HANFORD, Calif. – Fresno, Calif.-based Roth Motorsports went into the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series’ month-long California swing with the points lead for the first time in its historic career and may leave with it.
The team’s new driver, 2013 series champion Daryn Pittman, currently holds the points lead going into the final two races of the swing — Friday, March 29, at Keller Auto Speedway and Saturday, March 30, at Perris Auto Speedway.
Pittman started off the season in his new No. 83 Roth sprint car winning the two season-opening races at Volusia Speedway Park — claiming his third DIRTcar Nationals championship, and Roth’s first. He then followed that up with a top-10 and runner-up finish in Las Vegas, giving him a four-point advantage over reigning champion Donny Schatz going into the California swing.
Three races into the swing, Pittman still leads Schatz by just four points. However, points are the last thing on his mind.
“Truthfully, I don’t put a lot of thought to it,” Pittman said. “Obviously, it’s better to lead than to be chasing. And I do know it will mean something to (car owners) Dennis and Teresa (Roth) for us to be leading. But if something happens and we’re not, I have no doubt we have some better tracks for me and our team coming up.”
The Owasso, Okla.-native has produced a podium and a couple of top-10 finishes in the three California swing races, so far. Looking ahead to Friday night, he said the three-eighths-mile Keller Auto Speedway has been hit-or-miss for him. His results show it.
He finished 20th the last time the Series raced at the track in 2017 – the race won by the Series’ most recent winner Logan Schuchart. Prior to that he had a top-10, a 17th place finish and a top-five, respectively.
Like all tracks, Pittman said he wants to perform well in Hanford, but this year he has extra motivation to do so. The speedway is about 40 minutes from the Roth Motorsports shop.
Of the final two races in the California swing, Perris Auto Speedway is the one he’s looking forward to the most. He’s won at the track three times — most recently in 2016 — and before the series revised its wins list last year, it was the site of his first series win.
“Perris has always been a place that’s been pretty special to me,” Pittman said. “For years it was considered my first win. I beat Steve Kinser to the line by about half a car length. I couldn’t ask for it to happen in more of a dramatic fashion, for my first win to come against the greatest to ever sit behind a sprint car.”
Not only is Pittman looking forward to going to the half-mile Perris Auto Speedway because he’s won there before, he’s had the most success this year on half-mile tracks. In the four races on half-mile tracks this year, Pittman has two wins, three podiums and four top-10 finishes.
“Right now, I’m really excited for the half-mile stuff,” Pittman said. “I think our engine program is really good. I think our cars are really good.”
His love for the half-mile tracks is new found this year. When he drove for Kasey Kahne Racing last year, Pittman said he almost dreaded going to half-mile tracks because he didn’t have speed at them.
While he’s performed better on the half-miles, so far this year, he doesn’t dread short tracks. His second-place run at the third-mile Thunderbowl Speedway shows he and his team can still be a threat on the smaller tracks. There is room for improvement on them, though, Pittman said.
“Right now, just based on performance wise, the half-mile stuff has been more suited for our team right now,” he said.
With seven races down, Pittman said he and the Roth Motorsports crew are happy where they’re at as a team. One of his early season goals was to perform well at Volusia. Mission accomplished.
He has several other goals he’s set for himself to put together a successful year with his new team and try to secure a second championship. Leaving the California swing with the points lead, while ideal, isn’t necessarily one of them.
“I try not to focus on them (points) too much, just focus on each race for what it is and try to win races,” Pittman said. “It’s definitely always good to be up front. It gives everyone something to talk about, but it’s definitely not something we’re really focused on right now.”