SHEHEEN: A Dusty Night With The Outlaws

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Ralph Sheheen Mug
Ralph Sheheen
Dust was the buzz word from the recent World of Outlaws Last Call at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Hein Brothers photo)
Ralph Sheheen Mug
Ralph Sheheen.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — I finally had the chance to see the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series in action this season during The Last Call at the Dirt Track at Charlotte in mid-November.

Unfortunately, due to the challenges this year has presented, it wasn’t the traditional World Finals lineup with all three major touring series — sprint cars, late models and big-block modifieds — racing on the same card.

The modifieds were left out this year, while the late models ran two nights with the sprint cars in action the next two nights.

Track conditions were not the best, as racers fought thick dust throughout the night as the track had recently received a new surface. I have always considered the top World of Outlaws sprint car drivers to be some of the most talented wheelmen in racing.

But watching them race their 900-horsepower machines through blinding conditions was remarkable.

— Jason Sides said next year will be his 21st season traveling with the World of Outlaws. Sides, 47, is one of the elder statesmen of the series, and he has always been one of the sport’s more colorful characters. We wish him the best for next season.

— Once Donny Schatz crawled from his Ford-powered sprint car, we asked him how the blue oval engine is performing. He said Ford executives want 12 more race distances on the current variation before they will cast another block design.

As soon as the races were over in Charlotte, Schatz’s Tony Stewart Racing team was headed to the dyno. The plan was to run five barrels of fuel through the power plant to rack up the needed miles.

The 10-time WoO champion feels they are 12 weeks behind where they need to be in engine development. Schatz doesn’t think they will get the performance out of the engines they are looking for until around March when the tour is scheduled to swing through California.

— When I wandered over to speak with Dave Blaney, he was frustrated with his performance during the evening’s preliminary events. However, the former World of Outlaws champion proved he still has speed, charging to a seventh-place finish.

— One exciting racing entity you heard about first through SPEED SPORT is the Bill McAnally Racing Driver Academy. McAnally, the longtime West Coast NASCAR team owner and promoter of All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., is launching a new way for aspiring stock car drivers to get maximum seat time.

His new Drivers Academy plans to contest more than 40 events over 18 weekends, giving drivers lots of laps behind the wheel of full-size stock cars with 625-horsepower Robert Yates Racing spec engines powering their machines. There is no purse.

However, point leaders and race winners will earn opportunities to compete in ARCA and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. For more details, see the ad elsewhere in this magazine.

— I am among those who waited anxiously for the arrival of Don Prudhomme’s new book, “Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme: My Life Beyond the 1320.” It was worth the wait.

A living legend, Prudhomme lays it all out there in this new book — from the challenges he faced as a kid to life on the road crewing for Tommy Ivo and behind-the-scenes stories of “The Snake” and “The Mongoose” era.

One of our favorite parts of the book is when Prudhomme vividly describes what the experience of driving Top Fuel and Funny Cars was like. He is open and honest about his rivals and his determination to win every round. Get yours from booksnakeracinggear.com.

— The spectacular Can-Am, Formula One and F5000 cars of the Shadow Racing Team are some of the sport’s most stunning vehicles. The race cars always pushed the technology barriers.

Don Nichols, the man behind Shadow, is one of racing’s most mysterious characters — and he liked it that way. Was he really a spy during his military career? Is that why there is a shadowy figure for the team’s logo?

Renowned racing author Pete Lyons’ fantastic new coffee-table book, “Shadow The Magnificent Machines of a Man of Mystery,” is a fabulous look inside this mystifying organization and its beautiful race cars. The story of this team is unlike any other organization in racing.

The book is available from Quarto Publishing Group at [email protected] Great book Pete!

— Nobody has made more films covering every aspect of motorcycle racing then award-winning director Peter Starr. Working with the sport’s biggest names while developing unique techniques to capture the beauty of two-wheel racing, Starr has shot it all.

“Taking it to the Limits” is a fascinating trip through Starr’s lens as he recounts tales of working with legends such as Kenny Roberts, Mert Lawwill and Johnny O’Mara. The coffee-table book is available with two DVDs.

This new collection can be purchased from Amazon.com.

— From all of us at SPEED SPORT, we wish you a merry Christmas and happy New Year.