By Tony Veneziano | Paul Arch Photo
MINOT, N.D. — June 14, 2018 — Even after 20-plus years on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series tour, Donny Schatz still circles all of the dates in his home state of North Dakota on his calendar each season. Again in 2018, the nine-time and defending series champion will lead the series into his home state on two separate occasions.
The first of those is this weekend as the Outlaws invade River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks on Friday, June 15 for the 1st Leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour. The series then heads to Schatz’s hometown of Minot on Sunday, June 17 for the Gerdau Recycling Magic City Showdown Presented by Schatz Crossroad and Fastlane Car Wash, which serves as the Grand Finale of Minot’s Ribfest.
“You always look forward to getting to race close to home,” said Schatz. “You get to sleep in your own bed. See all the local fans, friendly and family. It’s the highlight of the year for me. I can’t wait. We are pretty lucky that we get to go home twice. We race there in June and August.”
When quizzed about all of his past success in his home state, Schatz defers credit to the Tony Stewart Racing team for whom he drivers, led by crew chief Ricky Warner, along with Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti. Schatz has won at each and every track in North Dakota that the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series have raced at over the years.
“Being close to home helps a person’s confidence,” he noted. “I think a lot of it has to do with this race team. They unload every night with a solid race car. That place has been very good to us. Once you start winning at a place, you can start playing around and learning little things. We’ve learned a lot of little things over the years. Hopefully, we can make something work that we haven’t before and learn even more.”
Schatz leads all drivers at River Cities Speedway with nine wins in World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series competition. He was victorious at the track last August and has won six of the last eight races contested by the series at the high-banked three-tenths-mile. Schatz has finished in the top-10 in all previous 21 races for the Outlaws at River Cities Speedway.
“From a driver’s perspective, I think you look at a place where you have a track surface that has two or three grooves and you can pass cars and it’s one of those places that is like that,” explained Schatz. “You can run across the top and turn down and there is a bottom. It always gives a guy an opportunity to go where the car in front of you isn’t and be able to pass. There are very few places that have that much room to move around on the race track. I think that’s probably the biggest key, because there are so many grooves and you can move around on the race track.”
Schatz began attending races at Nodak Speedway as a child and his family’s business, Schatz Crossroads Truck Stop, has been a big supporter of the track over the years. The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series made their debut at the three-eighths-mile in 2006 and has raced at the track in 11 of the last 12 years.
“It’s huge for Minot to have a World of Outlaws race,” said Schatz. “The Nodak Race Club has been around for ages. It’s cool to see that history and heritage. That’s where I was born. For me, that’s where I first got to sit in the seats and watch sprint cars, modifieds and late models go around. That’s really where the love for racing started. It gives you goosebumps when you go back and get to see that. I still get those goosebumps today.”
Schatz has had his fair share of success at Nodak Speedway as well. He picked up his first win at the track with the Outlaws in 2012 and ripped of five straight wins, before finishing second at the track last year. Schatz has 11 top-10 finishes in the previous 12 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series races at Nodak Speedway, with nine of those being top-five finishes.
“That place has been tricky,” he noted. “When they put the new grandstand up, it changed the whole front stretch off turn four. We look forward to those tricky tracks, because oftentimes we can make something happen in ways other guys can’t. We’ve won on both configurations. It’s pretty neat to come off turn four and see that big grandstand and know there are a lot of people pulling for you. That gives you a little extra motivation to go fast.”
Despite all of his success at River Cities Speedway and Nodak Speedway, Schatz doesn’t see it as any added pressure. He and his race team approach each race night the same way and the bar has been set very high, as they have started the season off with 10 wins in the first 27 races. Schatz is the current series point leader as he chases his 10th championship.
“It’s not about pressure,” said Schatz. “We have fun out here, but at the end of the day, we have high expectations to win races. That’s what we are going to try to do. If that’s what pressure brings us, then that’s what we are looking forward to.”
Tickets for the 1st Leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series events at River Cities Speedway on Friday, June 15 can be purchased online at slspromotions.ticketforce.com or by calling 815-344-2023. Tickets can also be purchased at the River Cities Speedway track office, area ticket outlets and at the track on race day.
Tickets for the Gerdau Recycling Magic City Showdown presented by Schatz Crossroads and Fastlane Car Wash featuring the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series at Nodak Speedway in Minot, N.D., on Sunday, June 17 can be purchased in advance online at https://slspromotions.ticketforce.com or by calling 815-344-2023 and at the track on race day.
Fans who purchase a World of Outlaws ticket in advance will receive free entry (a $5 value) to Minot’s Ribfest, which runs Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17 at Nodak Speedway.