When sprint car driver Stevie Smith came to California with the World of Outlaws two years ago, he won five of eight races. He won at Santa Maria, Hanford, twice at San Jose and at Chico in the Gold Cup.
The Outlaws, with their distinctive winged cars, are back, and Smith is hoping for a similar run. They will race Sunday night at Bakersfield Speedway, Sept. 16 at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico and Sept. 22-23 at Santa Maria Speedway.
"I'm really looking forward to going back to Bakersfield," Smith said. "We haven't run there for three or four years, but it's an exciting place. It's just about the smallest track we race on all year.
"On a track that small [one-third mile], there'll be a lot of wheel banging, and that makes for a great show for the crowd. It's tough on the drivers, but the fans love it."
In 59 races this year for the Motter brothers, Tom of Irvine and Dan of Hibbing, Minn., Smith has won five main events, set five track records, been fast qualifier eight times and is fourth behind Dave Blaney, Jac Haudenschild and Jeff Swindell in points.
Smith, 29, is a second-generation sprint car driver from New Oxford, Pa. One night last week, when Stevie was racing at Calistoga Speedway in Northern California, his father, Steve Smith Sr., was racing in Pittsburgh.
"Dad's been driving sprint cars for years," Smith said. "That's how I got into it. It's been my life as long as I can remember. I started out going to the races with him, then I started working on his cars and before I knew it, I was driving. I'm only 29, but this is about my 20th year racing."
Many drivers, from A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti to Al Unser Jr., Jeff Gordon and John Andretti, used sprint cars as a steppingstone to Indy cars or Winston Cup stock cars.
Not Stevie Smith.
"I'm happy right where I am, racing sprint cars," he said. "I've never had offers to do anything different. I don't get around stock cars much, and I have no desire to do Indy cars. The World of Outlaws has the best sprint car drivers and races anywhere. It's right where I want to stay."
If Smith is to repeat his California good fortune, he'll have Steve Kinser, 14-time Outlaws champion, to contend with. Kinser has won 12 races this year, but is not among the points leaders because he missed the early part of the season driving a Winston Cup car without success for Kenny Bernstein.
"When Kinser came back, it changed things because he's the favorite every place he runs," Smith said. "I was surprised he came back, but it didn't take him long to get back in front."
Motor Racing Notes
INDY CARS--The PPG Cup Indy car series will end Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway with the Monterey Grand Prix, but if Al Unser Jr. wins, the champion might not be known for another week. Unser finished first last June in Portland but was disqualified. The Penske team has a protest pending, with the results due Sept. 18. If Jacques Villeneuve finishes eighth or better, he will be the champion no matter what. It will be Villeneuve's last Indy car race. He has signed to drive Formula One next season.
SPRINT CARS--The IMCA sprints, mini sprints and modifieds will race Saturday night at Ventura Raceway along with street stocks. . . . The Sprint Car Racing Assn. will be at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix on Saturday night. . . . Vintage sprint cars from the Old Car Racing Assn., driven by Jimmie Oskie, Tony Simon, Buzz Shoemaker and others, will race in an exhibition Saturday night at Sunrise Valley Raceway in Adelanto.
STOCK CARS--Winston Racing Series late model sportsmen and Grand American modifieds will race Saturday night at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield and Cajon Speedway in El Cajon.
OFF ROAD--The inaugural SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge will be held Saturday and Sunday at Laughlin, Nev. The event will be divided into morning and afternoon races, all 210 miles. The featured Tecate Trophy-Truck race will start at 4 p.m. Sunday, with Robby Gordon hoping to make the start after driving his Indy car earlier in the day at Laguna Seca. A helicopter will whisk him from the Laguna Seca finish line to the Monterey airport, where a private jet will fly him to Bullhead City, Ariz., across the river from Laughlin. If Robby doesn't make the start, his father will drive the first of the four 52.5-mile laps. . . . A memorial fund has been established in the name of Mark Glecki, noted motorsports TV cameraman, producer and director who was struck and killed by a racing truck during the running of the Fireworks 250. The fund will provide for the education of Glecki's children, Anthony, 5, and Amy, 2. Contributions may be sent to The Mark Glecki Fund, Farmers and Merchants Bank, P. O. Box 1675, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693.