INDIANAPOLIS (March 2, 2016) –Donny Schatz is no stranger to rolling up big numbers. And there is no better place to have a big number come up than Las Vegas. The pilot of the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) No 15 Bad Boy/Chevrolet Performance J&J is the all-time winningest driver at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of the the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series FVP Outlaw Showdown Thursday and Friday.
Through the first 19 years of his career with the Outlaws, Schatz has found a way to stand out when the lights are the brightest and the stakes are the highest. Success in Las Vegas has been the rule rather than the exception for the seven-time and reigning WoO champion, who will be chasing his 82nd victory since the start of the 2013 season Thursday night. He has eight career wins at The Dirt Track and is the only driver to compete in all 51 WoO races – 33 A-Features and 18 preliminary programs – since the series made its debut at the Las Vegas track in November 1996.
It was evident early in his career that Las Vegas would be a special place for the North Dakota native, and he has cashed in big at the high-speed, semi-banked dirt oval. His first triumph concluded the 1999 Outlaw campaign and it was an impressive showing as Schatz tamed an incredibly rough surface to close out his third season with “The Greatest Show on Dirt” with an emotional win.
He wired the field to close the 2004 WoO campaign, as well, and came back in March 2005 to capture his third triumph. In March 2006, he made it three consecutive seasons with a victory in Las Vegas and, seven months later, he put an exclamation point on his first Outlaw championship by winning the season finale at The Dirt Track. Following the series’ two-year Vegas hiatus, Schatz led the Outlaws back to the track in February 2009 and, once again, the No. 15 was parked in victory lane. Early season Las Vegas wins in 2013 and 2014 began record win campaigns for Schatz and are part of his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes there that has reached 16 entering Thursday’s race.
Following the two nights of action in Las Vegas, Schatz and the Outlaws will make their first trip to the Phoenix area since 2009, when they take on the 1/3-mile, high-banked dirt oval at Arizona Speedway in Queen Creek. Twice last season, Schatz came out victorious in first-time Outlaw races at facilities and he also won at two others tracks where he was racing for the first time. He’ll be looking to score his fifth career WoO A-Feature triumph in the state of Arizona Sunday.
The TSR team has traveled west looking to match the incredible success it experienced during last year’s early portion of the schedule. The strong start resulted in a record 31 victories for Schatz in 2015 en route to his seventh WoO title – the new standard Schatz and his team of crew chief Rick Warner, car chief Steve Swenson and mechanic Brad Mariscotti are focused on eclipsing in 2016.
With five of the 91 nights of action slated for the 2016 WoO season in the books, Schatz has earned a victory, three top-five finishes and four top-10s and is currently fourth with 628 points, 59 behind leader Brad Sweet.
For both programs at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. PST and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. For tickets, visit www.lvms.com or call the track at (702) 644-4444.
On Sunday at Arizona Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. MST and the grandstands open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. For tickets, visitwww.WorldofOutlaws.com or call (844)-347-8849.
Race fans unable to attend this week’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Craftsman Sprint Car Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
The season is only five races old. Does that give you enough information to gauge whether or not you are where you need to be this early in the campaign?
“We know we’ve only raced five nights, but we have high expectations. The fact that we aren’t sitting here with five wins has us all digging to get better. It’s early in the year. The tracks have had a lot of moisture. That changes the dynamic a little bit and we’ve been working on quite a few things to get ourselves better, as well. We just have to keep plugging away. I know my guys are really working hard to find ways to make me faster. We are looking forward to a busy stretch of racing in March and seeing how much more we can learn. We are out here to win races and that’s what we really want to do this weekend in Las Vegas and Arizona.”
Your success at The Dirt Track is remarkable. Why have you guys been so good in Las Vegas?
“Well, I’ve always said that you are only as good as your last race. We didn’t win there last year in two tries, so we have to find a way to get back to victory lane. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by some great people throughout my career and that’s the biggest reason we’ve had the results we’ve had at places like Las Vegas. It started with that first win in 1999 and, since the end of the 2000 season, we’ve been working with a package that we’ve just kept fine-tuning on. I’ve always liked the big tracks. You can carry a lot of momentum and the track typically will get slicker as the race goes on. That puts it back on the driver and that’s where I like it. I know Rick, Scuba and Brad work hard to give me a car that’s going to be there at the end of the race and it’s up to me to complete the mission. This team thrives on being at our best at the end of the night. We love the challenge and things have worked out really well over the years in Las Vegas. It’s really important for us to get a win on Thursday night.”
After two nights at a track where you’ve raced more than 50 times, you’ll head to Arizona and complete on a dirt track where you’ve never raced. How big of a challenge is that?
“We enjoy going to new track because, most of the time, experience will prevail. We’ve raced close to 100 times a year for the last 20 years at tracks all across the country. You have to use that to your advantage. When we get there, we take a look at the shape. We look at the characteristics of the dirt and then try to come up with a game plan. The game plan starts with trying to compare it to another track we’ve raced at and see how things go in hot laps. From there, you just have to pay attention to the track and be prepared for how it may change.”