HARRISBURG, N.C. — A cloud of uncertainty hung over the sprint car portion of the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte early this month as fans and competitors gathered to bring down the curtain on the 46th season of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series.
Speculation as to what lies ahead was a constant topic of discussion, as many pondered the possibility that sprint car racing will once again be a house divided.
That possibility became reality just days after the World Finals when Brad Sweet and Kyle Larson revealed they will manage and promote a second national sprint car series, with races beginning in February at Florida’s East Bay Raceway Park.
Combining their midweek High Limit Racing Series with the All Star Circuit of Champions they recently purchased from Tony Stewart, Sweet and Larson promise High Limit Racing will feature a 50-plus race night schedule across the country with driver payouts increasing to more than $5 million.
It was also revealed that FloSports has taken a minority equity stake in the new venture and will stream race events while also producing original content.
The World of Outlaws has previously withstood two major challenges. The first came in 1989 and then another was formed for the 2006 season.
First, let’s look back at 1989 and the United Sprint Ass’n.
Founded on the principles of hosting fewer races for more money with additional TV coverage, the list of industry insiders reportedly obtaining stock in the fledgling USA organization included Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Karl Kinser, Don Lamberti, Max Rogers and Harrold Annett. Larry Clark, an accountant from Iowa, was named president.
There were reports of early cashflow difficulties, “disagreements” with promoters over dates and weather issues once the season got the green flag. USA persevered, however, running 36 main events between Feb. 25 and Nov. 11. Crowds were initially sparse but improved as the schedule progressed.
Steve Kinser won 11 times en route to the championship. USA officials did not release season prize money totals or amounts for year-end awards.
Meanwhile, the World of Outlaws had its most competitive season with 20 drivers celebrating main event victories. Driving Casey Luna’s Ford-powered sprint car, Bobby Davis Jr. won 13 times and had 57 top-10 finishes in 65 starts. Davis’ earnings for the season totaled $250,895.
Clark said “to expect bigger and better things from USA in 1990.”
However, the series closed its doors during the offseason and became a footnote in sprint car racing history.
The 2006 season brought the introduction of the National Sprint Tour.
This split developed when several top World of Outlaws car owners and drivers became disgruntled with Paul Kruger’s management of DIRT MotorSports, which owned and operated the World of Outlaws at the time.
Not officially announced until Dec. 20, 2005, former driver and noted Pacific Northwest track promoter Fred Brownfield stepped in after the National Sprintcar League folded without ever holding a race.
Brown’s National Sprint Tour ran 38 races in a schedule that stretched from Feb. 24 to mid-October. Driving for car owner Dennis Roth, Danny Lasoski won 10 features and posted 37 top-10 finishes en route to the series crown. His only DNF came in the season finale.
Tim Kaeding, driving for Steve Kinser Racing, won a series-best 15 features.
On June 16, NST founder Brownfield was struck and killed by a race car while working an event at Grays Harbor Raceway in Oregon. A few weeks later, ownership of NST was transferred from Debbie Brownfield to Steve Kinser, Don Lamberti, Lonnie Parsons and Guy Stockbridge.
Kaeding topped the final National Sprint Tour race on Oct. 14 at California’s Thunderbowl Speedway, closing another chapter in sprint car history.
On the WoO side in 2006, Donny Schatz won 17 features and posted 49 top-10 finishes in his family’s No. 15 car. He earned a $200,000 bonus for his first series championship.
Now, with the upper echelon of sprint car racing divided for a third time, will this be another case of one and done?
Brian Carter, CEO of World Racing Group, which owns the World of Outlaws, certainly isn’t waiting around to find out.
“My schedule is done,” Carter said during World Finals weekend, “and we had a very productive meeting with our car owners. I’m ready for next year.”
■ With the complete inventory of signage, suites and hospitality tents sold for this year’s World Finals, one thing missing was a corporate title sponsor. That will change. A Charlotte Motor Speedway executive tells us a contract is in hand with a company that will support the event in both 2024 and ’25.
■ Terry McCarl’s annual Front Row Challenge sprint car event at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa, will continue to run as a non-sanctioned event.
“I’m Switzerland,” McCarl told SPEED SPORT. “I’m not getting involved in politics.”
His annual race is scheduled for Aug. 5, the Monday night before the Knoxville Nationals.
■ Visit sprintcarstuff.com to purchase a copy of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum’s 2024 Calendar.
Our favorite among the 11 sprint cars featured is Luke Bogar’s legendary orange No. 99 car that Jan Opperman drove to 44 victories in 1972.
This calendar is a must-have for every sprint car fan.
■ Wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
This story appeared in the Nov 15, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.