With 688 feature wins and 24 championships between World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series drivers Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz, their prowess in wheeling 1,400-pound winged Sprint Cars on dirt is unmatched.
But what about their skills in piloting a 2,300-pound dirt Late Model stock car capable of putting out more than 800 horsepower? Currently, it’s unknown, as neither Kinser nor Schatz – despite their decades of dirt-track experience – have ever raced a dirt Late Model.
That will change on Wednesday, June 6 when the duo competes in the eighth annual Prelude To The Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. They’ll join stars representing NASCAR, NHRA and INDYCAR in a battle for dirt supremacy on the half-mile clay oval where HBO Pay-Per-View® will present the event LIVE in high-definition to the entire nation. Net proceeds from the telecast will support Feed The Children, a U.S.-based charity that domestically has helped more than 365,000 families since 2009 through its Americans Feeding Americans Caravan.
The 2012 edition of the Prelude To The Dream includes hot laps, qualifying, heat races and a 40-lap feature with double-file “shootout style” restarts.
Despite being dirt Late Model rookies, as well as first-time Prelude participants, Kinser and Schatz have one trump card none of the other Prelude drivers have – a mountain of experience on the high-banked Eldora oval. The amount of laps they’ve made at Eldora is unmatched, including that of Eldora Speedway owner and Prelude to the Dream founder Tony Stewart, who also happens to be the three-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
“I’ve made a lot of laps around Eldora the last 30 years, but I’ve never done it in a dirt Late Model,” admitted the 57-year-old Kinser, a 20-time World of Outlaws champion who has amassed more than 50 career wins at Eldora. “Heck, I’ve never even raced one anywhere, let alone at Eldora. I’m really not sure what to expect, but Tony will be a pretty big asset. He’s been in a Late Model and a winged Sprint Car there before, so I’m sure he can translate some of the similarities. It’s going to be something different, that’s for sure.”
Stewart has Kinser and Schatz covered in experience. He’s raced dirt Late Models for years, and since 2008, has run more and more winged Sprint Car races, to where in 2012 he has approximately 40 on tap.
“Tony was obviously a pretty quick study,” said the 34-year-old Schatz, a four-time World of Outlaws champion who tutored Stewart in the nuances of winged Sprint Car racing at the end of the 2009 and 2010 racing seasons. “I can only hope I can get the hang of driving a dirt Late Model just as fast. I might be asking a lot for my first race ever in a dirt Late Model. One night isn’t much time, but Steve and I both have a really good idea of how dirt changes through the night. Once we get a feel for how to run the car, I think we’ll be ok. It’s such a great opportunity and something I’ll remember for the rest of my career.”
The event offers both Schatz and Kinser, who drive for Tony Stewart Racing in the World of Outlaws, another chance at competing against Stewart.
“We love to compete, so that’s why this is going to be so much fun,” Schatz said. “We’ll be out of our comfort zone for awhile, but just about everyone else will be, too. I’m sure Steve and I will bounce some things off each other during the night and try to get each other up to speed.”
Schatz and Kinser have raced 23 times this year with the World of Outlaws and they have three races – Friday at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park, Saturday at I-96 Raceway in Lake Odessa, Mich., and Tuesday at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway – before racing with fenders for the first time in the June 6 Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway.
“I know they’re both almost as excited as I am about them running the Prelude,” said Stewart of his World of Outlaws drivers. “I told them both it’ll be different, but by the end of the night, I’m pretty sure they’ll have it figured out and be right up in the hunt.
“But no matter how they do, we all know it’s for a great cause with Feed The Children. We’ll all be racing for a trophy, but also to make an impact with the more than 16 million children who are at risk of going hungry right here in America.”
For the top-10 finishers in the Prelude To The Dream, Feed The Children will send a food truck to each driver’s hometown or city of their choice.