Season Review: Tony Bruce Jr

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Tony Bruce Jr. knew it would be no easy task competing full-time with the World of Outlaws in 2007. After all, he was a rookie and was competing against a number of drivers that have been racing sprint cars longer than he has been alive. On top of that, he had less than one full year of experience under his belt in a 410-sprint car, and had never competed on a majority of the tracks on the schedule.

The 23-year old persevered and gained priceless experience, as he competed against the best sprint car drivers in the world night in and night out, in what turned out to be one of the most competitive seasons in the 29 year history of the World of Outlaws.

“It’s always tough when you race against Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser,” said Bruce, driver of the Best Well Service Maxim. “We started the season off with a lot of cars and finished with a good number of cars. We just try to take it one day at a time and one car at a time. We focus on what we are doing and not what everyone else is doing. If we beat ourselves, we will never beat them.”

Bruce prepared for the 2007 season by competing in a number of World of Outlaws events in 2006. In limited action last season, he earned two Top-10 finishes and visited a number of tracks for the first time, including the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania and Knoxville Raceway in Iowa.

“I think it helped running some races last year,” he noted. “Qualifying is still my major issue that we struggle with. Hopefully having seen a lot of the places, going back to them next year, we will be better.”

This season, he made his first trip to the West Coast to compete in California, along with two separate visits to the East Coast. Both regions have some of the toughest local sprint car competition in the nation. Bruce had a simple philosophy each time he and his team unloaded at a track they had never visited.

“You have to pick out and establish marks that you can focus on, on the race track,” said the native of Liberal, Kansas. “The key was figuring out a good line for me and the car.”

Bruce earned two Top-Five finishes on the season, including a third-place performance in the spring race at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, to earn his best career finish with the series. He also set fast time on the third night of the season at Volusia Speedway Park during the Florida DIRTcar Nationals, with a stout field of 50-plus cars in attendance. He had nine Top-10 qualifying efforts on the season, and raced his way into the Crane Cams Dash eight times, with a best finish of second at Huset’s Speedway to earn a front row starting spot in the A-Feature that night.

“You always look at the positives and the negatives,” explained Bruce. “We know that we can get up there and race up front. Our only issue is qualifying, and that is very important with the World of Outlaws format. If we can get qualified a little better, I think we will be all right for next year. That’s our main focus.”

Bruce earned his second Top-Five finish of the season with a fourth-place run at I-55 Raceway in Missouri in July during the “SuperClean Summer of Money” on ESPN2. In that event, he raced side-by-side with 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser for several laps toward the end of the 40-lap contest. This was one of 18 World of Outlaws events televised in 2007 for the World of Outlaws as part of the broadcast package on ESPN2 and SPEED.

“Television is always a good thing,” said the 2006 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year. “It helps with sponsors and the sponsors that you already have get exposure. Being on TV is always a plus.”

Another of the highlights in 2007 for Bruce was visiting Canada for the first time, as the series returned north of the border for the first time in over 25 years, to compete at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario and Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta. The rookie driver finished a very solid 12th at Ohsweken, after turning the 10th fastest lap in time trails and following that up with a second-place finish in his heat race to earn a spot in the Crane Cams Dash.

“We definitely look forward to going back to Canada,” he said. “Both times we were up there, we met a lot of cool people and there are a lot of different things to do up there.”

With less than 90 days until the 2008 World of Outlaws season, Bruce and his team are already busy planning for another season on the road. After a long trip back to Kansas from the inaugural Outlaws World Finals, they are already putting in long hours getting ready for another round at the most grueling schedule in all of motorsports.

“I don’t know how much we are going to relax,” he smiled. “We will be working in the shop getting cars ready for next year. We’ll definitely keep busy.”

The 2008 World of Outlaws season begins on February 8 with the 37th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

Up Next: 2007 World of Outlaws Season Review: Chad Hillier.

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