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John Klein: Owasso racer living his dream as World of Outlaws champ
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John Klein: Owasso racer living his dream as World of Outlaws champ

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Daryn Pittman has dreamed about being a World of Outlaws race car driver since he was a kid growing up in Owasso. 

He's now 35 and the dream has never changed.

"I am literally living out my dream," Pittman said. "I am literally doing what I dreamed. This is what I wanted to do.

"The World of Outlaws is where I wanted to race. I wanted to be good enough to make a good living and support my family. And, I dreamed about winning the World of Outlaws championship."

Pittman's lifelong dream came true last year.

"Winning the World of Outlaws was every bit as good as I dreamed it would be."

Pittman is the first Oklahoman to win the World of Outlaws series season championship, one of the top levels of American racing.

Pittman, racing for team owner and NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, claimed the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series title last season by winning eight times and posting a remarkable 45 top-five finishes.

"When Kasey had an opening, and I was fortunate enough to get picked, I knew it was a great opportunity," Pittman said. "I knew I wasn't going to get a better opportunity to make a run at a championship. I wanted to make the most of my chance.

"When I got hired there was a lot of excitement about it but there was also a lot of pressure. Luckily, all of our team members and I hit it off real well and worked great together. Still, I was nervous. I wanted to do so well."

He did better than well. He did great.

As a result, Pittman, who came home to run in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, is considered one of the hottest drivers in American auto racing.

He grew up in Owasso going to races at dirt tracks around the Tulsa area with his family.

"Cars and racing were kind of the family business," said Pittman, whose family owns Danny's Auto Salvage in Tulsa.

Pittman is just the ninth driver to win the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series title in 36 years, joining legends like Steve Kinser (who has a record 20 titles), Donny Schatz (5) and Sammy Swindell (3).

It was Schatz that Pittman beat in the closest season-championship race in the history of the World of Outlaws. Pittman won by just 14 points. Not until the final lap of the final race could Pittman celebrate.

"I've learned that it is all about how you handle yourself in every race," Pittman said. "It is easy to handle yourself when you are running up front and having an easy night.

"It is a lot tougher to handle the bad nights, when things aren't going so well for you. It is how you handle those bad nights that can win a championship. You have to limit those bad nights and then do your best to maximize what you can on those bad nights."

Pittman was the most consistent on the World of Outlaws circuit last season. He scored 59 top-10 finishes in 67 races.

In all of those races, he had just one DNF (did not finish). That's huge in the season-long points race. DNFs can be devastating to any racer's season.

Much of that is equipment. If you have good equipment, you are able to run with confidence. Part of it is driving. You have to stay out of trouble and not get caught up in crashes. Part of that is luck. Part of that is skill.

"It was all about consistency last year," Pittman said. "The championship came down to the last lap in the last race of the season. The team had contended before but I had never been in that situation before. There was a lot of pressure.

"It was a great year. Looking back, I should have won more races. But, we did everything as a team you need to do to win a championship except win more races. Yet, we won the championship because we were so consistent. We were always right there."

The World of Outlaws is one of the most popular forms of American racing. The dirt-track series is certainly one of the most active. The upcoming schedule includes 92 races at 52 tracks in 24 states and three Canadian provinces.

It all begins on Feb. 14 at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway Park.

"I've got to be honest, as happy as I was to win the championship, the next day I started thinking about this year," Pittman said. "That's just the way I am. I appreciated what an accomplishment it was for our team to win the championship.

"But if you can do it once it makes you want to do it again even more. I think we'll be right there again this year. We've done a lot of work in the offseason. There are some areas we need to be better and we've addressed those issues."

Unlike some of his rivals on the World of Outlaws circuit, Pittman has no desire to do any other type of racing. He loves dirt racing. He loves the World of Outlaws.

"Maybe when I was 18 or 19 and just out of Owasso High School (he graduated in 1997) I thought about eventually moving to some different racing," said Pittman. "That's has changed. I really do love the World of Outlaws. I love this kind of racing. I've been lucky enough to do this for 15 or 16 years and do it well enough to make a living.

"That's all I really ever wanted to do. So, why would I want to change? This is great. I'm having a blast."

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