So Joey Saldana won his 20th World of Outlaws sprint car championship last night, thus becoming only the fifth driver in series history to win 20 or more races in a season and he still could only finish third in the championship.
(I remain convinced that there’s something wrong with a scoring system in which a guy wins eight more races than anybody else, and more than a quarter of all the races run, and doesn’t win the championship – see blog item below.)
Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., won his fourth consecutive Outlaws title by cruising to a sixth-place finish in the season-ending WoO World Finals on the Dirt Track at Charlotte (I called it by its old name – the Dirt Track @ Lowes – in my blog entry yesterday but the naming rights apparently ended as of the last Sprint Cup race there a few weeks ago).
Jason Meyers of Clovis, Calif., the only driver who really had a chance of catching Schatz, was third in the feature but couldn’t improve on his second-place finish in the standings.
Saldana, of Brownsburg, Ind., joins some pretty select company in winning 20 or more in a season. King Steve Kinser has done it, of course, as has Sammy Swindell, Mark Kinser and the Wolf, Doug Wolfgang.
Here are three quick observations from a pretty good show on the Speed Channel (which was in free preview mode so hopefully lots more people were able to tune in):
– Sprint cars at Charlotte turn a lap in about 15 seconds or less, which means they can cover four laps in a minute. Just as the 11th lap (of 30) was completed last night, Speed went to a commercial (shades of Formula One on TSN)!
"Oh-oh," I said to myself as about four commercials came on. "By the time they get back to the race, it’s going to be over . . ."
But when the race did, in fact, return, they were only on the 12th lap so when Speed went to commercial they had the video machine rolling so nothing was missed.
Great stuff, I say. And good for them.
– The on-board camera shots taken from Schatz’ car were terrific. I wish we’d been able to "ride along" a little more.
– Syracuse-area driver Jessica Zemken made it into the show by finishing fourth in the Last Chance race and then improved to 20th in the feature from her 24th starting position. She’s going to receive some sponsorship help next season, apparently, from Tony Stewart.
The reason I say "apparently" is because over the last year Zemken has been linked to Stewart both professionally and personally . . .
I was at Ohsweken Speedway (on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford) in July, where she caught everybody’s attention by finishing seventh in the Outlaws feature on the first of two nights of racing. I was told "off the record" that she was taking Stewart home to meet her parents the very next weekend.
Then, in August, she stood beside him during the buildup to the Cup race at the Glen and that really set tongues to wagging.
She’s a very talented 23-year-old racing driver who’s had success in small- and big-block dirt modifieds as well as 360 and 410 sprints. Knowing Stewart, that’s what probably caught his attention.
That she also happens to be a sweetheart – well, knowing Stewart, that’s probably what's kept it.