Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz became the first World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series driver to reach double digits in victories this past weekend with his home state triumph Friday in North Dakota.
The victory at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for the seven-time and reigning WoO champion came on the heels of only his second DNF (did not finish) of the season last Wednesday at Granite City Speedway in Sauk Valley, Minnesota, and was followed by another podium finish Sunday night in the Outlaws’ return to Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Schatz opened last week’s action looking to make it consecutive WoO victories following his triumph at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway on June 11 and his victory in the Outlaws’ debut at Granite City Speedway last June. Unfortunately, the night didn’t go as planned beginning in qualifying where he timed 15th in the 29-car field. Things didn’t get better in the third heat as Schatz finished seventh and was forced to earn his position in the 30-lap A-Feature by racing in the Last Chance Showdown. Schatz started second and led all 12 laps to transfer into the main event. He started 19th and began working his way forward through traffic on the 3/8-mile dirt oval. He had reached 13th on lap 12 when his machine began to slow. On lap 13, he was struck by Jason Johnson coming out of turn four bringing out the caution flag and halting the race. Schatz took his machine to the work area, but the problem with the engine was terminal and he was credited with a 23rd-place finish.
The Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team bounced back like champions Friday night at River Cities Speedway where they won both WoO A-Features in 2015. Schatz timed in 13th in the field of 34 cars around the high-banked, quarter-mile dirt oval and raced his way from fourth to second in the opening heat to secure a spot in the dash. A favorable draw for the dash would have put Schatz on the outside of the front row for the six-lap dash, but a mechanical problem was recognized just after he was pushed off for the race. He returned to the pit area and his crew fixed the problem and he started eighth. He advanced one spot to grab the inside fourth row starting position for the 40-lap A-Feature. Schatz was a man on mission quickly moving up to fifth on the opening lap and then up to fourth following a lap three restart. He was part of terrific three-car battle for second during the next 13 laps before taking position for good on lap 18. Two laps later, he was all over leader Logan Schuchart and made his move for the lead by diving low in turns one and two on lap 21. Schatz would lead the rest of the way to win his third consecutive WoO A-Feature and fourth in his last five races at the track that is just 70 miles from his home in Fargo. It was his 10th victory of the season and 214th of his career.
On Sunday, Schatz led the Outlaws’ back to Brown County Speedway for their first visit to the track since 1985, and he was looking to make it eight consecutive WoO wins in the Dakotas dating back to August of 2014. He was the 24th of 29 cars to make a qualifying lap around the 3/8-mile, high-banked dirt oval and he ended up seventh. He started third in the opening heat and made a valiant effort on the opening lap to get past Daryn Pittman for second, but wasn’t able to hold the spot. Schatz finished third and started the 35-lap A-Feature seventh. He got to fourth on the opening lap, took third from Pittman on lap six and spent the next 20 laps trying to overtake Joey Saldana for second. During the final nine laps, he held the third position as the field spread out and followed Shane Stewart and Saldana to the checkered flag.
With 39 nights of action complete, Schatz leads the series in several categories including wins with 10, top-fives with 26 and top-10s with 36. He has earned 5,386 points and holds an 18-point advantage over Brad Sweet in the season-long championship standings.
The busy June slate of Outlaw action continues with three races this week starting with Wednesday night’s NAPA Auto Parts Outlaw Showdown at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska, where Schatz has finished second each of the previous two seasons. The weekend includes the Outlaws’ return to Jackson (Minn.) Speedway Friday and the annual Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial at Beaver Dam (Wisc.) Raceway Saturday. In 2013, Schatz raced to victory at Jackson before finishing second in 2014 and raced from 10th to win last year’s stop at Beaver Dam.