The three-race stand for sprint cars from February 5-7 kicks off a schedule of more than 90 races in 27 states that ends at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s World Finals November 4-6.
If 2020 is any kind of gauge, the first three races will set the tone for the season. Last year Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet and Logan Schuhart won the first three Outlaws races before they all finished in the top three in points.
Sweet ended Schatz’s streak of five consecutive championships in 2019 by the narrowest of margins. When the checkers waved over the final race that season, he had a four-point advantage over Schatz. Now it is his turn to start building a dynasty as he guns for a third straight title in 2021.
If he can pull off the feat, he will become only the third driver in Outlaws history to win three consecutive championships along with Schatz and the legendary Steve Kinser.
ALL THREE MAJOR SPRINT SERIES SCHEDULES COMBINED: Outlaws, ASCoC and USAC feature 150 races
But fans cannot discount Schatz’s chances of upsetting Sweet in his bid. From 2013 through 2018 he scored 20 or more Outlaws wins each year. The 2019 season saw him win 11 times and last year he slipped to five victories, but only 54 races were run due to the complications of scheduling during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For the 2021 championship race, 16 drivers have announced their intent to run the full schedule, but not all of them are in their accustomed spots.
The 2021 season will also showcase one of the best rookie battles in quite some while.
Three-time and reigning All Star Circuit of Champions title holder Aaron Reutzel steps up the the Outlaws in 2021 by taking over the No. 83 Roth Motorsports ride vacated by Daryn Pittman. David Gravel turns over the No. 41 to Carson Macedo and moves into the No. 2M Big Game Motorsports ride, while Parker Price-Miller joins a sister team to the No. 41 for his fulltime campaign.
Reutzel joins a jam-packed rookie class that includes four Outlaws winners. Reutzel scored victories in 2018 at Tulare (Ca.) Thunderbowl and 2019 at Perris (Ca.) Auto Speedway.
RELIVE ONE OF 2020’S BEST BATTLES: Kyle Larson, Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet swap spots at Lernerville
Pennsylvania Posse member Brock Zearfoss won in 2017 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. and last year at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa.
Australian James McFadden will race the No. 9 Kasey Kahne sprint car as a teammate to Sweet after winning in Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. in 2017 and last year at Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon Mo., while Price-Miller already has victory his credit at the Grove in 2017.
This year will be a chance to see if father and son can get wild together. ‘The Wild Child’ Jac Haudenschild will team up with Rico Abreu in 2021 to run in 25 of the 90 races, giving a chance to race alongside ‘Little Wild’ Sheldon Haudenschild in some of the best equipment in the field. After winning his first race in the 2018 season opener at Volusia, Sheldon scored a career-best seven victories last year to bring his total to 14.
And all of that will happen as the drivers compete for record purses. In 2021, all 90 plus races on the Outlaws schedule will pay a minimum of $10,000 to win and $1,000 to start. An additional $90,000 has been added to the season-ending points fund.