DEFENDING OUTLAWS CHAMPION LOOKS TO EARN KING'S ROYAL CROWN FARGO, ND (July 9) - The World of Outlaws season is a long and grueling test of character, passion and heart. For the last 11 seasons, Donny Schatz has absorbed his share of punishment...
DEFENDING OUTLAWS CHAMPION LOOKS TO EARN KING'S ROYAL CROWN
FARGO, ND (July 9) - The World of Outlaws season is a long and grueling test of character, passion and heart. For the last 11 seasons, Donny Schatz has absorbed his share of punishment and more recently delivered his share during the annual 80 plus race season.
Through the years, the defending World of Outlaws champion has been able to add a number of the highest profile races to his list of accomplishments, which started with his first WoO win in August of 1998 and continued through last Tuesday night when he won his 78th career WoO feature (61 "A" & 17 prelims). During the past decade, he's been able to score a number of major victories, but has yet to capture the prestigious King's Royal.
On Saturday night, Schatz will return to Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway and vie for the top spot in the 24th running of the Kings' Royal presented by Crown Royal.
"Let the fun begin," said Schatz, who has two career wins at high-speed half mile track including the 2002 Historical Big One, which paid him $100,000 and a WoO preliminary feature in April 2003. "One night of racing for $50,000 is pretty special. Anything can happen. We've been pretty good at Eldora this year, so we're hoping history repeats itself and we'll be right there on Saturday night."
The King's Royal kicks off sprint car racing's annual "Month of Money" and is the first crown jewel for sprint car competitors this season. The race itself will be the 44th night of WoO action for Schatz, who is leading the series points standings, has nine wins, 25 top three finishes, 28 top five finishes and 37 top ten finishes.
"Hopefully we haven't peaked yet this year and we can go out and capitalize on every opportunity that is there," continued Schatz, who will be attempting to make his 12th consecutive start in the event. "All the big money races are coming up and we feel like we're better right now than we've been at any point this year. That's a good sign. We've been consistent and on our game. "
Big,fast race tracks have been the recipe for success for Schatz and his No. 15 ParkerStore J&J with Shaver power this season. He's scored six victories on bigger tracks including Volusia Speedway Park, Manzanita Speedway, Knoxville Raceway, Williams Grove Speedway (2) and the Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway.
The Fargo, ND native had a string of three consecutive runner-up finishes at Eldora snapped in June when he charged from 17th to finish sixth. Schatz has a pair of top five finishes in 11 King's Royal starts including last year's career-best second place finish. Ever the competitor, Schatz wasn't satisfied with the results following last year's event where he qualified second in the field of 57 cars.
"It's hard to be happy with second," said Schatz, last July. "In the past, Eldora hasn't been one of my stronger tracks, but I can honestly say that in the King's Royal feature I felt better than I ever have there in the past."
The feeling has remained with Schatz and provides plenty of optimism for the driver in an event that has many twists and turns.
"It's always one of the those races that has been unique," continued Schatz. "(Former owner)Earl (Baltes) always kept it pretty quiet about what the format was going to be and you'd find out at the drivers meeting what's really going to happen. You have to go in there with a 'Game- On' mentality. You have to get yourself qualified well, get through the tough heat races and then be at your best around laps 35 through 40. Putting yourself in a position to be there at the end is the whole key."
More than 18,000 fans will jam the historic track situated in Western Ohio. Thanks to ESPN2 several million more will be able to see the race. The King's Royal is the fifth of eight events part of the SuperClean Summer of Money series and will air Sunday morning at 12 noon (et).
"There are lot of cars and people," commented Schatz. "We're really excited about it. It's different than any other night, and I can't wait to get there. It's one of those races we've always wanted to win, but just haven't got the job done yet. We just hope at the end of the night we get to put on the crown, wear the robe and sit up on the throne for the first time."
Schatz will be in action twice before Saturday's "Royal Rumbe". He'll race his Global ParkerStore and Hose Doctor sponsored sprint car on Wednesday night in the Fram Autolite Brad Doty Classic presented by National Interstate Insurance at Limaland Raceway Park. He charged from 13th to finish third in the event last year. The team will then race in a single night program at Eldora on Friday.