The World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series competitors resumed the 2012 campaign Friday night and the theme of the season continued to follow script. The series made its 2012 Midwest debut at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway and the feature event turned out to be another freight train on a rubbered-down surface. Mother Nature also continued to play havoc by forcing officials to postpone Saturday’s scheduled event at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. It was the fourth consecutive Saturday night race that was lost due to weather.
Tony Stewart Racing’s Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz entered Friday’s program at Paducah each looking to earn his first victory at the 3/8-mile, high-banked dirt oval. Kinser led the two-car TSR team to the finish line by passing Schatz in the last corner of the 30-lap A-Feature to finish fifth.
Ironically, the program started with the TSR cars following one another to the finish line. Kinser, driver of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim, was the 12th car in the field of 29 to hit the track for qualifying. He put in a lap of 14.225 seconds on the rapidly deteriorating surface, which would rank him ninth. Schatz was the next driver to make his two laps against the clock aboard the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, and he posted a lap of 14.112 seconds, which was one spot better than Kinser. Later in the session, Chad Kemenah split up the TSR drivers by turning the 10th-fastest lap, but both Schatz and Kinser would earn front-row starting positions in their heat races.
Kinser led the early laps of heat two and spent the final two laps searching different lines around the track. He was passed coming to the white flag and would finish second. Schatz chased Sammy Swindell in heat three, but he couldn’t catch the current WoO points leader and finished second. Both drivers qualified for the dash, but neither was able to make much progress in the six-lap race. Schatz started seventh and finished sixth, while Kinser started ninth and finished 10th.
Prior to the 30-lap A-Feature, both TSR teams were strategizing on how to get their cars to drive forward on an extremely slick racing surface. When the race began, Schatz started from position six and Kinser position 10. Both had good starts at the drop of the green. Schatz was up to fifth and Kinser was eighth after five laps were in the books. Unfortunately, it became clear there was only one groove on the track where competitors could maintain their positions. The track had quickly changed from extremely slick to rubbered-down and drivers had to switch into tire-conserving mode. The drivers got in line and waited for an opening ahead of them to make their move. The race was slowed by a caution only once and that came on the 13th lap. Schatz moved up to fourth on the restart, while Kinser worked his way to seventh. As the laps added up, Schatz had to continue to slow down to save his right-rear tire. Swindell passed him for fourth with five laps remaining and, on the white-flag lap, he was held up by the lapped car of Austin Wheatley, which opened the door for Kinser to make his final-corner pass.
Joey Saldana took advantage of the lap-13 restart and beat early leader Danny Smith back to the rubbered-down groove on the restart to gain control of the feature. He led the rest of the way and became the third two-time WoO winner of 2012, joining Schatz and Tim Kaeding.
Heavy rains on Friday and predicted severe weather Saturday in the St. Louis metro area forced I-55 officials to postpone Saturday’s event until Oct. 13.
The sixth-place finish for Schatz dropped him to third in the 2012 WoO championship standings. Swindell remains on top with Saldana now holding down second. Through nine of the 78 scheduled nights of racing, Schatz has earned 1,236 points, 12 fewer than Swindell and seven less than Saldana. Kinser continued his climb in the standings and now ranks fifth with 1,216 points and trails Swindell by 32.
The TSR tandem returns to action next weekend with another Midwest doubleheader. Friday, the series heads to central Missouri for an event at the Missouri State Fairgrounds Speedway in Sedalia. Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., hosts the Outlaws Saturday.