Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz returned home for a North Dakota doubleheader last weekend as the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series kicked off the first leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour Duel in the Dakotas. The eight-time and reigning WoO champion and TSR’s Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team were looking to continue their recent run of success, but found their fiercest competition to be Mother Nature.
Friday’s opener at River Cities Speedway (RCS) in Grand Forks was able to be completed late Friday night after a heavy rain shower stopped action four laps into the 40-lap A-Feature. Schatz finished third in the race to extend his streak of consecutive podium finishes at the high-banked, 3/10-mile dirt oval to eight. Unfortunately, the Outlaws return to Red River Valley Speedway in Fargo on Saturday was postponed after heavy rains hit the track prior to the event and was rescheduled for August 19.
“It was great to be home for the week, but Mother Nature wasn’t on our side this time,” Schatz said. “The fans really support Sprint car racing up here and we wanted to put on a couple of good shows for them, but sometimes you can’t control the outcome. I know the TSR guys came up here with some high expectations and Friday night started in the right direction. We qualified in a good spot and the race was just getting started when the rains came. I commend the track workers for getting it back to where we could race. They had an incredible crowd and so many of them stayed until the end. We’re looking forward to coming back in August and seeing if we can do a little better.”
After scoring their 10th WoO win of the season the previous weekend and finishing fifth last Tuesday in the Eagle Nationals, Schatz and the TSR team came out of the box fast Friday night in the Outlaws 20th appearance at RCS when he turned the second fastest lap in qualifying aboard the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J. Schatz and Jason Johnson were the only two drivers in the field of 38 competitors to turn laps under the 10-second barrier. Schatz raced to victory in the second heat to transfer into the Craftsman Club Dash. In the six-lap Dash, Schatz started sixth and finished in the same position to earn a third row starting position for the 40-lap A-Feature. When the green flag fell, Schatz was on the move quickly overtaking Kraig Kinser for fifth. Two laps into the race, he passed Joey Saldana for fourth and began working on Kerry Madsen for third. The action came to a halt following lap four when leader Jacob Allen drove over the edge of turn four and flipped to bring out a red flag. While the cars were lining up for the restart, rain started to fall and the drivers continued circling the track hoping to save the track, but a heavier shower started and the cars were forced to return to the pit area. Following a three-hour delay, the race resumed on an extremely fast racing surface where lap times were close to that in qualifying. David Gravel and Madsen exchanged the top spot once, but for the most part the final 36 laps were a parade as the cars all ran the same line. Three caution flags took the leaders out of lapped traffic and Schatz wasn’t able to make a move on the top two. He finished third for the fourth time this season.
The TSR team returned to Fargo following the races and turned their focus toward Saturday’s event at Red River Valley Speedway. Schatz charged from 11th to fourth in June of 2012 during the Outlaws’ most recent event at the 3/8-mile dirt oval and he was looking challenge for his fifth career WoO triumph at the track. Heavy rains soaked the facility just after 4 p.m. and with the forecast calling for continued rain showers throughout the evening, SLS Promotions and WoO officials determined the event would be rescheduled for August when the Outlaws return to North Dakota.
With 36 of 92 scheduled races complete, Schatz continues to lead the championship standings over Gravel by 76 points. He is the only driver with 10, and he leads all drivers with 28 top-five finishes.
The Upper Midwest run for the Outlaws continues this week with a three events. Schatz and the TSR team resume their quest for a WoO championship Tuesday when the Outlaws make their third appearance at Granite City Speedway in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. Two years ago, Schatz raced past Shane Stewart with three laps remaining to become the first WoO winner at the track. Friday marks the Outlaws’ debut at West Liberty (Iowa) Raceway. Schatz made laps around the half-mile, dirt oval last season while competing with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series. The week of action concludes with Saturday’s Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial Race at Beaver Dam Raceway in Wisconsin. Schatz won the event in 2015 and also scored an Outlaw triumph at the track in 2002.