BARBERVILLE, FL (February 7, 2024) – Donny Schatz’s 28th season with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will commence tonight at Volusia Speedway Park. After a rare winter of no offseason racing, aside from the occasional test session, Schatz says he is excited to embark on yet another tour with the Greatest Show on Dirt.
We sat down with Schatz to get some insight on what he’s looking forward to about 2024 and how the team feels heading into the season.
Q: After seeing most of your offseason interviews, you seem more excited about getting this season started than you have in recent memory. Where does that excitement come from for you and what are you most looking forward to about getting season number 28 underway?
“I feel pretty positive (going into this season). Any time you do something, there’s a chance it doesn’t go according to plan and you have to work through the trenches and work through the hard times to try to get through those things. I think we put in our fair share of the rough goes, tough nights, and hard work and I feel pretty confident that it’s now going to start paying the dividends to get back to where we want to be in terms of competitiveness. In this game, you never know if it’s going to go good or bad, but it’s still a fun game and a privilege to be a part of.
I’m excited to get back going. With all the things that we’ve learned and pieces of the puzzle that we’ve found, there’s a lot of excitement within our team to get out on the race track to see if it correlates to like we think it will.
Q: Given the landscape of Sprint Car racing in 2024, do you approach this World of Outlaws season any different?
Well, I got to be a 10-time champion by going about it the way that I learned and the way that it worked for me and that hasn’t changed. You can’t base what we do off of anyone else or what anyone else has or hasn’t done. It’s in our hands. We’re getting to the point where we have all of the pieces where we want them. Now it’s just control them the way we want, make adjustments as needed, push when it’s time to push, and accelerate when it’s time to accelerate. Worrying about what other people and what other guys are doing really just puts you behind the eight ball in all ways, shapes and forms. We’re excited to get back on the platform that we’ve always been on and go racing.
Q: Continuity within your team has always been a point of focus for you. Steve (Scuba) Swenson, Todd Devnich, and Dauson Heitritter will all be back with you again this season. How much does that mean for a driver to have the same team members come back year after year?
Scuba has been at TSR as long as I have. He was there when I came in 2007. He hasn’t always been on my team, but we’ve been together for about 14 years now. He’s really the backbone of our team and has been the entire time. Anybody that knows Scuba, knows he’s a little rough and gruff, just like Kenny Woodruff was. He was kind of trained and groomed by Woodruff in some shape or form. I’m pretty excited to see Scuba back. He’s taken things to the next level and we’ve been able to pinpoint things and make them a little better.
Dauson is still pretty young to TSR, but Todd has been around racing a long time. He was a crewman back when we had our own team at Donny Schatz Racing back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those guys have definitely not had the success with me that we want, but that’s the thing about racing. You have to take the bad with the good and these guys have definitely taken the bad and stuck with us. They are the guys that we want with us. There is a lot of confidence knowing that you have guys on your team that will stick with you through thick and thin. That means a lot and will sure do a lot for the 15 team this year.
Q: Volusia Speedway Park is such a different track compared to any other on the Outlaw schedule. In terms of the championship, how do you approach this stretch at Volusia? Are points on your mind, or are you just worried about seeing how your car shakes down this week and worrying about the points the rest of the season?
Here’s how you approach it… We’ve lost the championship by four points. You can boil that down to two spots on the race track. So every time you hit the race track it counts. Every lap counts. It always has. Volusia is a unique place – what normally works there doesn’t apply to any other race track in the country. It’s a very different place, but you still have to be on your game. Obviously, we like the bigger tracks. It’s given us a chance to let the Ford ponies run wild and that’s what we’re looking forward to. We want to be on point when we unload. You can’t win the championship on the first weekend but you can definitely put yourself in a position where it’s really tough to win it. We don’t want to be in a spot where we’ve put ourselves in a hole.
Hopefully, we come out consistent and maybe even come out of there with a win.
Q: You said you and Scuba have pinpointed some things over the offseason. Are any of those things on the Ford motor? How are you feeling about the Ford going into the season?
We are pretty excited about the Ford motor. From the word go, it has had a lot of power. It probably had too much power. It’s been wonderful from that aspect. We’ve spent most of our time trying to control things the right way. Any time you do something with the motor, it affects the car in certain ways.
We have done a lot of testing. The Ford guys have had the opportunity to be at the race track quite a bit with some tools that we didn’t have in the past, allowing them to see the things that have gone on with what I’m talking about regarding driveability. We are excited about it, obviously. We will keep doing our best to keep building on it and I think we will hit the ground running right away at the start of the season.
Schatz was sixth, sixth, and eighth quick, respectively, in the three World of Outlaws practice sessions last night at Volusia out of the 40 cars in attendance. Schatz has collected 23 career wins at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, including 14 with the World of Outlaws – the most all-time.
Racing begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday at Volusia Speedway Park. Watch every lap live on DIRTVision.com.