Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz led the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series into the Midwest over the weekend for the first time in 2015 and came away with three top-10 finishes. The driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J improved his finishing position each night, coming home 10th Friday at the Salina (Okla.) Highbanks, sixth Saturday night at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 near St. Louis, and fourth Sunday night at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana.
The theme of the weekend was charging forward during the A-Feature events. Schatz opened the weekend by qualifying 13th in the field of 27 cars at Salina. The six-time and reigning WoO champion advanced from fifth to third in the opening heat to transfer directly into the 25-lap A-Feature. It took three tries to get the A-Feature started and Schatz would have preferred either of the first two attempts to stand as he moved from 13th to eighth on the first attempt and reached ninth on the second start. After a third try, Schatz was back battling for 13th in the early going and began searching for ways to advance on a surface that quickly became one lane because of rubber. He made two late passes to reach 10th, but ran out of laps to climb any higher.
Following Friday’s run in northeast Oklahoma, the TSR team traveled northeast through Missouri to the St. Louis area for Saturday’s Spring Classic at I-55. Schatz was the 20th car to circle the 1/3-mile, high-banked dirt oval in qualifications and ended up 18th in the field of 33 entrants. He finished fifth in the second heat race and secured his starting position in the 40-lap A-Feature. Schatz rolled out of the 16th spot in the main event and worked his way up to ninth when the race was slowed by a caution at the halfway point. He continued his climb during the next 18 laps, reaching as high as fifth before a late caution cost him one position in the final running order.
An early qualifying draw turned out to be a disadvantage Sunday at Tri-State Speedway, where 38 teams showed up to do battle. Schatz rolled the Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J onto the track seventh, but had to watch the track get faster throughout the session and he ended up 21st. He put on a show in the opening heat, moving from sixth to second in the 10-lap race. It was a sign of things to come for Schatz and the No. 15. In the 40-lap A-Feature, Schatz made his way forward quickly, moving from 20th to 14th and then inside the top-10 by lap 10. He was up to eighth on lap 13 when the race was halted for a multicar accident. His mission continued after the red flag as he drove high, low and through the middle to reach the top-five with 15 laps remaining. After taking fourth from Kraig Kinser, he set his sights on Joey Saldana for third with only a handful of laps to go. Schatz made several attempts to get that third position but had to settle for fourth, earning his second KSE Hard Charger of the race award this season.
Shane Stewart won Friday’s A-Feature at Salina, while Christopher Bell scored the victory Saturday at I-55 to become the 10th different winner through the first 20 WoO races this season. Paul McMahan won Sunday’s thriller at Tri-State and joins Schatz, Stewart, Brad Sweet, Daryn Pittman and Rico Abreu as a repeat winner in 2015.
With his three top-10s, Schatz continues to lead the WoO championship standings. His 2,939 points are 29 more than Stewart through 21 of 88 scheduled races. Schatz also leads the series in wins with six, top-fives with 13, and top-10s with 19.
The 2015 WoO tour continues this weekend with the first of three stops at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Schatz will race in complete programs both Friday and Saturday at the high-banked, half-mile dirt oval.