CONCORD, N.C. – The World of Outlaws and NASCAR are being mentioned in the same sentence more and more these days.
Even though three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart won a World of Outlaws crown with Danny Lasoski in 2001 and a truckload of titles and trophies with Donny Schatz, the two series being mentioned together has become more commonplace of late.
That trend continued last week when the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West were paired together for the first time at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas.
The race drew a crowd of thousands, a larger media presence and NASCAR drivers. Some drivers were in the stands watching, and a few in the sprint car race themselves. Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and retired NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne joined the stars of the World of Outlaws for the doubleheader race at the Las Vegas Dirt Track last week and will continue to compete periodically with the Series throughout the season.
When the NASCAR stars join the series, the media spotlight is usually turned on them for the night. But that’s not an issue to some of the series regulars.
“I don’t mind it at all,” said series veteran Kraig Kinser, the 2005 Knoxville Nationals champion and son of 20-time series champion Steve Kinser. “The exposure they (NASCAR drivers) bring is always a plus. Anything that can highlight our Sprint Car racing is always a positive.”
From a veteran to a rookie, the opinion stays the same. Rookie contender Carson Macedo, who drives for Kyle Larson Racing, enjoys when his boss and others come to race with the World of Outlaws.
“I love it,” Macedo said. “I always said if you want to be the best, you got to race with the best. And those guys are proven to be some of the best in the world. That’s what’s unique about racing in the World of Outlaws, you never know who is going to show up to give you a run for your money every night.”
Bell, Kahne and Larson grew up racing sprint cars. It’s what they love, and they take every opportunity they get to drive one.
“I just love sprint car racing in general,” Larson said. “To me the Outlaws are the toughest series to race with, that’s why I really like competing with them. I hit a lot of different races, but I always have the most fun racing the Outlaw stuff.”
Kahne, who like Larson owns a World of Outlaws team, said he became enamored with Sprint Cars at a young age and never lost that passion. Even during his years in NASCAR when he wasn’t able to run many Sprint Car races. Through his Kasey Kahne Racing team, and watching the races on DIRTVision, he said he always stayed connected to it. He’s enjoyed watching his team’s accomplishments, such as winning the 2013 World of Outlaws championship and 2018 Knoxville Nationals crown.
This year Kahne is scheduled to run about 50 sprint car races. Bell is hoping to do about 20 to 25. Larson sneaks in sprint car races to his schedule whenever he can.
“I just hit whatever is available,” Larson said. “I don’t have many days throughout the year that I can go race.”
Larson and Bell both stated while there may not be much of a comparison between a stock car and a sprint car, more seat time never hurts.
“The biggest thing for me is, the way I get better is by racing cars,” Bell said. “If I’m sitting on the couch, I’m not becoming a better race car driver.”
Larson echoed Bell saying, anytime he gets to race, he feels like he becomes a better driver.
“It’s why I try to run a lot,” Larson said.
Kinser said it is nice to be able to race with the NASCAR drivers while they’re in the peak of their career. While they bring a lot of positive exposure to the sport, he said the series is full of diehard fans that fill the stands most nights.
Unlike some other forms of motorsports, Kinser said World of Outlaws drivers are easily accessible to the fans right at their trailer.
“A lot of older fans know you can come down into the pit area afterwards, a lot of newer ones don’t realize that,” Kinser said. “It’s always nice to speak with the fans and get face time with them. That’s a positive for our sport, too.”
When Bell, Kahne or Larson attend a Series race, they’re just as accessible as Kinser or Macedo, making the World of Outlaws and NASCAR a favorable combination, like peanut butter and jelly or movies and popcorn.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Cars continue their West Coast Spring Break Tour this weekend at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., before heading north to Silver Dollar Speedway on Friday March 15 in Chico, Calif., and Saturday, March 16 in Stockton, Calif.
The next time the World of Outlaws and NASCAR intersect will be during Memorial Day Weekend, when the inaugural two-day World of Outlaws Patriot Nationals takes over The Dirt Track at Charlotte during the nights on May 24-25 while NASCAR runs its Coca-Cola 600 events during the day at Charlotte Motor Speedway.