Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – TULARE, CA – After three complete years (almost 1,100 days), the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series is finally bringing the spring swing back to life in California.
The Greatest Show on Dirt will host six events at five tracks over the next three weeks, and it all starts this Friday & Saturday, March 11-12 at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, CA. The Series has visited the thrilling 1/3-mile on 27 occasions since debuting at the facility in 2003.
As always, any race in California for the World of Outlaws means squaring off with one of the toughest local scenes in the country when it comes to Sprint Car racing. You’ll see full-timers like Sweet, Schatz, Haudenschild, Macedo, McFadden, Schuchart, Gravel & more battle against California’s best including Scelzi, Abreu, Larson, Golobic, Eliason, Copeland, Sanders, Faccinto & more.
Here’s what to watch for this weekend:
HOMECOMING: The upcoming spring swing offers two World of Outlaws championship contenders the chance to stay close to their California homes, and this weekend specifically presents an opportunity for their first wins at Tulare.
- Brad Sweet of Grass Valley, CA hails from a NorCal background but has enjoyed his fair share of racing in the San Joaquin Valley while growing up. The three-time and defending Series champion has yet to win through the first five races, only the fourth time that’s happened since he first went full-time in 2014 with Kasey Kahne Racing. He’s scored nine of his 74 career World of Outlaws wins in his home state, but none have come at Tulare. On a streak of five top-five finishes in his last six starts at Tulare, The Big Cat has a chance to finally get that first Thunderbowl triumph this weekend.
- Carson Macedo of Lemoore, CA grew up a half-hour down the road from the Thunderbowl and still considers it one of his favorite tracks worldwide. The Jason Johnson Racing #41 driver enters as the most recent Series winner, topping the finale of the Texas Two-Step at Cotton Bowl Speedway. The 25-year-old has earned World of Outlaws wins at Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway and Hanford’s Keller Auto Speedway, but his Tulare career-best is currently fifth. He did win at the track last fall in Kings of Thunder competition but now searches for his first Series win at the 1/3-mile.
HOT START: Through the first five races in 2022, only two drivers have finished in the top-10 of every NOS Energy Drink Feature, and both are former World of Outlaws winners at this week’s destination of Thunderbowl Raceway.
- David Gravel of Watertown, CT has produced his strongest start ever and in turn, leads the championship standings for the first time in his career. The Big Game Motorsports #2 pilot owns an average finish of 3.8, highlighted by his DIRTcar Nationals championship with his worst result in seventh. The 29-year-old already owns a pair of Tulare triumphs, coming in back-to-back fashion during the spring of 2016 and 2017.
- 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz of Fargo, ND is leading a resurgence in the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #15 camp. The Ford Performance (FPS410) powered team topped the season-opener at Volusia and has yet to finish worse than eighth this season. The 303-time Series winner scored three of those victories at Tulare with scores coming in 2004, 2007, and 2017.
IN THE MIX: For almost a decade the trio of Schatz, Sweet & Gravel have been staples near the top of the World of Outlaws standings, but in the mix with them to start off 2022 is two fearless gassers who have the potential to shine in Tulare.
- Sheldon Haudenschild of Wooster, OH became the first repeat winner of the season last weekend, following his Volusia victory with a Cotton Bowl score. The Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #17 is currently second in points ahead of a Tulare trip, where he’ll be a contender both nights. In four previous starts, Haudenschild has been battling at the front in every single Feature with finishes of fourth, fourth, third, and 19th due to a DNF while leading.
- James McFadden of Alice Springs, NT, AUS may have had his first win of the year in the bag last Friday at Cotton Bowl had it not been for a flat right rear tire while leading. Other than one small slice of misfortune, the Roth Motorsports #83 has been a model of consistency with their new driver at the wheel. The pairing enters the west coast swing tied for fourth in points with hopes of scoring a home-state win for Dennis & Teresa Roth.
SHARK ATTACK: In their respective rights, the stock of both Shark Racing drivers is trending in an upward direction.
- Jacob Allen currently leads the league in NOS Energy Drink Heat Race Wins (3) and DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash Appearances (4) through the first five races. Excluding some tough luck come Feature time, the Hanover, PA native has been on rails aboard the old school #1A in honor of his father Bobby Allen. Historically, Allen has struggled at Tulare with a career-best of 26th, something he aims to change this weekend.
- Logan Schuchart started his 2022 campaign with an up and down trip to Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals. Cotton Bowl’s Texas Two-Step offered some much needed consistency with a pair of fourth-place finishes for the DuraMax, Drydene #1S. The 30-time World of Outlaws winner owns a Series best of second at Tulare, and even led laps during his debut at the track in 2014.
FIRST GLANCE: Three of this year’s 15 full-time travelers will encounter Tulare’s Thunderbowl Raceway for the first time in their career.
- Brock Zearfoss of Jonestown, PA no longer dons the rookie stripes on his Moose’s LZ Bar & Grill #3Z, but he will get his first taste of Tulare this weekend. Impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Zearfoss’ 2021 rookie campaign only saw a fall trip to California, but this yea the sophomore will get the full Outlaw experience with a spring swing included. The second-year driver is already showing signs of improvement, recording a season-best of sixth last weekend, a spot it took him 58 races last year to reach.
- Spencer Bayston of Lebanon, IN currently owns the top spot when it comes to the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award through the first of 85+ races. The 23-year-old established his season-best of ninth last weekend at Cotton Bowl, and now prepares for his first California swing. He’s yet to compete at the Thunderbowl, but his CJB Motorsports #5 has enjoyed Tulare victory lane on several occasions with Barry Jackson turning the wrenches.
- Noah Gass of Mounds, OK continues his learning curve as the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year contender faces his third new track of the season. It will be his first time racing in the state of California, let alone Tulare’s 1/3-mile, as he, Cody Cordell, and Robby McQuinn battle their next challenge.
CALI CLIQUE: A group of five California natives who have dethroned the World of Outlaws are expected to be in action this weekend chasing another Series win.
- Kyle Larson, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion and 25-time World of Outlaws winner, is expected to be in action at least one of the two nights at Tulare. Although hard to believe, the 29-year-old native of Elk Grove, CA hasn’t raced at the Thunderbowl since he won the 2013 Trophy Cup title in remarkable fashion over brother-in-law and World of Outlaws champion, Brad Sweet.
- Rico Abreu returns to the site of his first and second career World of Outlaws victories this weekend in Tulare. The St. Helena, CA native topped spring shows in 2014 and 2015 at the Thunderbowl, and returns as one of only three multi-time winners (Schatz, Gravel) racing this weekend. He’ll be in the Rowdy Energy #24 with “Tricky” Ricky Warner calling the shots as crew chief.
- Giovanni Scelzi has beaten the Outlaws on three occasions (Williams Grove, Charlotte, Lakeside), but has yet to score one in his home state of California. The Fresno, CA 20-year-old has topped Tulare with the Sprint Car Challenge Tour & NARC King of the West Series, but now turns his attention to beating The Greatest Show on Dirt in his own backyard.
- Shane Golobic of Fremont, CA owns a pair of World of Outlaws wins at NorCal venues Antioch and Placerville, and now wants a Central Valley victory to his credit. The two-time Trophy Cup champion is already a winner in 2022, winning at Keller Auto in February aboard the NOS Energy Drink #17W with hopes that momentum will lead into a stellar spring swing against the Outlaws.
- Cory Eliason of Visalia, CA earned his two World of Outlaws wins both in 2018 and both in his home state of California at Stockton and Calistoga. That was with Roth Motorsports and it was 78 Series starts ago, but the now pilot of the Rudeen Racing #26 appears closer than ever to claiming a third win. He was fast all weekend, led laps, and contended for the win at Cotton Bowl, and now brings that confidence out west.
DON’T COUNT ‘EM OUT: Outside of the aforementioned winners, a whole handful of California locals are eager and plenty capable of scoring their first-ever World of Outlaws win this weekend in Tulare.
- Justin Sanders of Prunedale, CA pieced together a masterful 2021 campaign with 20+ wins on the west coast. In limited World of Outlaws competition, he’s nailed down three podium finishes in only 15 starts with a career-best of second-place.
- Dominic Scelzi of Fresno, CA recorded the best year of his career in 2021, winning six times at Tulare alone. He’s as sharp as ever with Jimmy Carr on the wrenches of the #41 and extra motivated to join brother Giovanni Scelzi as a World of Outlaws winner. Dominic’s Series best is a third-place finish.
- Mitchell Faccinto of Hanford, CA is the most recent winner in the state, topping last weekend’s Silver Cup at Silver Dollar. He and brother-in-law Drew Warner are building a potentially lethal combination with the Tarlton Motorsports #21. Mitchell’s World of Outlaws career-best is eighth-place.
- Colby Copeland of Roseville, CA notched his career-best World of Outlaws run last year at Silver Dollar, leading laps and ultimately finishing runner-up to David Gravel. He owns several runner-up finishes at Tulare with hopes of adding one more spot up top.
- Chase Johnson of Penngrove, CA will wheel his family-owned #24 this weekend in hopes of a 10th career World of Outlaws start. He’s made three previous appearances at Tulare with the Series, resulting in a career-best of 15th.
- DJ Netto of Hanford, CA is a former NARC winner at Tulare and enters the weekend with a World of Outlaws career-best of third-place in the #88N.
OUTSIDERS: They aren’t full-time Outlaws, nor are they locals to California, but these three drivers are proven gassers in some of the Golden State’s finest equipment this weekend.
- King Sunshine XXXVIII is making the flight from Indianapolis to Fresno to pilot the Kevin Kozlowski owned #57 in four starts with the World of Outlaws, including both nights at Tulare. Tyler Courtney will have Paul Silva on the wrenches for him, and now has Thunderbowl experience after reaching a best of seventh during last year’s Trophy Cup.
- Kerry Madsen of St. Mary’s, NSW, AUS won three World of Outlaws Features last year while aiding Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing with the Ford Performance FPS410, and now he’s assisting Roth Motorsports in developing the Toyota Racing Development 410 engine. He’ll be trying to join younger brother Ian Madsen, who won the most recent World of Outlaws race at Tulare, as a Thunderbowl winner.
- Austin McCarl of Altoona, IA continues his relationship with the Country Builders #88 this season. He matched his World of Outlaws career-best of second-place at Huset’s last summer, and following that bumped his Tulare career-best to fifth during late fall.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: For some, turning 16 years old signifies the opportunity to obtain your driver’s license; for others, including Corey Day, it means you’re finally eligible to compete with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series. The son of Ronnie Day, a former NARC champion and six-time podium finisher in 70 World of Outlaws starts, Corey represents the next generation and will officially begin his career with The Greatest Show on Dirtthis weekend at Tulare.
The Clovis, CA native made waves in 2021 by briefly becoming the youngest winner in USAC Midget history and winning several 410 events on the west coast, including a pair of NARC races at Keller Auto & Stockton. A prodigy of Jason Meyers, the 2010 & 2011 World of Outlaws champion, Day has a chance almost all season long (until October 18) to break Giovanni Scelzi’s record (16 years, 10 months, 21 days) as the youngest winner in World of Outlaws history.