Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – BAKERSFIELD, CA – A three-week stay on the west coast wraps up this weekend for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series with one more doubleheader.
The Greatest Show on Dirt is returning to a pair of race tracks for the first time in more than three years, one located in the San Joaquin Valley and one in the heart of Southern California. The 1/3-mile oval at Bakersfield Speedway has first dibs with a Friday night under the lights, while Perris Auto Speedway takes center stage in Saturday’s SoCal Showdown.
Through three races, California’s homegrown talent has shined bright with Fresno’s Giovanni Scelzi, Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson, and Lemoore’s Carson Macedo combining to claim all three World of Outlaws races to this point for their home state. Golden State fans have seen exciting action around every corner between Gio’s survival of a Thunderbowl thriller, Larson’s drive through the field at Tulare, and Macedo’s denial of Sweet in a bullring battle.
Here’s what to watch for:
GOLDEN STATE GANG: The state of California has hosted 403 World of Outlaws Features dating back to the Series’ inaugural season in 1978, and is currently amid their greatest streak ever. Natives of the Golden State have won four consecutive World of Outlaws races in their home state, an all-time record spanning 45 seasons, 19 tracks, and 66 total winners.
The aforementioned Scelzi, Larson & Macedo (2) are responsible for the current streak, but a host of other Californians hope to add their name to the list this weekend.
A quick look at the many contenders that could extend the streak is Grass Valley’s Brad Sweet, Fresno’s Dominic Scelzi, St. Helena’s Rico Abreu, Visalia’s Cory Eliason, Roseville’s Colby Copeland, Clovis’ Corey Day, Fremont’s Shane Golobic, Hanford’s Mitchell Faccinto, and Lincon’s Tanner Carrick, among others.
READY TO POUNCE: For only the third time in nine full-time seasons, Brad Sweet didn’t score a World of Outlaws win within the opening five races; and depending on this weekend, he could go winless within the first 10 races for the first time ever. In total, it’s been 24 races since The Big Cat last won on September 4, 2021 at Skagit (WA), his longest victory lane drought in more than four years prior to his three championship seasons.
Albeit absent in the W column, the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 has still been as consistent as ever. They boast an average finish of 3.8 over the last seven races and currently ride back-to-back runner-up finishes into the weekend. The defending Series champion is a proven frontrunner at both venues on deck, winning previously at Bakersfield and finishing as high as second at Perris.
BACK TO REALITY: After an extraordinary start to the 2022 campaign with seven-straight top-seven finishes, David Gravel and Big Game Motorsports finally saw their first misfortune with a work area trip while running sixth and a subsequent 15th-place finish at Merced. As a result, the Watertown, CT native saw his championship advantage slim down to +10 points over Brad Sweet ahead of the final weekend in California.
On the bright side, Gravel has enjoyed success at both tracks on the schedule this weekend. He’s a former podium finisher at Bakersfield and owns a 2017 SoCal Showdown victory at Perris.
TROUBLE IN PERRIS: Throughout Donny Schatz’s 26 seasons as a full-time World of Outlaws star, the Fargo, ND native has seen hundreds of race tracks and won at nearly 100 of them – 88 to be exact. However, the 10-time Series champion still remains winless at two facilities with 20+ starts, and he returns to one of those this Saturday night at Perris Auto Speedway for the SoCal Showdown.
Schatz has raced at PAS on 21 occasions with an average finish of 11.50 to his credit but has turned it around lately with six-straight top-seven finishes including a career-best finish of third at the Perris, CA 1/2-mile. Having never won at either Bakersfield or Perris, Schatz has a fresh shot at redemption this week following three-straight finishes outside of the top-10 in his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, Ford Performance, Carquest #15.
HARD CHARGIN’ HAUD: Sheldon Haudenschild’s fourth-place position in the standings can evenly be attributed to his early success with two victories, but also his never-day-die attitude proven by his Series-best +45 positions gained. When not celebrating with a NOS Energy Drink in victory lane, the Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing #17 driver is most likely rebounding in the MicroLite Last Chance Showdown and driving through the field to collect a Series-best three KSE Hard Charger Awards.
Based on past success, it’s likely you see the Wooster, OH native return to the front of the field this weekend. He’s the defending winner at Bakersfield (an impressive 9th-to-1st drive) and owns results of third and sixth in two trips to the Perris 1/2-mile.
ROTH RIDE(S): In less than three months, Dennis Roth will be enshrined into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. After three decades of fielding winning machines, the Central California car owner is still yet to slow down. As the Series concludes the spring swing in his home state, a pair of Roth racers have a chance to add more records to Dennis & Teresa’s banners.
A win from either full-timer James McFadden (#83) or ringer Kerry Madsen (#83JR) would make them the 15th driver to win a World of Outlaws race (most all-time) with Roth Motorsports. It would also be the 99th career win for Dennis Roth as he patiently awaits becoming the sixth car owner in Series history to reach 100 wins.