Manzanita Notebook

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The sound of the World of Outlaws thundering around the famed Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix will grace the air one final time this weekend on Saturday, March 28 as the best sprint car drivers in the world tackle the half-mile on the corner of 35th & Broadway in Phoenix for a full night of racing with $10,000 on the line to the winner.

The list of drivers that have won at Manzanita over the years is a venerable “Who's Who” of racing, with Mario Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen and A.J. Foyt topping that list, as they all picked up wins in the 1960's at the track.

The World of Outlaws made their debut at the blazing fast half-mile in 1978, with Hall of Famer Lealand McSpadden picking up the win. The following season 20-time series champion and fellow Hall of Famer Steve Kinser picked up his first career win at the track. He has gone on since to win a total of 21 times at the track, with 11 of those coming in World of Outlaws events. He won the famed Western World six times over the years, both in a winged sprint car and a non-wing machine.

Sammy Swindell, the three-time World of Outlaws champion, has 18 career wins at the track including nine in World of Outlaws action, along with three triumphs in the Western World. Donny Schatz, the three-time and defending series champion has three wins at the track including the 1999 Western World. Danny Lasoski, the 2001 World of Outlaws title winner, has three career victories at Manzanita in his career, including the 1991 Western World.

Jac Haudenschild, who will be inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame this season, has four career wins at Manzanita, including two with the World of Outlaws. Jason Meyers, who is third in points heading into the event this weekend, won for the first time in his career at the half-mile last season.

After four consecutive events on bullrings for the World of Outlaws, the race at Manzanita will be the first of two consecutive events on half-miles, as the season picks up steam, with one of the strongest fields ever assembled on the road with the tour.

Running up Front
Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws champion, has an amazing record at Manzanita Speedway over the last 30 years. He has won a total of 21 times and has finished in the Top-10 over 50 times dating back to 1979, when he earned his first win at the half-mile. He has finished in the Top-10 in nine of his last 11 starts at the track. Kinser leads the World of Outlaws with seven Top-10 finishes in eight starts this year and is just 32 points behind Donny Schatz in the championship standings as he chases his record 21st title.

“I've always enjoyed running there,” said Kinser. “I've been racing there since the late 70's. It's always been a good race track for us and I've had a lot of success there. I've always enjoyed going to that area and racing, but I guess nothing lasts forever. That's just sort of the way it is.”

Not far Behind
Sammy Swindell, the three-time World of Outlaws champion, has won 18 times at Manzanita over the years and also has over 50 Top-10 finishes. He too has won at the track in winged and non-wing sprint cars, but also has a couple of wins at Manzanita in a Midget. He has six Top-10 finishes in eight events this season and is currently fourth in points, just eight markers out of second.

“It's been a great place to visit,” said Swindell. “It's been a great challenge of a race track and has a lot of history, so I hate to see it go.”

Looking to add to History
Donny Schatz looks for his fourth career win at Manzanita Speedway this weekend in the historic event that will cap off the World of Outlaws tenure at the track. The three-time and defending series champion made his debut at the track in 1996, at the tender age of 18. Just three years later, he won both nights of the Western World at the track. He was victorious most recently at Manzanita in 2007. He has won three of the four events contested on half-mile tracks this season and is the current series point leader.

“I was lucky enough to win there 10 years ago in the Western World,” said Schatz. “That was one of my first big wins and 10 years is a long time ago. I've won there a few times since and I would like to go there and get a win this time. It would be like winning the last race in 1999 before the Millennium, which will always have a soft spot in my heart.”

Mr. Versatility
Jac Haudenschild competed for the first time at Manzanita Speedway in 1983 in the Western World, which was a non-wing race that season. He won for the first time at the track in 1991 in a non-wing race and followed that up later that season with a win in a Midget. He took the checkered flag for the first time the following year in a World of Outlaws event at the track. He has nearly 30 Top-10 finishes in his career at Manzanita, dating back to 1983, when he finished second in his debut at the track.

“I always liked running Manzanita,” said Haudenschild. “I like the big fast half-miles. Manzanita always has been a nice track to race at and we are going to miss it.”

Chasing two in a Row
Jason Meyers won for the first time in his career at Manzanita Speedway last season, taking the lead from Donny Schatz on the 17th lap and leading the remainder of the 30-lap contest. The California native won his first race of 2009 a couple weeks ago at Silver Dollar Speedway in his home state. He is currently third in the championship standings, just two markers behind Steve Kinser for the second spot.

“Being from the West Coast, Manzanita was certainly the greatest half-mile that we got to go to,” said Meyers. “It's been a great race track for a lot of years. There is a lot of history there. We won that race last year and would certainly like to go back and win it again.”

Seeking a win
Joey Saldana has finished on the podium a couple of times at Manzanita Speedway, but has yet to claim that elusive win at the half-mile. He will seek to accomplish that feat in the final World of Outlaws event at the track this weekend. He has won three times this season including on a half-mile at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida last month. In his career he has 11 Top-10 finishes at Manzanita, including five in a row.

“My dad had some success there in the Western World when it used to be a pretty big race,” shared Saldana. “For myself, I have never won a race there and it would be neat to go out and win the last race there.

Keeping the Streak Alive
Craig Dollansky won a preliminary feature with the World of Outlaws at Manzanita in 2005, which began a string of seven consecutive Top-10 finishes which he looks to extend this weekend at the half-mile. The native of Minnesota is in his first season driving for NASCAR star Kasey Kahne and has four Top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place performance last weekend in the finale at Thunderbowl Raceway in California.

“Manzanita has always been a pretty racy track over the years when we have been there,” said Dollansky. “It sounds like this is going to be the last one, so it will be different not having that place there. We are looking forward to going back one more time this weekend.”

A new Track Record
Kerry Madsen set a new track record in time trials at Manzanita in 2007, in his first ever start at the track. The event this weekend will serve as the final one with veteran crew chief Sonny Kratzer, who is the reigning World of Outlaws Crew Chief of the Year, turning the wrenches on his car. The pair has two consecutive Top-10 finishes at the track and has picked up four Top-10's to start the 2009 campaign.

“Hopefully we can better that track record or at least keep it,” said Madsen. “That would be kind of wild. It will be Sonny and my last hurrah together and maybe we can win one before we head back to the east.”

Wrapping up his first West Coast Swing
Brian Ellenberger, who is contending for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award this season, will make his first start at Manzanita on Saturday, March 28 as the World of Outlaws wrap up their first West Coast swing of the season and the rookie driver's first West Coast swing.

“I am really looking forward to going out there,” said Ellenberger. “I have been to the track a couple of times and have never had the opportunity to race on it. I'm just fortunate to be able to get over there and do it once before they knock it down.”

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