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By Tony Veneziano
Offseason? What offseason? For drivers competing with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, racing 90 times a year between February and early November is the norm. So when the season finally winds down and they have a few minutes to rest, what do they do? They race some more, of course.
A number of Outlaws drivers are gearing up for trips to Australia and New Zealand, while others are getting ready for indoor midget competition.
Starting at the top, the nine-time series champion Schatz will embark on another Australia trip over the holiday season. Schatz has an amazing track record Down Under, having won at least one race in Australia every year, dating back to 1999. On his way to claiming his ninth series title in 2017, Schatz became the first driver in World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series history to win 20 or more A-Feature events in five consecutive seasons.
Sweet, who recently competed in the Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix in his home state of California, will make another go at the Chili Bowl at River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, OK. Sweet, who finished second in points with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series this past season, has 11 career USAC National Midget Series wins.
Stewart won eight races this past season for the Larson Marks Racing team on the Outlaws circuit. He will head to New Zealand for some races, followed by a return to the Chili Bowl in his home state of Oklahoma. Stewart made his Chili Bowl debut back in 2008 and returned to the winter classic last year after a hiatus of several years away. He will also run an aggressive Australian offseason schedule.
The Oklahoma native and 2013 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion is putting the final touches on his No. 21 for another run at the Chili Bowl. Pittman finished a career-best second in last year’s Chili Bowl to Christopher Bell, another Oklahoma native.
Gravel, who had a career year on the World of Outlaws circuit this past season with 18 A-Main wins, 19 Outlaws victories, and a win in another series, will be throwing his hat in the ring again at the Chili Bowl.
Johnson scored four Outlaws’ wins on his way to a sixth-place finish in points in 2017. He will make his annual trip Down Under this holiday season. The five-time ASCS (American Sprint Car Series) champion has had great success on Australian soil over the years.
The reigning Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner will hit the track at the Chili Bowl as well, along with his father, Hall of Famer Jac Haudenschild. The pair will drive for Josh Ford Motorsports, based out of California.
Madsen will be embarking on his first full tour with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series in 2018 but first will return to his native country to compete this offseason. The younger Madsen brother returns to Australia each offseason to race and visit family and friends.
While drivers stay sharp on the track, crews are busy preparing for the 2018 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series opener at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, FL, on Feb. 9, which is less than 70 days away.