The World of Outlaws national sprint car tour starts its annual California spring swing Friday and Saturday in Tulare.
And every driver who takes the high-banked, third-mile clay oval at Thunderbowl Raceway will be looking for a way to stop Donny Schatz. The seven-time series champion has won five of six starts this season as the tour wound its way east from Florida.
California drivers have won eight of the first 23 Outlaws races contested at Thunderbowl since 2003, including two-time Outlaws champion Jason Meyers in 2010. A contingent of top drivers with central San Joaquin Valley ties figures to challenge this year.
Topping that list is Carson Macedo of Lemoore. He’s planning to spend most of his 2017 season racing in the Midwest with an Indiana car owner, but before then he’s racing for Easton-based Tarlton Motorsports. That’s the tandem that won the 2015 King of the West sprint car tour championship and it clicked for a 13th-place finish in last Friday’s Outlaws race in Las Vegas. Macedo had the night’s best passing job after starting 24th.
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Dominic Scelzi of Fresno in his family-owned car had a best finish last weekend of 23rd in the Thursday night feature. He said he had moved up to 14th (from 22nd starting) when a cut brake line forced him to drop back.
Scelzi said qualifying is key to having a good night: “If we can time in good it makes everything so much easier.”
Outlaws regular Brad Sweet of Grass Valley set the Tulare one-lap record in qualifying last year, pushing his Kasey Kahne-owned, winged sprint car powered by a 410-cubic-inch engine around the track in 12.327 seconds.
Hanford’s DJ Netto, Kingsburg’s Cory Eliason and Hanford’s Mitchell Faccinto figure to be in the field, too. And two longtime Valley car owners, Dennis Roth of Easton and Morrie Williams of Oakhurst, have entries piloted by Kyle Hirst of Paradise and Bud Kaeding of Campbell, respectively.
The U.S. Auto Club West Coast wingless sprint cars are in action both nights at Tulare.
The Outlaws have seven dates in California, including March 31 at Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds in Hanford.
Thunderbowl Outlaws winners
2016: David Gravel on March 12
2015: Tim Kaeding on March 13, Rico Abreu on March 14
2014: Daryn Pittman on March 14, Rico Abreu on March 15
2013: Tim Kaeding on March 15, Craig Dollansky on March 16
2012: Tim Kaeding on March 16
2011: Joey Saldana on March 19
2010: Jason Meyers on March 5, Joey Saldana on March 6
2009: Randy Hannagan on March 20, Joey Saldana on March 21
2008: Jac Haudenschild on Oct. 18
2007: Joey Saldana on Feb. 23, Tim Kaeding on Feb. 24, Donny Schatz on Oct. 13
2005: Tim Shaffer on Feb. 25, Donny Schatz on Oct. 14, Sammy Swindell on Oct. 15
2004: Erin Crocker on Oct. 29, Terry McCarl on Oct. 30
2003: Steve Kinser on Sept. 3