The sole focus heading into the weekend for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and the Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team was winning the 53rd annual Champion Oil National Open at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Schatz was looking to add to his incredible 2015 World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series campaign stats in what was originally scheduled to be three nights of racing at the famed half-mile dirt oval. Mother Nature forced the program to be reduced to a single night of action Sunday evening, which mathematically locked up a seventh WoO championship for Schatz.
The driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J was informed that he and his team had clinched the championship, contingent upon them signing in prior to qualifying at each of the final six races, but the 19-year WoO veteran was only concerned with the opportunity of capturing a sixth National Open victory. After waiting almost four days to hit the track, Schatz did everything he could in his quest for victory number 31 on the season, but he wasn’t able to catch Stevie Smith during the final laps and finished second for the 16th time this season.
“This was a race we really wanted to win,” said Schatz, the only five-time winner of the prestigious event. “They told us before the race that the championship was mathematically ours. We’ll digest that tomorrow, but tonight was about winning the National Open. These are the races that you only get one crack at a year. Williams Grove has been a really special place for me and the guys on this team for a long time. We had a great shot tonight, but Stevie was really good. He made all the right lines on the racetrack work for him. We got ourselves buried there at the beginning and had to pass those guys one by one without traffic. We got going there about the lap-20 mark, but it was just almost too late. Hats off to this whole Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team. Some days you’re just going to be second-best. Today, we’ll settle for that.”
Schatz came into the weekend with finishes of first, second and second in his previous three races at Williams Grove this season. He qualified fourth in the second group of competitors to earn the outside-front-row starting position in heat four. Schatz dominated the eight-lap race to earn a position in the dash, where he started and finished fifth. At the start of the 40-lap A-Feature, Schatz was immediately challenged for sixth by Greg Hodnett. For 10 laps, the duo battled for position with Schatz ultimately taking the spot on lap 11. The long, green-flag run to start the race helped Schatz advance his way back into contention, going from fifth to third on lap 22 and taking second from Logan Schuchart five laps later. During the next three laps, he tried to maneuver his way through lapped traffic and close the gap on Smith. A caution on lap 31 took Smith out of traffic and, two laps a later, a red flag allowed the teams to add fuel and make adjustments for the final seven laps. Schatz tried several different lines in his efforts to find a way past Smith, but he couldn’t make a winning move and finished second in the National Open for the second straight year and third time in his career.
Capping what has been a remarkable season on tour with “The Greatest Show on Dirt” with a championship provided a positive outlook following the race. Consistency wins championships and the team has been extremely consistent. Sunday’s race was the 173rd consecutive WoO A-Feature that Schatz has completed without a DNF (Did Not Finish), a testament to his Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance crew of Ricky Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman. For each of the past three seasons, Schatz has registered career-best totals in wins – 23 in 2013, 26 in 2014, and 30 in 2015 with six races remaining. Through 70 WoO A-Features completed, Schatz has finished first or second 45 times, inside the top-five 57 times, and has 65 top-10s. Those numbers allowed him to build a 479-point lead over Shane Stewart.
The WoO championship is the second consecutive and seventh overall for Schatz. The championship also puts an exclamation point on TSR’s 15thseason of operation. TSR has now earned 20 owner championships – 14 in USAC and six in the WoO.
The mission to continuing to add more to the WoO history books in 2015 resumes Saturday with the Outlaws’ annual visit to Rolling Wheels Raceway in Elbridge, New York. Schatz has won the WoO A-Feature at Rolling Wheels each of the previous two seasons.