Friday, February 27, 2015
World of Outlaws: The Beginning of a New Era
As a fan, we've known the day would come when Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell would no longer grace America's dirt tracks with The Greatest Show on Dirt, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. The King will still be around at some of the most venerable tracks in the country, and it wouldn't surprise me if Sammy made a guest appearance or two, but let's face it, it's time to move on.
Fortunately, the World of Outlaws will not be hurting for any talent or star-power in the foreseeable future. In fact, their field of touring drivers this season may be as deep as we've ever seen.
What we will now refer to as "the field" for the rest of this article will carry 7 total championships into the season (Schatz , Pittman ) and 444 series wins. Behind Schatz and Pittman is a young and upcoming group of drivers just itching to claim their first WoO title. But before we dive into each driver, let's first analyze the 2015 schedule.
This year's World of Outlaws campaign contains 91 races at 56 different facilities. This is slightly down from last year's schedule (95 races at 61 tracks). Some of the notable changes are one extra night at Williams Grove, but one less night at both Lernerville Speedway and Lincoln (PA) Speedway.
Williams Grove leads the way with 7 events. Following behind are Eldora & Knoxville (5), and I-55, Silver Dollar and The Dirt Track at Charlotte whom each have 3 races. For a more in-depth look at the cross-country travel plans, let's dive on in a little further.
Volusia Speedway Park kicked off with the 3-night DIRTcar Nationals. Next up is a doubleheader in Sin City that begins a 14 race stretch on the West Coast over the course of a month and a half. 10 tracks will split duties in servicing the World of Outlaws.
An 8-race stretch back across the Midwest will lead into the first East Coast swing of the year, which will feature 6 events through Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.
Starting on Labor Day, the Greatest Show on Dirt will spend nearly 2 months in the Midwest and Upper Midwest before returning to Ohio and Pennsylvania in mid-July for the Doty Classic, Kings Royal, Silver Cup and Summer Nationals.
Following the "Month of Money", the Outlaws will fleet off through New York and across Canada before eventually moseying on down to the Iron Man 55 and hallowed Knoxville Nationals.
After an illustrious week in Knoxville, they will escape off to the far Northwest with stops in Alberta, Washington and Oregon. From there, the World of Outlaws will head down the coast for the prestigious Gold Cup at the Silver Dollar Speedway.
A trek across the country with a few stops at a handful of venues will ultimately bring the World of Outlaws back to the East Coast for the re-formatted National Open at Williams Grove, a few other races, and the finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
The World of Outlaws have 14 committed full-time members, with an additional driver that will hit many of the races but needs additional sponsorship to get through the year. 444 wins are represented by this year's contingents. So without further adieu, here are your 2015 Outlaws.
Jacob Allen: In his 2nd WoO season, looking to continue improvement after making strides last season. Best series finish - 13th ('14)
Craig Dollansky: Returns to the series driving for Rick Rogers. Winner of 59 WoO features. Best series finish - 2nd ('06 & '12)
David Gravel: Begins his 2nd full season as an Outlaw. 7 career WoO wins. Best series finish - 10th ('14)
Jason Johnson: 360 standout making his first run at the WoO championship. Owns 1 career WoO feature win.
Kraig Kinser: Former Knoxville Nationals champion. 16 career series wins. Best series finish - 5th ('05)
Kerry Madsen: Australian native taking another shot at the title. 16 career series wins. Best series finish - 4th ('14)
Daryn Pittman: 2013 champion looking to reclaim the championship. 53 career series wins. Best series finish - 1st ('13)
Joey Saldana: Searching to transfer some Time Trial speed to the A-Mains. 91 career series victories. Best series finish - 2nd ('07)
Donny Schatz: Six-time and defending champion. 174 series wins. Best series finish - 1st ('06, '07, '08, '09, '12, '14)
Logan Schuchart: In his 2nd WoO season, looking for some improvement on past successes. 3 career podium finishes. Best series finish - 12th ('14)
Jason Sides: Veteran driver looking to rekindle the fire. 13 career series wins. Best series finish - 5th ('09 & '10)
Shane Stewart: First full WoO season under Larson/Marks Racing. 5 career series wins. Best series finish - 12th ('05)
Brad Sweet: On the verge of a breakout season for the KKR driver. 9 career series wins. Best series finish - 6th ('14)
Cody Darrah will also journey to many of the World of Outlaws races but is currently looking for additional funding in order to follow the whole tour.
Finally, the fun part of all of this. Where I get to spew my meaningless opinions and more than likely embarrass myself with an uneducated guess, stir up a couple readers, all while jinxing a few drivers in the process. Ah, oh well. That's half of the fun! Here are my BOLD PREDICTIONS for the 2015 World of Outaws season.
Top 5: Donny Schatz, Daryn Pittman, Brad Sweet, Kerry Madsen, Joey Saldana
Wins: Schatz (18), Pittman (12), Madsen (10), Saldana (8), Sweet (7), McMahan (5)
Fast Timer: Kerry Madsen
Hard Charger: David Gravel
Most Improved: Logan Schuchart
Biggest Surprise: Jason Johnson
Biggest Disappointment: Craig Dollansky
Race of the Year: Cedar Lake Speedway (Night 2)
Races That Steve Kinser Enters: 30
Knoxville Nationals: Donny Schatz
Kings Royal: Brad Sweet
National Open: PA Posse
Brian Brown Wins: 2
New WoO Winner: D.J. Netto
Throwback Winner: Danny Lasoski