Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – WEEDSPORT, NY – The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returns to Weedsport Speedway for the biggest Empire State Challenge in the history of the event.
The Greatest Show on Dirt takes on the tricky D-shaped New York oval – located 30 minutes from Syracuse – for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader (July 29-30), boasting a more than $134,000 overall purse.
Adding to the Series’ Summer of money, the Empire State Challenge’s increased purse will see drivers battling for a $10,000 payday on Saturday and a $20,000 payday on Sunday – also paying $1,500 to start.
The extra money and Series’ tight points battle promises to ramp up the racing intensity as the Series makes its lone New York trip of the season.
Let’s look at the weekend’s top storylines:
BACK AND FORTH: This season continues to produce one of the most competitive championship fights in World of Outlaws history with David Gravel and Brad Sweet currently tied for the lead. Last week in Pennsylvania provided the seventh and eighth lead changes of the year and with the current tie, we could be in store for an eighth lead change at Weedsport – if not more.
Gravel entered last week ahead, lost the lead during the second of three races, and then regained it by virtue of a tie breaker as he and Sweet left Pennsylvania with the same number of points.
Gravel continues to pursue his first Series title while Sweet is chasing a fifth straight with his Kasey Kahne Racing crew.
WEEDSPORT WINNERS: Only two current full-time World of Outlaws drivers have been to Victory Lane, and they’re both multi-time winners at the 3/8-mile.
Donny Schatz is tied as the winningest driver at Weedsport in Series competition. In six starts, the 10-time champion has claimed half of his visits. The driver of the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15 enters this week as the most recent winner at the facility. Steve Kinser is the only other driver to have topped a trio of Weedsport races. Together, Schatz and “The King” have combined to win half of the World of Outlaws’ 12 trips. Schatz has also been wildly consistent through all of his attempts with a 2.3 average finish at Weedsport.
David Gravel, who has also snagged a Weedsport checkered flag will look to equal the record established by Schatz and Kinser. The Watertown, CT native is a two-time Weedsport victor, topping back-to-back races from 2021 to 2022. Like Schatz, Gravel has made six Series starts and only missed the top five once.
One more former World of Outlaws Weedsport winner is expected to be in attendance though he’s not an active full-timer. Dave Blaney plans to make the haul from Ohio for two nights in New York. The “Buckeye Bullet” topped the 1993 visit to Weedsport for one of his 15 victories that season. Blaney hasn’t visited the track since a 2019 All-Star Circuit of Champions race.
MOVIN’ UP: Giovanni Scelzi took another step during his impressive rookie World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car campaign last week. The Fresno, CA native climbed from seventh to sixth in points. When he began his inaugural campaign, he stated his and KCP Racing’s hopes were a top five in the standings, and he’s now only a spot away.
After a rough start to the season in Florida, the 21-year-old has been one of the most consistent drivers of the season. He’s currently tied for the fifth most top 10s with 29 to his credit and has qualified for the Toyota Racing Dash fifth most often with 18 appearances. On top of his general consistency, Scelzi has also been to Victory Lane with a Beaver Dam win last month.
This week he’ll tackle Weedsport for the first time looking to move even closer toward that goal of the top five in points.
SHARK WEEK: The Shark Racing teammates – Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen – will be looking for a strong showing during the annual week that celebrates the fierce, aquatic animals that their team is named after.
Schuchart heads to New York with some momentum courtesy of two podiums last week in Pennsylvania including a win at Williams Grove. The Hanover, PA native has never won at Weedsport but has been close with three top fives highlighted by a 2016 runner-up.
Like his teammate, Allen is yet to park in Weedsport Victory Lane but been banging on the door. Allen owns a pair of top fives in six starts with a best effort of third in 2018.
NEW YORK KNOWLEDGE: Over the last few years, a handful of locals have asserted themselves as consistent contenders whenever the World of Outlaws invade Weedsport.
Paulie Colagiovanni leads the way among the local contingent. The Cicero, NY native owns a pair of podiums in 14 career Series appearances – both of which have come in his home state. Back in 2021, he finished second at Ransomville Speedway. Last year he ran third at Weedsport. Colagiovanni is already a three-time winner this year with the Empire Super 360 Sprints (ESS).
It’s also become common for Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified drivers to jump behind the wheel of a Sprint Car at Weedsport. The 2018 Super DIRT Week champ – Larry Wight – brought home a pair of top 10s during last year’s Empire State Challenge including his best career Series finish (sixth) on the second night. Last year the Phoenix, NY native won at Weedsport with ESS.
More locals to watch include Danny Varin (Sharon Springs, NY), Denny Peebles (Lowman, NY), Davie Franek (Sussex, NJ), and more.