INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 11, 2014) – The 2014 World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series campaign officially came to a close Sunday night with the annual “Night of Champions” awards banquet, and it was a night filled with highlights from the accomplishments of Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) drivers Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser. Schatz was honored as the 2014 WoO STP Sprint Car Series champion and Kinser was recognized for his remarkable accomplishments during a WoO career that spanned four decades.
The weekend kicked off Thursday with a special presentation to Kinser by Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of this year’s WoO “Salute to the King Tour.” During a public unveiling at The Dirt Track, the seating area that was renamed the “Steve Kinser Grandstand” was filled to capacity for the three-night Bad Boy Buggies World Finals.
Schatz clinched his sixth WoO championship by signing to compete Thursday, and he promptly qualified the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J eighth for Friday’s program and 20th for Saturday’s season finale. In Friday’s race, he finished second in heat three and started the 30-lap A-Feature 13th. After climbing to seventh, the Fargo, North Dakota racer cut a right-rear tire and was forced to the pit area, where his STP crew replaced the tire. He returned to the track and finished 13th. The result was his first outside the top-10 in 36 races.
He returned Saturday and began his evening by winning the fifth heat race to earn a spot in the dash. The STP machine was strong in the six-lap dash and Schatz raced from 10th to sixth. In the 30-lap A-Feature, Schatz was looking to close the season with a victory and appeared to have a car capable of winning during the opening laps as he battled his way inside the top-five. Contact with Kerry Madsen heading into turn three on lap eight sent Schatz spinning and he was forced to restart the race from the back in 25th. Schatz put on a show for the capacity crowd, racing his way back through the field. He was fourth when a caution waved with four laps remaining. On the restart, Schatz moved past Daryn Pittman for third, but Pittman got back around Schatz on the final lap. The fourth-place finish was his 63rd top-five of the season and provided another example of the driver and team’s commitment to success.
“When you drive for one of the best car owners in the sport and the best guys in the pit area, you never give up on them,” Schatz said. “I had no choice. It’s not in the cards to quit. We weren’t happy to go to the back, but it is what we were dealt and I made the best of it. Hats off to the whole STP team. They put us in this position where we came to Charlotte and we didn’t have to race for the win to win the championship. That doesn’t change how we race, and tonight proves it. It was a great year, winning-wise, but when you look at the stats of the season, this car was in the work area twice all season and that was the final two races. We finished all 88 races. That’s tremendous and it’s what this team does. They’re just phenomenal at their jobs.”
Kinser’s final weekend as a full-time Outlaw began with the 20-time champion circling the 4/10-mile, clay oval in the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim in Thursday’s qualifying sessions. “The King of the Outlaws” posted the 27th-best lap in the first session and 14th-fastest for Saturday’s race. Friday night began with Kinser and Eric Bondy, Vice President, Consumer Business for Bad Boy Buggies, presenting Dolly Bickel from Lincoln, Montana with keys to a “Salute to the King” Ambush iS. Bickel was chosen from more than 80,000 entries in the Bad Boy Buggies promotion. After the opening ceremonies, Kinser finished seventh in his heat and eighth in the Last Chance Showdown and wasn’t able to qualify for the 30-lap A-Feature. He bounced back Saturday by finishing fourth in heat four to transfer into the season’s final A-Feature. Before the A-Feature, Kinser paced the Outlaws’ four abreast parade lap and received on final salute before action began. He started the race on the outside of row nine and would finish 23rd.
With the racing complete, the season concluded with the Outlaws’ “Night of Champions” at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. Kinser’s illustrious career was highlighted and several stories were shared by motorsports journalist Robin Miller. The Outlaws presented Kinser and his wife Dana with 20-time championship rings and a 20-time championship trophy.
“Well, thank you,” Kinser said. “All this stuff makes it even harder to give up. But I’ll think about it when I’m running down the road. The racing part, the people, it’s been my life. I’m happy to have had the career I did. I’ll be down watching some racing and participating, somehow. I had the opportunity to race with and for some great people over the years. I can’t thank Tony Stewart and all his people for the last five years. Bad Boy Buggies, it’s been great carrying your brand the past couple of years and getting to know you guys as friends. I’m looking forward to those friendships continuing.”
Throughout the program, a number of awards were presented and TSR was connected to almost all of them. Ron Shaver, engine builder for TSR’s No.15 machine, was recognized as the Engine Builder of the Year. Jack Elam of J&J Auto Racing earned Chassis Manufacturer of the Year. Schatz received the KSE Hard Charger Award. TSR won the VP Racing Fuels Award. Ricky Warner, crew chief of the No. 15 car, was named Crew Chief of the Year. And Scott Gerkin, crew chief of the No. 11 car, was the recipient of the “Ted Johnson Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Sprint Car Racing.”
Schatz was presented with his championship ring and trophy following a remarkable season that included a career-best 26 wins in 88 starts. This was his sixth championship in the last nine seasons and he ranks second all-time to Kinser in WoO championships earned. He also compiled the most points in series history, surpassing Kinser’s previous record of 11,236, with his 12,427.
“I’ve got to thank Tony Stewart for giving us the tools and allowing us to build the success we have,” Schatz said. “There are a lot of people involved to make that happen. STP has been a huge part of that. Thank you STP for allowing us to grow your brand, your expectations and ours. Armor All, Chevrolet, Bad Boy Buggies, Crimsafe, thank you for letting us help you grow your brands into the future. For my guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson, Eric Prutzman), enough can’t be said about you. What you did this year was unbelievable. I know how hard you work to do it. I know you’ll work super hard to do it again. It’s nearly impossible to explain the great season we had. I don’t know that you can ever do anything like this again. We’re going to try our best, but you just never know. All year long, I’ve just been living for tomorrow and, right now, I just want to live for today and celebrate.”
This was the fourth WoO championship for Tony Stewart Racing. Brett Frood, Executive Vice President of Stewart-Haas Racing, represented team owner Tony Stewart, who was racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event in Phoenix, and read a statement from the car owner.
“When it comes to Donny, there hasn’t been a more dominant sprint driver in the last 10 years,” the statement read. “We were lucky to have him join us in 2008 and he picked up right where he left off in 2007 by winning another championship. That championship-level consistency is due in large part to the chemistry, specifically between Donny, Ricky, Scuba and Eric. The best driver paired with the best team, and they have proven to be a hard combination to beat.”