The World of Outlaws World Finals kicks off this Thursday night at the Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC, for 3 nights of action for both sprintcars and late models. Both titles have close championship battles, but the sprintcars will have the majority of the attention this weekend, as 3 drivers are still in contention to win the closest WoO points race in history. In this blog, I'll detail the contenders and pick a champion, pick a sleeper who could play a role in deciding the champion, and have a look at the late model decider as well.
Donny Schatz, Jason Meyers and Joey Saldana are separated by just 46 points, with points leader Schatz taking a 19 point advantage over 2nd in points Meyers heading into the finale. Schatz has had another outstanding season: 12 wins, 38 top-5's, and 11 fast time awards, the last two stats being tops amongst all drivers this season. The 3-time defending champion has has a lot of success at Lowe's; he's the reigning champ at the World Finals to go with 2 other wins and 14 top-5's in 21 starts. He deserves to go in as favourite, and will be hard to beat as he chases his 4th straight title.
Jason Meyers has had another great year in 2009, winning 9 times and posting a series best 53 top-10's on the season. His form at Lowe's isn't too shabby either: he won the first night of the 2007 World Finals and has 9 top 10's at the venue, including 6 straight. He is yet to win the title, and even though he's 19 points back, it will be a tough ask for him to beat Schatz, but any slip ups from Schatz and Jason will be right there to capitalise.
Joey Saldana is the winningest driver on the tour in 2009, winning 19 A-Mains. He also has 47 top 10 finishes on the season. But the key statistic is this: he is the most recent winner at Lowe's, taking the chequered flag in late May. He's yet to win at the World Finals but does have 13 top 10's from 21 starts. He does carry plenty of good form, including winning when the series last raced two weeks ago at Lone Star Speedway, but making up 46 points will be very very tough.
So, who will win the World of Outlaws Sprintcar championship? I believe it will be Schatz. Even though the points gap is 19, which could be cut if Meyers wins a fast time award, Schatz has an outstanding record at Lowe's and unless something out of the ordinary happens, Donny should be able to wrap up his 4th straight title. Meyers I don't think has enough to overhaul Schatz and would probably need him to finish out of the top 10 on one of the nights (preferably the Saturday race for Meyers) while Saldana is too far back, I believe, to have any sort of impact on the championship.
I've written about the contenders, but who is the big sleeper in the field that could play a big role in determining the champion? I believe that driver is Steve Kinser. He may have had a lean year by his lofty standards (just the two wins on the season) but he has an great record at Lowe's. He has never finished outside of the top 10 in 20 starts at Lowe's, including two wins and 14 top 5's. I mentioned that he has had a lean year, but it certainly hasn't been horrible: 4th in points and 48 top 10's is still pretty good numbers, and he's won the inaugural World Finals two years ago, so watch the #11 as he tries to shake up the championship contenders.
The late models also wrap up their season this weekend, which has an ever closer championship battle, as Steve Francis takes a slender 4 point lead over Josh Richards into the season finale. However, the late model boys have a makeup event to run tonight (11/4) that will have no impact on the series points, as the Topless Showdown, the only late model event that the cars will race with no roofs, is a show-up points only event that pays up to $30,000 to the winner depending on where the winner started. The championship battle is too close to call: both drivers won races at Lowe's last year, and in the first race there this year, Richards finished 3rd and Francis 4th. The only thing that Francis has over Richards is a WoO late model championship, which he won in 2007, so he is looking to become the first two-time champion of the series. However, there will be one interesting addition for drag racing fans: funny car champion Cruz Pedregon will race at the World Finals. He's been racing part time alongside his NHRA commitments, and has one win on the season in Boswell, IN.
For those wanting to watch the World Finals, SPEED has live coverage on Saturday night starting at 8pm Eastern. I'll be posting a review of this event either on Sunday or Monday, so stay tuned!
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.