Tony Stewart Racing Teams Set To Close World of Outlaws Campaign at World Finals

Everyone wants to go out a winner. Any competitor will say that being the year’s final winner is one of the best ways to conclude a season and build momentum toward the next. That’s the mindset Tony Stewart Racing’s Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz and a huge field of entrants will carry to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend for the World of Outlaws season-ending Lowes Foods World Finals presented by Tom’s Snacks, Coca-Cola, and Nature's Own.

The chance to close the season with a win may take some of the sting out of the fact neither TSR driver has a chance to catch Jason Meyers for the 2011 WoO championship. Every year since 2002, Kinser or Schatz has entered the final Outlaw event of the season with a shot at winning the WoO championship. Ironically, 2001 was the year Tony Stewart earned his first WoO title as a car-owner when Danny Lasoski carried “Smoke’s” No. 20 J.D. Byrider-backed machine to the title.

Both Kinser and Schatz have more than a season-ending victory to race for this weekend. Schatz, driver of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, currently ranks second in the standings and leads third-place Kinser, pilot of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/ Chevrolet Maxim, by seven points. Last year, the former champions entered the World Finals separated by three points and Schatz ended up edging Kinser by 23 points to clinch second place.

As previous World Finals winners, the battle for second between Kinser and Schatz will likely go down to the final laps of the season. Kinser led all 30 laps in the 2007 finale to capture his second career win at the 4/10-mile clay oval. His first win there came in October 2000 during the track’s first season of operation. Earlier this season at Charlotte, Kinser finished a close second to Paul McMahan, giving him seven career runner-up finishes at the track. The 20-time WoO champion has made 26 starts at the track and finished inside the top-10 24 times.

The Dirt Track has always been a good place for Schatz. He scored his first victory there in the fall of 2000 and has added three more wins at the track. He won a thriller in May 2007 by charging from 10th to first, and he dominated the 2008 season finale, leading all 30 laps en route to capturing his third WoO title. His most recent Charlotte triumph came in May 2010 when he out-dueled Joey Saldana for the victory. The four-time WoO champion charged from ninth to third earlier this year to score his 15th straight top-eight finish at the track. 

Kinser started his second season with TSR on a tear, winning the opening two WoO races. The Bloomington, Ind., resident had four wins by the seventh race, making it one of the best starts in his 32 Outlaw campaigns. Despite some bad luck through the middle of the season, including a broken hand in late May, “the King of Outlaws” continued to remain in the title hunt. A post-Knoxville Nationals surge beginning with back-to-back victories and concluding with his ninth win of 2011 and 570th of his career Sept. 17 at Deer Creek Speedway in Rochester, Minn., buoyed his title chances. An untimely crash with Schatz in the STP Shootout Oct. 8 while Meyers reeled off five consecutive wins foiled his shot at another WoO crown, however. Kinser finished fifth in his most recent race on Oct. 22 at the Talladega (Ala.) Short Track.

After closing 2010 with several podium finishes, Schatz was looking to regain the WoO championship in 2011. Things didn’t start smoothly for Schatz in the early going. His second-place finish in the second race of the year was his only top-10 in the season’s first five races.

Things turned around with five consecutive top-fives and, in early May, a run from 18th to second in Oklahoma was a sign of things to come. The STP team won its first WoO A-Feature of 2011 at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park in late May and added three more quarter-mile wins in June, July and August. The highlight of the season came in the sport’s biggest event, the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals. Schatz won his fifth Nationals in the last six seasons by charging from 13th to victory in the 50-lap marathon Aug. 13. It was the 10th time in the last 12 Nationals that Schatz has finished either first or second.