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Published June 16 2012

Fans turn out for World of Outlaws return at RRV Speedway

West Fargo - Sweat bleeds through Cory Back’s red shirt on a summer night where it is a relatively cool 68 degrees.

Many may see a man who needs a wardrobe change. To others, it could be seen as a sign that this is serious business at Red River Valley Speedway.

Saturday marked the return of the World of Outlaws sprint car series following a two-year hiatus from the track.

“Everything we’ve worked toward has been for this,” said Back, who is the track’s operations manager. “All the work we have put in has been for moments like this.”

Back estimated more than 5,000 fans showed up to watch the World of Outlaws, the most popular series among dirt racing enthusiasts.

They watched Sammy Swindell pick up his series-leading fifth victory of the year.

Fans might think getting the World of Outlaws is all about providing a venue and nothing more.

It’s not that easy.

“There’s a lot of races that come down to dates,” said three-time World of Outlaws champion and Fargo resident Donny Schatz, whose family operates the speedway. “When it comes down to the promotion side of it, it is all about who gets the shows. But I know whenever we go places, guys do get treated like kings.”

Fans showed up to the track at 4 p.m. – four hours before the races began – just to get autographs and meet their favorite drivers.

When the World of Outlaws finished their heat races, the track announcer did interviews with several drivers. No fans appeared to leave their seats unless it was to get up to take photos or videos of what the drivers were saying.

Schatz was at the center of it, as he stormed from eighth to third with 12 laps left in the feature. Every time he maneuvered up for position, the crowd began applauding, with some jumping up and down like giddy schoolchildren. He made a move to second but finished third.

Because if watching Schatz race well didn’t make the locals happy, the post-race fireworks did.

“This is what we like to see,” Back said of the crowds.

Back, the Schatz family, plus anyone who works at the track hopes this was enough to please the World of Outlaws.

West Fargo had been a mainstay for the circuit going back to its first race in the late 1970s. That was until two years ago, when the track was going through dire straits.

“We had to do a lot of things,” Back said. “One of them was seeing if this was something Fargo wanted.”

Wanting the tour had to be the No. 1 ingredient given the World of Outlaws’ schedule.

This is a tour that runs 80-plus races over a 10-month span across the United States and Canada.

Finding a venue isn’t an issue but finding a venue where there is an open date, however, can serve as a problem.

“That’s another reason why we went to Saturdays,” Back said. “Wednesdays were not feasible with bringing the World of Outlaws here.”

Back said the track plans to keep its Saturday night schedule given its success.

The RRVS will know in January when or if the tour will return next season.

“We’ll just work through a scheduling process,” Back said. “It’s a lot of back and forth to get these schedules. We’d like to have a lot more series here, we just don’t have time for them.”

World of Outlaws

Heat 1: 1. Austin Wheatley 2. Jason Sides 3. Cody Darrah

Heat 2: 1. Chad Kemenah 2. Craig Dollansky 3. Donny Schatz

Heat 3: 1. Kraig Kinser 2. Sammy Swindell 3. Casey Mack

Feature: 1. Swindell 2. Kemenah 3. Schatz

B-Mods

Heat 1: 1. Tyler Peterson 2. Adam Gajeski 3. Scott Bintz

Heat 2: 1. Jared Carter 2. Brice Kuska 3. Bryan Kakela

Heat 3: 1. Gannon Miller 2. Troy Nelson 3. Lyn Lamb

Feature: 1. Peterson 2. Gajeski 3. Carter

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