Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz and the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team led the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series back to Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota and Billings (Mont.) Motorsports Park last weekend as the Outlaws continued their second run of the 2017 campaign toward the West Coast. Schatz posted a pair of consistent finishes in the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J, finishing fourth Friday night in Rapid City and third Saturday in Billings.
The weekend provided the eight-time and reigning WoO champion the opportunity to return to a pair of dirt ovals where the series hadn’t been in quite some time. Schatz was victorious at Black Hills in 2006, 2007 and 2011 – the latter event the most recent stop by “The Greatest Show on Dirt” – and he hadn’t raced in Billings since 2005.
“I really enjoyed having the chance to get back to Rapid City and Billings this weekend,” Schatz said. “We were battling some things that probably kept us from being up there racing with Shane (Stewart) and Daryn (Pittman) for wins, but we’re always trying to make things better. It’s a team effort and Rick (Warner), Scuba (Steve Swenson) and Brad (Mariscotti) are the hardest-working guys I’ve been surrounded by. We got to race in front of some fans who haven’t had the chance to see us in a while and that’s a good thing. Hopefully, it won’t be as long between races at those places and we’ll be back soon. Now, it’s on to Skagit and the West Coast for a few weeks.”
First up was the Outlaw Rushmore Showdown at Black Hills Speedway. It was the Outlaws’ 14th appearance at the track and first since June 2011. Schatz was the 12th of 25 drivers to circle the half-mile dirt oval and his time of 15.032 seconds was fifth overall. He led the second heat race from start to finish and transferred into the Craftsman Club Dash, in which he finished fourth. In the 25-lap A-Feature, Schatz took third from Jason Johnson early and then battled Shane Stewart for second on laps five and six. Stewart would take the position and then drive by leader Brad Sweet on lap eight. Schatz chased both Stewart and Sweet for most of the race. Sheldon Haudenschild made a late surge and passed Schatz for third with six laps remaining and took second from Sweet two laps later. Stewart would hold off the late charge by Haudenschild to secure his fifth win of the season. Schatz followed Sweet to the finish to earn his 47th top-five of the season.
On Saturday, the goal for Schatz was to make Billings Motorsports Park the 82nd different track where he has scored a WoO A-Feature triumph. In August 2005, he looked to be on his way toward a Billings WoO win as he led a good part of the A-Feature before surrendering the lead because of a mechanical failure. He was the 16th of 22 drivers to make a qualifying lap around the 3/8-mile, dirt oval Saturday night and he ended up fourth on the grid. Schatz chased fast qualifier Jason Johnson to the finish in heat one and both drivers made it into the dash. Stewart and Johnson finished ahead of Schatz in the six-lap dash that set the first six positions in the lineup for the 35-lap A-Feature. Stewart jumped out to the lead in the early going and Schatz took second from Johnson before Daryn Pittman went around him on lap six. Schatz battled with Sweet for a majority of the race as the two swapped third place. Ultimately, Schatz got back by Sweet for third on lap 24. Pittman would win his second WoO A-Feature of the year ahead Stewart and Schatz.
The results of the weekend kept Schatz on top in the 2017 WoO championship standings. He now has 8,412 points and leads Sweet by 94 markers with 64 of the 92 scheduled races complete. Schatz continues to lead the series in wins with 17 and top-fives with 48.
The Outlaws’ annual Labor Day weekend of races in the Seattle area is up next. The two-night Outlaw Energy Showdown at Skagit Speedway Friday and Saturday in Alger, Washington will be followed by Monday night’s race at Grays Harbor Raceway Park in Elma, Washington. Schatz scored the Outlaw Energy Showdown finale victory in 2013 and swept both races at Skagit in 2014. He has won the last three WoO stops at Elma, including the 2015 triumph that was his 200th career WoO A-Feature win.