SCHATZ, PARKERSTORE TEAM RETURN TO THE DESERT EYEING A REPEAT PHOENIX (October 17) - Defending World of Outlaws (WoO) champion and current points leader Donny Schatz continues to have one goal in mind as he surges towards the finish line of the...
SCHATZ, PARKERSTORE TEAM RETURN TO THE DESERT EYEING A REPEAT
PHOENIX (October 17) - Defending World of Outlaws (WoO) champion and current points leader Donny Schatz continues to have one goal in mind as he surges towards the finish line of the 2007 WoO campaign, and that's winning every race he can.
The Fargo, N.D. resident is currently on a three-race winning streak and returns to action on Friday night in the Outlaw Desert Classic at Manzanita Speedway where he'll be shooting for his second straight victory at the famed half-mile dirt oval located just west of Phoenix.
Schatz raced his Global ParkerStore/Tom Johnson Camping Center sponsored No. 15 J&J with Shaver-built Chevrolet horsepower to a thrilling victory on March 3 at the track. Schatz was chased by Joey Saldana during the latter stages of the 30-lap race as he picked up his fourth career win at the track.
"We're looking forward to going back to Manzanita," said Schatz, who leads the series with 19 victories and has a 107-point advantage in the point standings. "When we were here in March, we were still trying to mesh as a team. We tested at the track a couple nights before we raced and then had a solid third place finish the night before in Tucson.
"My guys gave me a great car that night and the track was really fast. It usually slicks off and slows down, which is the way we had it when we tested. It stayed fast. I know we were able to really get around that night. Our goal is to be at that speed again on Friday night and in contention for the win."
Getting around Manzanita has never been a problem for the driver who first circled the half-mile on October 25, 1996. A little over three months later, he started his full-time career with the World of Outlaws at the track on January 31, 1997 by finishing 10th. In the fall of 1999, Schatz swept the prestigious Western World weekend adding his name with some of the sport's greats by putting the first major sprint car victory on his resume.
"I'll always remember that weekend," recalled Schatz. "In the preliminary night, we beat Andy Hillenburg coming out of turn two at the start and led every lap. Mark Kinser was the man to beat back then and on his way to the championship. He was leading the second night and got caught in traffic and we were able to get past him. He paid us a big compliment saying we were the class of the field that weekend."
Those two victories were wins number three and four of his career with the Outlaws, which after last week's triumph in the Dave Helm Memorial now totals 88 (70 "A" feature wins and 18 prelim wins). Two weeks after his pair of wins at Manzantia, Schatz closed the season by winning the final World of Outlaws race of the millennium at Las Vegas Motor Speedway giving him three wins in the final seven races.
That surge may have provided a hint of foreshadowing to what the future held for Schatz. In each of the last four seasons, he has charged towards the finish line during the final races of each season. In 2004, he won eight of the final 22 nights. The following season, he won five of the final 21 races. Last season en route to his first career WoO title, he won eight of the final 20 races including the finale at Las Vegas. This year since the series concluded the Gold Rush Tour on September 8, Schatz has won five of the nine feature events.
"For quite a few years there we had a tough time during the summer and were out of the points deal," continued Schatz. "By the end of the year, we always seem to be fast. The past couple of years we've finally been able to be consistent throughout the year. We've still got some work to do, but we're finishing strong and that's a sign of everyone on this team working towards the same thing."
Consistency was the key to last year's championship and has been the foundation for this year's success as well. Since the start of the 2006 season, Schatz has won 37 WoO feature events, which doesn't include his back-to-back Knoxville Nationals triumphs. This year, he has scored 67 top ten finishes in 72 starts.
With only four races remaining on the schedule, Schatz is closing in on his second consecutive WoO crown. Since September 2nd when Joey Saldana closed to within 19 points, Schatz and his ParkerStore team have steadily built a comfortable cushion. Winning races has been the key. Schatz has won five times in 11 races since and has only finished outside the top five twice.
"It's all about wins," said Schatz. "The way I look at it is that we've got two races this weekend and we need to win them both. If we keep winning races, everything else will take care of itself."
The good news for Schatz is that in the four final points events, he has already won this season at two of the three remaining tracks. The team will race on Saturday night at Perris Auto Speedway in Southern California before returning to Charlotte for the World Finals on November 1-3. Schatz won a thrilling feature in Charlotte on May 25.
In his last five races in "The Grand Canyon State", Schatz hasn't finished outside the top three. He finished second at USA Race Park in Tucson in March 2006 before coming home second at Manzanita last October. The following night he won at USA Race Park in Tucson. The 30 year-old racer came home third at USA Race Park earlier this spring, the night before his victory at Manzanita on March 3.
BUSY STAYING ON TOP OF THE RANKINGS
Schatz is coming off a busy weekend that included attending a news conference at the NASCAR event in Charlotte last Friday announcing Armor All as sponsor of the No. 15 car that he'll drive for Tony Stewart Racing in 2008. On Saturday, he scored a flag-to-flag victory on the other side of the country in Tulare, CA.
The win helped Schatz continue to headline the National Speedsport News Power Rankings. He has been ranked first each of the last three weeks and six times overall this year. The World of Outlaws champion is the only driver to be included in the top ten in every ranking the publication has put out in 2007.