LUCKY 13: Donny Schatz Wins 1/3-Mile Short Track Nationals for 13th Victory of 2006 Lincoln, NE--September 15, 2006--Starting outside of the top-10 on a bullring usually makes for a long evening. Donny Schatz knew he had his work cut out for him...
LUCKY 13: Donny Schatz Wins 1/3-Mile Short Track Nationals for 13th Victory of 2006
Lincoln, NE--September 15, 2006--Starting outside of the top-10 on a bullring usually makes for a long evening. Donny Schatz knew he had his work cut out for him after qualifying 15th on Friday night. After finishing third in his heat, he lined up in the 15th spot for the 40-lap 1/3-mile Short Track Nationals at Eagle Raceway driving car No.15. He knew he had a fast race car, and plenty of laps to make it to the front.
When it was all said and done, Schatz aboard his Parker Store J&J was in RacinSoles Victory Lane for the 13th time this season in World of Outlaws Sprint Series A-Feature competition to go along with two preliminary feature wins.
The reigning Knoxville Nationals winner methodically worked his way into the top-10 early in the race. While running fourth, he made a bold three-wide pass of Chad Blonde and Daryn Pittman to put himself in the runner-up spot.
A late red flag set up a four lap dash for the win between Schatz and the leader Brooke Tatnell in the Race Outfitters/Castrol machine. With two laps to go, Tatnell went high and jumped the cushion and that was the opening that Schatz needed to power his way to the lead.
"It was a great night," said Schatz. "We changed the car all night long. It is a new car. Our primary car got wrecked at Chico (Silver Dollar Speedway) and we pulled out our back-up car. We decided to put the primary car back together when we got back to the shop. Every car is a little different. It was a real good car in the feature. We just couldn't get it figured out early in the night."
Tatnell who earned the pole position by winning his seventh dash of the season, led the first 38 laps of the race and settled for the runner-up spot. Despite being disappointed by not winning, the always affable native of San Souci, NSW, Australia was the first person to walk into Schatz's trailer to congratulate him on the win.
"We ran a new car this weekend," said Tatnell. "It was fast. The guys did everything right and we came up short."
Craig Dollansky in the Karavan Trailers Maxim finished in the third spot, with Daryn Pittman in the Titan Garages and Carports Maxim just behind him. The pair staged an entertaining battle for a large part of the 40 laps.
"We didn't have a very happy race car there all night long," said Dollansky. "Especially in the feature, it seemed like I was struggling on the bottom or the top. We could maintain, but we were struggling. We're going to go to work here and figure this thing out for tomorrow night. To end up third with what we had to work with, we are happy with that."
Pittman was looking for a sweep of the season's events at Eagle Raceway, having won both nights of the Eagle Nationals in June. While disappointed he did not win, he was able to look at the night optimistically and know that his team continues to be one of the strongest and most consistent in the series.
"It's hard to complain about that (a fourth-place finish)," said Pittman. "We could kind of see the leaders there for a while. About halfway through the race, I though we were as good as we were going to get. We kind of had a little taste of victory in sight. All in all it was a good night. You want to win every night, but it was solid and we gained some points on a couple guys. We would have been happier with third rather than fourth, but we'll take it."
Chad Blonde rounded out the top five in the TLC Auto Collision Maxim. He ran as high as second after starting in the third spot, and diving around Dollansky on the second lap. He and Dollansky then battled for many laps trading the runner-up position, while keeping Tatnell in their sights. The native of Litchfield, Mich., used a strong run in the dash to line up third for the A-Feature.
The rest of the top-10 was Randy Hannagan in the Penthouse Racing Maxim, in sixth. Justin Henderson in the Jolt Energy Gum Schnee charged his way from 17th to finish seventh. Terry McCarl in the Big Game Treestands Eagle was eighth. Jac Haudenschild in the Wright One Construction Maxim was ninth. Brian Brown in the McKenna Truck Center Maxim was 10th.
Schatz worked his way into the Top-10 only nine laps into the race. The native of Fargo, N.D. was running in the fifth spot by the lap 24. He made a bold three-wide pass on the 31st lap to get under both Dollansky and Blonde.
"My dad taught me how to race, and you never follow a guy in," said Schatz. "If you follow a guy in, you follow him out. I ran it in the middle, and made a mistake and was able to get underneath them. It was a big advantage to get by two guys at once. It was a great race all around for us."
Earlier this season, the current championship point leader came from the seventh starting spot to win an A-Feature on two different occasions. While he was not pleased to start in 15th, he knew his team was very capable of coming to the front, even on a very demanding track like Eagle where the leaders were in lapped traffic for a majority of the race.
"That is the furthest back we have come from in a long time to get a victory," Schatz said. "The car was just awesome. It could go anywhere, the bottom, the middle, the top. We were in the catbird's seat with two laps to go. Brooke (Tatnell) had everything to lose and we had nothing to lose. We're glad to get another win. It has been a while since we were in victory lane."
While Schatz was using multiple lines, Tatnell had his car glued to the high line and in order for Schatz to get to the lead, he has to disrupt Tatnell's rhythm and the momentum he had riding the rim of the track. This is where his 10 years of experience on the road with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series came into play.
"We were coming and I could see where he (Tatnell) was running," said Schatz. "I really forced him to get off the top. I got him on the inside of me and he had to change his line. If he would have stayed up there, you never know what could have happened. It's just the way it goes. We have lost a lot of races and ended up second that same way. It's just lucky for us that we ended up on the other end of the spectrum tonight."
While he is still feelings the effects of a vicious accident last week at the Gold Cup Race of Champions in which he sustained burns on his face and neck, Schatz was able to block out the pain and concentrate on getting to the front, as he chases his first series title. With the season winding down, he wants to keep adding to the win total, and looks to made it a weekend sweep at Jackson Speedway on Saturday night.
"We've been trying a few things the last couple races for next year," said Schatz. "We don't want to get too overconfident. We were good there (Jackson Speedway) last year. I think we have a good baseline to get ourselves around there, and to get qualified better than we did last year. It's all about learning from your mistakes. I've made a lot lately and learned from them."
It was an emotional night for Tatnell, who received word earlier this week that his father George is ill in their native Australia. While coming up just a few car lengths short of the A-Feature win, he was victorious in his series leading seventh dash of the year to start from the pole position just as many times. He also crossed the 200-lap led mark on the year. He closed the gap with Pittman who in front of him in the point standings, by earning five bonus points for leading the most laps on the night.
"It was a night tonight that meant more to me than probably any other night, right now to win," said Tatnell. "Monday we got a phone call that my dad is very sick again. I promised him I would win this one tonight. I told him I wanted to come home and he refuses to let me come home. He said we started off the run with the World of Outlaws and we are going to hold true to it. We're going to run until he tells me to get on a plane."
Dollansky used a late charge to slip around Pittman to finish in the final podium position. The strong night helped him move into the second spot in points. He looks to keep his momentum going as he heads up to his home state of Minnesota on Saturday to race at the spacious half-mile Jackson Speedway.
"It's always nice to go close to home," Dollansky said. "Going to Jackson, Minnesota will be a nice change. SLS Promotions always puts on a great show and it is a good race track. There are good fans there and I have family and friends in the area, so we are definitely looking forward to going there and racing."
Pittman started seventh and worked his way around Hannagan for the sixth spot on the first lap and got to fifth on the second lap, as he powered around Haudenschild. After falling back to sixth, he used a daring three-wide pass to split McCarl and Brown. The native of Owasso, Okla., battled tooth and nail with Dollansky for the third spot for the final quarter of the race, before settling for fourth.
"I would have rather stayed green and kept racing, but they did not hurt us," said Pittman. "It brought the leaders back to us, so that helped if anything. We just didn't have anything for them."
Continuing his strong streak that has seen him finish outside the top-10 just once since July18, Pittman will seek his second straight win at Jackson (Minn.) Speedway on Saturday. Having already won this season on a half-mile at Williams Grove Speedway, he is confident he can repeat his win last season on the sprawling high-speed track.
"You need to qualify right, to put yourself in the first couple rows," said Pittman. "It's tough to win starting much further back than that, but (Donny) Schatz proved you can do it tonight. My hats off to them, it was a good rebound for them after Chico."
1/3-MILE SHORT TRACK NATIONALS NOTEBOOK
* FAST QUALIFIER: Becca Anderson paced the 38 cars in time trials with an AMB i.t.-timed lapped around the 1/3-mile high-banked oval at 11.620 seconds at 103.167 mph. For her qualifying effort, Anderson earned five bonus points. The next four fastest qualifiers also earned bonus points, including: Dusty Zomer (4), Randy Hannagan (3), Jac Haudenschild (2), and Joey Saldana (1). Joey Saldana holds the track record of 11.124 seconds set on Sept. 20, 2002.
* QUALIFYING EVENT WINNERS: Heat race winners included: Justin Henderson, Wayne Johnson, Bill Rose, and Greg Wilson. ... Dusty Zomer won the B-Main. ... Brooke Tatnell won the dash.