BULLS GAP — While the attention of most race fans in the region will be focused on Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, a couple of NASCAR stars will have a vested interest in what happens on a high banked clay oval a few miles down Interstate 81 near the small town of Bulls Gap.
For only the second time in history, the “World’s Greatest Show on Dirt” World of Outlaws Sprint Car tour is making a stop at “The Gap” — also known as Volunteer Speedway.
There are two big nights of racing scheduled this Friday and Saturday at Volunteer Speedway as the track hosts “Kasey’s King of Bulls Gap” presented by Budweiser.
The “Kasey” refers to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series superstar Kasey Kahne, who will wear the promoter’s hat Friday and Saturday before strapping on a driver’s helmet for Sunday’s Food City 500.
Kahne, who owns the WoO sprint cars driven by Joey Saldana and Paul McMahan, will make an appearance at Volunteer Speedway following Friday’s heat races.
It’s the WoO Sprint Car series’ second stop at Volunteer Speedway.
“I am really excited to bring World of Outlaws racing back to Volunteer Speedway,” Kahne said. “The last time the Outlaws raced at Bulls Gap in 2007 the track was packed with fans. The racing was unreal, and Joey Saldana got the victory. I believe we can put on another incredible show for all the racing fans in the area.”
Sprint Cup superstar Tony Stewart also owns two WoO cars competing at The Gap this weekend. The cars will be driven by four-time defending series champion Donny Schatz and 20-time WoO champion “The King” Steve Kinser.
This is Kinser’s first season driving for Stewart, and he’s already notched a victory — scoring an A-feature win last month at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway.
It was his 553rd career WoO feature win in a career that began in 1978.
He told the Times-News on Monday he’s feeling fast and wouldn’t be surprised if he earns win number two of 2010 for Stewart in Bulls Gap with his new boss in attendance.
“Just occasionally we get to cross paths with the NASCAR guys,” Kinser said. “It always gives me a little incentive. I’m sure Tony will be down there. When he shows up everybody wants to run good.”
Last year, Kinser’s son Craig drove in the WoO for Stewart, and they decided to swap in 2010.
This year Craig is driving Steve’s familiar green “Quaker State” car that has been identified with his dad for so many years, while Steve is donning the “Bass Pro Shop” colors in the Tony Stewart entry.
Only eight races into the 72 race 2010 WoO season, Kinser sits third in the point standings and is seeking his 21st career series championship.
At 55 years of age he knows there are more years behind him than in front of him with regards to his driving career, but he isn’t ready for retirement yet.
“I have no idea how long I’ll continue driving, but if you’d have asked me last year the answer might have been different,” Kinser said. “I had a bulging disc in my neck and I felt terrible. I was in pain all year from July on, and I was just glad to get the season over with. Since then I’ve had some neck surgery done and I feel better than I have in five years, and I’m enjoying racing again.
“Sometimes the older you get, you know you don’t have a whole lot of years left you start enjoying it a little bit more. You might not run as good as you used to but you still enjoy it a lot”
Kinser may call 2009 an off season, although many of his fellow competitors might consider two wins and a fourth-place finish in the point standings fairly respectable.
The competition level in the WoO is as high in 2010 as it’s ever been, but Kinser said he feels rejuvenated and confident he can make a strong run at earning that 21st series championship.
The next task at hand, however, is improving on his only other appearance at Volunteer Speedway in 2007, when he finished a disappointing 14th.
“We’ve got a really deep field and with a lot of different winners already this year,” Kinser said. “These cars are fast and they run wheel to wheel, and we’re going to put on a really good show this weekend in bulls Gap. It’s real high banked and a pretty fast race track.
“As long as it doesn’t get knee deep in mud and we can move up on the race track and use the whole track it ought to be an exciting race.”
Kinser has won features at 131 different tracks in the WoO series, and if he can take home a trophy either Friday or Saturday night he will make Volunteer Speedway number 132.
Each night features two separate World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series programs including qualifying, heat races and a $10,000 35-lap feature.
The Crate Engine Late Models will also run heat races and a 25 lap feature each night.
Grandstands open at 5 p.m. each night.