Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) had rough weekend in California’s Central Valley as the World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series kicked off the first of five consecutive weekends of dirt-track action in the Golden State. Both TSR drivers, five-time and reigning series champion Donny Schatz and 20-time WoO titlist Steve Kinser, endured some frustrating outcomes in the weekend doubleheader at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif.
Schatz posted the best result of the weekend for the TSR contingent with Saturday’s finish of 13th behind the wheel of the No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J. Kinser, who had a tough weekend from start to finish aboard TSR’s No. 11 Bad Boy Buggies/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Performance Maxim, posted finishes of 21st Friday and 18th Saturday.
Schatz entered the two-night program in Tulare with four consecutive top-six finishes and began the night by qualifying 10th overall in the field of 32 cars. A runner-up finish in the second heat earned Schatz a starting spot in the dash, and the luck of the draw put Schatz on the pole for the six-lap race. He would end up chasing Jac Haudenschild throughout. The finish gave Schatz the outside-front-row starting spot for the 35-lap A-Feature. He took advantage by racing into the lead on the opening lap and maintained the point position for the first 14 circuits. It was a restart after a lap-14 crash that turned a promising night into another frustrating one. A large hole in turn one made racing treacherous all night and the STP machine hit it just enough when the race resumed to cause the No. 15 car to bounce through the turn and into the wall. The contact broke the front axle and ended Schatz’s shot at a second triumph at the 1/3-mile dirt oval. Despite a tremendous effort by the STP team, repairs couldn’t be made in time for Schatz to return to the field and he was credited with 23rd.
Kinser’s weekend began with a bang as the Bloomington, Ind., native got upside down during his first qualifying lap. The Bad Boy Buggies crew made repairs and “The King of the Outlaws” was able to make one lap at the end of qualifying. He ended up 31st overall and the rest of the night was an uphill climb. He raced from eighth to fifth in heat three to earn a spot in the 35-lap A-Feature. Seven laps into the main event Kinser was trying to work his way forward and got upside down coming out of turn four. Once again, his crew made repairs and he finished the race 21st.
Tim Kaeding of Roth Motorsports led the final 21 laps to pick up his second victory of the 2013 WoO STP Sprint Car Series campaign.
Saturday got off to better start for Kinser as he qualified 18th in the field of 31 cars. A fourth-place finish in the third heat transferred him into the A-Feature. In the main event, he was trying to advance on a one-groove racetrack and couldn’t avoid a flipping Kerry Madsen. For the third time in two nights, he flipped the Bad Boy Buggies machine. The damage wasn’t terminal and, after repairs, he finished 18th.
Schatz was looking for redemption Saturday following Friday’s disappointing outcome. He qualified 20th overall and transferred into the A-Feature by finishing sixth in heat two. He started the A-Feature 20th and picked up positions early before the rubber-down surface made passing nearly impossible just 10 laps in. Schatz held his line for the remaining laps and finished 13th.
Craig Dollansky led all 35 laps Saturday, becoming the sixth different winner in 2013.
Following the results of last week, Schatz ranks fifth in the 2013 WoO STP Sprint Car Series championship standings with 1,036 points. He trails leader Daryn Pittman by 111 markers after eight of 85 scheduled nights of racing. Kinser ranks 12th with 928 points.
The California tour continues next weekend for TSR with an inaugural event at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway Friday and the Mini Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., Saturday.