Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz returned to victory lane Saturday and established a track record Monday night as he and the Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team continue their quest for the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series 2017 championship. Schatz raced to his 19th WoO victory of the season, and 22nd overall, aboard the TSR No. 15 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J at Port Royal Speedway Saturday before finishing fourth Monday night at Ransomville (N.Y.) Speedway.
“We need to get these wins,” Schatz said following his 248th career WoO A-Feature triumph and second career win at Port. “It seems like it’s been a while. I have to thank my guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti) for giving me a really good car. The Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance car was really good. We just had to run our own race there for the first part and be good at the end. That was the case tonight. It’s good to get a win here in Central Pennsylvania. These guys are really tough and, with the season coming to an end, we’ve got to get as many of these wins as we can.”
The weekend opened with Saturday’s Nittany Showdown at Port Royal, where Schatz qualified second in Group B. He dominated the fourth heat race from the pole position to grab a spot in the Craftsman Club Dash. He started third in the six-lap dash and finished behind 2017 Port Royal track champion Brock Zearfoss and fellow Outlaw Jason Sides. In the 30-lap A-Feature, Zearfoss set the early pace while Sides and Schatz battled for second. Schatz took the position on lap three and continued working his way around the half-mile, dirt oval. He closed on the leader once they began working lapped traffic until a caution slowed the action on lap 14. Schatz restarted outside of Zearfoss and pressured the youngster over the next three laps before taking the lead midway through lap 17. The eight-time and reigning WoO champion set the pace for the next 10 laps before another caution on lap 28. On the final restart, he was followed closely by Lance Dewease, winner of the recent Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned Tuscarora 50 at Port. Schatz led the field back to green and Dewease took his shot with a slide job in turns one and two, but Schatz carried enough momentum to maintain the lead and he won by 0.792 seconds.
The victory was his 29th career WoO victory in the state of Pennsylvania, the most of any states, and his first at the track since the fall of 2004.
After Sunday’s Empire State Challenge at Weedsport Speedway was washed out by rain for the second time this season, Schatz and the TSR team returned to Ransomville for Monday’s Big “R” Outlaw Shootout, a race that was originally scheduled for July 23. It was the Outlaws’ first race at the half-mile, dirt oval near Niagara Falls since 1997, when Schatz was a rookie. The 20-year absence didn’t seem to slow down Schatz, who paced the 32-car field in qualifying by establishing a track record of 12.629 seconds. The previous record was 14.360 set by Mark Kinser in 1997. Schatz finished second to Tim Shaffer in the opening heat and fifth in the Craftsman Club Dash. In the 30-lap A-Feature, Schatz held sixth for the first 24 laps before overtaking Kraig Kinser on lap 25. On the final lap, David Gravel blew a right-rear tire and Schatz was able to get by him and finished fourth.
Shaffer led all 30 laps to pick up his second WoO A-Feature victory of the season ahead of Brad Sweet and Shane Stewart.
Only six races remain in the 2017 WoO season and Schatz continues to lead the championship standings. He holds a 162-point advantage over Sweet and leads all drivers in series wins with 19, in top-fives with 62 and in top-10s with 70.
The Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb team return to the Heartland for a pair of races this weekend. First up is Friday’s FVP Racing Platinum Battery Showdown at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The weekend concludes with the Twister Showdown at the Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway.