CHECKERED PAST: April Fools’ Night

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April Fools’ Day is no holiday. No child is excused from school. No mail carriers hit the golf course. Auto racing does not circle the date as part of a three-day weekend. April Fools’ Day is basically a 24-hour moratorium on lying.

The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series has raced nine times on April Fools’ Day. Three of the first four occurred at Memphis Motorsports Park. Three more were staged in Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri while the most recent happenstances hit three California ovals. To be precise, Outlaws hunted on April Fools’ Night as befitting nocturnal lions.

April 1, 1989 Memphis, TN (0.5d) The joke was on any fan looking for Sammy Swindell. And where was Steve Kinser? Terry Gray left town! Oklahoma was the answer to the Tennessee question. Lawton was where Sammy did snare $9,000 from the rival United Sprint Association while Doug Wolfgang (Danny Peace 8d) mastered Memphis like most half-miles. He made $8k. Doug’s dominant Singer Schnee was maintained in Memphis by Deuce Turrill and unsung Bob Hubbard. MMP was Number Seven of 43 for them. The Wolf was pursued by Keith Kauffman (Jasper Petitte 3) and the championship season of homegrown Bobby Davis Jr. Jack Hewitt (Stan Shoff 23s) finished fourth with Memphis mechanic Billy Anderson. Sammy’s kid brother Jeff Swindell (Payless 11x) crossed fifth followed by Jac Haudenschild (Ron Nott 48) and his Memphis crew chief, Daryl Saucier. Don Kreitz Jr. was seventh in his Volunteer State debut. Four more local talents made the main event in Eddie Gallagher, Ronnie Daniels, Mike Ward and Lee Brewer. Falling short was Hoyette Hodnett’s teenage son Gregory.

April 1, 1990 Memphis, TN (0.3d) Highway 61 Cabinet Shop’s Howard Blankenship took a buzz saw to turns three and four then proudly proclaimed it to be Blankenship Motorsports Park. He lasted longer as Mike Ward’s car owner. The Outlaws became guinea pigs to a new track gone nasty. Red flags flew all day and night. At least everyone was back in the same pit area because the USA uprising ended on Christmas. Steve Kinser’s crash handed victory to cousin Mark Kinser. Mark’s return began 14 seasons as Merrill Contracting 5m. The first Maxim chassis conceived by his father Karl Kinser and Chuck Merrill was six months old. Mark’s model clocked Quick Time (13.97) then led Johnny Herrera (Ron Pack 4a) and Dave Blaney (Verlin Chupp 7c) to the pay window. Reigning champ Davis (Casey Luna Ford) and Jeff Swindell (Catcam 511) finished fourth and sixth. Eleven cars survived.

April 1, 1994 Hutchinson, KS (0.405d) The fourth and final Series stop at the Hutchinson Raceway Park, once known as Salt City Speedway, was snared by Stevie Smith and his Al Hamilton J&J. Steve Kinser (Valvoline 11) and Haudenschild (Pennzoil 22) were oil stains in Stevie’s wake. Danny “The Dude” Lasoski (Gil Sonner 47) finished fourth as series irregular. Tom Wimmer and Bob Kramer captured fifth and sixth with Jeff Swindell and Joe Gaerte. Their third driver Greg Hodnett added a Top 12 ahead of Blake Robertson, who remained on tour through Lubbock, TX. Sammy was seventh after topping qualifying at 15.06 — slightly slower than Mark’s record of 14.90. Kansas contributed Wichita’s Mike Peters (Trop Artic 66) and Dodge City’s Garry Lee Maier. Across town, the Kansas State Fairground has raced for 112 years. Hutchinson Raceway Park, however, was plowed under in 2011.

April 1, 1995 Memphis, TN (0.3d) Howard Blankenship was replaced by Larry Sides, who wanted his rambunctious boys Jason and Paul to have a place to race their new/used sprint cars. Two Sides Racing converted from two to four wheels but were too green to tackle Outlaws when Blaney (Luna 10) dusted The Dude after Lasoski convinced Gil Sonner to leave Iowa after their 30-win season. Four months later, Lasoski left for Al Hamilton. Sonner stayed an Outlaw for five solid seasons, making a Series rookie of future champ Daryn Pittman. Hodnett (8tw) took third over Sammy, Stevie (Ecowater 71m), Haud, hometown hero Rickey Hood (Joe Herrera 45x), Andy Hillenburg, Joe’s son John (Guy Forbrook 5) and Gaerte (Hamilton 77) 10th. Jeff Swindell (7tw) thrilled his home crowd at 13.19. Two Sides crewed Four Aces for Jeff Shepard. Outlaws returned to Memphis Motorsports Park in 1996 but never raced there again.

April 1, 2005 Batesville, AR (0.345d) Before the 2005 World of Outlaws campaign, Steve and Dana’s boy Kraig Kinser owned exactly one series victory. Batesville helped begin a career year with three wins in six starts. Everything clicked. Dad diverted Delco-Remy dollars and Scott Gerkin engines. In their first appearance in 12 years to Mark Martin’s hometown, Kraig defeated Pittman (Titan 21) and dear ol’ dad. Minnesota native Craig Dollansky and Minnesota transplant Brooke Tatnell finished fourth and fifth. Mark Kinser competed for San Jose’s Rick Wright. Shane Stewart started the first Arkansas A-main by Washington’s Kevin Rudeen. North Dakota dispatched Donny Schatz and Natalie Sather and her crew chief Ken Woodruff. Also in the A-main was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Four months later came Kraig’s coveted Knoxville Nationals achievement. Outlaws returned to Larry Shaw’s track in 2006 but have not been back.

April 1, 2006 Pevely, MO (I-55) Plagued by high water whenever winter melted into spring, I-55 Raceway put 55 heavy rigs on solid ground to see Schatz defeat Joey Saldana (Kasey Kahne 9) and Dollansky. Jac Haudenschild (Rick Wright 35) finished fourth, pursued by Pittman, Tatnell and Washington’s Jason Solwold. Forbrook towed from Minnesota so that Sammy could be eighth. Son of Sam, Kevin Swindell, earned 11th. Terry McCarl was fastest at 11.22. Missouri was represented by Warsaw’s Jesse Hockett and Fredericktown’s Tim Montgomery in the All Star car of Guy Webb. Donny built the foundation to his first title.

April 1, 2011 Merced, CA (0.235d) California had never seen the World of Outlaws in April until this fairground debut. As with the second Memphis Motorsports Park, Outlaws headlined the first show on a crude inner oval. And like Memphis, the grand opener was grim. Most comfortable was Sammy Swindell, fastest at 11.23 and first in the feature. Sam won Merced three straight years. Second was Tim Kaeding (Dennis Roth 83) over Sides and Jonathan Allard in the Morrie Williams Zero. Seventh at Merced marked the best Outlaw drive by Tommy Tarlton, who would top the series as car owner to Jason Meyers and sponsor to Kyle Larson. Kyle crossed ninth in his third series start, which was the second Outlaw feature to ever include Washington’s Trey Starks or Fresno’s Cory Eliason.

April 1, 2016 Watsonville, CA (0.246d) The first World of Outlaws visit in eight years went to Grass Valley’s Brad Sweet (Kahne 49) over Shark Racing mates Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen in Jake’s finest run to that point. Kerry Madsen (Keneric 29) finished fourth over Jason Johnson, quickest at 11.48. Tony Stewart (Schatz), Kasey Kahne (Pittman) and Kyle Larson (Shane Stewart) earned 6-7-8 as car owners. Shane Golobic (Keith Day 22) was the highest guest in ninth-place.

April 1, 2017 Perris, CA (0.368d) Connecticut’s David Gravel (Chad Clemens 5) covered 2,850 miles to ascend the Perris Auto Speedway podium. Barry Jackson brought the winning car from Telford, PA. They beat Sweet after Brad clocked 14.46. It was one of 18 CJB victories in 2017, or second to Schatz at 20. On mama’s turf, Sheldon Haudenschild hit third-place for his series best ahead of Schatz and Kerry’s kid brother Ian Madsen. Fresno’s Carson Macedo (Tarlton 21) bagged a Top 10. Rudeen sent Tayler Malsam. Parker Price Miller returned to the scene of his first Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix. “The PAS” booked Outlaws in seven of their first nine seasons, brought them back in 2019, but have since been canceled by COVID because a global pandemic is the polar opposite of an April Fools’ joke.

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