FARGO, N.D. (November 16, 2022) – Another World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series campaign is in the books for 10-time series champion Donny Schatz. The season ended with Schatz collecting five wins, 28 top fives and 55 top tens in 69 races, which put him fourth in the point standings.
Schatz bookended the season by claiming feature wins during the season opener at Volusia Speedway Park in February and during season finale at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
We sat down with Donny to look back on the 2022 season.
Your 26th season with the World of Outlaws is in the books. You picked up a handful of wins and another Knoxville Nationals title. How do you assess your 2022 season?
Donny: Well it started out good. It ended extremely good. But there were 70 races in between those two that weren’t. We won a few races. We won the [Knoxville] Nationals which was really the highlight of the year. But there was a lot of… I guess you could call it disappointment throughout the middle of the season. It wasn’t from a lack of effort. The guys did an awesome job and kept working to make things better. We keep learning more and more about the engine program, finding all of our weak spots and our strong points too.
We have to be happy with the season. It wasn’t a championship year, but we were still pretty competitive. It’s nothing to hang our heads about. Brad [Sweet] and his team did an awesome job. If you look at the season stats, we won the same number of races as the guy who won the championship so it boils down to the races that you didn’t win. It’s something we can build upon.
Ending the season with back-to-back wins at the World Finals was a great way to cap off the season. What do two big wins like that do for a team heading into the offseason as they begin to prepare for 2023?
Donny: Well I don’t think there’s any question that the guys on the team need confidence in what they do. I’ve been around long enough that confidence isn’t a big factor for me. I know that there are expectations – not only from ourselves, but from our partners and the car owner.
When we meet expectations, we don’t pat ourselves on the back. It’s what is expected of us.
But two wins to end the season does give our guys a lot of confidence and I also think it gives them a lot of motivation. Confidence really isn’t something that somebody needs to run well, but motivation is. When you win races and do things right, everybody stays motivated and more upbeat.
You are a big believer in continuity in the personnel of your race team, but this year you had a couple new crew guys come on board this season, and even another new crew member join midseason. How well and how quick were you and crew chief, Scuba, able to gel with the new team?
Donny: It was kind of unique, actually. Scuba and I have been racing together for a long time. He’s been at Tony Stewart Racing since the day I started there about 16 years ago. Todd Devnich was new to the 15 team this year, he was with the 14 guys in the past, but he’s not new to me. He was with my family-owned team in 1998 and ‘99, went on to NASCAR to do some things and now finds himself right back where he got his start. Todd is a very hard worker, organized and good at what he does. It’s a pleasure to have him a part of this team.
We did have to change some guys up in the middle of the year. Aryton Olsen started the season with us and he got the opportunity to go back and do some racing so we added Dauson Heitritter.
Dauson is a South Dakota/northern Iowa boy, so we all grew up in the geographical area and around the same people. Dauson is just a young guy but he’s done a great job and is a hard worker with a lot of passion for what he does. He just fit right in. Those three guys didn’t miss a beat from the word go.
I think the details that they were able to dive into were great. They’ve impressed a lot of people. That’s kind of what we are back to – the details. We were at a point where we were taking big swings at things, but now we’re back to the small details. That’s a good place to be and it makes it a lot more fun.
I’m looking forward to having them all back next year, especially seeing all of these teams right now looking for help. It’s getting harder and harder to find help. We are very fortunate to have a great group of guys behind us, but it all comes back to working for a great boss. Tony Stewart is great to work for, he’s the perfect boss and we are very blessed to have him stand behind us.
Were you pleased with the advancements and development of the Ford engine this year? Are you happy with where things are at right now?
Donny: There are a lot of things I’m happy about with the Ford engine. There are a lot of things that we’re not happy with too. That’s just the nature of the beast with any engine stuff. We can’t just have one engine that runs on every race track. It’s just not going to happen. At first, I think that was the initial intent and, since then, I think everybody has realized that. There have been a lot of things that have changed – mostly for the good, but then some things that have our hands tied, especially parts and pieces that we can’t get that give us issues. It’s not related to Ford, it’s directly related to aftermarket pieces that we use.
It’s been quite a journey. It’s been a long one. We should be further ahead of where we are now, but we have a lot of confidence in a couple of the packages that we have. Obviously, we got the job done at Knoxville, which was big, and a very similar combination was ran a Charlotte. But we are still working on our short track program to get things more responsive, more reactive. We haven’t had the opportunity to try the new configuration of stuff in the last couple of months, so I’m really looking forward to that. We’ll work on it over the offseason and keep going with it. Hopefully, we get the opportunity to test on a short track over the offseason and see how that goes.
But the confidence is there with Ford. I know that we’ll get where we need to be.
Any offseason racing plans for you this year, whether it might be some Late Model racing down south, the Chili Bowl, or maybe a trip back to Australia?
Donny: At this point, I have zero racing plans. I’m not going to Australia, I’m not going to the Wild West Shootout, and I don’t plan to do the Chili Bowl at this time, but that could change. I’ve got
a lot of focusing to do around home and get the kids’ racing stuff a little more organized than the quagmire I put them in this year so that they have fair shot at a great year in ‘23. My focus this winter will be to get ahead of all of the stuff going on around here and make sure I’m caught up and organized so come January 1, I can focus on getting back to championship status.