Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team wrapped up the 2017 World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series annual California Spring Tour with a pair of top-four finishes this past weekend. Schatz drove the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J from 21st to third Friday night at Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford and finished fourth in Saturday night’s SoCal Showdown at Perris Auto Speedway in Lake Perris.
The results continued an impressive beginning to the season for Schatz and his TSR crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti. Schatz returned to Keller Auto Speedway Friday looking to capture his second career victory at the 3/8-mile, dirt oval. After qualifying 17th in the field of 33 cars and finishing sixth in the opening heat, Schatz won the 12-lap Last Chance Showdown to earn the 21st starting position in the 35-lap A-Feature. The eight-time and reigning WoO champion started the main event on the inside of row 11 and climbed his way up to 15th on lap five. He reached the top-10 on lap eight and two laps later was in seventh. The race was slowed by numerous cautions and restarts were a factor midway through the race. Schatz was making the cushion work but twice was forced to restart on the bottom groove, slowing his march to the front. He bounced from seventh to ninth and back to seventh between laps 12 and 16 before cracking the top-five on lap 26, when he posted his fastest lap of the race. Schatz took third two laps later and spent the final seven laps of the race trying to track down leaders Ian Madsen and Logan Schuchart. He closed the gap on the final two circuits but wasn’t able to make a bid for the lead. Schuchart took the win over Madsen and Schatz followed them across the stripe for his eighth podium finish of the season.
Saturday’s annual stop in Southern California provided Schatz with another opportunity to improve on his best career finish at Perris Auto Speedway. Schatz was the 25th of 26 cars to make his qualifying laps around the half-mile, dirt oval. With a deteriorating surface, Schatz posted a solid lap of 14.654 seconds, which was seventh overall. He finished third in the opening heat race to transfer into the A-Feature. Schatz started inside of row four in the 30-lap feature and searched the track during the first five laps. He took over fifth on lap six and passed Madsen for fourth on lap 11. Unfortunately, two laps later the racing surface locked down with rubber, making passing all but impossible. Schatz stayed in line behind leaders David Gravel, Brad Sweet and Sheldon Haudenschild hoping one of them would get out of line, but that opportunity never came up. The fourth-place finish was his ninth top-five finish of the season through 12 races.
• With his charge from 21st to third Friday, Schatz continued his trend of advancing double-digit positions at Keller Auto Speedway. In 2014, he started 18th and finished fifth and, the following spring, he raced from 16th to fourth.
- Saturday’s finish at Perris was the third consecutive top-five finish for Schatz at the track and fourth in his last five starts there.
- In five of the six California races this season, Schatz advanced in the A-Feature following a trend in 2017 in which he finished in a better position than he started in 11 of the first 12 races this season.
- Schatz maintains a 70-point lead over Gravel in the 2017 WoO championship standings through the first dozen of the 92 scheduled nights of racing.
With California in the rearview mirror, Schatz and the TSR team continue the Outlaws’ 40th season of competition with a pair of races in Arizona this weekend. First up is the Outlaws’ debut at Cocopah Speedway in Yuma Friday night for the Yuma Valley Showdown. The Arizona Desert Shootout Saturday will be the Outlaw’s second-ever appearance at Arizona Speedway near Phoenix. Last March, Schatz finished fourth in the Outlaws’ inaugural event at the 1/3-mile dirt oval.