INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 27, 2012) – It’s not often the greatest Sprint car driver of all-time and his highly decorated teammate can enter an event as underdogs. Despite their success at Williams Grove Speedway during their careers, Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz and the rest of the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series regulars are not the favorites heading into the 50th annual Morgan Hughes National Open weekend festivities at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
The locals, known appropriately as the Pennsylvania Posse, have made it tough on the Outlaws the last few years and have several drivers playing the favorite role this weekend. After the Outlaws dominated the area for years, the locals stepped up and got the best of them for the better part of four seasons. From July 2008 when Schatz won the Summer Nationals until the 2011 Summer Nationals, the Posse claimed 11 of the 12 WoO races. WoO regular Jason Meyers picked up last year’s National Open, annually the biggest Sprint car race in the East, and Kinser continued the Outlaws’ revival at “The Grove” by winning both the Spring Nationals and the Morgan Cup.
Kinser, who won his first National Open in 1990, will be looking to become the only driver to win the event five times. He’ll pilot the familiar TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim in the weekend doubleheader seeking his 39th career A-Feature win at the famed facility. Looking back at his first three National Open wins (1990, 1992 and 1994), each time he was also the Williams Grove WoO winner the previous May. His most recent victory in the event came in October 2003.
Just being tied with Kinser in the record books is a big deal for Schatz, but being able to surpass him in some category is remarkable. Schatz, whose first-ever WoO victory at Williams Grove came in the 2000 National Open, has amassed 15 WoO victories at the track between the fall of 2000 and the summer of 2008. On four occasions (2000, 2004, 2005 and 2007), he was the best in the National Open field and carried the Outlaws’ banner to victory lane in the track’s biggest race of the year. His incredible 2007 season, when he won five of seven WoO races at the track, culminated with him leading all 40 laps of the National Open finale.
This year’s 50th annual event will attract the best contingent of cars from central Pennsylvania and offers the Outlaws a chance to make it known they’ve regained control of the Outlaws vs. Pennsylvania Posse rivalry. From the first National Open in 1963, which was won by an outsider from Michigan named Gordon Johncock, to last year’s 40-lap thriller won by Meyers, the race has become one filled with tradition and one every Sprint car driver wants to win.
For Kinser, this year’s race is an opportunity to put disappointments of the past couple of months behind him. The 20-time WoO champion has always stepped it up when the lights are the brightest. His 12 Knoxville Nationals wins, 12 Gold Cup Race of Champions victories and seven Kings Royal crowns attest to that. A victory this weekend would provide momentum for the final handful of races in the 2012 campaign and possibly give himself and his Bass Pro Shops crew something to build on for 2013. “The King of the Outlaws” currently ranks fifth in the standings and trails leader Schatz by 243 points.
Schatz, like Kinser, has been a monster in high-profile events beginning with that 2000 National Open triumph. Two years later, he scored the $100,000-to-win Historical Big One at Eldora. His 2004 and 2005 seasons were highlighted by National Open victories and, in 2006, he earned his first Knoxville Nationals win. The 2007 season not only included his five Williams Grove wins, but also big-money wins at Eldora ($50,000-to-win Kings Royal), Lernerville ($30,000-to-win Silver Cup) and Knoxville ($150,000-to-win Nationals). He continued his Knoxville dominance with two more big money wins in the 2008 and 2009 Nationals and scored two more these past years to become only the second driver to have won at least six Knoxville Nationals.
His most recent Nationals triumph is part of what’s been a scorching seven-week run for the four-time WoO champion. Schatz has finished inside the top-10 in 22 of his last 23 races, winning eight times and finishing second seven times. He’s turned a 44-point deficit in the standings into a 114-point advantage heading into the weekend.
Both nights at Williams Grove, the pit gates will open at 3 p.m. EDT with the grandstands opening at 5:30 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. For more details and ticket information, call the track at (717) 697-5000 or visit www.WilliamsGrove.com.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim:
The National Open weekend is one of the season’s biggest race weekends in the East. Is there a noticeable difference in the atmosphere for you as a driver at an event like this?
“You always show up at a racetrack excited to be able to compete, but I’d say at the bigger events there is a little more hype that you can certainly feel as a driver. The fans are really the ones who get excited for it, especially out in Pennsylvania where they really get behind their guys. Going out there and trying to win is what we do. The Bass Pro Shops guys know it’s a big race and we’re headed there with the intention of winning. That’s the name of the game and, hopefully, that’ll be how it turns out.”
Earlier this year, you picked up two wins on the same night at Williams Grove. Does that help your chances this weekend?
“Any time you can win somewhere, it helps. Honestly, I don’t really know if it’ll help us or not this weekend. In May, we kind of found something on Friday night and were able to make a run to the front. We just kind of started from that spot on Saturday night and it was right there. The car was awesome. I could run anywhere I needed to run. In the A-Feature, we got out front and just kind of checked out, and then starting on the pole for the Morgan Cup was a real advantage. We ended up leading every lap of that race. If we can get our car feeling that good again this weekend, I’d say we’d have a shot. Staring position is so important in the big races, hopefully we’ll get ourselves somewhere close to the front. ”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J:
After consistently having one of the cars to beat at Williams Grove for a number of years, the past few season’s results haven’t been quite where you wanted them to be. What’s been the difference?
“There really isn’t an easy answer and, actually, there have been several things. We had a really good package for Williams Grove for a lot of years and, when we had to change some things, our advantage may have closed some. The biggest thing is, you have to be able to qualify and start up front in those heat races. They have 30 to 35 really good cars out there and we’ve found ourselves qualifying way too deep the past couple of years to be even in the conversation of having a chance. I think the package we’ve been running the last few weeks is one that should give us a good opportunity to get back into contention. Again, we have to qualify well and get into the dash. If we can start inside the top three rows, I think we’ll have a good shot. Honestly, it’s one of those deals where we need to get in the show Friday and have a positive finish. Then build on that Saturday night and hopefully have a shot at the end of the race for $50,000.”
There is something about the big races that brings the best out of you and your team. Do you have a different agenda when it comes to the big races?
“We come out every night to be the best we can be. It just so happens we’ve had a lot of success when the paychecks are a little bigger. The STP guys are the best in the business, and they want to win more than anything. I’d say being in so many big races has helped us with any added pressure that may be around. But, reall, we just go out and try to win everything. We want to be the fastest in hot laps. We want to be quick time. We want to win our heat race. We want to win the dash. And we want to win as many races as we can. It’s just the mentality we have, whether it’s a regular race or the National Open. Every race at Williams Grove is a big race, and we treat them all the same.”
About Armored AutoGroup
Armored AutoGroup Inc., headquartered in Danbury, CT, is primarily comprised of the Armor All® and STP® brands. Armor All’s® current product line of protectants, wipes, tire and wheel care products, glass cleaners, leather care products and washes is designed to clean, shine and protect interior and exterior automobile surfaces. STP’s® offering of oil and fuel additives, functional fluids and automotive appearance products has a broad customer base ranging from professional racers to car enthusiasts and ‘‘Do-it-Yourselfers’’. The company has a diversified geographic footprint with direct operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and the U.K. and distributor relationships in approximately 50 countries. For more information, please visit www.armorall.com and www.stp.com.
About Bass Pro Shops Group
Bass Pro Shops – 56 retail stores in 26 states and Canada visited by over 109 million people annually, international catalog and internet retailing, American Rod & Gun wholesale division selling to over 7,000 independently owned retail stores worldwide, Outdoor World Incentives also selling Bass Pro Shops gift cards through over 132,000 retail outlets across America and a restaurant division with 26 locations. For more information regarding Bass Pro Shops store locations, products or special events, please visit www.basspro.com. To request a free catalog call 1-800-BASS PRO.
Tracker Marine Group – Manufactures and sells Tracker, Nitro, SunTracker, Tahoe, Grizzly and Mako boats through Bass Pro Shops retail stores and over 400 dealers worldwide.
Resort Group – Big Cedar Lodge and other resort properties including restaurants and golf course. Visit www.bigcedar.com for more information.