INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 13, 2013) – With the way Donny Schatz charged to the 2012 World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series championship, it’s no surprise the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) driver can’t wait to begin his title defense this weekend at the 42nd annual UNOH DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
After finishing last season on a run that included eight wins, 10 second-place finishes and 25 top-fives in his final 30 starts, Schatz kick-started Florida Speedweeks this past weekend by racing to a pair of UNOH All-Star Circuit of Champions event victories at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala behind the wheel of the familiar blue TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J. The Fargo, N.D., racer will lead a talented collection of Winged Sprint car drivers into action as the WoO STP Sprint Car Series opens its 2013 barnstorm across the United States and Canada for 89 scheduled races at 57 tracks.
It all begins with three consecutive nights of WoO action at the fast, half-mile dirt oval where speed is vital. Success at Volusia hasn’t been a problem for Schatz during the last eight season-opening weekends. He has won five of the 22 WoO events held at the track and finished inside the top-five 14 times. Last season, he raced from 15th to fourth in the opener, led all 20 laps of race two and finished second in the finale. With his victory, he became the 24th champion during the series’ 36 seasons to win one of the first three races en route to claiming the title. He won the season opener at Volusia in 2007 and 2009 en route to two of his five series championships.
Schatz also has five career All-Star wins at Volusia, including his first career All-Star victory in 2006 and a memorable run from last to first to begin the 2009 season. He’ll be looking to add a couple more when the DIRTcar Nationals begin with a pair of All-Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned races Wednesday and Thursday prior to three complete WoO events beginning Friday evening.
TSR’s STP/Armor All crew is once again led by crew chief Rick Warner, who begins his seventh season working with Schatz. Car chief Steve Swenson, who has been with TSR since 2006, starts his fourth season working on the No. 15. Jim O’Hare joined the team in January and will assist with general maintenance duties.
For all five races at Volusia Speedway Park, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. EST, and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for the race weekend can be purchased by calling Volusia Speedway Park at (386) 985-4402. For more information on the event, visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
Looking back at last year’s World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series campaign, it’s pretty remarkable that you ended the season the way you did, considering where you were heading into late July. Does it prove this team can overcome just about anything?
“I wouldn’t say it proved we can overcome anything, but it does show you that if you keep working, you can still accomplish some great things. It started in Florida, actually. We struggled in the All-Star shows but were able to come back and charge through the field the first night and win the second race and were right there for the win the final night. I thought in late July we were looking up from rock bottom, but we got some things turned around a week or two before the Knoxville Nationals and everything just took off from there. We learned a lot last year and we’re looking forward to using a lot of what learned to help us this year.”
You are beginning your 17th season as a full-time member of the World of Outlaws. With all that you have accomplished, are you still approaching every race as a must win?
“I’ve learned a lot of over the years and have been fortunate to win an incredible amount of races and five championships, all while being surrounded by great people. As I’ve gotten older and put more years in this sport, it continues to become more clear that our approach has to be about having fun at what we are doing. You can go out and win every race, but if it’s not fun – I know that’s hard to fathom, but it does happen sometimes – it’s just not worth it. Believe me, we want to win every race and we’re going to do the best we can to do so, but we also know we are fortunate to be associated with a great group of people at Tony Stewart Racing, our sponsors STP, Armor All, Chevrolet Performance, my family, which spends a lot of nights with me at the races, and then all of the fans we’ve become close to over the years. If we can continue to enjoy every night we get to race, I’m pretty confident the results will be there, too.”
Once again, you will be carrying the famous STP brand on your car. How much additional pride does it give you to be part of such a rich racing history with STP?
“STP has been associated with some of the most significant names in motorsports, like Mario Andretti and Richard Petty. To see their involvement in our sport of Sprint car racing and how much they want to have a presence they do is breathtaking. It’s a huge honor for me and to be able to bring them a championship and another Knoxville Nationals victory last year was very rewarding. Seeing their impact in grassroots racing and to work closely with them as they continue to build their brand through on-site activation, special promotions and simply spending time with them is what makes our relationship so strong. I’m so honored to be the driver of the STP car in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series, and I’m excited to help continue growing our relationship and helping grow their brands to their expectations.”
Your title defense starts again at Volusia. What are your immediate goals for the season-opening weekend?
“We’re really excited. We came down to Florida last week to do some testing and the results were as good as could be expected last week. We won Friday night, set fast time and won the feature on Saturday, so it was a good start. Things will be different at Volusia but, when you can come down to Florida and pick up a couple of wins, it does so much for both you as a driver and your team. Those guys spent three months building cars and getting ready. My guys did a great job and I know they are looking forward to getting off to a good start in the Outlaw schedule. Running at Volusia can be tough. You have a really strong field of cars, so qualifying is important. From there, you have to be able to race forward and, in the past, that’s been something we’ve been able to do there. Hopefully, everything will come together and we’ll get our 2013 season started on a high note.”