Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – VADO, NM – The return of California’s spring swing offered many unforgettable moments over the last three weeks, but now The Greatest Show on Dirt is ready to head east.
A three-race, three-state journey across five nights will give the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series its busiest week of the young season. Along the way are brand new tracks, familiar places, and historical sites where big money is on the line.
It all starts tomorrow Tuesday, March 29 with the first mid-week race of the year at Vado Speedway Park. The newly-created state-of-the-art facility is hosting the Series for the first time on the 3/8-mile and thus bringing the World of Outlaws back to New Mexico for the first time since 2008.
A 10-hour haul to Oklahoma will lead the Series to its first and only appearance in the Sooner State this year, coming on Friday, April 1 at Lawton Speedway. Carson Macedo and Jason Johnson Racing enter as defending winners at the track, topping a race they dominated last fall with the largest margin of victory (5.5 seconds) all season.
The week wraps up on Saturday, April 2 with a $20,000 payday available at the DuraMAX/Drydene Texas Outlaw Nationals at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX. All eyes at the birthplace of the World of Outlaws will be on Logan Schuchart and Shark Racing, who are chasing a fourth-consecutive Ted Johnson Memorial trophy.
NO NOTES: One of the most intriguing aspects of a track hosting the World of Outlaws for the first time ever is that the best sprint car drivers and teams in the world are heading into the night blind. There are no previous races to rely on, no notes to look back at, and no experience to pull from. It’s simply who can adapt and figure out Vado’s 3/8-mile the fastest.
While none of the full-time teams have ever attended Vado, 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz has actually raced at the New Mexico oval in his Dirt Late Model. He participated in the Wild West Shootout earlier this year in January, collecting a pair of top-1o finishes in his personally-owned #15. This time around, he’ll be in the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #15 going for this second World of Outlaws win of the season. The Fargo, ND native actually won the most recent race in New Mexico, too, topping the now-closed Hollywood Hills Speedway in 2008.
FOUR-PEAT: The top storyline entering Saturday’s DuraMAX/Drydene Texas Outlaw Nationals is without a doubt Logan Schuchart and Shark Racing, who coincidentally fly the DuraMAX Oil and Drydene Performance Products colors on the #1S.
The Hanover, PA native is going for his fourth straight win at the Mesquite, TX 1/2-mile, the second-longest win streak at the track behind Sammy Swindell’s five-in-a-row spell from 1986-87. He’s won from a myriad of places in the lineup at Devil’s Bowl, topping an April 2019 show from third, the 2020 fall race from fifth, and last year’s thriller from eighth.
After starting the year with an average finish of 10.3 and only two top-five finishes, Devil’s Bowl couldn’t come at a better time for Schuchart and Shark Racing. His next victory would not only put him in the W column in 2022, but it would be his 31st all-time and move him beyond his grandfather and car owner, Bobby Allen.
LAWTON LANDSLIDE: When the World of Outlaws raced at Lawton Speedway last fall it was the biggest beating of the year with Carson Macedo & Jason Johnson Racing winning by 5.573-seconds. That same pairing returns to the Oklahoma 1/4-mile this Friday night with hopes of becoming the first back-to-back winners at the track since Steve Kinser did it in 1982-83.
Another win for the Lemoore, CA native would bring him his Series-best third on the season and propel him to 20 career World of Outlaws wins at the age of 25-years-old.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY: Throughout Brad Sweet’s nine years as a full-time Outlaw, The Big Cat had only gone winless in the first 10 races once (2018), until it happened again this season. Don’t be fooled, though, the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 team is still as consistent as ever, proven by the updated point standings with the three-time and defending champion back on top.
The Grass Valley, CA native is averaging an impressive finish of 3.7 over the last nine events with a Series-best five podiums, eight top-fives, and nine top-10s to his credit. Sweet will have three extra chances this week to park the #49 in victory lane with his best shot arguably coming during Devil’s Bowl $20,000 Feature on Saturday at a track he’s won at before.
TALKING A BIG GAME: After their unfortunate DNF while racing for the win on Friday at Bakersfield, David Gravelconfidently said he believes Cody Jacobs and Big Game Motorsports are providing the fastest car on tour. He backed that up less than 24 hours later by topping Perris Auto Speedway for his second win of the season.
Falling from the top to third in the early-season standings, the Watertown, CT native is extra motivated to rattle off the wins that he believes Tod Quiring’s #2 car deserves. The 71-time World of Outlaws winner will be vying for his first-ever win at Vado, Lawton & Devil’s Bowl alike this week.
GASS MONKEY: Of the three states on the agenda this week, only Oklahoma serves as a home state race for one of the 15 full-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series competitors. In fact, it’ll be the first time that Noah Gass of Mounds, OK has raced in his home state since joining full-time to compete for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award.
The 18-year-old enters a new week following a season-best outing of 18th-place at Bakersfield, where he climbed as high as 13th at one point. It’s been a grueling learning curve with new tracks around every corner for the freshest face on tour and crew members Cody Cordell & Robby McQuinn, but the #20G continues to show signs of improvement with each passing night.
NON-PLATINUM PROWESS: Although they’re not full-time in 2022 chasing the World of Outlaws championship, Giovanni Scelzi and KCP Racing have certainly shown they’re capable of doing so in the future if they choose to. Through the opening 10 nights of a scheduled 60+ races with the Series, Scelzi currently ranks fifth in the standings and is among the leaders in many statistical categories.
The Fresno, CA native picked up two wins at Tulare and Bakersfield during the three-week west coast swing to his home state of California and will follow the Series back east aboard the Aspen Aire #18. Since joining forces with crew chief Dylan Buswell, the 20-year-old star has stepped up his game with three wins in the Series’ last 15 races.
LAST CHANCE: Each race this week represents the final opportunity for fans in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas to see The Greatest Show on Dirt in their home states. Barring any last-minute additions to the schedule, Vado (NM), Lawton (OK), and Devil’s Bowl (TX) will be the last appearances in each state for the 2022 season.