If the opening weekend of the 2014 World of Outlaws (WoO) STP Sprint Car Series is any indication of what’s in store for the rest of the season, it’s going to be a phenomenal year. Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz raced from 11th to score his first victory of the season in Saturday’s portion of the 43rd annual DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and followed that up with a podium finish on Sunday night.
Schatz made a statement racing the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Crimsafe J&J from his 11th starting position to victory in the 30-lap A-Feature. The five-time WoO champion posted the drive of the weekend coming from midpack and taking the lead with seven laps remaining to score his sixth career WoO A-Feature main event at the half-mile, dirt oval and 148th of his career.
“I can’t thank my crew (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman) enough on this STP team,” Schatz said following Saturday’s victory. “We had some issues the first couple of nights trying to find the right balance. Nobody gave up and we just kept working together. I can tell you that was a lot of fun, being to drive through the field. The car was awesome. I could go just about anywhere on the track. That was the key. I always believe getting that first win as quickly as you can really helps. We put one on the board. Now, we just have to keep working and get number two as fast as we can.”
Schatz opened action by competing Thursday at Volusia in a UNOH All-Star Circuit of Champions event and raced from 10th to fourth. The following night, he qualified 21st and earned his spot in the A-Feature by winning the B-Feature. He moved forward throughout the race and finished 12th.
Saturday, Schatz was one of the final cars in the qualifying order and posted a solid lap to rank fifth overall. He finished fifth in the opening heat and started the A-Feature 11th. The Fargo, N.D., racer was on the move early, advancing from 11th to sixth during the first 11 laps of the race. He methodically gained positions as the race reached the middle stages and closed on leaders Daryn Pittman and Cody Darrah with 10 laps remaining. He took the lead on lap 23 and pulled away to take the win.
Sunday’s finale began with Schatz timing in ninth before he won the opening heat race. He finished third in the dash, respectively, and started the 30-lap finale next to Steve Kinser in row two. The teammates would battle during the opening lap before Kinser surged ahead and passed Paul McMahan for second. Schatz remained in the mix throughout the race by tracking both Kinser and Pittman. He closed on Pittman several times but couldn’t make a pass for the runner-up spot. He finished third to give him consecutive podium finishes to close out the event.
Schatz will return home this week before starting a six-week western tour in Las Vegas with the FVP Outlaw Showdown March 5 and 6.