By Tony Veneziano
In sprint car circles, a heated debate raged for many years in regard to the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series' all-time wins list.
The crux of the argument was the question of why some races were counted as full point A-feature wins, while others were recorded as preliminary feature wins and thus not part of the all-time win list, even though the entire field competed in such events.
Joey Saldana had been part of this discussion since September 2017 when he scored what was then listed as his 99th career A-feature win with the Outlaws.
Prior to this year, only five drivers had scored 100 or more A-feature wins in the series. Saldana was aiming to become the sixth. He recently was awarded his 100th win and a few more, as the record books were updated to include preliminary feature wins from the past as regular A-feature wins, as long as the entire field competed on a given night of racing.
With the records amended, Saldana gained six more wins and now sits at 105 for his career.
“When I heard they were changing it, it made total sense,” Saldana said. “I never really understood why the preliminary night races weren’t counted as a World of Outlaws win. You were still racing Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Doug Wolfgang, Donny Schatz, Jac Haudenschild, Daryn Pittman, Jason Meyers, and everyone. You would have thought you would have gotten a win when you beat all those drivers, not just a preliminary win. It is cool that they re-did that and made it right.”
With the record books updated, Saldana’s 100th win now is credited as the finale of the World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte in 2015. While he didn’t get to celebrate that night, as at the time it was win No. 94, getting the milestone 100th win has a special meaning to Saldana, who appreciates the history of the sport.
“My goal was to get to 100 wins, after being stuck at 99 for a while,” he shared. “Winning that 100th was going to be a big accomplishment. You don’t hear a lot about it, because Donny Schatz is throwing numbers out there left and right and he’s an amazing talent in a sprint car. It’s hard when you are trying to do something like that to get the recognition. I’ve been beating up and down the road, just like everyone else, trying to make it at the Outlaws level, stuck at that 99, so to now have over 100 is pretty special.”
Prior to the record book being updated, Saldana was sixth on the all-time win list. With 2001 series champion Danny Lasoski being awarded 32 more wins, he moved ahead of Saldana, who now sits seventh.
The seven drivers who have more than 100 wins to their credit with the Outlaws include 20-time series champion Steve Kinser, who is the winningest driver in series history; followed by three-time title winner Sammy Swindell; nine-time champion Donny Schatz; two-time titlist Mark Kinser; Doug Wolfgang; Lasoski; and Saldana.
“It’s an honor to be seventh on that list,” Saldana said. “To me, it’s still a great accomplishment. It’s been really hard for me and a lot of work. I’ve won Outlaws races with seven different owners. I didn’t do it all with one owner or one team. It’s been a lot of work and effort. Every win has been much appreciated. Hopefully, we can get some more, but knowing I am at a 105 is a great accomplishment.”
In addition to his 105 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series wins, Saldana also has 74 victories with the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions as well as over 20 wins internationally in New Zealand and Australia, including the Grand Annual Classic in 2003. All those wins, along with various other victories over the years, total over 200 victories for Saldana in his career.
Among the biggest wins for the 45-year-old Saldana are a pair of Kings Royal triumphs at the famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio. He also has won the Gold Cup Race of Champions twice at Silver Dollar Speedway in California as well as winning the inaugural Ironman 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Missouri.
“I never thought I would win all of these races,” Saldana said. “My dad raced for 25 years professionally and I didn’t realize what I wanted to do until I was about 16 or 17 years old, watching my dad toward the end of his career. To be able to say that I’ve done it and been a part of the World of Outlaws for 18 years and I ran with the All Stars for three years has been a good run. I am very appreciative of everyone who has been a part of it, from the crew guys to the owners to the crews' chiefs to my wife to everyone’s wives and families, who sacrifice to let us do what we love to do."
Saldana joined forces with Rudeen Racing, owned by Kevin Rudeen for this season. Paired with veteran sprint car crew chief Rob Hart, the team looks to run a “True Outlaw” schedule, hitting all of the major events on the calendar. Saldana won in just his second race aboard the No. 26 machine in the fall of 2017 at Cocopah Speedway in Arizona with the ASCS National Tour.
“We are going to run as many World of Outlaws shows as we can and some All Stars races as well,” Saldana said. “Whatever races make sense is what we’ll run and we’ll try to do it at a high level. We’ve had some good runs but not consistent runs. We ran fourth at Bakersfield (Speedway) and second at Arizona Speedway, which was a very solid run. Hopefully, we can build on that and be successful. Kevin has a great program and team. It’s an honor to drive for him.
"Hopefully we can get some ‘W’s’ with the team. Being successful night in and night out on a consistent basis, you will win races and that's what I want to do and that’s what the team wants to do.”