ELMA — It has become tradition to celebrate Monday Night Outlaws on Labor Day night at Grays Harbor Raceway and this Monday is no exception.
The World of Outlaws will make their 16th appearance at the three-eighths of a mile clay oval at Grays Harbor Fairgrounds and there are several stories following the national tour this time around.
For starters, the “King of the Outlaws” Steve Kinser is running his final Outlaws tour before retirement and could make his last stop in Elma on Monday.
Another retirement came across the tour on Monday when two-time Grays Harbor Raceway event winner and three-time Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell retired immediately from sprint car racing.
Also, the weather, which knocked out two consecutive visits by the Outlaws in 2009-10, will always be a storyline. The reigning 2013 World of Outlaws track champion, Donny Schatz, is leading the overall Outlaws standings and is aiming for his sixth tour championship.
On Monday, the Outlaws will warmup and get rolling at 6 p.m., with the opening ceremonies starting at 7 p.m. The Outlaws will be at Skagit Speedway in Alger on Friday and Saturday and will leave Elma on Monday to run at Willamette Speedway on Tuesday and Southern Oregon Speedway on Wednesday.
At 60, Kinser is making one last trip around the sprint car nation to enjoy his time before retiring. With 577 wins, Kinser is the undisputed leader of the Outlaws tour and his 20 Outlaw tour championships may never be duplicated or surpassed.
With that, he’s stepping away from a full-time schedule.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m 60 years old; you can’t do it forever,” Kinser said to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March. “We’ll see what happens. Right now, I’m just worried about this year, trying to run good, see where we’re at at the end of the year.”
The last time the Bloomington, Ind., native won on the Outlaws tour was in February in Florida and he is more than 1,000 points behind season standings leader Schatz this season.
Kinser grabbed the second of two Grays Harbor Raceway wins with the Outlaws in 2004. His first came in 1998.
His final Outlaws tour championship came in 2005, the year before he left with Danny Lasoski and Tim Kaeding to join the National Sprint Tour, which was run by the late Grays Harbor Raceway promoter Fred Brownfield in 2006. Kinser finished second overall to Lasoski in the NST title race and marked five race wins in the 45-race schedule.
After Kinser returned to the Outlaws in 2007, he finished second overall in 2010 and third twice in 2008 and 2011.
Kinser is currently racing with Tony Stewart Racing, which also has Schatz on the team.
One driver sprint car fans may not see in Elma is Swindell, who owns two Grays Harbor Raceway wins on the Outlaws tour. The wins came 15 years apart — the first in 1997 and the second in 2012.
Swindell returned to a full-time schedule for the first time in years in 2012 and took care of the field for a wire-to-wire 30-lap victory. The Germantown, Tenn. driver, 59, announced his immediate retirement from sprint car racing on Monday.
“After the last two weeks of our break from racing, I have decided to retire from racing,” Swindell said in a press release from his racing team, Big Game Motorsports. “I have been thinking a lot about this for the last three months. It has been a hard decision to make. I always knew when the time came to retire it would be clear. I’ve had a long and very successful career.”
Swindell said he’ll run midget cars in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., where he’s won five titles in his career, the most in the event’s history.
Swindell owns the second-most Outlaws event wins at 292, including two wins this season. The win in Elma in 2012 was one of a tour-leading 13 on the season and he finished third overall, just 138 points behind Schatz, in the standings.
Swindell owns three Outlaws tour championships — 1981, 1982 and 1997 — in his career.
In 2009 and 2010, Mother Nature was the winner when she brought more than enough rain to Elma to wash out two consecutive World of Outlaws shows.
Ever since then, sprint car fans will take a look at the short- and long-term weather forecast around the Outlaws shows.
From weather.com, there is rain in the forecast for the Labor Day weekend, but not on Monday. As of Tuesday night, there is only a 20 percent chance of rain on Labor Day.
The forecast can still change, so keep an eye out throughout the week.
Season so far
Schatz, of Minot, N.D., and Daryn Pittman, of Owasso, Okla., have been battling each other for A-main event wins and the top spot on the Outlaws season standings all season.
Schatz has been on a hot streak. After winning the Knoxville Nationals for the seventh time in eight years, Schatz has won four of the last five Outlaws shows, including his home track in Minot and two in a row in Edmonton, Alberta for the Oil City Cup.
Schatz leads the tour with 17 event wins, with Pittman trailing by 177 points. Pittman, who is competing for Kasey Kahne Racing, owns 12 race wins this season and is the reigning Outlaws tour champion. He edged out Schatz for the title in 2013 by just 14 points.