The World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series continued its annual Gold Rush Tour with three nights of racing in Washington and Oregon during the Labor Day weekend. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser maintained his surge following the Knoxville Nationals by earning three top-three finishes while his TSR teammate Donny Schatz finished the weekend with a pair of top-fives. The TSR tandem raced at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash., on Friday and Saturday and then on Monday evening made its yearly stop at Cottage Grove (Ore.) Speedway.
Kinser, who won last year’s $20,000 finale at Skagit, began the weekend by qualifying the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/ Chevrolet Maxim 10th in the field of 28 cars. His heat one victory earned him a spot in the six-lap dash. The 20-time WoO champion started Friday night’s 30-lap A-Feature sixth and raced his way into contention behind Craig Dollansky and Jason Meyers. Kinser would finish third to earn his second consecutive third-place finish.
Schatz timed in fourth behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J. After finishing second to Kinser in heat one, the four-time WoO champion finished fifth in the dash and started the main event in the third row. Schatz would race inside the top-five during most of the race before finishing seventh.
Saturday night’s finale at Skagit started with Schatz and Kinser qualifying seventh and eighth, respectively. Schatz chased Sam Hafertepe, Jr., to the finish line in heat race one while Kinser was triumphant in heat two. The TSR teammates shared the second row in the six-lap dash, and finished in the same positions with Kinser coming home third and Schatz fourth. Hafertepe won the dash and grabbed the lead at the start of the 40-lap A-Feature. Kinser and Schatz held second and third for most of the race until a late restart allowed Tim Kaeding to get past Schatz for third. Hafertepe went on to win the $20,000 prize money, and Kinser scored his fifth second-place finish of 2011. Schatz finished fourth to earn his 24th top-five of the season.
The teams traveled down Interstate 5 from the Seattle area to west-central Oregon for Monday’s event at Cottage Grove. Despite drawing late numbers in the qualifying order, Schatz timed in third and Kinser fourth in the field of 25 cars. Kinser finished third in heat one and Schatz was fifth in heat three. Kinser moved from fifth to third in the sixth-lap dash and Schatz finished seventh. In the 40-lap A-Feature, Kinser raced from third to second when he slid under Jason Sides during the third lap of the race and then began stalking his son Kraig, who started from the pole. Kinser took the lead on lap five and, before the race reached the halfway point, the racing surface became a one-lane rubber-down track. Kinser couldn’t maneuver through traffic and simply held his line. Kraig Kinser stayed close to the Bass Pro Shops machine and took advantage of his dad’s bobble in lapped traffic to regain the lead on lap 35. A caution with five laps to go opened the track up for Kraig Kinser, who went on to claim the victory. The one-two finish by the Kinsers was a repeat outcome from August 2004, when Kraig Kinser won his first career A-Feature and his dad finished second.
Cottage Grove Speedway was also the venue where Schatz captured his first career A-Feature. It was August 1998, when the Fargo, N.D., resident raced past WoO legends Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell. On Monday, Schatz was looking to win his third WoO A-Feature at the quarter-mile dirt oval and 112th of his career. After starting the main event seventh, he worked his way into the top-five by making the low groove work. When the rubber came in on the top, he was forced to jump in line and was running seventh. He wasn’t content with simply following for 20 laps, so he continued to try and make the bottom work. With eight laps to go, he moved back past Swindell for sixth by using the low line and passed Paul McMahan late to finish fifth.
The weekend finishes for Schatz and Kinser allowed both to keep pace with WoO points leader Meyers. Schatz remains in second and trails Meyers by 75 points with 14 races remaining on the 2011 schedule. Through 50 races, Schatz has 6,661 points, six victories, 25 top-fives, and 42 top-10s. Kinser holds down third, 80 points behind Meyers, with 6,656 markers, seven wins, 26 top-fives, and 40 top-10s.
The TSR teams will travel south to California this week and compete in the 58th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., on Friday and Saturday night. The annual Gold Rush Tour will conclude on Monday night, when the Outlaws make their debut at Antioch (Calif.) Speedway.