CONCORD, N.C. — The seventh annual World of Outlaws World Finals kicked off Thursday at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and there’s no question the event will draw the largest crowd in the history of the event.
The grandstands were more than 80 percent full for a night of single-car qualifying for the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series and the World of Outlaws Late Model Series as well as time trials and heat races for the Super DIRTcar big-block modifieds.
In addition, last year 8,000 pit-pass upgrades were sold to fans attending the World Finals and this year that number surpassed 10,000. With the addition of a viewing mound in turn four, officials are expecting more than 15,000 fans for the Friday and Saturday night programs.
Seventy-four late models, 55 sprint cars and 49 modifieds filled the pits.
• Two-time World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series champion Jason Meyers didn’t miss a beat in his first Dirt Track at Charlotte appearance since clinching the 2011 championship at the four-tenths-mile dirt track.
Meyers, who is subbing for Brad Sweet in the No. 49 Kasey Kahne Racing machine, set fast qualifying time for Friday night’s program with a best lap of 12.912 seconds.
Paul McMahan was fast qualifier in the second session.
• Donny Schatz was the No. 2 qualifier in both sessions and gained eight points on point-leader Daryn Pittman, who did not earn any qualifying points, which go to the top five qualifiers in each session.
• Eric Riggins Jr., a regular in the USCS 360 sprint car series, had a new 410 engine under the hood of his family’s No. 47, but the powerplant supplied by the Shane Gray Racing Pro Stock drag racing team expired on his first qualifying lap.
• Tim Shaffer, who won the 2010 Knoxville Nationals and recently lost his ride with the CH Motorsports team, is wheeling the familiar J&M Motorsports No. 55 here this weekend.
• Texas sprint car driver Jim Perricone is making his first World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series appearance of the season this weekend. However, the San Antonio driver plans to run the full schedule with the series next year.
• Veteran sprint car driver and team owner Danny Smith is fielding two cars for the World Finals this weekend with young Tyler Courtney driving the second entry.
• Many-time Empire Super Sprints champion Mike Woodring, who hung up his fire suit years ago to become a crew chief and car owner, had his No. 19 here with Australian Brooke Tatnell at the wheel.
Woodring said it’s only their ninth out this season and he keeps busy crewing for other teams, building chassis and for other teams and working with ArticCat during the long winter snowmobile season.
“It’s very much like being out on the road with the Outlaws,” Woodring said of the snowmobile racing tour. “We are in a different city every weekend.”
• North Dakota driver Mark Dobmeier made the long tow to North Carolina and had veteran crew chief Guy Forbrook turning the wrenches on his No. 13.
• Illinois teenager Paul Nienhiser, a regular in the Sprint Invaders and MOWA sprint car series, made his Dirt Track debut in his family’s No. 9.
• Bill Balog, the winningest driver in IRA sprint car series history, made the tow from Wisconsin to compete this weekend. Balog, who calls the Badger State home, is a native of North Pole, Alaska.
• With Jac Haudenschild having taken over the wheel of the Destiny Motorsports No. 92, Leidig Motorsports has Californian Tim Kaeding wheeling its familiar No. 59 this weekend.
Kaeding has won nine World of Outlaws races this season while driving for longtime California car owner Dennis Roth.
• Brandon Wimmer has replaced Bryan Sebetto as driver of the Ohio-based Hammer Racing No. 24h and made his debut here. Sebetto was a frequent winner in recent seasons at Attica Raceway Park and Fremont Speedway.
Jac Haudenschild took over as full-time driver of the Destiny Motorsports No. 9w and Ryan Smith debuted in the No. 94 Warke Racing machine. Justin Henderson wheeled the Daugherty Racing No. 7k.
• Among those seen walking the pits Friday were drivers Ed Lynch Jr. and Rico Abreu, Knoxville Raceway promoter Brian Stickel and engine builder Joe Gaerte.