Meet the Mopar Drivers: Joey Saldana
Center Line, Mich. — In a motorsports discipline with 80 individual race dates, an optimist might take the view that a few bad results shouldn’t mean much. But Team Mopar® and Kasey Kahne Racing driver Joey Saldana, one of the top stars on the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series, is a realist, so he’ll enter the Feb. 8–10 Alltel DIRTcar Nationals at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park with the attitude that every event matters.
“The way things are with the World of Outlaws, if you have a bad swing it’s hard to make that up,” says Saldana, whose Mopar-powered machine is owned by NASCAR superstar Kasey Kahne. “You can stumble a little bit, but not even to the point that most people would consider a stumble. You have to be pretty strong the whole season.
“If you’re going to run with the Outlaws, you have to believe you’re going to run good every time you go out. Because, really, if you look at the guys who have won the championships, you see it’s usually someone who’s won 15 or 20 races and was consistent everywhere.”
Saldana knows of what he speaks. Last season he was second in WoO victories with 12, but the only man to top his total, rival Donny Schatz, ended up wearing the series crown. So the brief for 2008, to Joey’s way of thinking, is simple: “To strive to win more races than we did last year, and be good at every racetrack we go to.”
That mission starts with three nights at the Volusia track in Barberville. Saldana says of the half-mile, D-shaped oval, “It’s tough, and it’s really fast. I’ve seen nights when it seemed like some of the fastest racing we’ve ever done in World of Outlaws competition was right there at Volusia, and as a driver I enjoy that. At the same time, it’s a real mechanic’s track because you have to have a car that’s working well enough to run the top, the bottom, or wherever you need to run. Really, the whole team has to be good there; the car, the engine, everything’s got to work together so the driver can step in and do whatever little bit he can to make the thing run up front.”
In 2006, Kasey Kahne Racing’s first year of operation, Saldana finished third in the WoO standings; last season, the Indiana driver was the runner-up. That progression has placed the team among the heavy championship favorites for ’08, but Saldana says, “All you can do is go out and do the best you can, and if it comes, it comes. Our team has put a lot into this season—Kasey himself is wholeheartedly behind us, and he would love nothing more to win that championship—so if we don’t win it, I’m sure we’ll all be disappointed. But we also realize that it’s a long schedule, and there are a lot of things that are out of our control.