One night I was watching an Outlaw race on on TV, back when TNN was doing those races and they went around the pits and asked some of the younger drivers where the World of Outlaws came from and what an Outlaw was.  To my surprise! Most of the guys didn't know!  Then they went to Steve Kinser and he gave a 10 second answer. So for all of you that either weren't around when all of this got started or just don't know, here's a short history of sprint car racing (as I see it).

Waaaay back at the turn of the last century, when Indy was first
created, the cars were open wheel, driver straddling the driveline and the fuel was in an aerodynamically pointed tank at the rear.  Today's cars are very similar if not the same in those respects.

Out of that early Indy car evolved the sprint car, sized for the
half-mile tracks and the midget, sized for the quarter mile tracks. The race at Indy was one of the many races that went on around the country then, on horse tracks at fairgrounds and at  speedways.

Big league sprint car racing was centered around the Indy race with the AAA (yes, they became the guys you call for a tow today but got out of racing in the '50s) and then USAC organizations through the '40s and on into the '70s. Success in midgets and then sprints opened the door to an Indy ride for the country's top drivers.

While USAC ruled the premier sprint series, there were lots of other organizations, promoters and tracks that ran sprints around the country. USAC demanded total loyalty and didn't allow their drivers to race outside of the organization.  They also made it difficult to race with them.  You could get a temporary permit to run a USAC race but you had to apply months in advance and the car had to pass their picky inspection (and look good too).

Any one who was not a card carrying USAC driver was considered an outlaw. That's where it started.
An outlaw was a derogatory term that the USAC establishment used to describe anyone that wasn't one of them, but it came to mean more than that as the term was more broadly applied.  Sprint cars were pretty universal in design and races were held all over the country.  There were always a few free spirits that didn't want  to be part of the strict organization, that was USAC.  They were some of the best racers in the country and raced where they could make the most money and win races. Barnstorming from track to track, state to state, fairs and local tracks, these guys would show up and show the locals the fast way around.  Promoters knew the names and would make deals (appearance money) with the current hot shoes to show up at their race.  It was good for the promoter, the hot shoe and the fans.  Not so good for the local racers.

There were a number of really good racers that were traveling the
country in the '70s when Ted Johnson came along and created  The World of Outlaws.  Though I don't know the inside mechanics of how he put this together, from the outside this is how it looked.

Ted contacted a number of the traveling racers and told them that he was going to put on a series of high paying races under the World of Outlaws name and asked them to come.  Whether there was any deal money at first or not, I don't know, but the best came to race for the very good purse.   I can only guess why Ted called it the World of Outlaws.  I guess "World of" was the marketing concept of the day where stores were called "World of Shoes" or World of Books" or "World of Spaghetti".  I
always looked at a place with a name like that, with a skeptical sneer.

But Ted's deal was legitimate and was wide open to all racers.  Anyone could show up at an Outlaw race and have an equal chance.  Every race night was based on time trials and inverted qualifying.  You either made the show if you were fast or you didn't.  There was no temporary permit or organization to join (you  could join if you wanted to at $40  and you got a cheaper pit pass saving $5 or $10 each race) and basically there were no rules other than common sense (like helmets and fire suits, belts and roll cages).  It was, and was billed as "Run What You Brung".

Sprint cars have always been self limiting, technically.  Although they have always been the fastest thing on dirt, the technology has always been saturated and there weren't a lot of radical things that you could do to make them faster (except for adding a wing).

So the real outlaws became organized.  It's funny how it turned out, that this organization of racers were the guys that wouldn't belong to an organization, but that was its strength.  You could race with them a little or a lot but each night you had the same shot.  The incentives were there for Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Doug Wolfgang and the other dozen regulars that followed the schedule each night and that base, that was the strength, that Ted used to book the shows.

There were still outlaws from the Outlaws that would run any big paying show anywhere but the consistently strong group of cars that followed Ted impressed the fans from coast to coast.  In time it became the standard for speed, talent and purse.

Meanwhile, the '70s brought the rear engine car to Indy along with a new breed of sporty car types that had no use for a sprint car.  USAC's old guard still supported sprint car racing but gone were the days of car owners with an Indy car and a sprint and a midget in the stable.

 For sprint car people, the door to Indy was closed and stayed that way for more than a decade.  Sprint car racing was the end game, watched by local fans that appreciated the power and excitement of the sport, and raced by drivers that wanted that excitement.  The door never opened again until Jeff Gordon single handedly broke it down by winning in sprints on TV and then going on to overwhelming Nascar success.  Others followed.  Suddenly sprint car and midget drivers were sought out and
the career minded saw sprints and midgets as a pathway to the big leagues.

The influence of USAC on sprint racing had declined by the '80s as they no longer had Indy car stars behind the wheel.  Wings and big motors were the thing and USAC had neither.  The Outlaws had both and they legitimately had the best drivers, guys that would take on all comers, 7 days a week, on any track, anywhere, any conditions and consistently beat them all.  The Outlaw deal gained credibility by performance.

In no small way it was Steve, Sammy and Doug that provided the
undisputable standard of excellence that made the Outlaw deal work.  One of them was going to whip the locals or each other every night and it created a rivalry in the fans mind that made them pay extra to see it. Yet it took Ted to provide the national platform, and stability that brought it all together.  It worked because it played on the wants and needs of the racer, the fan and the promoter.

So as sprint car racing has progressed into a new century, not much has changed.  Some rules had to be put in place, motors have more power, cars are lighter, tires have more bite and the trailers are bigger, but as the push trucks send them off to race, it still draws both driver and fan to the unparalleled excitement of these open wheeled machines.