---- — For any 20-year-old, going to the bright lights of a big city for the first time can be an intimidating experience.
That was the case for Owasso, Okla., native Daryn Pittman, who made his first-ever start at Williams Grove Speedway in the family-owned car in 1998.
Pittman leads the World of Outlaws (WoO) point standings as the series returns to Central Pennsylvania for its battle against the Posse in the two-day Summer Nationals at Williams Grove Speedway tonight and Saturday night.
"We came there for the TV shows that the Outlaws had," he said. "It is an intimidating place for sure. You have the competition and there is not another place like the Grove in the country."
Williams Grove was a place he first read about in magazines.
"I was in awe," he said. "Seeing Lance (Dewease) and Fred (Rahmer) in person after reading about them in the magazines. It was pretty overwhelming."
Pittman is not the first outsider to come to the sprint car capital of the world and be in awe. Even five-time WoO champion Donny Schatz did not take a liking to speedway until he started to win.
"I think everyone goes through that phase," he said. "We were only going to the Grove three or four times a year back then and we were not good for a lot of those years. It took a while for us to get used to the place. You just keep going and pick up what you can."
Like Schatz, one weekend turned around Pittman's view on the track.
"We had one solid weekend out of the blue and we learned some stuff," he said. "We struggled a bit, but it changes your attitude. I love going there and I really look forward to this weekend. Williams Grove can be a humbling place. You can win one night and be in C-main the next night."
Pittman won the Outlaws opener back on Feb. 15 at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida. He's led the points ever since. Through Tuesday's race at Lernerville, Pittman has seven wins, 31 top fives and 37 top-10 finishes.
It was 10 years after he first started racing with the Outlaws, in 1999, that Pittman got the chance to be a regular in Pennsylvania.
"I raced more in those four years and had really stiff competition to go against each week," Pittman said. "Those four years might have been the weakest on the Outlaw schedule. It's really important to run well at the Pennsylvania tracks if you are racing for an Outlaws title."
According to Pittman, the Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb team jelled early and they are getting along real well.
"We know there is a lot of season left and we are keeping that in mind," he said. "We are not going to get ahead of ourselves, but it will be an uphill battle to stay on top."
The team set a goal of being in the points lead by the time the spring race had rolled around at Williams Grove and, once that was accomplished, they set a goal of being in the lead by this weekend's Summer Nationals.
Pittman, The Gumout Series champion in 2001, holds a 141-point lead over Paul McMahan and 144-point lead over Schatz heading into tonight's race.
"Donny has always been a mid-summer to later-half-of-the-season guy and we can't give him any breathing room." Pittman said. "He can eat up points in a hurry."
Schatz leads the Outlaws with a season-high 10 wins. Pittman is tied with Tim Kaeding with seven.
"If we double our points lead with five races to go, then we can be defensive," Pittman added. "I am not going to worry about the points, but build on the points lead we have."
Pittman, 34, grew up on the north side of Tulsa, Okla., which is Oklahoma State Cowboy territory. He's an Oklahoma Sooner football fan whose momma isn't letting him grow up to be a cowboy, rather, an Outlaws title contender.