A pair of podium finishes highlighted the weekend for Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) in World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series competition in California. TSR’s Donny Schatz piloted the No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J from 13th to third in the Outlaws’ debut at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Dirt Track Friday, while team owner Tony Stewart had an impressive debut Saturday at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., racing the TSR No. 14 Chevrolet Performance/Mobil 1 J&J to a third-place finish in the 40-lap Mini Gold Cup A-Feature.
TSR’s Steve Kinser earned his best finish of the 2013 WoO STP Sprint Car Series campaign Friday when he raced the TSR No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim to an eighth-place finish in Stockton.
A standing-room-only crowd welcomed the Outlaws to Stockton 99 Dirt Track and all three TSR drivers qualified inside the top-16, which was the first goal of the weekend. Schatz was sixth-best, Stewart 10th and Kinser 14th in the field of 44 cars and all three were in the second heat race. To say their heat was stacked with Kinser and Stewart sharing the front row and Schatz lining up next to three-time WoO champion Sammy Swindell in row two would have been an understatement. There were 30 WoO championships represented in the race that was taking the top two cars to the dash and first five to the main event. Kinser led the race from start to finish with Stewart finishing second, earning both a position in the six-lap dash. Schatz finished fourth and transferred directly into 30-lap A-Feature.
With Stewart and Kinser finishing fourth and seventh, respectively, in the dash, the TSR cars would line up fourth (Stewart), seventh (Kinser) and 13th (Schatz) for the main event. The race was slowed a number of times because of accidents on the newly constructed 3/8-mile dirt oval. Schatz methodically worked his way into the top-five with a car that allowed him to run all over the track. The five-time and reigning WoO STP Sprint Car Series champion would reach third late in the race, and he trailed winner Kyle Larson and runner-up Tim Kaeding at the finish line. Kinser finished eighth and was followed by Stewart, who earned his first top-10 WoO finish in his third WoO start of the campaign.
Saturday marked the first time Stewart had competed at historic Silver Dollar Speedway. The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had always wanted to race on the quarter-mile dirt oval, and he made a good first impression in the Mini Gold Cup. Stewart led the TSR contingent in qualifying by posting the 11th-best lap and was joined in the top-16 by Schatz, who despite being the 38th car in the field of 42 cars was still able to turn the 15th-fastest lap. Stewart then won his first WoO heat race of the year by leading all eight laps of heat three. Schatz finished second behind Stewart and the two earned positions in the dash. Stewart made it consecutive wins by dominating the six-lap dash, while Schatz advanced from ninth to sixth. Kinser was 29th overall in qualifying and, after finishing seventh in the opening heat, he raced from ninth to third in the B-Main to earn a spot in the 40-lap A-Feature.
Stewart led the field of 25 cars to the green and paced the race for the first seven circuits. Paul McMahan took the lead from Stewart on lap eight and Stewart did everything he could to stay within striking distance. He battled Shane Golobic during the middle stages of the race and David Gravel during the second half while McMahan set a torrid pace en route to scoring the victory. A late yellow set up a climactic conclusion. Stewart restarted fourth and was able to take advantage of Gravel’s misfortune on the final lap and earned his first podium finish with the Outlaws in 2013.
Schatz raced inside the top-10 during the first 30 laps and was comfortably running in seventh before disaster struck on lap 34 when he collided with a lapped car entering turn three. The contact sent the STP machine flipping upside down and resulted in terminal damage to the No. 15. Schatz was credited with a 19th-place finish. Kinser was able to work his way forward during the 40-lap race, charging from 23rd to 13th.
Following the results of last week, Schatz ranks fifth in the 2013 WoO STP Sprint Car Series championship standings with 1,292 points. He trails leader Daryn Pittman by 138 markers after 10 of 85 scheduled nights of racing. Kinser ranks 12th with 1,186 points.
The nine-race California tour continues next weekend for TSR with a single program at Merced (Calif.) Speedway Friday.