It was a busy weekend in Texas for Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team with three nights of World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series action. The high point of the weekend came Thursday night with Schatz driving the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J to a fourth-place finish in the Outlaws’ debut at the Gator Motorplex in Willis. Schatz was joined by his TSR teammate Tony Stewart for the two-night Texas Outlaw Nationals at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, where Schatz finished 16th and 10th.
Schatz led the Outlaws to Gator Motorplex Thursday for an event originally scheduled for March 4. Rain forced series officials to push the Outlaws’ first event at the 1/3-mile dirt oval located an hour north of Houston. Schatz was the first car to attack the high-banked dirt oval and his qualifying lap of 11.517 seconds topped the grid through the first 12 of 28 competitors before Brad Sweet was able to circle the track in 11.479 seconds to grab the fast qualifier award. Schatz dominated the second heat and advanced from fifth to fourth in the Craftsman Club Dash to earn the fourth starting spot in the 40-lap A-Feature. Jason Sides led the field to the green flag in the A-Feature and set the pace for the first 13 laps. Schatz was involved in a terrific three-car battle for second with Kasey Kahne and Paul McMahan. Several accidents slowed the action and, following each restart, Schatz would look to improve his position. McMahan took the lead from Sides and later would be overtaken by David Gravel. Schatz and Sides exchanged third late in the race with Sides ultimately following Gravel and McMahan across the finish with Schatz in tow.
Following a three-hour trek north to the Dallas area, Schatz and the TSR team spent Friday preparing for two nights of action at historic Devil’s Bowl Speedway. Stewart made his first trip to the half-mile, dirt oval and was the sixth car in the 29-car field to make a qualifying lap. His time of 14.519 seconds ranked 17th while Schatz made a lap of 14.308. The track surface remained moist throughout the evening, making passing extremely difficult. Schatz started and finished fourth in heat one while Stewart started sixth and finished seventh in heat two. Stewart finished second in the Last Chance Showdown and started the 25-lap A-Feature 20th. Schatz started on the outside of row five but he had to take evasive action on the opening lap entering turns one and two. His machine was on two wheels in the middle of the turns and, by the time he was able to recover, a dozen drivers rolled past him. The eight-time and reigning WoO champion regrouped and worked his way to the back bumper of Stewart as the two raced for 18th on lap five. Stewart gave up the 16th position on lap 11 when he slowed because of mechanical failure. Schatz would battle McMahan and Gravel throughout the remaining 15 laps and was credited with a 16th-place finish.
Saturday’s Texas Outlaw Nationals finale included the $20,000-to-win Ted Johnson Memorial race and 26 cars were on hand to chase the coveted victory. Stewart was the 11th car to make a qualifying lap and his time of 14.043 seconds was 20th overall. Schatz went out 19th and his lap of 13.930 seconds was 14th overall. Both TSR drivers were in heat two with Schatz starting fifth and finishing fifth and Stewart starting seventh and finishing eighth. Stewart chased Logan Schuchart for the win in the 12-lap Last Chance Showdown to transfer to the 30-lap A-Feature. For the second consecutive night, the track was extremely fast. Schatz was able to advance from 14th to finish 10th and Stewart came home 22nd.
• The qualifying result of second Thursday at Gator Motorplex was the second best of the season for Schatz. He earned his only fast qualifier award March 3 at LoneStar Speedway in Kilgore, Texas. He has qualified inside the top-three six times in 2017.
- With the fourth- and 10th-place finishes, Schatz is tied for most top-fives with 11 and top-10s with 14.
- Schatz holds a 44-point lead over Gravel in the 2017 WoO championship standings through 17 of the 92 scheduled nights of racing.
The Outlaws’ journey back across the United States continues this week for the TSR team with a pair of races in Middle America. First up is Friday’s return to Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Arkansas. The Outlaws last raced at “The Ditch” in April 2009. Schatz has made three career starts at the track, including a flag-to-flag triumph during his first season driving for TSR in July of 2008. The second half of the weekend doubleheader will be at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Missouri. Schatz is a two-time winner at the high-banked dirt oval located just south of St. Louis.