Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – ALGER, WA – The Greatest Show on Dirt returns to the beautiful Pacific Northwest this week for a busy four nights of racing action in Washington.
The traditional west coast fall swing for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series begins with a Skagit Speedway tripleheader on Thursday-Saturday, September 1-3, as the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals offers a $25,000-to-win finale in Alger, WA. From there, Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, WA takes the spotlight with a Labor Day Spectacular on Monday, September 5.
It’s a weekend packed full of storylines from championship contenders Brad Sweet, David Gravel, Carson Macedo, and Sheldon Haudenschild, to Washington winners Donny Schatz, Logan Schuchart, James McFadden, and Kraig Kinser, to local heroes Trey Starks and Robbie Price, to teenage sensations Ryan Timms and Corey Day.
Let’s look at what to watch for this weekend:
EVERY POSITION MATTERS: With 14 point races left until the season-ending World Finals on November 2-5, the 2022 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship remains up in the air. Entering this weekend, the lead trio including Brad Sweet (6,982 points), David Gravel (6,916 points), and Carson Macedo (9,886 points) are all separated by less than 100 markers.
While Gravel (5) and Macedo (10) outrank Sweet (4) in the win column, “The Big Cat” has used his unrivaled consistency to maintain the top spot with a 5.5 average finish in the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49. The three-time and defending champion outweighs his closest challengers in that category with Gravel (6.3) and Macedo (6.7) both nearly a full position lower.
They’ll have four crucial nights in Washington to change the current outlook this week. Remember, it pays 150 points to win, then 146 points for second with a two-point drop per position.
FEELIN’ FRUITY: It’s only fitting that Donny Schatz unveils a new-look #15 with Sage Fruit colors ahead of the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals this week. The Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing competitor enters the September 1-3 tripleheader fifth in the current standings following his 11th title at the Knoxville Nationals three weeks ago.
The Fargo, ND superstar has always shined at Skagit, earning four wins throughout his career and bolstering an impressive 3.8 average finish in his last 15 World of Outlaws Features at the Alger, WA track. The 10-time Series champion is only 34-points behind Sheldon Haudenschild for fourth in the points, and 92-points behind Carson Macedo for the third position.
Since the calendar flipped to July, the Ford Performance, Carquest Auto Parts, Advance Auto Parts entry has manufactured a stellar turnaround in performance with averages across the board rising. They’ve turned their average qualifying from 9.38 to 6.42, the average start has risen from 11.09 to 5.55, and the average finish has climbed from 8.68 to 5.35.
BACK TO THE NOTEBOOK: In total, eight of the current 15 full-time World of Outlaws drivers have scored a win with the Series in Washington, and they’ll look to rely on that experience throughout this swing.
Along with Schatz (5 at Grays Harbor, 4 at Skagit), Logan Schuchart is the only other active driver to top both venues. The Shark Racing #1S swept Skagit in 2019 and mastered Grays Harbor for the first time last year. The DuraMAX Oil, Drydene Performance Products team recently made it two wins on the season with a Jackson Motorplex score, and they’re dead set on returning to Victory Lane soon as they try to climb back into the top-five of the points.
Other Skagit winners include James McFadden, who is chasing his first win in the Roth Motorsports #83, and Sheldon Haudenschild, who hopes to end a 20-race winless streak in the NOS Energy Drink #17.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: In his 40th career start on Saturday at Red River Valley Speedway, Robbie Price drove the Jason Sides-owned #7S to his first-career top-five finish with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series. With that confidence in his bag, the Cobble Hill, British Columbia native returns to his two most experienced tracks on tour this weekend, Skagit Speedway and Grays Harbor Speedway.
The Canadian, who hails from four hours away, is not only an ASCS National Tour winner at Skagit, but he owns several starts with the World of Outlaws at both venues. Entering this familiar four-race swing, the 24-year-old owns a Series-best finish of 14th at both upcoming tracks.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The future of Sprint Car Racing is in good hands with the current crop of teenage sensations making their way up the ranks. Already twice this year, two different 16-year-old stars have re-written the record for youngest podium finisher in World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series history.
Corey Day, of Clovis, CA, did it first during California’s spring swing with not one, but two runner-up finishes at Bakersfield and Perris aboard the Meyers Construction #14. Last week, Ryan Timms, of Oklahoma City, OK, followed him up and beat him to the punch by three months with a runner-up result at Red River Valley at the mere age of 16 years, 1 day in the family-owned #5T.
Both Day and Timms finished 1-2 at a Huset’s Speedway local show on Sunday, and now they’re heading west where they’ll meet The Greatest Show on Dirt at Skagit and Grays Harbor. They’ll be joined by a handful of other newcomers on this swing including the likes of Colby Thornhill (Enumclaw, WA), Max Mittry (Redding, CA), Joel Meyers Jr. (Sebastopol, CA), and Dylan Bloomfield (Discovery Bay, CA).
DEFENDING HOME TURF: Trey Starks, of Puyallup, WA, enters this weekend as the hottest Washingtonian in Sprint Car Racing this year. The 26-year-old son of John Starks has been on fire in 2022, recording 12 victories, all within state lines at Skagit (8) and Grays Harbor (4). Two of those triumphs came under NARC sanction, including one at Skagit’s Dirt Cup preliminary in June.
Starks will make his 105th start with the World of Outlaws this week, still pursuing his first-career top-five finish. Last year, he was a ninth-place finisher at both Skagit and Grays Harbor when the Series visited the Pacific Northwest. Keep your eye on the #44 with four opportunities for a career-best performance this week.