By Matt Levins, The Hawk Eye
MIDDLETOWN — Joey Saldana is one of the most accomplished sprint car drivers in the
world. Over the course of his career, the Brownsburg, Ind., man has 95 World of
Outlaws feature wins, tied with Danny Lasoski for sixth on the all-time World of
Outlaws wins list.
Yet after the 2012 season, Saldana found himself on the outside looking in, a man
without a ride.
Saldana, after being dropped by Kasey Kahne Racing, wasn’t sure what the future held
It didn’t take long for another car owner to swoop in and sign Saldana. Dan Motter
signed Saldana last year and Saldana picked up where he left off with Kahne.
Saldana is fourth in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series points this year with
5,462. He also has five feature wins , 23 top fives, 30 top 10s and has had the
fastest qualifying time 13 times, more than anyone on the circuit.
After a year of transition, Saldana is back and is making a run at a season
championship as the series makes a stop at 34 Raceway on Friday.
“It’s going pretty good after last year. We ran consistently last year, but we only
had one win. It seemed like we struggled and we had to start over from scratch,”
Saldana said. “I drove for Kasey Kahne for seven years, but I got released after
2012. Dan Motter approached me and gave me a pretty good offer. We put a team
together in three months last year, so we were getting a feel for each other. This
year it’s all paying off. We are more consistent and running a lot stronger. We
actually led the points after 10 races this year.”
Saldana has been running the World of Outlaws Series full-time since 2000. He has
been up and down the road thousands of miles, criss-crossed the country numerous
times, been at more dirt tracks than he can count.
It never gets old for Saldana. It’s the only life the “Brownsburg Bullet” has ever
“It’s really tough, especially now that my kids are getting older,” said Saldana,
who has two sons — Reece and Ragan — with his wife Shannon. “It was really tough
this past week. We had a race up in Fergus Falls, Minn., and my son made an all-star
baseball team this year. He had a game this week. I had to drive all night to get
back home to see his game. You miss a lot of stuff with the family. Being on the
road definitely has its pluses, but now that my kids are getting older, I need to
spend more time with my family. I try to get home as often as possible.”
For as much success as Saldana has had on the World of Outlaws Series over the last
14 seasons, that was not his dream job. His original dream was to follow in the
footsteps of his father, Joe Saldana, and drive in the Indianapolis 500. Joe Saldana
finished in the top 16 in both the 1978 and 1979 Indianapolis 500 and finished sixth
in an IndyCar race at Atlanta. He was the 1970 Knoxville Nationals champion.
The younger Saldana, now 42, has pretty much given up on that dream. Instead, he has
created a name for himself as one of the best sprint car drivers in the world.
“Driving in the Indianapolis 500 is something I never got to do. It takes a lot of
money to get a ride, especially in this day and age. But I love doing what I’m
doing. I’m proud to say that I’m a professional driver who loves doing it. I love
telling people that I’m a professional racer,” Saldana said.
Among Saldana’s 89 World of Outlaws victories are the 2002 and 2006 Kings Royal, one
of the premier races on the circuit. He is still searching for the creme de la
creme, the icing on the cake, the Knoxville Nationals.
Saldana finished 18th in the World of Outlaws show at 34 Raceway in 2008, won the
feature in 2009 and was third in last year’s main event at the 3/8-mile oval dirt
track. He would dearly love to pick up his 90th career feature win on Friday night
and move ahead of Lasoski.
In a year in which Steve Kinser is being honored in his last full season with the
World of Outlaws Series, Saldana admits he has thought about when the end of his
full-time racing will be. He says it’s getting closer, but he’s not ready to hang up
his racing suit and helmet just yet.
“My dad retired from racing two years ago. I want to do this for at least as long as
my dad did it,” Saldana said. “There’s really nothing else I can see myself doing. I
don’t see myself doing this as long as Steve Kinser, until I’m 60. I don’t want to
miss out on seeing my kids grow up. But I feel like I’ve got a few more years left
in me and I want to make the most of them.”