Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz opened his 20th season with the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series last weekend at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, with a pair of scintillating performances and a top-10 finish in the final three nights of the 45th annual DIRTcar Nationals.
Schatz wheeled the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy/Chevrolet Performance J&J from 17th to second in the first 15 laps of Friday’s 30-lap A-Feature and battled side-by-side with leader Daryn Pittman before losing an engine on lap 22. The following night, Schatz raced past Brad Sweet on lap 21 and drove away to score his first WoO triumph of 2016 and 205th of his career. In Sunday’s finale, Schatz was chasing the overall DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator trophy but came up short after racing from 12th to eighth on an extremely fast racing surface.
“We had a good week, learned a lot and have a lot of work to do,” said Schatz, the seven-time and reigning WoO champion. “This Bad Boy/Chevrolet Performance team works extremely hard. We have high expectations. Coming down here and getting to victory lane was important. We had a little bad luck Friday night but, in racing, you’ll have that. It was good to bounce back Saturday and get that first Outlaw win of the season. Not only was it our first win of the season, it was the first Outlaw win for Brad Mariscotti, who joined our team this year. He, along with Rick Warner and Steve Swenson, put in a ton of hours at the shop and really worked hard at the track this week. I’m excited about the season ahead.”
The team opened the DIRTcar Nationals with a runner-up finish last Wednesday competing with the All-Star Circuit of Champions. The following night, Schatz put on a thrilling charge racing from 10th to first in the 30-lap A-Main.
Schatz began his 20th season as a full-time traveler with the Outlaws Friday night at the half-mile, dirt oval. The Fargo, North Dakota racer qualified 17th in the 32-car field and finished fifth the opening heat to transfer directly into the A-Feature. With passing at a premium in the four heats, the dash and Last Chance Showdown, a run from 17th to the top-five would have been considered a successful outcome. Five laps into the 30-lap race, that result looked to be a forgone conclusion as Schatz raced from 17th to sixth. He advanced inside the top-five on lap 13, taking fourth when a caution slowed his charge forward. During the caution, a small amount of smoke was visible out of the right-side header, but the problem didn’t slow Schatz down on the restart and he was second on lap 15 after passing Sweet. He zeroed in on leader Pittman and pulled beside him twice but couldn’t gain the top spot. Schatz felt his machine losing a bit of power but he remained in contention for the victory before the engine let go as he entered turn one on lap 22. The result was his first DNF (Did Not Finish) in 179 races, a streak that dated back to September 2013.
The Bad Boy/Chevrolet Performance team bounced back quickly Saturday night as Schatz timed in second overall in the 30-car field. He finished second in the second heat to earn a spot in the six-lap dash. Following a fifth-place finish in the dash, Schatz started the season’s second 30-lap A-Feature inside of row three. For the second consecutive race, Schatz advanced in the field and reached second on lap 13. He pressured Sweet for the top spot from laps 16 to 20 before a final caution on lap 21. Schatz worked his way past Sweet on the ensuing restart and drove away to score the Saturday-night WoO A-Feature in the DIRTcar Nationals for the third consecutive season. The victory was his eighth career WoO triumph at the track and his 13th overall.
The team looked to conclude the DIRTcar Nationals on a high note Sunday at Volusia and qualified ninth in the 30-car field. He finished third in heat three on a surface that saw lap times continue to get faster as the evening went on. He started 12th in the 30-lap finale and climbed to eighth during the feature, which only had one stoppage.
The 2016 WoO season rolls on with a pair of races in Texas next week. Schatz will make his debut Feb. 26 at the Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas before returning the following night to Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, where he is a two-time winner at the quarter-mile dirt oval.