Kasey Kahne

GATOR CHASING: World of Outlaws Prepare for Season Opening DIRTcar Nationals

After an agonizing 96-day off-season, The Greatest Show on Dirt is ready to roar back to life.

For the 18th consecutive year, Barberville, FL’s Volusia Speedway Park will host the season opener for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series. Running alongside the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, the Series will compete at the half-mile over three nights from Thursday, February 10 to Saturday, February 12.

The World of Outlaws serves as the headlining portion of the six-night “Sprint Week” at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals, which also includes a practice night on Monday, February 7, and then two nights of the All Star Circuit of Champions on Tuesday & Wednesday, February 8-9.

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Volusia’s three-night affair marks the official kick-off to a near 90-race slate for the World of Outlaws, as Ted Johnson’s creation enters the 45th season of competition in 2022. The Series is scheduled to appear at 45 tracks in 24 states this year, and it all starts with the lone trip to Florida in February.

With 48 previous appearances dating back to a wingless debut in 1981, Volusia Speedway Park is set to become the 16th track in history to host 50+ World of Outlaws Sprint Car events next month. Over that span, 18 different drivers have graced Volusia victory lane with eight of them scoring multiple wins.

The biggest target heading into the new year is obviously Brad Sweet and Kasey Kahne Racing, who will chase their fourth consecutive championship in 2022. The Big Cat owns eight total DIRTcar Nationals victories with six of them under the World of Outlaws banner, meaning a victory next month would make Volusia the winningest track of his 74-win career.

One of Sweet’s toughest title contenders will be Donny Schatz aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #15 as he chases an 11th Series championship. The Fargo, ND native eclipsed 300 wins last year, led the points over the final 40 races, and enters 2022 with newfound momentum following an off-season of change in the TSR camp. He’s won a whopping 21 DIRTcar Nationals races with 13 of them coming with the Outlaws, making Volusia one of seven tracks with double-digit wins for Schatz.

Year two combinations David Gravel & Big Game Motorsports and Carson Macedo & Jason Johnson Racing will be aiming high following a stellar debut season in 2021. Gravel, of Watertown, CT, is a former DIRTcar Nationals winner with the All Stars, but still chases his first World of Outlaws win in Volusia as he & Crew Chief Cody Jacobs hope to kickstart their championship bid on top. For Macedo, the Lemoore, CA native enters as the defending Volusia winner following an incredible 10th-to-1st drive last March with ace Phil Dietz on the wrenches.

Both Shark Racing boys are locked and loaded for their ninth season with The Greatest Show on Dirt this year. Logan Schuchart has a fresh new scheme on the #1S and enters next month as the defending DIRTcar Nationals champion with another Big Gator Championship on his mind. Meanwhile, fan-favorite Jacob Allen has a fresh outlook and will run the Bobby Allen throwback scheme for all of 2022.

A trip to Volusia means returning to the site of Sheldon Haudenschild’s first-career victory, which came during the 2018 DIRTcar Nationals. Since then, the Wooster, OH native has climbed up the charts with 22 career victories, leaving him exactly 50 shy of his now retired and Hall of Fame father Jac Haudenschild. Lil’ Haud is back for his fifth season with Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing, vying for his first double-digit win campaign with Kyle Ripper still calling the shots on the NOS Energy Drink #17.

Kasey Kahne, who will fulfill a lifelong dream of competing full-time with the World of Outlaws in 2022, debuts the Karavan Trailers, FuelMe #9 two weeks from now. Although he still pursues his first-career Outlaws victory, Kahne is a previous winner at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals with a 2002 All Stars victory. He’ll be among three Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year contenders this season.

Joining Kahne in the Rooke of the Year race is 23-year-old Spencer Bayston of Lebanon, IN aboard the CJB Motorsports #5 and 18-year-old Noah Gass of Mounds, OK in the family-owned #20G.

Veterans Jason Sides of Bartlett, TN and Kraig Kinser of Bloomington, IN will both return full-time with the Series in 2022. The #7S and #11K round out the crop of nine full-timers with winning experience at the Volusia half-mile.

Sophomore runners James McFadden of Alice Springs, NT and Brock Zearfoss of Jonestown, PA are both back for a second swing at the full World of Outlaws season. McFadden enters a new situation driving the Roth Motorsports #83, while Zearfoss remains aboard the family-owned #3Z.

All 14 of these stars will be on hand at Volusia Speedway Park to open the grueling World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car schedule when The Greatest Show on Dirt takes over at DIRTcar Nationals on February 10-12.

Fans can BUY TICKETS HERE, or watch every lap LIVE on DIRTVision.

GATOR COLLECTOR: Kasey Kahne relishes Volusia success as owner, driver

Florida has been kind to Kasey Kahne.

You might recall his two wins at Daytona International Speedway – during a NASCAR Duel race in 2010 or his Xfinity Series win in 2014. But 20 miles East of the famed track is where the three-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion car owner has collected the most trophies in the sunshine state.

That track is Volusia Speedway Park, in Barberville, FL – which will host the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Feb. 2-13.

Kahne, the driver, has one win at the half-mile track in 2002 with the All Star Circuit of Champions. Kahne, the car owner, has six DIRTcar Nationals championships and 13 wins overall at Volusia – between drivers Brad Sweet, Daryn Pittman and Joey Saldana.

Kasey Kahne strapped in his car at Knoxville Raceway / Trent Gower photo

“I’ve always liked Volusia,” Kahne said. “I’ve always liked watching the racing there and driving when I’ve been able to race there. [Kasey Kahne Racing] has won a lot of races over the years down there. It’s fun to have a lot of gators (trophies) and be in Victory Lane down there. It’s a neat place to start the season for sure.”

The day after his win in 2002, Kahne made the overnight drive to North Carolina to test a then NASCAR Bush Series car at Rockingham Speedway in preparation to start his NASCAR career. Three years later, Kasey Kahne Racing was formed.

When he first started the team, while there were always aspirations for wins and championships, Kahne just wanted to provide his team with the best equipment he could and be there for them as an owner. That’s led to three World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championships and 185 Series victories.

“I always just wanted to watch the guys go and watch them win,” Kahne said. “Give them the best opportunity I could from an owner’s standpoint and see what they do with it. Over the last few years, they’ve done a lot. It’s been a lot of fun, whether I was watching on DIRTVision, which I did, I don’t know how many hundreds of races. Now, to be at more of them and watch their success, it feels good to be a part of that. Winning never seems to get old. We want to do a lot more of it from both teams.”

Both KKR cars – the #49 of Brad Sweet and the #9 of James McFadden – finish first and second in the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals points, respectively. For Sweet, Volusia Speedway Park has proved to be one of his best tracks in his tenure with the team. He has two DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championships and seven wins overall at Volusia – five with the World of Outlaws.

“For whatever reason, it’s definitely one of my best tracks,” said Sweet, the two-time defending Series champion. “We’ve definitely struggled there in the past here and there. I think it says a lot about our guys and our race team that they bring a really fast car there every year. It’s the first week of the season and you can see the teams that haven’t meshed yet or aren’t as well prepared and the teams that have been together are going to come out of the box a little stronger. That’s going to give us an advantage. And for whatever reason, it’s been a good racetrack for me.”

The key to KKR’s success at the track stems from their offseason preparations. When the 2020 season ended, Kahne said the crew has been working in the shop all season long to get ready for 2021.

“I feel like our cars have always been good right out of the box at those types of tracks,” Kahne said. “Early in the years, our KKR cars have always been fast in the beginning of the season. For whatever reason. And I think our drivers have been good and I’ve always enjoyed racing at Volusia with Daryn and Brad and Joey.”

He’ll join Sweet on track this year at Volusia, he said, as he plans to drive the team’s #9 car when McFadden can’t.

Kasey Kahne gets to work on his #9 car / Trent Gower photo

Kahne initially had no plans to drive a Sprint Car last year, but no plans turned into one race. Then, one race turned into 11.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Kahne said about stepping back behind the wheel. “It’s been good. Last year, I didn’t plan on doing it a whole lot but with COVID and how things worked out, I ended up doing a lot more races and liked it. I always liked being in a Sprint Car and being a part of that. I always enjoy working on the car and being with the teams and things like that. That’s been a lot of fun the last couple years, as well. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success here recently. It’s fun to be part of it and traveling with the guys.”

After claiming another DIRTcar Nationals title and another World of Outlaws championship in 2020, Kahne is excited about the prospects of 2021 for his KKR team and kicking off the season strong at Volusia.

“I feel really good about where KKR is and where our engine program is,” he said. “I think we made some nice gains there late in the season, which will show at Volusia. I was talking with Brad and he’s ready to go. He’s always putting the work in and wants to win a lot this year. I like hearing that. The cars are coming together. The guys have been here nonstop since the season ended. Definitely, no one has backed down. It’s going to be a fun season.”

For tickets to the 50th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.