The ending of the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series annual West Coast Swing didn’t go as planned for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz. After racing to a top-five finish in Friday night’s opener of the 63rd annual Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California, the driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J charged from 17th and was racing for fourth position on lap 38 when he was involved in accident that ended his run to the front. Damage was too severe for Schatz to continue and he was credited with an 18th-place finish.
Schatz entered the weekend on a roll coming off a dominating victory last Wednesday night at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Oregon. The seven-time and reigning WoO champion also ventured to Silver Dollar Speedway with two consecutive wins at the quarter-mile dirt oval, including the 2015 Gold Cup and 2016 Mini Gold Cup.
He began his quest for a third consecutive Chico victory Friday night as the third driver to make a qualifying lap and he ended up seventh fastest in the first group of qualifiers. Schatz finished third behind Joey Saldana and Daryn Pittman in the opening heat to earn the ninth starting position in the 30-lap A-Feature. The racing surface remained extremely fast all night, making passing for positions difficult. Schatz was patient during the early portion of Friday’s main event and held the 10th position until lap 12. He advanced to eighth on lap 13 and was scored seventh on lap 16. Three laps later, he passed David Gravel for sixth and then turned his focus toward Brad Sweet. With two laps remaining, Schatz passed Sweet coming out of turn four to move into fifth. He closed on Pittman for fourth but ran out of laps to gain the position. It was his 50th top-five finish of the season.
Saturday’s Gold Cup finale began with 37 cars making qualifying laps. Schatz was the 29th car to circle the track against the clock and having a late qualifying position wasn’t advantageous Saturday. He turned the 21st-fastest lap and would start the opening heat sixth. With the track still holding a lot of moisture, the cars made several laps prior to the start trying to run it in. When the race did begin, Schatz moved quickly into fifth place, but that was as far as he could advance as the cars spread out quickly. The finish did transfer him directly into the 40-lap A-Feature.
The two-time and reigning Gold Cup champion had his work cut out for him in the A-Feature and, early on, it was a case of trying to avoid the accidents. The first half of the race was filled with stoppages from contact and spins. He was 15th on lap 17 and up to 13th on lap 21. He first cracked the top-10 on lap 36 before another red flag delayed the action. After crews were allowed to add fuel and make adjustments, Schatz advanced to seventh before another caution slowed the race. On the ensuing restart, Schatz passed Gravel for sixth and, coming out of turn four, pulled even with Jac Haudenschild, who was battling Austin Wheatley for fourth. Schatz went low entering turn one and there was contact between Haudenschild and Schatz, which sent the TSR No. 15 sideways and ultimately into a pair of flips before the machine landed on all four wheels between turns one and two. Schatz wasn’t injured in the accident but his race was done three laps from the finish.
Despite his second DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season, Schatz continues to lead the WoO championship standings and several other categories with 15 races remaining. His 9,447 points are 245 more than Gravel and he is the only driver with double-digit victories this season with 21. Schatz also leads the series with 64 top-10s and 10 KSE Hard Charger Awards.
This week, Schatz and his TSR crew will return to action Wednesday night at El Paso County Raceway in Calhan, Colorado. It’s the first time the Outlaws have competed at the quarter-mile track and Schatz will be looking for his second career Colorado WoO A-Feature victory. In 2003, Schatz was victorious in Colorado at Rocky Mountain National Speedway. Following the inaugural race at El Paso, the team will travel to Clay County Fair Speedway in Spencer, Iowa Friday night for the annual stop at the Northwest Iowa fairgrounds. The week will close with Saturday’s FVP High-Banked Nationals race at U.S. 36 Raceway in Osborn, Missouri where the Outlaws haven’t raced since 2009.