The World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series continued its 2011 campaign across North America and a familiar theme continues to play out. Mother Nature has been the toughest competitor of all and once again prevailed in Friday’s opener of the Mediacom Shootout at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway. It was the ninth race in the series’ first 27 of 2011 affected by weather. Fortunately, Saturday’s weather was perfect for the second night of the program, and Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz raced the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J to a fourth-place finish in the 25-lap A-Feature.
Schatz’s 11th top-five finish in his last 16 starts allowed him to take over the lead in the 2011 WoO championship standings. TSR’s Steve Kinser battled through a tough night that ended before the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/ Chevrolet Maxim was able to complete a lap in the A-Feature, and he was credited with a 26th-place finish.
Schatz began Saturday’s program by circling the half-mile, dirt oval in 15.402 seconds, which qualified him fourth in the field of 36 cars. The four-time WoO champion finished fourth in heat four and fifth in the dash. Getting the 25-lap A-Feature started turned out to be difficult. The first two attempts resulted in multi-car accidents. During each start, the outside line proved to be the preferred starting lane, and Schatz dropped to eighth when the race finally got underway. The Fargo, N.D., racer found his form during the first five laps and began climbing in the running order. With 12 laps complete, he moved into fifth and stalked Brooke Tatnell for the fourth position over the next nine laps before ultimately taking the spot. During the final three laps, Schatz closed quickly on third-place-running Jason Meyers but ran out of time in his pursuit to gain a spot on the podium.
A late qualifying draw didn’t help Kinser’s chances of winning consecutive WoO A-Features for the second time in 2011. The 20-time WoO champion was the 30th car on track in qualifying and, with a rapidly deteriorating surface, he was only able to turn the 25th-fastest lap. He finished sixth in the first heat and looked to be one spot short in the late stages of the Last Chance Showdown. A caution flag on the final lap set up a green-white-checkered finish and Kinser took advantage of the restart, charging from fifth into second to earn a spot in the A-Feature. On the initial start of the main event, he avoided a two-car accident but, on the second attempt, his right-rear tire jumped the cushion and resulted in Kinser crashing in turn one. The Bass Pro Shops crew feverishly worked to make repairs, but there wasn’t enough time to get Kinser back on the track. He was scored 26th.
The fourth-place finish for Schatz was his series-leading 12th top-five finish of the season and moved him ahead of Joey Saldana by one point in the 2011 WoO championship standings. He has 2,905 points through 21 nights of racing. Kinser’s DNF (did not finish) dropped him to fourth in the standings with 2,849 points, 56 markers behind Schatz.
The TSR teams return to action Friday and Saturday at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.