Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) opened and closed the Memorial Day Weekend by competing with the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series. The TSR contingent of Steve Kinser, Donny Schatz and Tony Stewart were in action in both North Carolina and Indiana. Friday’s Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway was filled with highs and lows for TSR. Kinser raced into the lead before blowing a tire, Stewart stormed from 12th to third before breaking a suspension component late in the race and Schatz charged from ninth and had a late shot at victory before finishing second. Monday’s stop at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway was more of survival on the high-banked oval with Kinser leading the TSR brigade by coming home fourth.
The Outlaws’ annual May race in Charlotte is traditionally viewed as the first big race of the campaign. Kinser led the TSR teams in qualifying behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim. The 20-time WoO champion was fourth in the field of 28 cars while Stewart ended up 10th aboard the TSR No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1/Chevrolet J&J, and Schatz 11th in the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J.
Motor problems ended Stewart’s bid for a spot in the dash during the opening heat. Kinser transferred through the same heat by finishing fourth, and Schatz finished second in heat two to join Kinser in the Dash. Stewart bounced back and dominated the 12-lap B-Feature after Kinser came home sixth and Schatz ninth in the dash.
In the 30-lap A-Feature, Kinser charged forward from sixth and quickly into contention. Stewart also got a terrific start, surging from 12th into the top-eight. Schatz followed Stewart as the duo tried to work its way forward into the top-five. By the race’s midpoint, Kinser was stalking leader Joey Saldana and, on lap 22, he took the lead working through lapped traffic. The lead was short-lived as he blew a left-rear tire on lap 23. On the restart, Stewart was fourth and Schatz sixth. Schatz used an effective restart to climb to third and, two laps later, Stewart surrendered the fourth position when he stopped with a broken torsion bar. Schatz would take second on the ensuing restart and, two laps later, Kinser collided with Danny Holtgraver to bring out another caution. This gave the four-time WoO champion one final shot at victory. Unfortunately, Saldana was too strong on the restart and Schatz finished second. Kinser would finish 13th and Stewart was credited with 19th.
The Outlaws returned to action Monday night at Lawrenceburg. It marked the first WoO race at the 3/8-mile high-banked, dirt oval since June 2009, when Schatz came out victorious. Very hot temperatures welcomed the series back to southeastern Indiana, and things didn’t start well for Schatz. He qualified 19th in the 34-car field and, during the third heat, he blew a right-front tire. His STP crew replaced the tire and he stormed back from eighth to finish third. The finish transferred him into the 35-lap A-Feature. Stewart had better results in qualifying, turning the fifth-best lap and a third-place run in the opening heat. Kinser timed in 11th, finished second in heat three and third in the dash.
The three TSR cars were spread out on the grid as the green flag waved on the 35-lap A-Feature. The track was tricky and included both dusty and slick spots as well as wet and heavy areas. Kinser managed to run in the top-five throughout the race, which was slowed by a number of cautions.
Stewart and Schatz ran between 11th and 15th until a pair of restarts gave them a chance at cracking the top-10. Schatz moved from 12th to seventh on a lap-30 restart but was called for jumping and had to restart 14th. Stewart was able to take advantage of the next start and climbed to eighth, where he would finish. Schatz passed three cars during the final handful of laps to finish 11th.
Chad Kemenah earned the Lawrenceburg victory after out-dueling Craig Dollansky and Kraig Kinser to pick up his second WoO A-Feature triumph of 2012.
Kinser continues to lead the 2012 WoO championship standings following the Memorial Day weekend action. Following Friday’s runner-up finish, Schatz moved from third to second and now trails Kinser by 26 markers through 23 of 73 scheduled points races.
The TSR teams will return to action next weekend with a race Friday at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park. Saturday, the WoO stars make their only 2012 appearance in Michigan at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa.