CONCORD, N.C. – Looking back on his 18-year World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series career, with 105 wins, Joey Saldana is satisfied.
To him, it’s a respectable career and said he’s happy with it. However, there’s reluctance in his voice when saying “happy.”
At 48-years-old, he won’t say he’s retired from full-time World of Outlaws racing but knows it’s not for him right now. That doesn’t stop him from thinking about what could still be and what could have been.
“All I know is I gave my best and it’s just…,” he said before pausing and asserting his thoughts. “It sucks. Sometimes it sucks when you look back and… you know, I saw someone tweeted about the 2008 Kings Royal. That got me thinking about the 2008 World of Outlaws season. We had a great car all year but blew like 11, 12, 13 tires and every time we blew a tire we were leading. And that Kings Royal we were leading and blew a tire with like 10 to go. So, you know, you look back on years like that and go, ‘Man, what our year could have been or should have been.’ It can beat you up. Or tear you up to where you just don’t want to do this anymore. It is what it is.
“I had a great 18 years with the World of Outlaws. A lot of guys only get one or two. It’s been good to me. It’s been great. And you never know. I’m only 48. I might change my mind. I just don’t have the drive right now to do what I need to do to feel like I can race with (Donny) Schatz and (Brad) Sweet week in and week out. You can’t just hop in these cars every now and then and think you’re going to beat these guys. You have to commit to be successful.”
The four races he ran with the World of Outlaws in 2019 further highlighted that for him. Although, he was far from off the pace.
Saldana teamed with Ed Neumeister Racing in the No. 12N to run the week of races at Eldora Speedway leading up to the Kings Royal. It was meant to be more of a “dyno-test” for the team’s Fisher Racing Engines than a competitive attempt. Aside from some motor issues, he ran competitive each night and finished 11th in the Kings Royal.
Their performance encouraged them to try their luck at the 360 and 410 NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals. He set quick time for the 360 Nationals and finished fifth in the feature. He then started third in the 410 Nationals, led laps early and eventually ended the night 14th.
“I need to race more to be an Outlaw winning driver right now, and I realize that,” Saldana said. “It was also cool to not race all year and then go, to me, the three biggest races of the year, the Kings Royal, 360 and 410 Nationals, put it in the show for all three of them and run respectable. It definitely made me feel good.”
Racing in the Knoxville Nationals – finishing second three times – and winning races like the Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway, the Kings Royal – twice (2002 and 2006) and the Ironman 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 are some of the memories he cherishes the most of his career.
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