There is no question that competing with the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series can be one of the most challenging tasks in all of motorsports. Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and the TSR Textron/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb team proved their toughness by overcoming adversity early Friday night and putting an exclamation point on the Wine Country Outlaw Showdown Saturday night at Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway.
After being forced to use a backup car in Friday’s A-Feature, Schatz raced the TSR No. 15 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J from the back of the field to finish fourth in the 25-lap race and the team came back Saturday with solid night from start to finish to score its 18th victory of the season.
“You have to battle through adversity,” through aid following his fifth career WoO A-Feature win at Calistoga. “We started the weekend with a problem that put us behind, but my Arctic Cat guys never stopped working and here we are. It’s good to get back to victory lane after one of those nights where you don’t know if it’s a nightmare or a freak show. I’m happy to be standing here tonight closing out the West Coast with a win. My guys have a long couple of days of traveling. I’m hoping this helps a little bit with that. I know we’re looking forward to getting back at it Friday night at Eldora.”
The eight-time and reigning WoO champion was slated to open Friday night’s race as the final driver to make a qualifying lap in the field of 27 entrants. When the motor would not run following attempts to get heat in the engine, the team began looking for the culprit. After changing several components, the engine still wouldn’t run and Schatz wasn’t able to make a qualifying lap. The team changed engines and Schatz started the second heat from the eighth position. After three laps, he pulled in as the car continued to stumble. The team went to a backup car for the 12-lap Last Chance Showdown and Schatz came from the back to finish fourth and transfer into the 25-lap A-Feature. In the main event, he was on a mission, coming from the 22nd-starting position. He cracked the top-10 on lap five, raced in ninth position from laps 10 to 15 and reached sixth on lap 18. He exchanged fifth with Shane Stewart on lap 21 and held the position the final three laps. After the race, runner-up Rico Abreu’s car was light on the scales and disqualified, moving Schatz up to fourth.
Things got off to a much smoother start Saturday when Schatz was able to hot lap and make a qualifying lap around the picturesque, half-mile dirt oval. He turned the 12th-best lap in the field of 28 cars during qualifying and started the third heat in the fourth position. He raced past David Gravel in the heat to finish second and transfer in the Craftsman Club Dash. In the six-lap dash, Schatz charged from sixth to third and followed Brad Sweet and Shane Stewart to the finish. In the 30-lap A-Feature, Sweet set the early pace with Stewart in tow. Schatz battled Daryn Pittman for third early before controlling the position through lap 10. A caution on lap 11 slowed the action and Stewart came to a stop with a flat right-rear tire. Schatz restarted in second behind Sweet and spent the next dozen laps working the track, looking for ways to reel in Sweet. Schatz overtook Sweet in lapped traffic for the lead on lap 25 and held the top spot during the final five laps to score his 247th career WoO A-Feature triumph.
With the results of the weekend, Schatz continues to lead the 2017 WoO championship standings over Sweet by 88 points. Through 72 of 92 scheduled races, Schatz tops the series with 18 WoO A-Feature victories with 53 top-five finishes, and his 61 top-10s are tied for most with Sweet.
The team will travel to TSR’s race shop in Indiana and prepare for a weekend doubleheader starting Friday at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Schatz and the Outlaws will follow Friday night’s race at “The Big E” with Saturday’s race at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania. Schatz returns as the most recent winner at both tracks after winning the Kings Royal and Don Martin Silver Cup in July.