TULARE, California -- The Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway will roar back to life this coming weekend on February 22 & 23 when the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series takes to the 1/3 mile clay oval for the first time in 2008. The two-night event will be the first of a pair of visits by the nations’ premier winged sprint car series to the Tulare County Fairground track this season.
Topping the entry list will be two-time and defending Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaw champion Donny Schatz of Fargo, ND, who captured the WOO sanctioned Dave Helm Memorial last October at Thunderbowl Raceway. This season Schatz is driving for Tony Stewart Racing under the sponsorship of Armor All as he tries to become just the second driver to win three consecutive titles in the 30 year history of the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series. Schatz comes into the event at the Thunderbowl sitting third in points, 23 digits out of the lead.
Last season Schatz had one of the finest years in the history of sprint car racing as he picked up 19 WOO wins, including big victories in some of the sport’s premier events such as the Knoxville Nationals, the Kings Royal, the Williams Grove National Open and the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup. The only major victory Schatz missed out on was the Gold Cup Race of Champions in Chico where he finished in the fifth spot after starting 16th. Schatz was also victorious at the Thunderbowl during a prelim main event in October of 2005 and has finished on the podium in five of the nine WOO main events contested at the Central Valley track.
The only driver that could seemingly keep pace with Schatz last season was Brownsburg, Indiana’s Joey Saldana who finished second in WOO points with 13 overall victories. Saldana is back for a third straight season behind the wheel of the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 9 machine as he looks to take home his first Outlaw driving title in the Budweiser sponsored JEI. In 2007 Saldana picked up his first career Gold Cup Race of Champions victory at Silver Dollar Speedway in September, and put up a great fight for the championship much of the season before Schatz pulled away near the end of the year. After the WOO season ended he made a stop at the 14th annual Trophy Cup in Tulare where he won the prelim main event on opening night and finished second in the overall weekend points.
The World of Outlaw Sprint Series made their first visit to the Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway in September of 2003 and that event was won by 20-time Outlaw champion Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Indiana. The sprint car icon is coming off a tough year by his standards and this season he is looking to get back up on the high perch he has held for so many years. His ‘07 year saw 10 victories and a finish of sixth place in the final standings, a great year for many drivers, but the level of consistency that everyone expects from Steve Kinser wasn’t what had been seen for so many years. He showed however, that he isn’t going to lay over as he won the season finale at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, which was televised live by SPEED and has a new fire lit underneath him for ‘08 as he competes in the familiar Q Oil’s No. 11.
At the end of last season Clovis, CA’s Jason Meyers was the hottest sprint car driver on the planet and he looks to continue the success in ‘08. The driver of the GLR Investments No. 14 won five main events with WOO last year en route to a tie for fourth in the final standings. He also captured a number of big victories during the final month of the season with various sanctioning bodies. In November at Thunderbowl Raceway Meyers won the Trophy Cup for the first time in his career worth $15,000 and also picked up $20,000 at the Short Track Nationals in Arkansas. Meyers had a strong week in Florida a couple weeks ago and comes into Tulare sitting second in the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaw Sprint Car point standings, just 10 points out of the lead.
San Jose’s Tim Kaeding had a pair of podium finishes during the three World of Outlaw Sprint Series events at the Thunderbowl last season and will look to continue the success during the upcoming February event behind the wheel of the Tom Rolfe Trucking No. 10. “TK” won the second night of the February two-day event last season, finished third at the Dave Helm Memorial in October and also won a Golden State Challenge Series main event at the Thunderbowl in June. Overall in ’07 Kaeding totaled six wins in seven GSC starts and also won Silver Dollar Speedway’s Fall Nationals in October with a charge from the 14th starting position. He comes into Tulare sitting seventh in the current World of Outlaw point standings following three top 10 finishes in Florida.
Dover, Missouri’s Danny Lasoski finished third in WOO points last year with six wins, including a two-night sweep of the Harvest Classic at Calistoga Speedway. The former Outlaw champ has struggled in his career at Thunderbowl Raceway however and has just one win at the track, which came during the Northern Auto Racing Club sanctioned Turkey Night in 2001. "The Dude" is expected to make his '08 debut for long time car owner Guy Forbrook in Tulare, as the pair reunite to chase the WOO crown. Lasoski won the most recent event in WOO competition when he captured victory aboard his own No. 5 JEI sprinter at Volusia.
Owasso, Oklahoma’s Daryn Pittman had one of the finest years of his World of Outlaw career last season scoring six wins and finishing in a tie with Meyers for fourth in points. The pilot of the Titan Garages & Carports No. 21 has become one of the top drivers in the country over the last handful of seasons. Elk River, Minnesota’s Craig Dollanksy has teamed up with car owner Larry Woodward for the ‘08 season and will look to improve on his seventh place finish in points from a year ago. The driver known as the “Crowd Pleaser” was very strong in Florida and currently leads the World of Outlaw point standings in the Auto Value Parts Stores sponsored No. 2 machine.
Local car owner Dennis Roth will field a car for Bixby, OK’s Shane Stewart at the event. Stewart had an outstanding ’07 season driving the Doyle’s Harley Davidson No. 1 machine as he scored a number of victories, including the Knoxville 360 Nationals, the Fred Brownfield Memorial Challenge, the Skagit 360 Nationals, and also had a win in WOO competition at Elma. This season he is wheeling the potent Roth Motorsports No. 83 on the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaw Sprint tour in his second full time stint with the series. Stewart needs to make up points at the Thunderbowl following a tough outing in Florida that left him 26th in the standings.
Bloomington, Indiana’s Kraig Kinser will make his Thunderbowl Raceway return aboard the Bass Pro Shops, Tony Stewart Racing No. 20. The former Knoxville Nationals champ is competing in his first full WOO schedule since 2005, following a couple years in the NASCAR ranks where he ran in a number of races with the Craftsman Truck Series. K. Kinser last competed at the Thunderbowl in October of 2005 where he brought home a fourth place finish in the final night of the two-day program.
Other Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaw drivers expected to compete on February 22 & 23 will be past Thunderbowl WOO winners Tim Shaffer of Aliquipa, PA & Terry McCarl of Altoona, Iowa; as well as Wooster, Ohio’s Jac Haudenschild; St. Mary’s NSW, Aust’s Kerry Madsen; Findlay, Ohio’s Chad Kemenah; Bartlett, Tenn’s Jason Sides; Mechanicsburg, PA’s Lucas Wolfe; San Jose, CA’s Randy Hannagan and more.
Chico’s Jonathan Allard won the most 410 winged sprint car races on the West Coast last season and will be another strong local for the California contingent. Allard won a prelim main event with WOO at the Gold Cup Race of Champions in September of last year and finished second to Brandon Wimmer at the Dirt Cup in Washington. The driver of the Morrie Williams owned No. 0 also finished fourth in the final Golden State Challenge Series points, tallying four wins along the way, including a runner-up at the Thunderbowl in June. Other possible local entrants expected to compete will be Los Angeles driver Tyler Walker, Sacramento’s Willie Croft, Elk Grove’s Kyle Hirst, Scotts Valley’s Evan Suggs and more.
The front gate will open at 4 pm each night and racing is expected to get under way around 7. On Friday night tickets will be $35 for bleachers and $40 for grandstands. On Saturday they will be $40 for bleachers and $45 for grandstands. All seating is reserved during the weekend. For tickets call (559) 688-0909 and to view a seating chart, a list of hotels and directions log onto http://www.thunderbowlraceway.com
On Saturday from 2 pm to 6pm the band that played during the spaghetti feed at the recent Trophy Cup, Dave Laswell & the Rounders, will be playing outside close to the grandstands. The plan is to have the band play from 2 to 4, before sweeping the grandstand area and after that, fans will be allowed back into the grandstands and the band will play to just about the time hot laps get underway. Please come hang out, enjoy the music and have a good time as we kick off the Northern California sprint car season.
The Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway is located on the Tulare County Fairgrounds at the corner of Bardsley and K Streets in Tulare, California.