Donny Schatz brought home the No. 15 STP machine home fourth in the Prelude to the Dream. (Frank’s Photos.)

ROSSBURG, OHIO – (June 6) As the old saying goes, there is first time for everything. The first time behind the wheel of a Dirt Late Model is a night the four-time World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz will certainly remember. Schatz wheeled a damaged STP backed No. 15 of Darrell Lanigan to a fourth-place finish in the Prelude To The Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

“It’s a good thing they are stock cars and they’ve got fenders,” admitted Schatz after the all-star dirt Late Model race benefiting Feed The Children. “I think I hit everything there was and I was bouncing off guys. If you did that in a Sprint car, you’d be laying out in the weeds. It was a fun race. I wish I could’ve had a restart there at the end. When you drive Darrell Lanigan’s racecar, you know you’ve got something really good underneath you. It took me all night to figure out what to do with it when the track finally cleaned off. It was really fun to drive. I didn’t know the STP car was this beat up but, hopefully, we can try again next year.”

The evening began with Schatz turning the third-best lap in the first round of hot laps and the eighth-best in round two. He drew the first qualifying spot and circled the half-mile dirt oval in 16.881 seconds. The track got better during qualifying and he ended up 16th in the field of 26 cars.

The Fargo, N.D., resident started fourth and finished second in the fourth heat race to earn the eighth starting spot in the finale. He rolled the outside line on the initial start, but an early spin called back the original start. Once the race got going Schatz began working the low line while a number of the competitors battled the thin cushion up near Eldora’s concrete wall. Trouble struck a few laps later as a pair of cars were spinning down the backstretch. Schatz was able to stay out of their tangle, but was drilled from behind…damaging the left rear quarter panel sheet metal.

Schatz remained on the track and restarted outside the top-10. When the race resumed, he returned to the bottom in turns one and two and searched several lines in three and four. Lap after lap, he would gain spots. The race was halted on lap 25 after leader Kasey Kahne collided with a spinning Bobby Labonte. Schatz restarted seventh and continued his charge forward. He used a perfect Eldora slide job in turns three and four to take fifth from Ryan Newman three laps later and then set his sights on Cruz Pedregon. With six laps to go, he drove around the outside of Pedregon to move into fourth. During the final five laps, he was the faster car on the track, and closed in one Austin Dillon (third-place) and Tony Stewart (second). He would run out of laps and come home fourth.

“I kept my cool (after the car crashed into him) and the racecar really came to me,” continued Schatz. “The track cleaned off. I was really decent around the bottom on one end (one and two). When I got to Cruz (Pedregon), he was on the bottom, so I had to get off it and it really helped me get more speed through three and four. It was fun. It was a great opportunity for me to drive this car. Darrell Lanigan and his guys did a great job. I’m glad we got it in the top-five. Maybe if we get to come back again, we’ll be able to get up there and fight for a win.”

Kyle Busch scored the Prelude and earned his first career victory at the famed Eldora Speedway. He was followed to the finish line by Stewart and Dillon.

Schatz will return to his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) World of Outlaws machine on Friday night at Clay County Fair Speedway in Spencer, Iowa.