Decade's Dazzling Dozen
Written by: Jim Chiappelli
Before we know it, the first green flag will fall in Florida to begin the 2010 racing season for winged 410 sprint cars in America. With that in mind, it provides an opportunity to close out the past decade.
The ten-year span from 2000-2009 gave us a variety of tire, wing, engine and weight rules.
World of Outlaws founder Ted Johnson sold his series to a group named Boundless, which became DIRT MotorSports and eventually World Racing Group.
Teams took part in the now-defunct Gumout Series and National Sprint Tour, but not in the poorly-conceived National Sprint Car League.
We saw an influx of NASCAR drivers return to their roots as car owners, dirt racing atop the concrete at Bristol, the expansion of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum, with races shown on The Nashville Network, The Outdoor Channel, ESPN2 and SPEED while internet coverage soared.
We had Erin Crocker, the Mean 15, the Kinser 500, (wins) the Kinser 20, (championships) unsanctioned Knoxville Nationals and no end to the Pennsylvania Posse’s always-divisive weekly handicapping system.
Tracks were added to schedules while others closed forever.
Rookies arrived, veterans retired, and some drivers paid the ultimate price.
But above all, the period from 2000 to 2009 gave us memorable performances by some great sprint car drivers. Here are my selections for the decade’s dazzling dozen:
1. STEVE KINSER: Don’t let his relative lack of recent success fool you. This was the decade of The King. He reigned as World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion five times between 2000 and 2005 while amassing 117 A-feature victories and the 2002 Knoxville Nationals title.
2. DONNY SCHATZ: The sport’s present-day dominator owns the last four Outlaws championships in addition to wins in the past four Knoxville Nationals to accompany 96 trips to victory lane with the Outlaws.
3. DANNY LASOSKI: A trio of Knoxville Nationals triumphs meshes well with The Dude’s championships with the Outlaws and National Sprint Tour and at Knoxville Raceway. A 63-time winner with the Outlaws, he added many more to his resume racing elsewhere.
4. FRED RAHMER: The Grand Poobah of the Pennsylvania Posse put up an astonishing 175 victories and 11 track championships at Williams Grove and Lincoln Speedways against sprint car racing’s toughest weekly competition.
5. TERRY McCARL: Iowa native enjoyed the best of both worlds—success on the regional and national levels by registering more than 100 wins while capturing eight track championships at Knoxville Raceway and Huset’s Speedway.
6. JOEY SALDANA: The highest-ranking driver without a major championship, Saldana rolled to 58 feature wins with the World of Outlaws, posting an average finish of fifth in the standings, including second in 2007.
7. MARK KINSER: The only inactive driver on the list who earned his place based on his
body of work in only the first half of the decade, during which he collected 35 Outlaws features and the 2000 Knoxville Nationals crown.
8. JASON MEYERS: Three runner-up points finishes with the Outlaws and 34 A-main wins with the circuit appear to have the California driver poised for greatness in the next decade.
9. CRAIG DOLLANSKY: One of the most consistent drivers competing with the World of Outlaws, he had 30 feature wins and finished seventh or better in the points standings in all eight seasons entered, including five finishes in the top-four. Minnesota driver was the inaugural Gumout Series champion in 2000.
10. CHAD KEMENAH: Ohio driver earned four consecutive titles with the All Star Circuit of Champions between 2002 and 2005 and claimed more than 30 checkered flags in national competition, which has taken him to the Outlaws.
11. ED LYNCH JR.: By reaching triple-digits in victories and multiple track championships, this second-generation Western Pennsylvania standout dominates the local scene and is competitive running a “true outlaw” schedule
12. (tie) TIM KAEDING and JONATHAN ALLARD: This list becomes a baker’s dozen thanks to a split vote involving a pair of Golden State Challenge hot shoes. Kaeding, King of California in 2002, has more wins among the two, but Allard won a couple of series titles in ’06 and ’08.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
-Lance Dewease: Pennsylvania driver recorded three Williams Grove Speedway championships
-Kenny Jacobs: All Star Circuit of Champions titles in 2000 and 2001
-Kraig Kinser: 2005 Knoxville Nationals winner
-Daryn Pittman: 29 World of Outlaws A-Feature wins, 2001 Gumout Series champion
-Tim Shaffer: 2009 All Star Circuit of Champions champion
-Danny Smith: 2003 GLOSS champion, 75 feature wins
-Stevie Smith: 18 World of Outlaws A-Feature wins and dozens more in Pennsylvania
-Sammy Swindell: Took more than 25 wins while running primarily on a part-time basis
Remember, these figures are based on performances between 2000 and 2009.
Jim Chiappelli is SPEED’s News Director. He has worked in broadcast journalism since 1986, producing or overseeing the production of more than 6,000 newscasts and sportscasts in a career that began at network affiliates in Johnstown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania before shifting to the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh, where he spent 11 years, leaving as Executive Producer in 2001.
Before graduating from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Jim briefly competed in the limited late model division in Western Pennsylvania for his family, which has been involved in racing for nearly 35 years and continues to campaign a 410 sprint car team.