PEVELY, Mo. – The Greatest Show on Dirt is bound for I-55 this weekend.
Hosting a doubleheader this Friday and Saturday, April 2-3, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 will host the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars for the 60th time – becoming the 10th-most visited track in Outlaw history.
Here are some of the storylines to follow entering the weekend:
– For three of the top drivers, they’re approaching or already have established record personal runs to start the 2021 World of Outlaws campaign; and they’re all previous winners at I-55.
Brad Sweet of Grass Valley, Calif., currently leads the championship standings aboard his Kasey Kahne Racing-prepared, NAPA Auto Parts-backed No. 49. That’s thanks to a stretch of back-to-back wins and six-straight podium finishes, which is second-only to his personal record seven-consecutive podiums in 2020. Sweet won at I-55 in 2019 and ’20.
Sheldon Haudenschild of Wooster, Ohio, has officially completed the greatest five-race stretch of his young career. A pair of victories at Magnolia Motor Speedway and Cotton Bowl Speedway lead the way over a span that has featured a 2.8 average finish for the Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing-owned, NOS Energy Drink-sponsored No. 17.
Haudenschild also won at I-55 in 2019 and ’20.
Logan Schuchart of Hanover, Pa., has matched 2020 as his best start to a season. Through nine races, he and his Shark Racing-prepared, Drydene Performance Products-adorned No. 1s are still the only combination with a top-10 finish in every World of Outlaws race.
Schuchart won at I-55 in 2018.
– It’s been 16 races since Donny Schatz won his 299th career World of Outlaws feature at Williams Grove Speedway on Oct. 3, 2020. This is Schatz’s fifth-longest winless drought over the 15-year span that dates back to the first of his 10 championships in 2006.
This season will mark only the fifth occurrence since the turn of the millennium that Schatz enters the month of April without a World of Outlaws win.
For 16 of those seasons, he was a winner within the first seven races. Over this stretch, his longest starts to a season without winning were 16 races in 2011, 23 races in 2001, 27 races in 2004, and 49 races in 2002.
The good news? The Outlaws head to I-55 this weekend, where Schatz has always been stout. In 49 appearances, the Fargo, N.D., native has victories in 2006 and ’15 as well as 28 top-five finishes and 41 top-10 runs.
– A year ago at this time, Logan Schuchart held the I-55 track record with a lap of 10.115 seconds that he set on Aug. 2, 2019. Then, Kyle Larson happened.
It was May 22, 2020, only the second race amid the Return to Racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Larson, making his first-ever appearance at the Pevely, Mo., third-mile, was the sixth car to qualify in his Paul Silva owned No. 57.
Lap one was a 10.145-second clip, already good enough for fast time, but that wasn’t enough. Lap two was a perfect run of 9.995 seconds, marking the first nine-second lap in I-55 track history.
Will we see another nine-second lap this weekend?
– The ever-popular Rico Abreu of St. Helena, Calif., will make his season debut with the World of Outlaws this weekend at I-55.
After an early-season west coast swing in the Works Limited No. 57 with Paul Silva on the wrenches, the 29-year-old will return to his personally-owned No. 24 Abreu Vineyards machine this weekend as he ventures to the Midwest.
An eight-time winner in World of Outlaws action, I-55 is not only one of his Abreu’s best tracks, it’s one of his favorites too.
Abreu has four total wins at Pevely, including two Ironman 55 titles in 2016 and 2018 to go along with a weekend sweep with the POWRi National Midgets in 2019.
This weekend will mark Rico’s first event competing against Jason Sides’ No. 7S, who he became part-owner of during the off-season.
– A quintet of racers racked up top-10 runs at Lake Ozark Speedway on Saturday night and continued building momentum ahead of an I-55 doubleheader.
Kraig Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., scored his third top 10 through the first nine races, the most since for his Kinser Racing No. 11K since 2014. He enters I-55 as a former winner in 2005.
Australian James McFadden made it three top 10s in three races since he joined the World of Outlaws tour from overseas. On Saturday, he landed his first podium of 2021 aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb No. 9.
McFadden enters I-55 still searching for his first win at the track.
Carson Macedo of Lemoore, Calif., was aiming for a meaningful win in the Jason Johnson Classic aboard the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41, but a fifth-place finish had to suffice.
After back-to-back 11th and 13th-place finishes, a top five was a welcome sight. He enters I-55 with three top 10s in seven starts.
Aaron Reutzel of Clute, Texas, continued his steady top-10 stretch at Lake Ozark. Outside of a win at East Bay Raceway Park, the Roth Motorsports No. 83 only has one other top-five finish. However, they do have eight top-ten finishes through the first nine races and lead the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year chase.
Reutzel enters I-55 with just four starts under his belt.
David Gravel of Watertown, Conn., advanced to third in the championship standings following a seventh-place run at Lake Ozark.
His Big Game Motorsports No. 2 has collected one win to go along with eight top-10 finishes and five top-five results this year. He enters I-55 as a winner back in 2016.