Twenty-time World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series champion Steve Kinser started his day with a morning bike ride in the fresh Florida sunshine. It was a chance for the driver of the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/JD Byrider/Chevy Maxim to break a sweat on the final day of his offseason. On Wednesday night, it’s back to business behind the wheel of a Winged Sprint car for the 56-year-old with the 41st Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio kicking off the 2012 season at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
Kinser will begin his third season driving for three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and 34th season competing with “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” He put himself through a rigorous training program following the 2011 season to prepare for the 10-month WoO season, which includes more than 80 nights of racing from now until the first week of November. In each of his first two campaigns with TSR, the Bloomington, Ind., native has finished with nine WoO A-Feature victories and a third-place finish in the championship standings. The start of another season provides a new opportunity and the chance to put a complete season together in order to have a shot at that 21st title in November. In both 2010 and 2011, beginning the season in Florida was a good thing for Kinser as he raced to victory at Volusia Speedway Park during each season-opening weekend. Two years ago, he won in just his second start driving the Bass Pro Shops No. 11 racecar. Last season, he won the first two 30-lap A-Features and finished second in the finale. Second was also the position “The King” finished when he made his first WoO start at the track in February 1981. Consistency has been part of the equation recently at Volusia for Kinser, who has scored six consecutive top-five finishes on the half-mile dirt oval. His four WoO wins at the track ties Kinser for most all-time with his TSR teammate Donny Schatz. This week, he’ll be looking to break that tie and add to his incredible total of career WoO A-Feature wins, which currently stands at 570. The Bass Pro Shops crew will once again be led by Kinser’s longtime crew chief Scott Gerkin. Crewmen Gary DuBois, who has been with Kinser since 1995, and newcomer Mark Angerett Jr., will assist Gerkin in maintaining the newly designed camouflage TSR No. 11 this season. The team is looking for another solid start in Florida before heading west for eight races during the month of March. The DIRTcar Nationals begin with a pair of All-Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC)-sanctioned races on Wednesday and Thursday, prior to three complete WoO events beginning on Friday evening. Only the Friday through Sunday events will count toward to the 2012 WoO championship.
For all five races at Volusia Speedway Park, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. EST, and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for the race weekend can be purchased by calling Volusia Speedway Park at (386) 985-4402. For more information on the event, visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com. Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans. Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/Chevy/J.D. Byrider Maxim: Another season is set to begin with the DIRTcar Nationals in Florida. Last year, you started out strong by winning four of the first seven races, and closed the season with consistent finishes. What is your mindset heading into the season-opening weekend? “I’m ready to race. I’ve worked hard. The team has worked hard. We’re all ready to get back to competition. The beginning of the year is always something you look forward to. We’ve spent all winter in Indiana, and being able to catch some good weather puts everyone in a good mood. If you can have some early success in Florida and then also out west, it can be a really fun start of the year.” For the eighth straight year, the World of Outlaws begins the season at Volusia Speedway Park. You’ve won three of the last four races contested at the track.
Can you explain why you have been so successful there in recent openers?
“First off, I really like running Volusia. It’s a good, fast racetrack, even if the surface gets slick. It’s the kind of track we really like to run on. We’ve had years like the past two where we went down to Volusia and started the season strong. It helps your team feel like all the work they put in over the winter paid off. I’d say having the guys on this team is a big reason we have been so good down there. They’ve been up and down the road over the years. They work hard over the winter. And they are just as competitive as I am, so winning is what they expect.” This week is just the first of many race nights in 2012.
Have you set any expectations for the weekend?
“We started pretty well last year and I guess we’d like to duplicate that this year. We were pretty good, so that might be asking a lot. You want to start out consistent. And that goes for everything and everyone on our team. The driver can’t make a lot of mistakes. The crew has to make the right calls. We’ve got a great group of guys on this Bass Pro Shops team. We realize that it’s only the start of the season, but we know how important it is to be challenging for wins and getting our share right out of the box.”