Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz battled his way to a pair of top-four finishes this weekend as the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series competed in Ohio and Michigan. Schatz was in contention for his third consecutive victory at Fremont (Ohio) Speedway Friday night before finishing second. He and his Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team were forced to wait an extra 24 hours in Michigan when rain interrupted their annual “Rumble in Michigan” at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa Saturday. Mother Nature was still a factor Sunday when Schatz stormed the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J from 10th up to fourth before the race was called after 17 laps.
Schatz returned to Fremont Speedway as the most recent winner at the 1/3-mile dirt oval. He raced from sixth to first in 2013 and 11th to first in 2014. He was the 38th of 42 drivers to make a qualifying lap and was one of only a few drivers to crack the top-10 late in the session. He qualified sixth and started third in heat four. Schatz raced his way into the dash by passing Daryn Pittman and finishing second. In the six-lap dash, Schatz raced from eighth to fifth to improve his starting position in the 40-lap A-Feature. Front-row starters David Gravel and Chad Kemenah set the early pace while Schatz climbed to third 10 laps into the race. He made several bids to get past Kemenah for second, constantly trying to make other lines work. He tried the middle in turns three and four, went high in one and two, searching for ways to continue his charge. He passed Kemenah for second on a lap-20 restart, but the move was nullified when a caution came out before the lap was complete. On lap 33, he moved past Gravel for second and spent the final six laps trying everything he could to catch Kemenah. He was able to close to his bumper on a couple of occasions but couldn’t overtake him.
For the 10th consecutive season, the Outlaws’ returned to Western Michigan to compete at I-96 Speedway. And once again, Mother Nature was part of the equation. Rain showers that interrupted hot laps ended up causing WoO officials to postpone the event 24 hours. Schatz, who won for the first time at I-96 in June 2014 and finished second in 2015, was the seventh car to make a qualifying lap and ended up seventh in the field of 28 cars. A surface with “track-record speeds” during the heat races provided little passing and Schatz finished fourth to earn the 10th-starting position in the 35-lap A-Feature. In the main event, Schatz started outside row five and raced to ninth, then held the spot during the opening three laps. He passed Daryn Pittman for eighth on lap four and held the spot until a lap-eight caution. On the ensuing restart, Schatz moved from eighth to fifth and continued his pursuit of the leaders. He passed James McFadden for fourth on lap 15 and was closing in on the top three of Gravel, Shane Stewart and Brad Sweet. As the trio in front of him worked through traffic, Schatz was gaining momentum as the race approached the midway point. McFadden got upside-down on lap 17 to halt the race one lap shy of the halfway point. Once the accident was cleared from the track, the cars began to line back up. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall began and forced the cars back to the pit area. After 10 minutes of rain, WoO officials called the race official despite the fact it hadn’t reached halfway. Gravel was scored the winner and Schatz was credited with a fourth-place finish.
Through 33 races, Schatz continues to lead the series in wins with seven, top-10s with 31 and KSE Hard Charger Awards with seven. He has accumulated 4,542 points and trails Sweet by 13 in the championship standings.
The schedule continues with Wednesday night’s return to Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. It will be the Outlaws’ first race at the 3/8-mile dirt oval since 1988 and marks the first time Schatz has competed at the track. Following Wednesday’s final 2016 WoO stop in the Hoosier State, Schatz will lead the Outlaws to historic Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway for a weekend doubleheader.
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