KENNEDY: The California Coast


LOS ANGELES — The “So Cal Sprint Car Spectacular” at Perris Auto Speedway on April 12 was a first-time event featuring three sprint car series.

The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series was joined for the first time by the AMSOIL USAC-CRA sprint cars and the non-winged PAS Senior Sprints for drivers age 45+.

Grandstands and pits were more crowded this year than last year when WoO was accompanied only by the winged California Lightning Sprints powered by motorcycle engines. Several hundred additional fans in the grandstand this year made the tripleheader.

The WoO series ran its 14th event at PAS since the track opened in 1996. It had a PAS-low 16 cars present. Only season-long point chasers raced this year. In 2013 WoO had 21 cars at PAS; 26 WoO cars raced at PAS in 2012. This year WoO had 31 cars in action Friday, April 11 at Kings Speedway in Hanford, near Fresno.

The King of the West (KoW) winged sprint car series booked a point race Saturday, April 12 at Tulare, just south of Hanford. That race conflict kept an estimated five to seven cars in the San Joaquin Valley instead of traveling south to Perris. The KoW race in Tulare drew 31 cars.

WoO is in its 36th season. Two of the original WoO competitors — Steve Kinser, 59, and three-time WoO champion Sammy Swindell, 58, raced this year at PAS. Kinser, who will turn 60 on June 2, announced his intention to quit chasing WoO points after 2014. PAS fans were able to watch the 20-time series champion for the final time in California.

In the future, Steve might race closer to home and he will still field a car for his son Kraig. Steve and Sammy rank one-two on the list of WoO feature victories. Steve won his 577th in Florida two months ago and Sammy has 292. Retired Mark Kinser is third with 153 WoO triumphs. Donny Schatz ranks fourth on the list with 150.

Joey Saldana set his seventh fast time in 14 WoO events this season. The existing PAS WoO track record is 13.875. Saldana won the 30-lap WoO feature and became the 10th different 2014 winner in 14 WoO races. WoO raced three times in Florida, twice in Las Vegas and once in Tucson before embarking on eight events at six California tracks — Tulare, Stockton, Merced, Calistoga, Hanford and Perris.

Chico (March 29) was a rainout. WoO 2014 car counts prior to Perris averaged 32 cars through Hanford.