate in an autograph session from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. on the main concourse. The first 1,000 fans to present a NOS Energy Drink from Circle K at the gate for the autograph party will receive a free limited-edition commemorative poster. Opening ceremonies begin at 7:15 p.m. with the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown scheduled to start at 9:05 p.m.
The Dirt Track features stadium-style seating along the frontstretch and all events are family priced. Reserved seats to the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown are just $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be obtained by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455 FANS or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.