Schatz, Parkerstore Aim For Consistency in 2004 Outlaws Campaign PHOENIX, AZ (February 16) - When the final checkered flag flew for the World of Outlaws last November at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Donny Schatz was on a charge. The final laps of...
Schatz, Parkerstore Aim For Consistency in 2004 Outlaws Campaign
PHOENIX, AZ (February 16) - When the final checkered flag flew for the World of Outlaws last November at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Donny Schatz was on a charge. The final laps of the 2003 season saw Schatz mix it up with the 2003 WoO champion Steve Kinser and 2001 champ Danny Lasoski.
The Fargo, ND driver is hoping the 2004 O'Reilly World of Outlaws season plays out in similar style with only a few alterations. The finish on that November night was Lasoski, first, Schatz, second, and Kinser, third. The 26 year-old sprint car star is working to put himself in a position to be battling Kinser and Lasoski all season and possibly in the mix for the coveted WoO title.
"Danny and Steve aren't going away and they're certainly not going to give the championship away," said Schatz, who will once again pilot the #15 ParkerStore J&J. "I don't think the title chase is going to be only about those two, because there a few other guys that have to be considered and I know we'll be a factor. After seven years of competing in the series, I truly believe a guy needs to focus on keeping himself and his team going good night in and night out and not always worry about what everyone else does."
"Everybody on our team worked hard during the off-season and thought about what we need to do to get to the next level. We feel like we've put all the pieces together and everyone's mindset is great right now, so we're expecting a stellar start to the season."
The 2003 season proved to be a breakout season for Schatz and his ParkerStore team. He missed five races due to commitments to the USAC Silvercrown series yet still finished fifth in the final standings. He set a new career-high for victories in a season by scoring 12 WoO checkered flags (seven "A" features and five preliminary features) and had 30 top five finishes and earned the Motorsport Video Hard Charger Award for passing the most cars during the season.
He was strong at a number of tracks across the country. Taking wins at Eldora, Knoxville, Williams Grove, Red River Valley, Lernerville and Eagle, and Schatz knows consistency will ultimately be the biggest factor on whether or not he can be a title contender.
Returning to the track with primarily the same equipment that enabled him to win those feature races should also help the cause.
"We feel like we're working with the best manufacturers in the business," explained Schatz. "We've built great relationships and guys like Jack Elam, from J&J, and Ronnie Shaver, from Shaver Engines, have really made things easy for us, and that's a tremendous help for our crew. The crew's mentality benefits greatly, and they know exactly what they're getting and how it will work on the track. We're always trying to find ways to go faster and being able to work closely with our manufacturers is a huge benefit."
Another plus for the ParkerStore team heading into the 2004 campaign is that the crew from 2003 has returned and is focused on building upon a great first season together. Tyler Swank will return as crew chief and Chad Lambert will continue his general maintenance role. Dave Yingst will return this year in a engine specialist/team manager role. Schatz knows the value of having quality people working together.
"Ever since Tyler joined us in September of 2002, we've had a great working relationship," said Schatz. "We communicate really well and are on the same page most of the time. We don't always agree, but I think by talking things through we usually can come up with the best result. I was really happy with how well he did last year. It's been a lot of fun working him, and believe me if you're not having fun racing, then you shouldn't be doing it."
"Bringing back Dave Yingst to assist with our motor program is going to be a big plus also. He's really good with the technical aspects of fueling the car and keeping our motors tuned. He will also provide great leadership in a team manager role. It's a perfect position for him because he can set the standards pretty high and keep everyone in bounds as we all try to accomplish the same goal."
The grueling 10-month 72-event race season begins with a two-night show at Manzanita Speedway near Phoenix, AZ this weekend. As a 22 year-old, Schatz swept the Western World at the half-mile oval in 1999, and this will be the first time he's competed there since.
"Winning the 1999 Western World was awesome," recalled Schatz. "It was the first time in my career that I swept a two-day show and at the time beating Mark Kinser with last lap pass was a major accomplishment. We're going to do some testing there early this week to check out the racing surface and make sure we've got everything ready to go."
"I'm really excited about returning to a major market like Phoenix," continued Schatz. "We need those big market areas to help our television package and showcase our sponsors in front of more and more people. Motorsports continues to grow and we want this sprint car series to keep up that growth."
Sponsorship is a foundation to the success of the #15 team. In 2004, all of the team's corporate partners from 2003 have returned. Their commitments to the team are crucial to the overall success of the operation.
"We couldn't do this without the help of our sponsors," continued Schatz. "ParkerStore has been great to us over the years, and we're thrilled to have them as our primary sponsor. They've got people all over the country that come out and enjoy the association we have. We also get great backing from Blue Beacon Truck Washes and Dick Bellerud from Bellerud Transport. It takes everybody to make this deal go, and we certainly hope we help all of them increase business, because it's a tremendous asset for us to be working with quality people and corporations."
With the season's first race only days away, Schatz is eager to begin his chase for the championship. In the past, he's struggled to get off to a good start, but knows if he truly wants to contend for the title, he needs to start strong.
"We need to win right away and get a baseline set for what we're going to do with the racecars every night," said Schatz. "We want to be consistently finishing up front, and keep propelling ourselves to do better. If we can get off to a strong start, I believe that momentum will really carry on throughout the entire season. It's been proven that a good start can really set a team up for a solid season. Let the fun begin this weekend."