The goal heading to St. Louis last weekend was to add another coveted trophy to what has been remarkable season for the Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and his Arctic Cat/Ford Performance backed team. The target was the Ironman 55 victory at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Missouri.
Schatz opened the weekend with a strong second-place finish in Friday night’s 35-lap A-Feature event behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance J&J. The current WoO point leader started fourth and was closing in on leader Daryn Pittman 10 laps into the contest when the track began taking rubber. Schatz was forced to get in line around the bottom lane of the 1/3-mile dirt oval and hope Pittman would make a mistake. Pittman would make all the right moves down the stretch to earn his first victory of the season with Schatz capturing his eighth runner-up finish of 2017.
With a podium finish under their belts, the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team returned for Saturday night’s ninth annual Ironman 55 looking to finish one spot higher. He qualified fifth in the field of 37 cars and finished second in the opening heat to secure a spot in the Craftsman Club Dash. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas following the conclusion of the first heat. A steady drizzle never stopped and race officials were forced to postpone the event until later in the season.
“We were all hoping to get to race Saturday night,” said Schatz. “My guys worked really hard Friday to give me a car capable of winning. We had a chance, but the track didn’t allow for things to play out how we had hoped. It’s a tough deal. The Arctic Cat/Ford Performance car felt really good in qualifying and in our heat Saturday and Rick (Warner), Steve (Swenson) and Brad (Mariscotti) had a good plan for the dash. That’s racing sometimes though. We’ll come back and give it another shot later in the year. Now, it’s all about Knoxville.”
Following Friday’s results, Schatz continues to lead the WoO championship standings with 7,600 points. He leads the series in wins with 15, top-fives with 42 and has an 82-point lead over Brad Sweet.
The 55th running of the 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals is next on the schedule for Schatz and TSR’s Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team. The sport’s biggest race begins Wednesday night at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway with the first of two qualifying night programs. Schatz will lead the half the field of more than 100 entrants into action Wednesday for qualifying, heat races and a 25-lap qualifying A-Main looking to earn as many points as possible for positioning in Saturday’s final lineup. The remainder of the field with compete Thursday night and collect points through qualifying, heats and another preliminary A-Main. Schatz has won the event nine times in his illustrious career and is looking to make it 10 wins in the prestigious event in the last 12 years.