Schatz gets his 22nd win of the season and the second in a row at a track he had never won at before.
Donny Schatz's dominant performance Wednesday night at the Terre Haute Action Track gave him his 22nd World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season and added to an impressive resume that has only been bolstered this season.
His first ever win at Terre Haute was the second first win in as many nights for the five-time champion after he parked it in victory lane at Kokomo Speedway on Tuesday night.
"It's been a great week for me," Schatz said. "For two tracks to get off the bucket list that I've never won at feels really good."
Schatz led Joey Saldana to the green flag in the feature, but it was Saldana who jumped to the lead as the field dove into the first turn. A caution flag flew before one lap could be completed and the field reset. Saldana again got the lead into turn one on the restart, but as the two cars battled onto the backstretch, it was Schatz who took over the lead.
"On the first start I got the lead but I saw Donny down there on the bottom and he got a good run," Saldana said. "I was like, maybe I need to get to the bottom. Obviously he snookered me there."
As the 25-lap feature wore on, two more cautions came out. Each time, Schatz easily retained the lead in his STP / Armor All car, then went on to build sizable leads.
Schatz, who struggled in the week before as the Outlaws concluded its West Coast swing and returned to the Midwest, congratulated his Tony Stewart Racing team in victory lane.
"It's an honor to drive this racecar," Schatz said. "It's an unbelievable machine. Last week I thought it was wore out, I thought it was time for a new one but they went hard to work at the shop and found a few things that maybe we were missing and got it back where it was. Hats off to them - they do a great job. When they're on their game there's nothing better. The way this car drove last night and the way it drove tonight - it's pretty unbelievable to have something that drives that good. It's just awesome."
As the Outlaws move into the final stretch of the season, Schatz's lead in the championship standings continues to grow over second place Daryn Pittman to 236 points. Paul McMahan is third in the standings, 347 points out of the lead.
Saldana said Schatz is raising the bar for all of his competitors this season. He said beating Schatz requires a nearly flawless night - tonight was no exception.
"He definitely knows how to capitalize on (mistakes)," Saldana said. "And there on the restart I just didn't know if I could get the bottom to get beside him. Getting beside somebody and passing them is something different, especially when you've got a car as fast as his."
Saldana, who was the last Outlaw to win at the track when the series was there in 2006, said he could not help but think about his history and the history of his team owner Dan Motter at Terre Haute.
"The last time I was here, I won, and the last time he was here, he won," Saldana said. "So he's probably disappointed - a second's not good enough. But the Motter car always ran really good here. They won with Kenny Jacobs and Stevie Smith so it would have been nice… putting the 71M into victory lane but we'll come back next year and try to do it again."
Luck was on third place finisher Brian Brown's side throughout the night.
On lap 14, Cody Darrah who was running fourth slowed and brought out the caution. Under the same caution, David Gravel, then in third, discovered a tire going down. With those two out of position, Brown moved from fifth into the third spot and Kerry Madsen into the fourth.
Then, as the driver brought his FVP / Casey's General Store car around to the checkered flag a right front steering arm broke.
"The last couple of laps there it just seemed to be a little more ducky and darty than normal," Brown said. "I just couldn't figure out what I was doing or what was going on. The track was rough in spots so that kind of threw you around a bit. I just thought I wasn't driving the car correctly. Then we came off four to take the checkered and it just kind of went right. I thought, man that was weird and I went to turn in one and two there after the checkered and it just didn't turn. We got very, very lucky."
"Great to be back at Terre Haute. Great crowd. This is what we need toward the end of the season - a couple of good runs with the Outlaws."
Daryn Pittman was the KSE Hard Charger of the night after advancing eight positions to finish in fourth.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series moves east for the 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway onSept. 19 before taking on the Commonwealth Clash at Lernerville Speedway on Sept. 20. The Outlaws then return to Indiana for Indy Race Parts presents the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway.
World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series