CONCORD, NC - It seems that no matter what the circumstances are Donny Schatz has a knack for doing well at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In both Pennzoil World of Outlaws (WoO) events at the LMS Dirt Track last season, Schatz had three top four...
CONCORD, NC - It seems that no matter what the circumstances are Donny Schatz has a knack for doing well at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In both Pennzoil World of Outlaws (WoO) events at the LMS Dirt Track last season, Schatz had three top four finishes in four races including a victory in last fall's TALK.COM preliminary event. This weekend, he will be trying to put his #15 ParkerStores J&J sprinter in victory lane at the Chip Thunder Outlaw Showdown presented by Lance Snacks.
"We seem to have pretty good luck here, and I feel like we're coming in this weekend stronger than we have in the past," said Schatz. "Last year, we came down in the spring and we're really struggling, but we found a way to finish fourth in the first race. In the fall, we were on a good roll after winning the (Williams Grove) National Open and were able to win the first night and finish third in the final show even though we were only running on seven cylinders. Hopefully, we can continue to do well here, and coming in with some confidence should only help our chances."
Confidence is a big key in all forms of motorsports, and in the Outlaws, it's a huge factor. Schatz and his team have been running more consistently in the past few weeks scoring four top seven finishes in the series' last five events. An unavoidable accident last Saturday at Hagerstown (MD) Speedway broke the Top Ten string as "The Minot Missile" had won twice, including last weekend's win at Williams Grove, and finished third and seventh.
The Outlaws are in the midst of their most competitive season in recent history as 12 different drivers have won the first 27 races, but Schatz has to be considered one of the hottest competitors as he's the only driver to win two races in the last eight nights of action. It's becoming clear that Schatz and his Crew Chief Kenny Woodruff are beginning to work on the same page.
"We had a quick start to the season and then had some finishes that we weren't happy with " said Schatz, who currently ranks ninth in the WoO standings. "Kenny and I talked quite a bit the day we raced at Huset's (Speedway). We won that race, and things have just kind of been rolling since. We lost a little momentum by crashing last Saturday, but those things are going to happen from time to time. The big thing is to not let it get you down and that's what we're trying to do this week."
Schatz has only had to qualify twice at LMS, and both times he was among the top ten qualifiers. He was 10th on May 25th and 8th on October 5th. He finished in the top four in both preliminary programs so he didn't have to qualify in either second day program. Schatz admits that qualifying is a big key and those two laps against the clock really impact the rest of the program.
"This year it seems like the guys qualifying for the front row of the heats have had the advantage," said Schatz, referring to qualifying positions 9-16. "We want to be as fast as we can every night. Last weekend at Williams Grove, we were the third fastest qualifier and were able to win the heat race from the second row, which put us close to the front for the Channellock Dash. The main thing is getting your car to roll around the track as nice as you can. I've been pretty good here in the past, and I know the J&J car that we've got now is even better than the one we had last fall. Our goal is to be as fast as we can, so that we can start as close to the front as possible."
As the Outlaws circle the county, they have to adapt to many different race tracks. The one-year old Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway is challenging for drivers in many ways. With the banking and short straightaways, the nearly 1200-pound, 800-horsepower sprint cars carry a lot of momentum around the 4/10-mile oval. Although the tracks vary, drivers and teams often have a different mindset at tracks where they have previously been victorious.
"Kenny and I won a race here together last year and I think that is an advantage," continued Schatz. "We won the Williams Grove National Open last year, and last weekend when we went back we were able to pick it right up again. That's a great confidence builder that we can go back to a track after winning there and be right back on top. I hope that's the case here this weekend too."
As the motorsports world peaks with action this weekend from the Indianapolis 500 to the Coca-Cola 600, Schatz and the rest of the Outlaws know how important this event is in Charlotte. Both WoO races will air live on TNN: The National Network beginning at 9 PM (ET), and there will be plenty of influential people in the crowd.
"This will be a great time for us to shine," said Schatz. "We've got two nights of live TV, a lot of the NASCAR people will be around, and I know people from ParkerStores will be on hand as well as a strong contingent from Featherlite. Both of those companies sponsor our race team and we'd like to make them happy. There are plenty of reasons to have a great weekend, so we're going to do our best to put on good show. This is a big deal for the World of Outlaws and I hope we can take advantage of it."