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Keeping Pace

Dollansky looks for first win at Houston Raceway Park

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series heads into Texas this weekend for two races over the next two nights. Craig Dollansky returns to Texas as one of just three drivers to have run the previous 13 stops at Houston's Raceway Park.

Courtesy: World of Outlaws

Craig Dollansky is one of just three drivers that has competed in all 13 of the previous World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series events at Houston Raceway Park. Of those drivers, he is the only one that has yet to visit the winner's circle at the 1⁄4-mile located in Baytown, Texas. He looks to change that this weekend as the series returns to the track for the first time since 2007 on Saturday, April 11 for a full night of racing. He is also chasing his first win as a member of Kasey Kahne Racing.

Dollansky competed in the state of Texas for the first time with the World of Outlaws in 1997 and visited Houston Raceway Park for the first time in 2000. He has one win in the Lone Star State, with that coming in 2001. He had finished on the podium in each of his last two starts at Houston Raceway Park as he closes in on a win at the track which was reconfigured to a 1⁄4-mile a couple of seasons ago.

“It should be a good race there,” said Dollansky. “The track is a 1⁄4-mile and it's always been a very nice facility. They changed a few things up and tightened the track up a bit. I definitely miss going to Texas and I'm glad we have a couple of races there this year. I'm looking forward to going back down there.”

Dollansky is in the midst of his first season behind the wheel for Kasey Kahne Racing aboard the Direct TV Maxim, which is owned by the NASCAR star. Helping to ease the transition, his entire crew from last year made the move with him, led by crew chief Mike Woodring along with crew members Rob Beattie and Lester Groves.

“Each week it seems like we are becoming more acclimated and getting things sorted out,” noted the veteran driver. “It's still a work in progress, but I feel like we are gaining on it and getting better as we go.”

The doubleheader weekend in Texas starting on Friday at Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore begins a stretch of 10 races at nine different tracks over the next five weekends, followed by eight races in an 18-day period to close out the month of May. This has Dollansky and his team excited as they look to get into a rhythm the more
they race.

“I'm definitely looking forward to where we get to the part of the year where we are racing three and four times a week,” he said. “Having some time off has also allowed us to get a handle on a few things and make some improvements. Everyone is working hard with this Kasey Kahne team. Once we get busy, we'll be ready for it.”

The World of Outlaws have competed on half-mile tracks five times this season, while they have had four short track races, including two on a 1⁄4-mile. Dollansky picked up a season best third-place finish in the World of Outlaws return to the half-mile in
Las Vegas in late February. His best short track finish of the season was a fourth in the finale of the Mini Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway in California. In his career at Houston Raceway Park, Dollansky has 11 Top-10 finishes, including two consecutive third-place efforts. He has finished in the Top-10 in each of his last
seven starts at the track, both when it was a 3/8-mile oval and the reconfigured high-banked 1⁄4-mile.

“It's definitely a different mindset when you go into the short tracks versus the big tracks,” explained the native of Elk River, Minnesota. “We'll go in there prepared a little bit differently with the race car. The way you race a short track is definitely different than the way you race a bigger track. I always enjoy going to the short tracks.”

Dollansky was one of just three drivers that won multiple races on 1⁄4-mile tracks last season, as he was victorious at Tri-State Speedway in Indiana and also at Silver Dollar Speedway in California during the famed Gold Cup Race of Champions. With laps clicking off in the 11 and 12 second bracket at Houston Raceway Park, having a cars that handles well in lapped traffic will be paramount to running up front.

“At some short tracks, traffic is as heavy as it gets,” noted Dollansky. “That's the type of thing that can make or break you in a race. It seems like the fans really enjoy the racing on some of the short tracks as long as we don't have too many caution flags or interruptions in the race. If it's a race that has one caution or even goes green to checkered, there is definitely a lot of action that goes on.”

Dollansky heads to Texas this weekend eighth in the World of Outlaws championship standings on the strength of five Top-10 finishes. He is just 19 markers out of the fifth spot with over 70 nights of racing remaining on the 2009 calendar. He has been
close to winning a couple of times this season, including at Silver Dollar Speedway in California where he led a number of laps as well as at Las Vegas. He is currently fourth in laps led this season with the series.

“We are gaining on it and made some improvements and have learned some things,” he said. “This is a new program for us and we're trying to get things sorted out. It's great to have Kasey Kahne Racing behind us and having a team car when you are working through things and trying to make adjustments. We are working our way through that right now and I think we'll get stronger as we go.”

Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.