KNOXVILLE, IOWA (August 9, 2023) –  For the first time in 20 years, Donny Schatz is a preliminary night winner at the Knoxville Nationals. The 11-time and defending Nationals winner charged from the seventh starting position, patiently worked his way forward, and took the lead on lap 22 of 25 en route to the win. 

“We used to be really good in the prelims, and not as good on Saturday,” said Schatz after the race. “We kind of took the emphasis off that. I think being in the fifth heat was really key to getting through there. The more you run, the more the track widens out, and it was good all night.”

A restart with seven to go in the feature bunched the field up and Schatz took advantage. Schatz worked by Kerry Madsen to take over third before setting his sights on the lead duo of Chase Randall and Blake Hahn. 

Schatz powered by Hahn using the low side of turns one and two and quickly reeled in the No. 2KS of Randall. Schatz took a peak to the inside of Randall off of turn two with five to go, but Randall countered with a big block entering turn three. 

Schatz regrouped and came back at the young Waco, Texas driver with a slide job in turn one to momentarily take the lead. Undeterred, Randall came charging back once again to take back the top spot, but Schatz would finally take the lead for good a lap and a half later with another slide job in turn three. 

“You just kind of go where they’re not. That’s kind of what I did on the restart. When the tires cycle through the heat a little bit, a little better car shines a little bit,” said Schatz. “I could make the bottom work, make the middle work, it’s tricky. You’ve got to be patient. I knew I was in a good spot.”

On a night where eight of the top 10 qualifiers did not transfer into the A-main through their heat race, Schatz’s drive from seventh to second in heat No. 5 seemingly made all the difference in his run to the win in the feature and helped distance himself in the point standings. 

After night one, Schatz leads the Nationals points with 479. He is trailed by Hunter Schuerenberg (462), Kerry Madsen (459), Gio Scelzi (458) and Corey Day (458).