World of Outlaws' Saldana starting to gain traction out West

Updated: September 4, 2008, 10:32 PM ET

World of Outlaws

Joey Saldana raced to a win at Skagit Speedway and the first-place check for $25,000 .

World of Outlaws: Saldana rounding into form for Kasey Kahne Racing

When you're in the midst of a sluggish season, failing to rack up wins at the previous year's clip, it helps to at least bag one in the boss's backyard.

Joey Saldana was in one of those ruts -- not terrible by most teams' standards, but his are different, as he finished second in World of Outlaws sprints in 2007 with 13 A-feature wins. So a win at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway on Sunday night was a pretty good cure.

The boss is NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne, an Enumclaw, Wash., native who owns a half-dozen wins on the three-tenths-mile bullring.

"It was huge for our whole Kasey Kahne Racing team," Saldana said. "We've been struggling and this is definitely a race that was on our list to win. Last year we came up one spot short and to win it this year is a great effort for us. Hopefully we can build on this."

Saldana was one spot short at Skagit, and also for the season last year (behind another Sprint Cup star's driver, Donny Schatz of Tony Stewart Racing), but Saldana didn't immediately return to that form this year. It took him 20 starts, until mid-June, to bag his first win, and he's fourth in the standings, closer to falling out of the top five than to being on top.

But the series' Pacific Northwest trips have been good to him in the past: He has four career wins.

Sunday he used a good restart on Lap 32 to dive under Jason Meyers, then held off the second-in-points Meyers and 20-time series champion Steve Kinser over the last five laps to claim the $25,000 first-place check, which is among the biggest on the circuit.

"My guys have been working hard all year," Saldana, 36, said. "They have been working hard for me for the last two years; it's no different this year. We're just not having the year that we had hoped for and this [win] definitely helps. We changed a lot over the winter, and we caused a lot of our bad luck this year. I think we are getting back to basics and hopefully that means we'll run up front more consistently."

The 1996 rookie of the year is in an interesting position with Kasey Kahne Racing. Saldana is a native of Brownsburg, Ind., a growing hotbed for teams' headquarters, but his sprint car shop is in Mooresville, N.C., the middle of NASCAR country. Kahne even leases space in Brownsburg for his USAC teams, but the WoO operation remains in the south.

But the farther they are away from everything, seemingly, the better. This week the WoO travels to Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., for the 55th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions, which Saldana won last year.

Another chance to build momentum and return to last year's form.

"A good end to the season will be for us to get better and make ourselves more consistent," Saldana said. "We seem to be a consistent top-5 car when we finish races. We have never really been a team that has had many DNFs and this year we have had a lot of them. We just have to finish all the races from here on out."

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.

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AMA Motocross: Stewart completes perfect season

There was no suspense in James Stewart's final weekend of Motocross -- just the same smashing performances as the previous 11 weekends.

"Bubba" Stewart joined Ricky Carmichael as the only drivers with perfect seasons as Stewart scored two more wins at Steel City Raceway in Export, Pa. The Monster Kawasaki again paced every lap and easily won both motos, this time by 9.9 and 5.5 seconds, respectively, over teammate Tim Ferry.

"Somebody told me how incredible this is," Stewart said. "You know they crown a champion every year, but how many perfect seasons are there?"

There may be more someday but it could be hard to top this one. Stewart, 22, led every lap in the past 13 motos and 369 of 382 laps all season. Add all that to the fact he started the season four months removed from ACL surgery and it's even more impressive.

"After the last few [years] I've had in outdoors, I've had a really tough time finishing the season," Stewart said. "It was just a lot of a weight lifted off my shoulders, especially after coming off the surgery."

ALMS: Acura, AGR rule Belle Isle

In a year dominated by Audi, Acura took a turn up front for a change, sweeping the podium for the first time in its two years in the series. Andretti Green Racing hadn't won since the 12 Hours of Sebring last year, but Franck Montagny and James Rossiter ended the dry spell with a 3.9-second win over Patron Highcroft Racing.

That second-place car, driven by David Brabham and Scott Sharp, pulled to within four points of the P2 class lead as Penske Racing finished fourth in class. Two races remain in October.

An Audi R10 P1 class entry did cross the finish line first, but Emanuele Pirro and Marcel Fässler were disqualified after the car failed to meet the required minimum weight in postrace technical inspection. That DQ sealed the P1 title for teammates Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner, who crashed early out of the race.

Grand-Am: Eventful weekend ends well

Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 01 Lexus Riley team clinched the Rolex Series' Daytona Prototype class championship Sunday at the new New Jersey Motorsports Park after an exhausting four days.

In Thursday testing, the team's primary car was split in two in a nasty crash into the barrier at the end of the wall separating pit road from the track. Driver Scott Pruett remained safely in the cockpit, which ended up on pit road, and was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

The team's spare car, which won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, was back at the shop in Indianapolis. Crewmen flew to Indy to prep the car for racing and the team hauler drove back to pick it up. Pruett and teammate Memo Rojas missed Friday and Saturday practice and qualifying, but had a car to race come Sunday and finished ninth, well behind winners Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson of Michael Shank Racing but good enough to secure the title with one race remaining.

"We overcame a huge obstacle this weekend; the guys worked so hard to have the backup car ready to race," Pruett said. "Everyone on this team pushed their limit this weekend and the result is great."

In other Grand-Am news, the series announced Sunday that it might race at a new infield road course at Kansas Speedway in 2011. Last month, speedway officials said the facility would add a road course if a proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is built.

Weekend spotlight on: ARCA

Frank Kimmel must hate seeing ARCA return to pavement Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Isn't there one more state fairground dirt track in Illinois?

The nine-time series champion swept the series' annual dirt doubleheader, winning last weekend at DuQuoin, Ill., on the heels of a win two weeks ago at Springfield, Ill. Prior to those races he hadn't won all season.

"I look forward to running well here all year and it means a lot to be able to pick up a win at DuQuoin," Kimmel said. "That's two in a row and we're feeling real good about that."

Points leader Scott Speed is more than happy to leave the dirt, though two eighth-place finishes weren't terrible for a former F1 driver.

"I am glad that's over," Speed said. "I will be happy if I don't ever have to race another dirt race ever again. I'm glad to still have the points lead, and hopefully now we can get after it again on the asphalt."