Fans first: Always looking to put the fans first, the World of Outlaws implemented some show enhancing changes to the race night format and procedure in 2010 and the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park, served as the first test, with double file restarts leading the way. There were a couple of double file restarts in the A-Feature on opening night and then a couple in the heat races and feature in the finale, with some great battled heading into turn one at the drop of the green.
The fashion in which the dash is lined up also received a makeover in 2010, with the first and second-place heat race finishers again making the dash along with the fastest two qualifiers that also transferred from their heat into the A-Feature, but did not finish first or second in the heat. The dash is then lined up by the qualifying times of those 10 drivers, with a fan drawing a pill for a dash inversion. The first night the inversion was eight and in the finale it was a six, which put the faster cars a little further back in the six-lap contest and led to some great racing.
The DIRTcar Nationals also kicked off a new era for Goodyear with the World of Outlaws, with the tires receiving very favorable reviews from the drivers.
"The tires, the format, the double file restarts, that's all good for our sport," shared Joey Saldana, who won the overall DIRTcar Nationals title, with a win and three runner-up finishes. "I think the fans saw a great race and the Goodyear's have been flawless here for four nights."
Moving on up: Donny Schatz's win on opening night was the 101st of his World of Outlaws career. He picked up his 100th win last year on August 22 and had not visited Victory Lane since. The span of 15 races was the longest he had gone in between wins over the last four seasons in which he won a title each and every year. Schatz, who is fifth on the World of Outlaws all-time win list, is just six wins behind Hall of Famer Doug Wolfgang for the fourth position.
"I was stuck on that 100th win since Mandan (Dacotah Speedway) and now I am over that hump," shared Schatz after his win. "Every time I hit a milestone, I fall into a slump for some reason. I guess we won a championship out of it, but its all about winning races. We are past that now and hopefully we can continue the wins."
A solid start: Lucas Wolfe lined up 22nd in the World of Outlaws season opener and blasted through the field to finish seventh, earning the KSE Race Products Hard Charger Award. The 2008 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner opened the DIRTcar Nationals with a sixth-place finish in an event under the banner of the All Star Circuit of Champions. Wolfe filled in for Jac Haudenschild that night in the No. R19 as the veteran was back in Ohio with his father who was having surgery. Wolfes first start of the year in his familiar No. 5W which is painted orange this year came the following night with the All Stars and he finished fourth in that contest.
"It was a pretty good start," said Wolfe of his three Top-10 finishes in four starts. "We had the car working pretty well and we passed a number of good cars on Saturday night. Hopefully we can keep that up and build momentum to carry through the rest of the year."
Two for two: Jason Sides, who was second only to Donny Schatz in fast-time honors last season, opened the 2010 campaign by turning the quickest lap in time trials on both nights of the World of Outlaws portion of the DIRTcar Nationals. The fast qualifier again receives five points in 2010, with second quick four and so on down to the fifth fastest driver who receives one point. Sides is currently fifth in the World of Outlaws championship standings as he looks to build on his strong 2009 campaign.
"It definitely boosts the confidence and shows we are fast again," said Sides when asked about time trials during the dash interviews last Saturday night. "We just have to continue to work hard and put complete nights together."
Some great action: Steve Kinser and Tim Kaeding put on a great show in the feature on Sunday night, swapping the lead three different times. The pair also raced wheel-to-wheel the night before in the fourth heat race as they battled for the second position, which earned an all important spot in the dash. They ran side-by-side for most of the eight-lap affair swapping the position three times officially at the line, and countless times unofficially as they ran mere inches apart. The heats provided great action both nights as drivers did everything they could to earn a spot in the dash.
Up close and personal: Each fan that purchased a grandstand ticket to the DIRTcar Nationals had the option of upgrading that to a free fan pit pass. A table was set up by the pit gate and the fans brought their ticket and signed the pit waiver and received a wristband to come and go from the pit area as they pleased throughout the race night. Many folks that had never seen a World of Outlaws machine up close were able to get a look at one and meet the drivers and see their crews hard at work.
"Anything like that is great for the fans, and I am all for it," said 2001 World of Outlaws Champion Danny Lasoski. "The more everyone can do for the fans, the better. When they are in the pit area they feel like they are part of the show and that is great."
A NASCAR presence: For many years, Volusia Speedway Park has been dubbed, "Where Daytona races at night" during the DIRTcar Nationals. That held true again in 2010, as the presence of NASCAR drivers and crew members abounded in the pit area at the half-mile. Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne were on hand for a number of the nights as they watched their cars open the season, with those two teams accounting for three of the four victories in the sprint car portion of the event. Also on hand competing in the UMP DIRTcar Modifieds were Clint Bowyer, Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader and David Reutimann.
Still more racing: While the sprint car portion of the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park may be complete, racing at the half-mile continues through this weekend, as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series takes center stage along with the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds and also the UMP DIRTcar Late Models. To purchase tickets online visit: http://www.DIRTcarNationals.com or call 386-985-4402. Each ticket purchased is also a free fan pit pass.
Race fans unable to make the annual trek south to Volusia Speedway Park for the 39th Annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, need not worry. All 12 nights (Feb. 2nd-13th) of the Nationals will air LIVE once again on www.dirtvision.com beginning approximately at 7 p.m. Eastern each night.
Up next: The World of Outlaws return to action on Friday, February 26 at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Second Annual Las Vegas Super Sprint Classic. Donny Schatz, the four-time and defending World of Outlaws champion and current series point leader won the event last year.
Keep up with all the action: The number of "Followers" keeping up with the World of Outlaws via Twitter online and through text messages on cell phones continues to grow and recently surpassed the 2,500 "Follower" mark. Updates are provided throughout race nights beginning with hot laps and continuing all the way through the final checkered flag of the night. To sign-up visit: http://twitter.com/worldofoutlaws and receive live race updates, anywhere, anytime.