FARGO, ND -- Racing at home can mean a lot of things. In most sports it means competing in front of a home-court advantage, and Donny Schatz knows the fans will be behind him and his ParkerStore team this week. What he doesn't know is how things...
FARGO, ND -- Racing at home can mean a lot of things. In most sports it means competing in front of a home-court advantage, and Donny Schatz knows the fans will be behind him and his ParkerStore team this week. What he doesn't know is how things will go on the track Thursday when the World of Outlaws Sprint Series kicks off the Eighth annual "Duel in the Dakotas" at Red River Valley Speedway in W. Fargo, ND.
"I don't think we have any advantages coming home other than sleeping in our own bed," said Schatz, who will be looking for his third Fargo WoO win in his #15 ParkerStore J&J on the half-mile dirt oval. "I certainly have a lot laps here, but everyone coming up here has a legitimate chance at winning. It's going to take our best performance over the period of three nights to have a chance to win on Saturday night. That's what we are here for--to win."
The 2004 season has been one of Schatz's most consistent during his World of Outlaws career. He currently holds down the third position in the point standings 196 points behind leader Steve Kinser and 112 back of Danny Lasoski, who holds second.
The statistic that most reveals how consistent the 26 year-old Fargo resident has been this season is his top ten finishes. He has 30 in 37 starts and Kinser only has more. Even with the consistency, Schatz has been more frustrated with the number of wins (1) that he has this year.
"I hope this week is a turning point for our season," continued Schatz, who's only WoO win of the season came on June 2 at Rolling Wheels Raceway in Elbridge, NY. "We haven't been as good as we have been the last couple of years and we're hoping that we can get our game going now, because it is July and the month of money is coming quickly."
"I've got a busy week ahead of me and working with Subway again is a great deal for us. We're doing several appearances for them and also for Mobil, and we've got some people from Parker that are coming in too. It's a great Public Relations week for everyone involved with the team. Hopefully being around family and being at home will help us turn things in the winning direction."
Schatz has competed in every Outlaw event at the Fairgrounds since 1994 and winning at Red River Valley Speedway was a big obstacle until July of 2002, when he raced to victory in the $20,000-to-win finale. Last year, Schatz and his ParkerStore team won the Friday night preliminary feature before finishing a second to Lasoski in the 30-lap "A" feature.
The "hometown" pressure to do well is what pushes Schatz to be his best in Fargo. Just like in other major sports, the crowd does get behind their favorite son. The World of Outlaws crowd is usually split amongst the drivers, but in Fargo the roar from the crowd certainly doesn't go unnoticed by Schatz.
"Its not really pressure, but more personal satisfaction," continued Schatz. "I think everybody wants to have the ability to win at home. It's tougher to stay focused only on the racing, but you just have to get in the car like every other night and do your job. It was so awesome the last two years to be in victory lane and hearing the crowd. I'd really like to do it a couple of times this week."
Crew Chief Tyler Swank continues to work with Schatz on getting his J&J sprinter faster each race. In 2003, Swank made his first trip to North Dakota as Crew Chief for the Schatz, who was the recipient of the Associated Press Dakota Award in 1998. For Swank, its clear that this isn't just another race on the schedule.
"Last year was the first year I was here with Donny and it was really unbelievable," said Swank. "The people here want us to win so bad. It's just awesome and I try to use that as motivation to do everything I can to put us in a position to win.
"(Crewman) Brian (Bloomfield) and John (Gressman) will certainly feel how important this week is just by the atmosphere here, and that should be a good indicator of what is to come the next six weeks."
The racing action begins on Thursday night, and fans can follow the action on SCN Radio (www.sprintcarnet.com). Be sure to keep up with all the Fargo Week activities by logging onto www.donnyschatz.com.