Daryn Pittman has won just about every race there is to win in Sprint Car racing.
He sits ninth on the all-time World of Outlaws Sprint Cars win list. It’s been an illustrious career.
However, Pittman has yet to win an Outlaws feature race at Knoxville Raceway, and when the series heads there next Friday, he will be looking to break the drought.
Daryn Pittman excited for opportunity to break Knoxville Drought
The World of Outlaws announced on Tuesday that it would be returning to the track for a sprint car show at Knoxville – the first race back from the COVID-19 break in the year.
“I’m just excited to go back racing, to be honest,” Pittman said. “It’s been a long time off. You always know when your off-season is approaching, but nobody saw this coming.”
The series has either canceled or postponed every race since their planned March 13th date at Cedar Park in Texas, much like the rest of the major national touring series.
By running this event at Knoxville, they’ll be the first national series to return to racing, even if it is without fans.
Pittman kind of laughed it off, but for a driver with no Outlaws features to win at Knoxville, it would be fitting for how unpredictable the year has been.
“Yeah, that’d be good,” Pittman said. “I’m excited to go back to Knoxville. (2019) was my best year that I’ve ever had (there), and not just at Nationals. I think we ran four races at Knoxville last year, and we ran well.”
Pittman ran four races at the track, finishing in the top five in each of them.
The success at the track that has dodged him for all these years speaks volumes for his confidence looking at it this season.
“I had by far the best car and I feel like as a driver that I really made more gains last year than I ever have as far as just what I need my car to feel like,” Pittman said. “Obviously, last year doesn’t translate to any guarantees for this season, but I’m confident going back.”
The return to the track plays right into the hands of Pittman, who wanted to make a point of taking advantage of the successful campaign in Iowa a year ago.
Now’s his chance.
“That was one of my main focuses this season to really capitalize on what we feel like we gained last year at Knoxville and just try to repeat that and continue to improve on that just a little bit if we can,” Pittman said. “That’s definitely a track that has frustrated me from a performance standpoint that I really want to get better at.”
Obviously, that won’t be an easy task.
The World of Outlaws feature the top sprint car drivers in the sport, and with a break that nearly spanned a full two months, all of these teams will be eager to get on the track to compete.
“Every driver is going to be hungry,” Pittman said. “We’re excited to get a paycheck no matter if it’s for first or for last. Obviously, you want to come off of a long break with a good start and hopefully a good run from a financial standpoint and from a mental confidence standpoint as well.”
This is the only event that the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series has confirmed for its post-coronavirus schedule.
While that’s something that might be hard for fans to follow, it speaks exactly to the roots of what dirt track racing has always been.
These guys show up in the afternoon, unpack, practice, race, pack up, and head out. One night shows are of no concern.
“I think it speaks to the nature of our sport,” Pittman said. “It doesn’t take two or three days to be out there practicing, and we don’t require that. Our schedules can change at the drop of a hat anytime with rain and make-up dates. We’re pretty well set up for that.”
Normally, the Outlaws will look to make things regional, and depending on what states allow for racing to go on, they may be able to do that again.
However, the race at Knoxville will be a standalone event.
“You hate to drive all the way for only one race, but at this point, I think everyone’s just excited to have one race,” Pittman said. “I think once we get going, everybody can kind of see the trend of the country and what states are doing. I think once all of the states start to open up, it will be just a matter of time before everybody is forced to follow suit.”
The World of Outlaws also announced that, in thanks to its series sponsors as well as other unnamed patrons, the race would pay out $10,000-to-win.
That’s the usual amount for an Outlaws regular season show, but its extraordinary that the series can pay it out despite the lack of revenue from fans.
The race will count as a normal, regular season event paying out full points and being broadcasted on DirtVision, as well.
“With DirtVision and the way they have set it up, I don’t think this was ever the plan,” Pittman said. “When they started broadcasting all of the races, it helped subsidized some income for the series and some exposure for people all over the country be able to watch races that they normally wouldn’t be able to.”
Pittman believed that it was possible to run without fans because of Terry McCarl’s fan-less race that was ran at Park Jefferson a week ago.
It went on without a hitch.
“I think paying a full purse was proven possible because of last week’s race in South Dakota. People are eager to watch races across the country,” Pittman said. “If purchasing the broadcast is the same cost as a ticket price and we need three or four thousand to break even, I don’t know that getting (that) is out of the question in desperate times that we’re in.”
This race won’t be anything that World of Outlaws fans are used to, though.
This series is built on a passionate fan base that brings people together, and while Friday won’t look as normal as it did two months ago, Pittman and company are going to put on a show.
“To be shut down for this length of time is tough on all of the teams and drivers,” Pittman said. “We know it’s not going to be normal or even close to normal, but at least it’s the first step to somewhat return to whatever our new normal will be.”
Friday’s race will kick off with hot laps at 6:30 p.m. CT and the main show kicking off at 7:30 p.m., all live on DirtVision.com.
“I think it’s going to be different without fans,” Pittman said. “It’s definitely going to be difficult for us as drivers. The fans are a big draw for all of us. But, we’re racers. We love to go out and put on a show. It will be different, but hopefully everyone understands and can enjoy it.”