It was a North Dakota tripleheader for Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz and the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team as the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series completed the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour Duel in the Dakotas with three races in three nights.
The eight-time WoO champion and North Dakota resident tallied another WoO A-Feature triumph Friday at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J and followed that with a fifth-place finish Saturday at Red River Valley Speedway in Fargo and a runner-up finish Sunday at Nodak Speedway in his hometown of Minot.
“It was a good weekend for the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team,” Schatz said. “Any time I can race in North Dakota, it’s a good thing. I’ve been able to chase my dream for the past 21 years and it’s pretty rewarding to be able to do that in front of friends and family that were there when I started doing this. I have to thank Tony (Stewart) and everyone at TSR for giving me the chance to do this. The weekend started off really well for us in Grand Forks. Any time you can win a World of Outlaws race, you know you’ve earned it. We started fifth, were able to run down Brad (Sweet) and get the win. The circumstances weren’t quite as good in Fargo Saturday and we just did the best we could and last night in Minot, we were good, just not good enough. All in all, it was a decent weekend and we’ll spend the next couple of days trying to figure out how to be better in Rapid City and Billings this weekend.”
Schatz led the Outlaws back into action on the heels of his 10th Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals triumph last week and winner of four of the previous five WoO A-Features at River Cities. He was the 14th of 39 cars to make a qualifying lap around the high-banked, quarter-mile dirt oval and ended up fourth in the first group. He raced to victory in the second heat before finishing fifth in the Craftsman Club Dash. In the 40-lap A-Feature, Schatz held fourth during the early going before making his way past Sheldon Haudenschild for second on lap 10. He closed in on leader Brad Sweet and the two raced side by side for several laps before Schatz took the lead on lap 16. A caution slowed the action two laps later and Sweet was able to regain the lead following a lap 18 restart. Schatz got the lead back on the next circuit and was in control during the second half of the race to score his 17th WoO victory of the season.
Saturday marked the return of the Outlaws to Red River Valley Speedway for the first time in five years. The race was originally scheduled for June, but was forced to be postponed because of rain. Bright sunshine and strong winds welcomed the teams back to the 3/8-mile, dirt oval where track conditions were different than most expected, making things slightly more challenging. Schatz went out second in the field of 31 competitors to qualify and he ended up 10th overall. He finished third in the opening heat to earn the seventh position on the grid for the 30-lap A-Feature. In the main, the cars were locked down on the heavy surface and Schatz was only able to advance two positions and was scored fifth at the finish.
The weekend concluded with the Outlaws annual August race at Nodak Speedway. Schatz had won the previous five A-Features at the 3/8-mile, dirt oval and started his quest for a sixth consecutive victory by qualifying third in the field of 30. He won the third heat and finished second to David Gravel in the Craftsman Club Dash. Gravel and Sweet got the jump on Schatz at the start of the 35-lap A-Feature. The track was watered prior to the race and it took approximately 15 laps for the racing surface to widen out. By lap 20, the leaders were dicing their way through heavy traffic and Schatz was zeroing in on both Gravel and Sweet. Unfortunately, a caution on lap 24 took the leaders out of lapped traffic and gave Gravel an open track. Schatz passed Sweet on lap 33 for second and closed the gap on Gravel, but couldn’t catch him in time to make a run at the lead.
With the results of the weekend, Schatz was able to extend his lead in the 2017 WoO championship standings over Sweet to 94 points. Through 62 of 92 scheduled races complete, Schatz leads the series with 17 WoO A-Feature victories with 46 top-five finishes.
The run toward the West Coast continues for the Outlaws as they will travel to South Dakota and Montana next weekend. Schatz and the TSR team will lead the Outlaws back to Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota Friday and Billings Motorplex Saturday. Schatz has made laps about both facilities in the past and is a three-time winner in Rapid City, scoring wins in 2006, 2007 and 2011.