Successful Debut For Stewart

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“I want to win the Knoxville Nationals again, and I want to win the World of Outlaws championship.”

That’s what Danny Lasoski said a year ago when he and NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart announced they had teamed up to form a WoO team.

At the time, the goals seemed a bit unrealistic considering the two only had about three full months to prepare for the 63-race schedule accounting for more than 100 nights of racing spread over 10 months. The first-year team was bound to experience some growing pains before maturing into a championship contender, especially with temperamental Stewart overseeing things.

Stewart and Lasoski surprised the WoO community, however, by winning the third event on the schedule – the Silver State Shootout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s dirt track – in February. Four more A feature wins would follow - including the coveted Knoxville Nationals title - as would four preliminary feature wins, on the way to WoO title, the first for Lasoski the driver and Stewart the owner.

“I owe (car owner) Tony Stewart so much,” said Lasoski, who unseated defending champion Steve Kinser and outlasted his cousin Mark by 30 points. “I had a dream and he shared it and we put this team together (last) winter. Tony brings a different kind of motivation to me and the whole team, and I thank him for everything he’s done for us.

“This team is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. When Tony and I met several years ago, little did either of us know our paths would lead us to building a team together. I have always been blessed throughout my racing career to have the support of great people and have enjoyed great success as a result, but Tony is giving me the ability to go to the head of the class.

“Together we have put together a winning combination with Jimmy Carr as the crew chief.”

Assembling the right personnel was important to Stewart. Because of his commitment to Joe Gibbs in the Winston Cup Series, Stewart would need to have trusted and experienced crew members running his Outlaws team.

Along with Carr, Stewart appointed 42-year-old Lasoski general manager of the team. It worked to perfection.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I have undertaken in racing,” Stewart said. “One of the reasons I put this deal together with Danny was because I knew I wouldn’t have to be there watching over everything.

“These guys are the ultimate professionals, and they flat out get the job done. Danny doesn’t need me here at the track to provide motivation. He’s a great sprint car driver, and Jimmy Carr’s a great crew chief, and those guys have actually taught me a lot about winged sprint car racing.”

Perhaps most importantly for Stewart, running the WoO team gives him an escape from the rigors of the Winston Cup Series. He has struggled to keep his supercharged emotions under control, and he’s had several run-in with fellow competitors and NASCAR officials. When he’s at the dirt track, however, everything changes.

“It’s a good release for me to go out there and mess around with the car and just have a good time,” Stewart said. “It’s just my way of relaxing. The whole time I’m over at the dirt track, I’m not worried about what’s going on next door at the big track with my Winston Cup car.

“We started the race team not only for me to have a good time as a car owner but to be able to participate and give something back to open-wheel racing that has been very good to me. At the same time, I want to be able to help an old friend, hopefully to assist him and his family build for their future.”

Lasoski is certainly grateful the opportunity with Stewart came along, and he knows exactly what he wants that future to include now that he’s won the title.

“I know winning it once won’t be enough once we get the first one under our belt, but with our new team, it is a goal I believe is truly attainable,” Lasoski said.

Looks as though Lasoski and Stewart will be the favorites again in 2002.

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