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 firstname.lastname@example.org.