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Published June 14 2012

Familiar faces are still on top in World of Outlaws sprints circuit

West Fargo - Even a two-year hiatus away from West Fargo hasn’t changed anything.

Drivers such as Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell – despite their ages – continue to dominate a scene they’ve helped put on the map.

Saturday marks the return of the World of Outlaws series to the Red River Valley Speedway. It also marks the return of two men who comparatively are the old firm of their circuit.

“It’s a nice place, and I really liked the older track they had there,” Swindell said. “We ran at the new one last year. To me it is the same track; they just made this one smaller.”

The area’s racing scene was given a brief respite last season when the RRVS held a sprint car feature. Swindell was part of the cavalcade of drivers including Donny Schatz – a Minot, N.D., native who calls Fargo home.

Kinser hasn’t been back since the series was last here in 2009.

“It’s going to be a little bit different, because I haven’t been there since they changed the track,” Kinser said. “It has always been a place where I have enjoyed racing and had some good times.”

Good times for both go back to the late 1970s when the World of Outlaws series started.

Kinser’s first victory at RRVS was in 1982, and he has picked up 16 career victories at the track with the most recent coming in 2005.

Both men raced at RRVS en route to having two of the sport’s more prestigious careers.

Kinser and Swindell won every Outlaws title between 1978 and 1988, with Kinser winning eight of them. Kinser has won 20 series championships and has scored nearly 600 career wins.

In that time he also raced in other circuits such as IROC and was a 42-year-old rookie at the Indianapolis 500 back in 1997 where he finished 14th.

ESPN.com listed Kinser No. 25 on its list of the sport’s all-time greatest drivers, describing him as “The Michael Jordan of sprint car racing.”

“Time has gone by pretty fast, and there are times you look back and it gets tougher to be out there,” said Kinser, who is 56 years old. “At my age, I take it year by year and as long as I am competitive … you’re able to run for a championship.”

Swindell, who is also 56, is no different. He has won three World of Outlaws titles and has picked up 280 career victories.

Like Kinser, he has raced on other tours in both the NASCAR and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. And like his contemporary, he is still trying to win races.

“I just look at it as why hasn’t someone else done the same thing,” Swindell said of the dominance he and Kinser have displayed in the sport. “Some guys have been out there for a long, long time and they haven’t stepped up to the plate so to say.”

Swindell has four wins this season, tying him for most on the circuit. He sits third in points behind Schatz, who is in second.

Kinser holds the top spot in the points race despite winning only two races this year.

“Last year, I think I won more races out on the circuit but I had mechanical problems,” Kinser said. “This year, there have not been as many problems but I have been running in the top five.”

Swindell said his season is starting to come together – a change from the way the season started last year.

“We had five or six weeks where we had some problems and things didn’t work,” he said. “The car has always been fast so that wasn’t a problem.”

Swindell referenced his last race in Knoxville, Iowa, where the car was running fast. Then there were mechanical problems, which led to a second-place finish.

“It seems like there are things you cannot control,” he said. “And most of what we can control, I think we have done a good job with it.”

Kinser, Schatz and Swindell are separated by a mere 37 points. Kinser holds a 10-point lead over Schatz for first place.

“Back in the earlier years, all of the motor builders were different,” Kinser said. “Now motors are so close to each other and it’s tough to get an edge.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com