Swindell having banner year on track
WHITE CITY Sammy Swindell is a small, quiet, mild-mannered manyou wouldn't think would get anywhere near a race car, particularly onethat carries 800 horsepower and goes over 150 mph.
But for eight months of the year, the Tennessee native climbs into aWorld of Outlaws sprint car and tears around dirt tracks at head-twistingspeeds.
Swindell is one of the charter members of the World of Outlaws, havingbeen on the circuit for 20 straight seasons.
His 213 career victories are second only to Steve Kinser, and anotherwin in Wednesday night's race at the Southern Oregon Speedway gave Swindellfour straight main events. That also includes a checkered-flag performancein Cottage Grove on Monday night.
Swindell hasn't won a points championship since back-to-back titles in1981-82, but he leads the pack this summer, holding a 52-point lead overDave Blaney coming into the Medford race.
This lifestyle makes for some long days and even longer nights,but it's a labor of love, the 41- year-old Swindell says. There'sa certain thrill to going fast.
Like many of the drivers, Swindell travels from race to race on the rovingcircuit in a huge motorhome that carries his four race cars and five motors.
The circuit begins in February and continues through November, windingthrough 23 states.
We travel 80,000 miles a year, and that doesn't include the racing,Swindell says.
Swindell, who was born and raised in Cordova, Tenn., on the outskirtsof Memphis, followed his father to the race track at an early age and steppedinto a stock car for the first time at age 15.
He was only 21 when the World of Outlaws burst onto the racing scenein 1978.
Swindell has dabbled in other racing circuits from time to time, includingNASCAR, Indy cars and road racing. But he keeps returning to the outlawsbecause, he says, this is where I seem to be able to make a living.
Swindell will walk off with a $150,000 bonus if he can win the pointstitle and will gross more than $600,000 this year.
He says the key to winning a points title is being consistent.
If you could finish second every night maybe even third orfourth you would win the points race, Swindell says. Itfeels good to win but finishing in the top 10 night in and night out isreally what it's all about.
Swindell says the Outlaw circuit's popularity attendance totaledabout 1.6 million a year ago is due to the fans' close proximity tothe tracks and the fact that the cars are always racing within a few feetof one another at speeds exceeding 100 mph.
The dirt tracks, with their varying and unpredictable surfaces, add tothe excitement.
You're always in traffic there's always something going on,says Swindell, who broke his wrist several years ago but has never beenseriously injured. And we don't have pit stops. It's flat-out racingthe whole way.
Mark Kinser set a Southern Oregon Speedway track record of 12.009 secondsWednesday but it lasted only about five minutes, or until Jac Haudenschildclocked a 11.962.
Haudenschild was involved in a nasty crash in Cottage Grove Monday nightin which he was knocked unconscious.
Wednesday's crowd of 4,200 was the largest in the two-year history ofthe Southern Oregon Speedway, breaking the old mark of 3,500 on openingday of last year.
Fans paid from $19 to $35 for tickets.
Bill Nutter, one of three local drivers competing in the outlaw divisionWednesday, finished fourth in his heat race to qualify for the A main.