April 17, 2014

World of Outlaws returns to birthplace

The popular Sprint Car series will race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway this weekend for the first time since 2003.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway was a staple on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car series schedule for a quarter century.

It was where the series ran its first race in March 1978 with a three-day show that featured a handful of future Sprint Car superstars, including Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell.

But in 2003 when Tyler Walker won at the black clay half-mile oval east of Mesquite on March 15, it marked the last time the popular and nomadic Sprint Car series slung the track’s famous dirt.

Last fall, though, series officials came up with a plan to bring the Outlaws’ top stars back to the track this season and end the long absence.

The Texas Outlaws Nationals begins Friday night and will be part racing, part reunion and part tribute to Kinser, the multi-time champ who is leaving the series after this year.

The venerable track’s 74-year-old owner Lanny Edwards is leasing the track to the Outlaws parent company — World Racing Group — for the next two days, but he will be there helping with track maintenance and other things, but he’s also happy to see the series back at its birthplace.

“My part will be just to be here,” Edwards said. “We’ve got the suites and we’ve got concessions and we’ve got the 50-50 [drawing]. They are doing promoting and some of the tickets, and they’ve done a good job really.”

The track’s list of winners read like a who’s who of Sprint Car racing. Kinser and Swindell have won multiple times, and even as the two approach 60, they continue to win races.

Those two will return this weekend where the series first planted the seed that grew into the juggernaut it is today. The series claims car owners such as NASCAR Sprint Cup stars Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart.

“I went there a lot as a fan when I was a kid to watch,” said defending Outlaws series champion Daryn Pittman from Owasso, Okla., near Tulsa. “Obviously, as a kid it helped spark your interest in what you wanted to become, what you wanted to do by watching those guys race four or five times a year.”

The series ran at the track at least twice a year for 20 of the series’ first 21 years, and for many of those years, Outlaw races were the premier races in North Texas, before the construction of Texas Motor Speedway.

A number of factors contributed to the series’ absence from the track, including dwindling car counts for Sprint Cars that utilize 410-cubic-inch engines in North Texas, and the cost of running a show in the series. Edwards made the tough decision not to run the Outlaws after 2003 and to focus more on the track’s weekly program and augment his schedule with the American Sprint Car Series for special shows.

This weekend, though, the series is returning for at least one weekend, giving both its drivers and North Texas race fans a chance to reunite.

“It’s kind of a place where I sort of grew up a little bit,” Swindell said. “It will be nice to be back. The owners, Lanny Edwards and his family, have always been really nice and been really good to us and really supported Sprint Car racing.”

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