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Is ‘The King’ Being Fitted For His 21st Crown?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 10 2011

Steve Kinser is looking kingly once again in the World of Outlaws series. (Photos courtesy of True Speed Communications)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

A couple of years back, Steve Kinser had kind of disappeared from the sprint car map.

Yes, he still won races. Some would say he won lots of races from 2006 through 2010. But for Kinser, a 20-time World of Outlaws champion, anything but being on top of the point standings represents dropping off the map.

But if the 2011 season continues on the way it has started for Kinser, racing cartographers will be busy again come the end of the current Outlaws season.

Kinser has returned to the top.

Through the first seven races of the Outlaws schedule, the Bloomington, Ind. native who is known as “The King of the Outlaws” has won four times, has finished in the top-five six times and has a 35-point lead over Joey Saldana.

“We’ve started off the season really well, maybe the best I ever have,” Kinser, who won the 20th of his championships in 2005, said. “We’ve only had a couple of bad nights, but the other nights have been really good. The Bass Pro Shops guys (crew chief Scott Gerkin, and crewmen Gary DuBois and Mikey Kuemper) have done a great job giving me a fast car every night. It seems like every time we’ve unloaded this year, the car has been on a rail.”

To say that the start of the season may be the best he has ever had is saying plenty. It used to be big news when Kinser did not win 20 times a year. Driving for cousin and Sprint Car Hall of Famer Karl Kinser, Steve won his first championship in 1978.

The following year he won again and picked up 23 wins in the process. Twelve times he would win 20 or more A-Mains. His top season was 1987 when he won 46 Outlaws races, which only seems like a lot because it is.

Steve Kinser kicked off the 2011 sprint car season with a victory at Volusia in February.

Kinser has won the Knoxville Nationals a record 14 times.

But in 2006, at a time when some Outlaws drivers were having disagreements with series owner Ted Johnson, Kinser left to race for the upstart National Sprint Tour series.

That series – which also attracted such top drivers as Danny Lasoski, Jason Meyers, Tim Shaffer, Tim Kaeding and Jason Sides – folded after one season. Led by Kinser, who finished second to Lasoski, the drivers returned to the Outlaws.

Kinser, however, has gone championshipless since. His top victory season was 2007 when he won 10 A-Mains.

Prior to the start of the 2010 season, Kinser signed on to drive for Tony Stewart, who, with Donny Schatz in one of his cars, was winning championships and races like crazy. Kinser and Schatz give Stewart two of the best ever in sprint cars.

After landing Kinser, Stewart said, “It makes me feel like Roger Penske on the IndyCar side and Chip Ganassi on the road race side and Rick Hendrick on the Cup side.

“It’s pretty cool to have a guy that’s won 20 Outlaw championships and 14 Knoxville Nationals and however many races he’s won there, driving your car.  We have two of the best guys in the series and it’s neat to watch them run with each other.”

Schatz and Kinser, who was coming off back surgery, finished second and third last year as Meyers won the championship.

But this year is this year and Kinser is dominating again. He led all 30 laps last Thursday night to claim the finale at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, continuing one of the most successful starts in the 33-year history of the Outlaws. He began this season by winning the first two events at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and then was victorious two weeks later at Pike County Speedway in Magnolia, Miss.

“I’ve said it a few times already this year,” Kinser said this week, “but those guys working on the car are the real key to why we’ve started off so well. The time they spent working this winter is really paying off. Just look at what happened last week in Las Vegas as an example. We hurt a car the first night and had to bring out a new one for the second night. We went out and set fast time, finished second in the dash and led all 30 laps of the feature. The best thing I can do is keep winning races so they know how much I appreciate all of their hard work.”

History shows that Kinser has a terrific shot at continuing his winning ways this coming weekend. The series heads to Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. for the Mini Gold Cup.

Kinser has won 22 times at the quarter-mile Silver Dollar track.

“Chico is a bit of a bullring, so it will be a challenge,” Kinser said. “It seems like we are either really good there or not quite so good. I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of races there in my career, but it’s been more than five years (September of 2005) since I won a race there.

“Last year, we had a tough start to the weekend and it probably cost us a shot at being closer to winning the championship. The final night, we really had a good car and, maybe if the race was a few laps longer, we might have gotten (eventual winner) Jason (Meyers). We have another chance this weekend to go out and see if we can get one spot better out there.”

It would seem foolish to bet again that.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 10 2011
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