Outlaw SLM Standout Making Template Plans in 2022

Two-time Kalamazoo Klash champion Steve Needles is taking on a new challenge.

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One of Outlaw Super Late Model racing’s top stars is set to go Template Super Late Model racing in 2022.

Two-time Kalamazoo Klash champion Steve Needles and team owner Brian Short recently added a Template-bodied Super Late Model to their fleet of cars with plans to debut at some point this season.

The team had plans to rent a ride for Short’s son and up-and-coming Outlaw Super Late Model driver Brandon Short for the World Series of Asphalt back in February. After seeing what it would cost to do so, they put a once-talked about idea into motion and started putting together a car of their own.

“Over the winter we decided we wanted to build a Template car. We had kind of been talking about it for a little while but never really seriously talked about it. We were sitting around at dinner one night at PRI and we were going to rent a car for Brandon to race at New Smyrna for Speedweeks,” Needles said. “After realizing that wasn’t going to be financially responsible to pay what they wanted, we figured we could build a car for what they wanted to run one for four or five nights.”

The Michigan driver has been a fixture in the Outlaw Super Late Model ranks for well over a decade, garnering success across the Midwest with wins in the Kalamazoo Klash, Intimidator 100 and Glass City 200, and a track championship at Berlin Raceway. Since joining Brian Short in 2016, he has also won the last three Outlaw SLM touring series championships (Main Event in 2018-2019 and Reveal The Hammer in 2021).

However, jumping into a Template car for the first time will provide a whole new challenge for Needles.

“The biggest thing is that the cars are so much more sensitive because you don’t have the air advantage that you have in an Outlaw car. In an Outlaw car you can really lean on the air, lean on the body and let that stabilize the car for you. As with the Templates, you don’t have that sense of security, you can’t drive them the same way. It’ll be a little bit of a learning experience from an adjustment standpoint and a driver standpoint just trying to find where that edge is and being consistent and knowing what to do when.

“It’ll definitely be a learning curve but we’re looking forward to that, it’s a different challenge. Plus, the competition level is insane. You look at the entry list for the Money in the Bank and the level of competition is insane. The margin of error is a lot thinner.”

With big-money Outlaw Super Late Model races scheduled in 2022, with the Plymouth Grand Slam Series, Kalamazoo Klash and Summer Sizzler all paying at least $10,000 to win, the Outlaw SLM will still be the team’s main focus throughout the year as they finish up the Template car and fill in their schedule with it as the season goes along, with he and Brandon Short splitting time behind the wheel.

The plan was to make his Template debut at the Money in the Bank 150 at Berlin Raceway next week, but a parts shortage across the industry has put those plans on hold. When the car does get race-ready, Needles and the Short team have one big goal in mind.

“We ordered a car back in January but with parts shortages and everything else, we didn’t actually receive the car until sometime in early April and we waited on more parts for a while, I think we just got the last of the parts this week. Unfortunately it’s not going to be ready to race for the Money in the Bank but hopefully we’ll be able to race it at some point this summer. Originally it was going to be a couple races at Berlin, the Money in the Bank and the Battle at Berlin, then we were talking about some other potential races. Brandon was talking about going to Jennerstown with it.

“We were planning on splitting time in it but we weren’t planning on racing with it a lot, probably only a handful of times, with the ultimate goal of going to Pensacola in December to try and qualify for the Derby but I don’t know how realistic that’ll be at this point just because we got a late start on it. We’ll see, we’re excited to play with it.”